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For real perception always head for Martin Hengel first Apr 16, 2010
Martin Hengel, who recently passed away, has justly been called the greatest biblical scholar of the last fifty years. Every essay he published was translated, as witness this slender book, only 84 pages of text plus extensive notes.
Hengel makes many major points in this book. Mark, he argues, was "written at a clear geographical distance from Palestine...Numerous Latinisms point to an origin in Rome" (p 29). Furthermore, "the connection between Peter and Mark, which in fact goes back to the first century and is attested independently" (p 47) is too strong to be debated.
Hengel rejects the argument that Mark is a "conglomerate of anonymous, popular and collective tradition" (p 47).
He notes that the name Peter in 16.7 and later at the end forms an "inclusio, through which the evangelist deliberately...is stressing the unique significance of Peter" (p 51).
As far as the title, Hengel insists that the lack of the smallest shred of any other name for the gospel is important. "The unanimity of testimony to the titles of the Gospels, for which there are still no variants of any kind in this early period, rules out a late origin" (p 66) for the title.
Although some scholars have argued that the Second Temple Jews were careless about titles, and that writings were frequently anonymous, in fact, from the time of Ben Sira, in 180 AD, the use of titles became frequent.
As for the early Christians, "The earliest Christian writings--the letter of Paul--bear the name of a real author. This is a feature...of earliest Christianity" (p 73), as shown by I Clement and the letters of Ignatius.
The early church derived from Second Temple Judaism a belief that oral tradition was as valid and the equal of scriptural tradition. All evidence points to "readings at worship seem to be as established institution which grew directly out of synagogue worship" (p 76). Hengel suggests that "Christian communities...would...from the beginning have a 'book-chest'" (p 78).
The fact of the "development of a distinctive Christian scribal tradition...goes back to the beginnings of Christian literature in the first century, seems to indicate a degree of organization, of conscious planning and uniformity of practice among the Christian communities" (p 79).
Hengel points out to "the surprising constancy and unity of the titles of the Gospels goes back to this strikingly strict early Christian scribal discipline...We already find a first reference to such Christian scribes as early as Rom.16.22...This abundant traveling, from the beginning associated with a constant exchange of books and letters, was one of the foundations of the unity of the church" (p 80).