Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 5

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 5, we continue with J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as written in his book Cold-Case Christianity.

The eleventh piece of evidence is that Mark seems to be protecting key players. Wallace explains:

In my years as an investigator, there have been many times when a witness carefully chose his or her words to avoid dragging someone else into the case. This was particularly true when working gang cases. There were a number of times when a witness had the courage to come forward with information, but was less than forthcoming about the identity of others who might have seen something similar. Driven by the fear that these additional witnesses might be in a position of jeopardy, the witness would mention them in his or her account but refuse to specifically identify them. Most of the time the witnesses were simply trying to protect someone who they thought was defenseless and vulnerable.

I experienced just the opposite in some of my cold-case investigations. When re-interviewing witnesses who spoke to investigators years earlier, I found that they were now willing to provide me with the identities of people whom they previously refused to identify. Sometimes this was because they developed some animosity toward these people over the years; this was especially true when boyfriends and girlfriends broke up and were eventually willing to talk about each other. Sometimes it was a matter of diminishing fear; when the suspect in a case died, it wasn’t unusual to have people come forward and identify themselves simply because they were no longer afraid to do so.

Many careful readers of Mark’s gospel have observed that there are a number of unidentified people described in his account. These anonymous characters are often in key positions in the narrative, yet Mark chose to leave them unnamed. For example, Mark’s description of the activity in the garden of Gethsemane includes the report that “one of those who stood by [the arrest of Jesus] drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear” (Mark 14: 47). Mark chose to leave both the attacker and the man attacked unnamed in his description, even though John identified both (Peter as the attacker and Malchus as the person being attacked) in his gospel account. Similarly, Mark failed to identify the woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper (Mark 14: 3– 9), even though John told us that it was Mary (the sister of Martha), who poured the perfume on Jesus’s head.

While skeptics have offered a number of explanations for these variations (arguing, for example, that they may simply be late embellishments in an effort to craft the growing mythology of the Gospels), something much simpler might be at work. If Mark, like some of the witnesses in my gang cases, was interested in protecting the identity of Peter (as Malchus’s attacker) and Mary (whose anointing may have been interpreted as a proclamation of Jesus’s kingly position as the Messiah), it makes sense that he might leave them unnamed so that the Jewish leadership would not be able to easily target them. In fact, Mark never even described Jesus’s raising of Mary’s brother, Lazarus.

This also makes sense if Mark was trying to protect Lazarus’s identity in the earliest years of the Christian movement, given that the resurrection of Lazarus was of critical concern to the Jewish leaders and prompted them to search for Jesus in their plot to kill him. If Mark wrote his gospel early, while Mary, Lazarus, Peter, and Malchus were still alive, it is reasonable that Mark might have wanted to leave them unnamed or simply omit the accounts that included them in the first place. Scholars generally acknowledge John’s gospel as the final addition to the New Testament collection of gospel accounts. It was most likely written at a time when Peter, Malchus, and Mary were already dead. John, like some of the witnesses in my cold cases, had the liberty to identify these important people; they were no longer in harm’s way.

In part 6, we will conclude this series and summarize why all the evidence leads to an early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts.

  • barry

    “Many careful readers of Mark’s gospel have observed that there are a
    number of unidentified people described in his account. These anonymous
    characters are often in key positions in the narrative, yet Mark chose
    to leave them unnamed.”
    ———–Or Mark is faithfully reproducing no more and no less than what Peter preached, (Papias) meaning it is Peter, not Mark, who is clamming up on names here.

    “For example, Mark’s description of the activity
    in the garden of Gethsemane includes the report that “one of those who
    stood by [the arrest of Jesus] drew his sword, and struck the slave of
    the high priest and cut off his ear” (Mark 14: 47).
    Mark chose to leave both the attacker and the man attacked unnamed in
    his description, even though John identified both (Peter as the attacker
    and Malchus as the person being attacked) in his gospel account. ”
    ———–Or Mark is leaving them unnamed because the story characters are fictional. If Papias is correct that Mark accurately copied out the preaching of Peter, that Peter himself would have, during his preaching, described his own striking of Malchus’ ear with a sword in such anonymous fashion…unless Peter felt that such blunt honesty would give his hearers a reasonable excuse to find his credibility lacking. Three years with Jesus, seeing all those miracles, knowing the end is near, and yet Peter still reacts like a child defending its mommy from the inevitable?

    “Similarly, Mark failed to identify the woman who anointed Jesus at the
    home of Simon the leper (Mark 14: 3– 9), even though John told us that it was Mary (the sister of Martha), who poured the perfume on Jesus’s head.”
    ———-Perhaps because the gospel tradition wasn’t so developed when Mark wrote, that anybody thought to attach names to such story characters.

    “While skeptics have offered a number of explanations for these
    variations (arguing, for example, that they may simply be late
    embellishments in an effort to craft the growing mythology of the
    Gospels), something much simpler might be at work.”
    ———-the word “might” is insufficient to show that your hypothesis is more reasonable than somebody elses. Historiography proceeds in degrees of probability, not possibility. You do not stay in the apologetics game merely because a conservative Christian explanation for some biblical data is “possible” or “might” be true.

    “If Mark, like some of
    the witnesses in my gang cases, was interested in protecting the
    identity of Peter (as Malchus’s attacker) and Mary (whose anointing may
    have been interpreted as a proclamation of Jesus’s kingly position as
    the Messiah), it makes sense that he might leave them unnamed so that
    the Jewish leadership would not be able to easily target them.”
    ———–Not if the apostle’s identities were being revealed in early oral gospel traditions representing the more developed gospel texts like Matthew’s and John’s. And the apostles allegedly accompanied Jesus in all of his excursions wherebey he taunted the Jews and Pharisees. Mark would not have believed deleting names would protect any of Jesus’ followers. Worse, Mark is allegedly a record of Peter’s preaching, so your logic would require that Peter in his original post-resurrection preaching didn’t want to identify other apostles. Yet you apologists are always insisting that their experience of the resurrected Jesus ‘transformed” these apostles into bold preachers afraid of exactly nothing.

    Finally, Eusebius tells us that Clement of Alexandria said Mark was pressured by his church to leave them a written record of Peter’s preaching, so the fact that Mark was writing for a church, and likely a Gentile church, not a Jewish church, strongly argues that Mark’s motive for not naming names was something other than worry that Jewish authorities would capture them. And read Acts if you think the original 11 apostles had the least concern to keep their identities hidden from Jewish authorities.

    “In fact,

    Mark never even described Jesus’s raising of Mary’s brother, Lazarus.”
    ———-because John’s gospel is full of lies and legendary embellishments.

    “This also makes sense if Mark was trying to protect Lazarus’s
    identity in the earliest years of the Christian movement, given that the
    resurrection of Lazarus was of critical concern to the Jewish leaders
    and prompted them to search for Jesus in their plot to kill him.”
    ———–A thing the apostles in the book of Acts make easy for the Jewish leaders with their loud defiant preaching and willingness to suffer punishment, shame and martyrdom.

    “If Mark
    wrote his gospel early, while Mary, Lazarus, Peter, and Malchus were
    still alive, it is reasonable that Mark might have wanted to leave them
    unnamed or simply omit the accounts that included them in the first
    place.”
    ————It’s also reasonable to assume Mark doesn’t mention things found in other canonical gospels, because the later gospels are just conjuring up false stories and otherwise embellishing Mark or the oral traditions.

    “Scholars generally acknowledge John’s gospel as the final
    addition to the New Testament collection of gospel accounts. It was most
    likely written at a time when Peter, Malchus, and Mary were already
    dead. John, like some of the witnesses in my cold cases, had the liberty
    to identify these important people; they were no longer in harm’s way.”
    ———How much did the apostles put themselves and other Christians in harms way, in the early chapters of Acts, where they are allegedly going around publicly defying Jewish authorities?