Jesus mythicism can now be taken for granted. “We have to work with what we have, not what we hope will be discovered. What we can conclude is that whatever traces of a human being we might find behind the ancient tales of Jesus, at best they are indistinguishable from him not existing at all. Any real Jesus is therefore an unnecessary figure we can do without.” – John Loftus.
Jesus mythicism is the basis of a revolutionary new proposal for the origin of the Gospel of Mark. In The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text, Danila Oder proposes that “Mark” was a playwright in Rome in 90–95 CE. He wrote a play in which his Judean congregation’s heavenly Jesus comes to earth. Jesus is on a mission to fulfill Scripture and suffer and die, then return to the heavens. Satan, the heavenly antagonist, tries but fails to prevent Jesus from carrying out his mission. The play was performed on a stage before an audience. It was an entertainment, not an educational or evangelical drama, or a ritual event.
Oder approaches the Gospel of Mark from a theater director’s practical point of view. What are the stage directions in the text? When does each actor enter and exit? What parts of the text are not stageable and therefore from the hand of an editor?
Oder asserts that Mark “preserved” the performance of the play in a narrative text that omitted much of the original dialogue and therefore prevented a second performance. Mark added literary features like chiasms, names of locations and some characters, and references to his Scriptural sources. That literary text was a candidate for his sect to preserve as Scripture. It was the original form of the received Gospel of Mark.
The play was produced by the historical Flavia Domitilla, donor of proto-Christian catacombs to her Judean congregation.
Oder situates Mark in a real place and time. Mark had a real motive to write a complex work based on scenarios from Scripture. Some sociological features of his congregation can be inferred from the fact of performance. Oder provides a tentative reconstruction of (some of) the action of the play, in an appendix.
Danila Oder’s insights into the Gospel of Mark have many implications for the history of early Christianity. The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text is also of interest to theater professionals and scholars of ancient theater.
In the blog on this website, Oder investigates Mark’s text, the performance of his play, his congregation in Rome, and early Christianity.
Reviews of The Two Gospels of Mark
“Tightly argued….A fascinating exploration of possibilities behind our gospel text….A seriously fresh approach to the Gospel” – Neil Godfrey, Review on Vridar, March 4, 2020.
“The most elaborate and well-argued version” of the theory that the Gospel of Mark was originally dramatic – Robert M. Price, “The Source for Mark’s Gospel must have been a mystery play?” Mythvision Podcast, August 11, 2020.
“What she knows and brings to bear on it, it is really thought-provoking” – Robert M. Price, “The Gospels are a Greek Theatre Production,” Mythvision Podcast, December 15, 2020.