A revolutionary new proposal for the origin of the Gospel of Mark assumes Jesus mythicism. 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 by suffering and dying, then returning to the heavens. The play was performed on a stage before an audience of Mark’s congregants. The play was an entertainment in the genre of mime.
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Oder approaches the Gospel of Mark from a theater director’s practical point of view. She identifies the stage directions in the text and tests them out in a miniature theater. She identifies the plot and subplot of the play.
There are “two gospels of Mark” because Mark preserved the (single) performance of the play in a narrative text. Mark added literary features like chiasms and names of actors and locations. Mark made references to his sources in Scripture to serve readers/listeners. That narrative text was the original form of the received Gospel of Mark.
The play was produced by the historical Flavia Domitilla, niece of the emperor Domitian. She was honored during the performance. Oder’s theory therefore can be seen as a Roman Provenance Theory or Flavian Provenance Theory.
Oder situates Mark in a real place and time, with a real purpose for writing the Gospel of Mark. Some sociological features of his congregation can be inferred from the fact that a Roman aristocrat patronized the congregation. Oder identifies editing throughout the text, and provides a tentative reconstruction of the action of the staged play.
Danila Oder’s insights into the Gospel of Mark and its Roman provenance have many implications for the history of early Christianity. The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text is also of interest to scholars of ancient theater and historians of the Flavian period.
In the blog on this website, Oder moves outward from the book, revisiting and enriching her portrait of the performance of Mark’s play, the role of Flavia Domitilla, Mark’s narrative text and its editing, Mark’s congregation in Rome, and the history of 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.