Is “Andrew” in the Gospel of Mark the name of the author?

The following proposal, like many of the posts on this blog, assumes that you have read my book, The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text, and are familiar with my proposed life-situation for Mark.

When I wrote the book, I decided that the character “Andrew” (Greek: “Andreas”) was never on stage. He is not necessary to the action, he does nothing individual, he does not receive a nickname like his ‘brother’, and he drops out of the action without explanation. I inferred that he was added by an editor. I assumed that the only explanation I had encountered was correct: the Greek name “Andreas” symbolized Jesus’s “welcome to Gentiles.” Beyond that, I did not enquire.

Inadvertently, I recently revisited the question of Andrew’s purpose in the Gospel of Mark. It came up as a result of the following thought process: I was thinking about Mark’s life before he wrote the gospel. He was a skilled playwright, yet educated in Judean texts. Assuming at the time of the performance in 95 CE, he had been in Rome for some years, who did he work for? Although there were a number of competitive games and festivals during the reigns of Nero and the Flavians, these games and festivals were dedicated to pagan gods. I just can’t see Mark submitting plays to these competitions. Therefore, he probably worked mostly if not entirely for well-to-do Judeans. (Like Gentiles, they needed theatrical pieces for dinner parties and life-event celebrations.) And probably there was the profession of consultant “dinner party manager,” much like modern elite wedding planners. That job would be a natural for a theatrical professional.

Where did Mark get the theatrical training evident in the play behind the Gospel of Mark? The logical answer is Alexandria. It is the only place that we know of with a tradition of Judean playwrights, along with a large enough Judean-heritage population to support Judean playwrights and dinner-party-entertainment writers. In the absence of any other information, my working theory is that Mark was born or educated in Alexandria.

What was Mark’s real name? Let us assume that he was 55 years old in 95 CE when he wrote and performed the play that became the Gospel of Mark. He would have had some professional training and established some connections at home prior to leaving for Rome. Let us assume he came to Rome as a young man between 65 and 70, that is at the end of Nero’s reign. If he had a Judean name, he might have retained it, assuming his clients were mainly Judean. But professionally, a Greek name would give him a broader potential client base. Things changed when in 69 Vespasian became emperor on the strength of his ‘conquest’ of Judea. Judeans were now defeated rebels and the new mass group of slaves in Rome. If Mark was using a Judean name, he would now replace it with a Greek name to assert a Hellenistic Judean identity separate from the defeated easterners. So by 70 and after, after he had arrived in Rome, Mark would have used a Greek name. And his congregation would have known him under a Greek name.

To return to GMark. In the book I assumed that Andrew was an editor’s addition to Mark’s text. I speculated that the origin of Andrew was GMatthew, and that Andrew was created in the mid-second century.

But now I think that scenario is not correct. I now think that Luke wrote before Matthew. And Luke did not need to create Andrew. In Acts, the church mission to the Gentiles already exists. It is headed by the Judeans Barnabas and Paul. Furthermore, in Acts 1:13, Andrew appears in the list of apostles (not disciples) . That means that Andrew must already have been recognized by Luke’s constituents as a member of the Twelve. So Luke did not invent Andrew: he was already part of the Twelve. In any case, if Luke or Matthew invented Andrew, the Roman congregation would have had to be persuaded to revise its 60-year old treasured text of GMark, evidence of Flavia Domitilla’s patronage, to include Gentile Andrew as the junior brother of Peter. Impossible.

Let us imagine a different scenario. Let us assume that Andrew was added in Rome by one of the two early editors of GMark. But the editor did not need to add Andrew to address a deficiency in pro-Gentile sentiments in GMark. GMark was already pro-Gentile. (In the book, I enumerate the pro-Gentile elements of GMark: they include the feeding miracle of the Gentiles in Mark 8.) Furthermore, the readers/listeners and the editor—whether in 97 or 105 or 115—knew that GMark had been written under the patronage of Flavia Domitilla, a Gentile-born congregant. There was no question that Jesus and Mark were pro-Gentile. The editor must have had a different reason in his/her world to add Andrew to the text.

I suggest that “Andreas” was Mark’s real name. The editor of the text inserted Andrew as the brother of the second character in the play, Peter “rock.” To the reader/listener of the text, Peter’s importance in the world of the story bleeds over to Andrew. Andrew is almost as foundational—if he is understood as existing in the world of the audience.

If I am correct, the creation of Andrew was done by the first editor of GMark, whom I call S-Mark for “Secretary of Mark” or “Stage Manager of Mark.” Elsewhere, S-Mark changed GMark with a delicate scalpel, excising and revising only as much as necessary to forestall (deliberate) misreadings of it. S-Mark’s agenda was only to protect Mark’s work so that it would be preserved. I infer that S-Mark worked soon after Domitian’s purge. (Flavia Domitilla was exiled and Titus Flavius Clemens and their sons were killed. Their close associate Mark too may have been killed.) In the context of the loss of their patron and the reversal of their fortunes, S-Mark and the Roman congregation were justifiably paranoid. I suggest that they now attributed GMark to the pseudonym “Marcus.” But, I suggest, S-Mark, whose purpose was to preserve Mark’s legacy, inserted Mark’s real name into the text to ensure he was remembered.

We should remember that for many decades, the Roman congregation knew the real name of the author of GMark. If it was “Andreas,” the readers/listeners would perceive “Andrew” in the text as meaningful in the world of the audience, a coded message about their history. But an outsider who looked at the world of the play would see the Andrew character as inert.

With no reason to remove Andrew, the congregation left him in the text….And from there, the legend grew…

A footnote: This post is a reminder to me, once again, to never take for granted any historical explanations in New Testament studies. Even from historians with the best of intentions and method.

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