Is it possible to make a case that the Gospel of Mark was not composed by a single man from scattered accounts but in a process of people's telling Jesus' story over several decades? And what can we say about the tellers who were shaping this story for changing audiences?
After an introduction showing the groundwork already laid in oral tradition research, the case begins by tracing the Mark we know back to several quite different early manuscripts which continue the flexibility of their oral ancestors. The focus then turns to three aspects of Mark, its language, which is characterized as speech with special phrases and rhythms, its episodes characterized by traditional forms, and its overall story pattern that is common in oral reports of the time.
Finally several soundings are taken in Mark to test the thesis of performance composition, two scenarios are projected of possible early tellers of this tradition, and a conclusion summarizes major findings in the case. Mark's writer turns out to be the one who transcribes the tradition, probably adhering closely to it in order to legitimate the new medium of writing.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"This is a remarkable book. Just what we have been waiting for to help us understand Mark not only as an exciting story but also as an enlivening performance of the good news. Wire pulls together the challenging breakthroughs of recent research on various fronts that are forcing us to rethink some of the most basic assumptions of the modern study of Scripture. She ingeniously organizes her discussion around the objections often raised by those embedded in 'print-culture' who can't imagine that the Gospel of Mark could have been composed in oral performance. She patiently and clearly leads skeptical modern students and scholars step by step into the ancient world of oral communications where stories developed in the telling and retelling." --Richard Horsley Professor of New Testament University of Massachusetts in Boston
"In this exquisitely argued book, Anne Wire pulls together recent research on the oral and aural dimensions of written texts to present a compelling case for the composition of the Gospel of Mark in performance. Rarely does one have the pleasure of reading a book that presents its argument with such precision, clarity, and elegance. The paradigm shift that many have been calling for is here beautifully launched and can no longer be ignored." --Holly L. Hearon Professor of New Testament Christian Theological Seminary
"Wire's book is a must read for all interested in the Gospel of Mark. It convincingly makes the case that Mark is orally composed tradition told by several storytellers over time--not the product of a single author. The book systematically reviews and refutes the various arguments that Mark was a written composition and not oral traditional literature, demonstrating that in fact oral composition over time is a better explanation for the Gospel's origin. She also shows what a difference this makes for interpreting Mark. This book should have a major impact on Markan studies for students and scholars alike." --Joanna Dewey Harvey H. Guthrie Jr. Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies Episcopal Divinity School
Antoinette Clark Wire David Rhoads
Antoinette Clark Wire is Professor of New Testament Emerita at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her writings include The Corinthian Women Prophets: A Reconstruction through Paul's Rhetoric and Holy Lives, Holy Deaths: A Close Hearing of Early Jewish Storytellers.