A colonial heritage in scholarly interpretations of Mark's gospel

December 13, 2011

When the story of Jesus known as The Gospel of Mark began to circulate as a written text in the ancient Mediterranean cities, it became engaged in a form of negotiation with the Roman imperial culture. A newly published dissertation from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) shows, however, that a European colonial heritage probably has caused biblical scholars to neglect the earliest Gospel's primary act of negotiation with its imperial context.

Biblical scholar Hans Leander has investigated how Mark's Gospel was related to Rome's Empire when it began to circulate among the early Christians during the first century C.E. He has approached the question from the supposition that the Bible is connected to a colonial heritage and that biblical interpretation, including the academic kind, is always affected by the interpreter's location and perspective. In order to verify the existence of a colonial heritage, he has studied how nineteenth century biblical commentaries on Mark were influenced by that epoch's colonial mindset.

"I found that ideas about 'Greek' and 'Semitic' within biblical scholarship interacted with an elevated European colonial identity. The 'Greek' often represented the metaphysical, the progressive and the Christian, while the 'Semite' (or the 'Jew') represented the theocratic and stagnant, often represented as 'the other'. There was also an established view of the 'heathen' that was central to the colonial expansion and that continued to be prevalent in biblical scholarship during the period", says Hans Leander.

Hans Leander then applied a postcolonial perspective to the Gospel of Mark in order to study how the Gospel related to the Roman imperial power. Various concepts have been developed within postcolonial theory that enables a more complex understanding of unequal relationships than a clear-cut "for" or "against" the dominating party. The dissertation applies these concepts to the Gospel of Mark, which it reads as a representation of a minority group at the fringes of the imperial culture. It is concluded that even if the Gospel of Mark is ambiguous in relation to Rome, its narrative transmits subtle and yet clear subversive signals.

The relationship between the Gospel of Mark and the Roman Empire, Hans Leander argues, has primarily been understood from the modern separation between religion and politics. But the dissertation criticizes such an understanding.

"Such a separation was alien to the first recipients of the Gospel of Mark. There was no secular political sphere that was separate from religion. We must think beyond this modern separation if we are to understand the significance of Mark for its first audience", says Hans Leander.
The thesis was successfully defended on December 9.

University of Gothenburg

Related Neglect Articles from Brightsurf:

Child neglect linked to teen pregnancy
Children who experience neglect are seven times more likely than other abuse victims to have a teen pregnancy say University of Queensland researchers.

Research shows child abuse and neglect results in increased hospitalizations over time
In a new study published in the leading international journal, Child Abuse and Neglect, University of South Australia researchers have found that by their mid-teens, children who were the subject of child protective services contact, are up to 52 per cent more likely to be hospitalised, for a range of problems, the most frequent being mental illness, toxic effects of drugs and physical injuries.

Emotional abuse, neglect affect adolescent depression differently by gender, ethnicity
Research shows that physical and sexual abuse are risk factors for depression in adolescents.

Children's fingertip injuries could signal abuse
Many children who suffer fingertip injuries have been abused, according to a Rutgers study.

Abnormal neuron activity manifests as parental neglect
The malleability of the brain decreases with age, but scientists have identified certain life experiences that allow the adult brain to rewire.

At what age is it considered child neglect to leave a child home alone?
A majority of social workers surveyed believe children should be at least 12 before being left home alone four hours or longer, and they are more likely to consider a home-alone scenario as neglect if a child is injured while left unsupervised, according to research being presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2019 National Conference & Exhibition.

Transgender, gender-nonbinary teens in china report abuse, neglect, bullying
Most transgender and gender-nonbinary teens in China who participated in a national survey study reported abuse, neglect or bullying at home and in school, which the researchers suggest may be due in part to the socially conservative values prevalent in the country.  The study included 385 adolescents (average age nearly 17) who responded to an online survey.

Eliminating visual stimulation may help counter symptoms of spatial neglect after stroke
'We documented that while the patient was blindfolded, she sat up straighter, and her posture was more centered,' said Dr.

The Lancet: Big Sugar and neglect by global health community fuel oral health crisis
Oral health has been isolated from traditional healthcare and health policy for too long, despite the major global public health burden of oral diseases, according to a Lancet Series on Oral Health, published today in The Lancet.

The Lancet: Health progress threatened by neglect of gender
Today, The Lancet published a new Series on 'Gender Equality, Norms and Health', which finds that governments and health institutions have persistently failed to make progress towards gender equality, despite the impact of gender -- and the spoken and unspoken rules of societies about acceptable gender behaviors -- on health throughout life.

Read More: Neglect News and Neglect Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.