Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark - An Introduction and Commentary

Review: Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark - An Introduction and Commentary
Author: Joel L. Watts
Publisher: Wipf & Stock
www.wipfandstock.com
Date: 2013
ISBN 13: 978-1-62032-289-5
At Amazon: http://amzn.to/1pAYxKo

The book I am reviewing is the paperback edition and the cover has a simple, yet attractive decoration in the lower half with an enlargement of a section of what seems to a painting by an impressionist. The upper half is a simple blue-gray with minimalist Arial style gold an white typeface.

The introduction was written by the popular Dr. Jim West and concludes with his interesting statement: "As the first salvo in a demolition operation, it is worthy of consideration. Let the demolition commence."

An epigram concerning the evolution of the New Testament Gospels written by Jordan R. Scharf wraps up Mr. Watts acknowledgements. In the introduction, Mr. Watts guides the reader through "mimesis" the rhetorical pedagogy of imitation and its use in composing Biblical literature and insists that Q is nonexistent. (Q from "quelle" - German for source, one of the two sources that many biblical scholars believe that the author of the Gospel of Mark used to write his story). Subsequently, Mr. Watts explains his theory that Mark rewrote, not only the historical past, but the historical present during the times in which Jesus of Nazareth lived. The style that Mr. Watts presents is of course dense considering the dissertational aspect to his book, but it is fairly easy and fun to read nevertheless, plus the intriguing information conveyed to the reader more than offsets this difficulty, along with many pleasant witticisms. He explores a critical structure of New Testament exegesis little used in modern research.

In the introduction, Mr. Watts offers the following reason for his book: "This book will show that Mark appropriates not only written sources, but manipulates several external situations to answer a crisis through the rewriting of history." Then in chapter one he gives the reader an overview of the rest of the book, how the ten chapters are written and why. Mr. Watts also explains his key terms that are used throughout his writing, something that some (if not most) Biblical scholars fail to do. This explanatory method of the book's construction is an invaluable aid to the reader and can be referred to as need be.

In Chapter Two under the heading: Part I: Mimesis and Imitation Criticism in the Gospel of Mark, Mr. Watts informs the reader that he believes the Markian Gospel is patterned after a form of Grecian literature, yet thoroughly eliminates Homer's poems as sources. Thus he disputes assertions made by Dennis McDonald and supports Charles McNelis and Tessa Rajak, that although Homer was used as a Roman educational tool, his Iliad and Odyssey were not used as Mark's rhetorical imitations. The biblical academic with whom Mr. Watts DOES agree is Thomas L. Brodie, especially with Brodie's suggestion that the life of Jesus could be interpreted within the framework of an Elijah/Elisha mimetic source of a proto-Luke and a Deuteronomistic Matthew. Mr. Watts leans more to Brodie's thoughts on the latter, rather than the former. In the next section of chapter two, History of Mimesis, we see Mr. Watt's thinking expanding further into the area of the literature, rhetoric and psychology. His ulimate conclusion ofthe meimetic source that the  gospel writer used is best left up to the readeer to uncover.

Part II takes the reader on Mr. Watt's "Sherlcockian" adventures in his inimitable biblical sleuthing. He lines out step by step his modus operandi in arriving at his mimetic deductions which he explores in Part III.

These sections are very involved, so I (as the reviewer) will only list his section headings as an example of his strides toward his reasoning. I'll leave it to the reader to ride along on Mr.Watts journey into the "unknown country."

Part II The Constant
Chapter 3 His Kydmoisois
Introduction 
Part 1: Mark as an Embarrassment to the Early Church?
  The Date of Mark's Gospel
Part 2: Introduction
  Social History
  Not Merry Men
  Of Wars More Than Jewish
  Simon bar Giora
  Vespasian
  Rome as the Crucial Impetus?
Part 3: Literary Details       
  The Antetext
  The Memetext
  Language Barriers
Conclusion
Chapter 4 His Pedagogue
Introduction
Prototypes
  Livy
  Virgil
Lucan and Mimesis
  Lucan's Mimetic Turns
  Lucan's Language Barriers
  Lucan's Homer-textual Problems
Conclusion

In Part III, Mr.Watts really gets at the critical meat on the biblical bone. He describes it this way: "The social situation, including dating and the reception history' prevails as the key in properly distinguishing sources. The date is near 75 CE. The social situation is the synthesis of Jewish theology and Roman imperial ideology in the aftermath of the Jewish revolt. Lucan, the great Roman poet, is Mark's muse."

Part III Application
Chapter 5 Reading Mark Mimetically
Jesus Against Vespasian
Introduction
Apostrophe
Intercalation
Paradox/Irony
Doubling
Parataxis/Aurality
Criteria
Theological Justification (Intertextuality;antetext; memetext)
Similar Narrative Events
Verbal Allowance (Allusion)
Commentary
Chapter 6 Reading Mark Mimetically
Jesus Against Simon bar Giora
Introduction
Sources for the Son of Man
Sources for  the Son of God
Mark 1.1 Reexamimed
Mark's Use of the Son of Man as Anti-Roman Ideology
The Five Books of Mark
Ethnosymbolic Synchronism
Chapter 7 Reading Mark Mimetically
A Lucan Reading
Conclusion
Chapter 8 Reading Mark's Scholia
Introduction
Answering the Synoptic Problem
Testing Mimetic Criticism and Farrer Theory-Mark's First Reader, Matthew
Conclusion
Acknowledgements
(In which are 352 authors cited.)

This review could go on and on with all the choice bits that Mr. Watts offers with this wonderful smörgåsbord of new, entertaining and exciting ideas to mentally savor and chew upon. It has been my sincere pleasure to have been able to do this review, although I must say, my recompense, although not monetary, is the privilege to keep this book to mine the abyssal depths for diamonds at my leisure and what a great boon it is. I am quite sure that once you have purchased this book and read it, you shall feel the same. Happy reading and remember to wear a napkin.