Monday, October 10, 2011

Gospel of Mark: Geography and Places

I realize that catalogs of names are not on everybody's list of interests. And the point of all this (yes, there is a point) won't become plain for a few more posts. But for the moment, here are places you can find referenced in the Gospel of Mark, again in roughly the order in which they are first named:
  • land of Judea
  • river Jordan
  • Nazareth of Galilee
  • Galilee
  • sea of Galilee
  • Capernaum
  • Jerusalem
  • house of Simon and Andrew
  • Idumea
  • Tyre
  • Sidon
  • (country of the) Gadarenes
  • Sodom
  • Gomorrah
  • Bethsaida
  • Gennesaret
  • person known as Greek
  • Syrophoenicia (person described as Syrophoenician)
  • Decapolis
  • Dalmanutha
  • Caesarea Philippi
  • Bethphage
  • Bethany
  • mount of Olives
  • temple
  • treasury, while at the temple
  • house of Simon the leper
  • Gethemane
  • high priest's "palace"
  • person known as Cyrenian
  • Golgotha
  • person known as "of Arimathaea"
  • person known as "Magdalene"
  • sepulcher

Here we see knowledge of Judea in general, Jerusalem in particular, and the Temple area and the holy precincts in some detail. The author also mentions several bodies of water. Some of the locations are very specific: we see "the house of Simon and Andrew" in Mark 1:29.

When it comes to Mark and geography, there is some difference in manuscripts. From what I've been able to gather, there is one family of manuscripts that says (Mark 7:31) that a journey was taken "from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon" to the Sea of Galilee (which makes sense, geographically) while another manuscript family says "from the borders of Tyre through Sidon" to the Sea of Galilee (which has been questioned, to say the least). I won't belabor the point here; those who have a particular interest in that controversy can feel free to pursue it. For the current topic, it is enough to mention: given that there are different families of ancient manuscripts, of course the one that makes sense is going to be assumed to be closer to the events in question, and the one that makes less sense is going to be assumed to be further from the events in question. That's fairly standard procedure, when there is a difference in quality, to stick with the better one.

One other point deserves mention: in the holy precincts of Jerusalem, Mark's Gospel contains detail down to mentioning events at the treasury at the Temple, as related about a widow's offering, recorded in Mark but not in Matthew. This might suggest an author who was familiar with the Temple area in some detail.

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