Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
A recent book, The Two Gospels of Mark by Danila Oder, proposes that gMark began life as a play financed by Flavia Domitilla, whom we (and Christians) believe was either a nascent Christian or a Chrestian (per Bartram - more likely IMO). Oder believes that the play's principle audience would have been the Hellenized Jews of Rome, and that the Jesus character was modeled upon the god Hermes. Separately, some claims are made that Hermes (Trismegistus at least) is a reflection of Moses, or vice-versa.

This is all interesting in the 'Chrestian' context, where I believe that there is a syncretizing effort underway even earlier with such as Philo of Alexandria. Oder seems to make a Jewish connection with Alexandria as well.

Usually gMark is accorded a Gentile audience, with gMatthew being the Jewish audience. But, perhaps with Oder's Jews being in Rome, maybe this makes sense?

As we've discussed before, Gary Courtney's Et Tu Judas has the gospels starting out as a play as well. And Carotta's Jesus was Caesar has it all starting with standardized legion garrison paeans to Julius Caesar, later customized 'midrash' style to respective legion ethnic variances.

I have not read this book yet, so I'm only going by the book's web site info:
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Just finished this and found the thesis interesting but not well supported. Oder does a good job of outlining the possible staging of the play, but her historical context is entirely speculative. She just invents this playwrite Mark and makes no attempt to find him in the historical record. Flavia Domitilla is presented as the sponsor, again with no historical context or consideration of alternatives. She is unclear on how the play eventually become the Biblical Mark other than pointing to possible edits.

Despite the title, she actually says there were several Marks -- the play, the narratized version of the play, a subsequent edit, and eventually the book of Mark in the Bible. She thinks the narratized version was the basis for Matthew and for Marcion's gospel. I believe it was John Selby Spong who pointed out that Matthew is structured to fit the liturgical calendar. Marcion's is often compared to Luke, but both could be derived from this proto-Mark. I think it is possible that Luke was a rewrite of the Marcion gospel to bring it in line with the Roman dogma.

One wants to see this play as a derivation of the Caesar drama Atwill discusses, but the storylines are very different. But both could be part of an Imperial theater, playing a political role similar to Shakespeare. If it were produced in Rome, then surely Domitian would have taken interest.

There is no consideration of the Mark cult in Alexandria. The Egyptians say the apostle Mark came to Alexandria and established the Christian church there in the first century. Haller goes into this at some length. And Alexandria has its own theatrical tradition, so it is possible that the play originated there. It fits well into the 'gnostic' tradition and might have featured someone other than Jesus of Nazareth, possibly Chrestos. If Flavia was really a Chrestian, then the Egyptian connection makes sense.
I got it wrong. I thought that was in CAESAR'S MESSIAH but now that you remind me, I think it was from Carotta. Can you give me a reference for Courtney? (Googling 'Courtney' produces some amazing stuff, but no Caesar books.)