John Muddiman

A Book for Storytellers

(A Review by Christopher Laurence)

I’m trying to write a book and I’m learning a vital first principle: I must keep constantly in mind why I’m writing it and for whom. Dr. Muddiman thinks that Mark wrote his Gospel with a very clear purpose in mind and in this he disagrees with many of his fellow theologians. They consider that the book was written to preserve Peter’s reminiscences for the Church. Dr. Muddiman however believes that Mark was writing an action-packed sourcebook for the first Christian missionaries, full of stories they could tell to audiences in the synagogue, lecture-hall or market-place. Instead of writing it on the customary scroll he wrote it in book-form, handier for quick reference but also vulnerable to loss of its outside page, as Mark’s Gospel appears to have done.

Dr. Muddiman illustrated his argument from the text: the parable of the sower, the healing miracles, the feeding of the multitude are about God’s bounty in response to faith, not revelations of the Christ. They are missionary stories for all to hear and to respond to as they wish, not inhouse stories to nourish the faith of the elect.

I have to confess to a great disadvantage in attending to academic expositions: my mind is a hayrake to their fine-toothed comb, so I cannot grasp the significance of their distinctions. Although I enjoyed Dr. Muddiman’s lecture – that of “an acute and careful scholar” as he was described- it didn’t much affect my love of the Gospel of Mark. Whomever he wrote it for it brings me close to St. Peter and through him to the man he adored and died for, the historical Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a story that both challenges and nourishes in the telling and it’s not sectarian, that is, it’s for missionaries, not proselytisers. (“We are missionaries, they are proselytisers” quipped our speaker.)

Christopher Laurence