Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Summer Reading: The African Memory of Mark

This is the last of the summer reading. Then I move on to my fall list : )  Took this book on my summer vacation at the beach and have enjoyed it very much. I did not realize that there was such a strong tradition of John Mark, author of the Gospel According to Mark, in African tradition.

The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing Early Church Tradition
by Thomas C. Oden

From the back cover
We often regard the author of the Gospel of Mark as an obscure figure about whom we know little. Many would be surprised to learn how much fuller a picture of Mark exists within widespread African tradition, tradition that holds that Mark himself was from North Africa, that he founded the church in Alexandria, that he was an eyewitness to the Last Supper and Pentecost, that he was related not only to Barnabas but to Peter as well and accompanied him on many of his travels.

In this provocative reassessment of early church tradition, Thomas C. Oden begins with the palette of New Testament evidence and adds to it the range of colors from traditional African sources, including synaxaries (compilations of short biographies of saints to be read on feast days), archaeological sites, non-Western historical documents and ancient churches. The result is a fresh and illuminating portrait of Mark, one that is deeply rooted in African memory and seldom viewed appreciatively in the West.

The African Memory of Mark honors the way the Coptic Church has been the faithful, preeminent carrier of the Markan tradition in the church, and does that by weaving the different genres of sources into a narrative whole. Oden is not unaware of standard depictions of Mark and the Gospel that bears his name in which the African note is rather marginal — where it is acknowledged at all — but he challenges established scholarship by marshaling the evidence and refocusing it on the continuity of the Coptic memory of Mark. Whether or not the reader agrees with the argument of the book, Oden has raised the bar of scrutiny and challenged many of the unstated assumptions of conventional scholarship. From critic and fan alike, Oden deserves credit.” ~ Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity, Yale University

The African Memory of Mark is a timely reassessment of Mark, Gospel writer and propagator of the message of Christ to Africa. It rehabilitates a neglected tradition and deserves serious consideration by everyone who has been influenced by the historicist understanding of Mark's life and work.” ~ Tite TiĆ©nou, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School