Resisting Jesus: A Narrative and Intertextual Analysis of Mark’s Portrayal of the Disciples of Jesus

This is a wonderful volume!

Very likely the first of the four Gospels to be written, Mark presents an intriguing and puzzling portrayal of the disciples with predominantly negative overtones. In Resisting Jesus, Mateus de Campos proposes that the evangelist’s characterization should be understood under the rubric of resistance—a willful disposition against Jesus’ self-revelatory program and his discipleship prescriptions.

Utilizing a combination of narrative and intertextual analyses, de Campos demonstrates that Mark’s portrayal of resistance to Jesus follows a specific plot dynamic that finds its fundamental framework in the Scriptural depiction of YHWH’s relationship with Israel. The study provides fresh insights into how the evangelist’s negative characterization of the disciples fosters a Scripturally-informed reflection and admonition concerning the nature of discipleship.

The link above will let you download the front and back matter and view the table of contents for this genuinely extraordinary work.  The work follows a clear and precise pattern of theory and assemblage of evidence concerning said theory.  After introducing his subject and overviewing past scholarship, de Campos leads readers through Mark’s scriptural framework and its impact on the entire narrative and on to the heart of the matter: the ‘episodes of resistance’ themselves.  Lastly he summarizes his findings.  There then is provided a bibliography and the usual indices of sources and authors and subjects.

The volume at hand is a revised edition of de Campos’s doctoral dissertation, submitted to the University of Cambridge under the supervision of James Paget and with input from the likes of Nathan MacDonald, Jeffrey Gibson, Elizabeth Struthers Malbon and others.

Why are the disciples so dense?  Or at least, so apparently dense?  It’s a question readers of the Gospel of Mark have struggled with for a very long time.  Mark doesn’t seem to have any interest in complimenting them.  Indeed, he appears to wish to paint them in the most negative light possible.

But as de Campos shows, that is hardly what is going on here.  Mark is instead showing that the willful failings of the inner circle of Jesus’ followers is actually an indication of the challenge of discipleship itself.  Mark, in other words, shows the disciples to resist Jesus precisely because he wishes to instruct Jesus’ followers on the difficulties of discipleship itself.  That’s the goal of the portrayal of the disciples.

Furthermore, de Campos’ investigation leads him to suggest that the portrayal of the disciples in Mark ‘encapsulates the whole trajectory of Israel’s relationship with YHWH’ (p. 220).  Scholarship will need to think about what is being suggested here for many years to come.  Indeed, this may be the most important observation which de Campos offers, for it opens the door to a whole range of future inquiries regarding the shadows cast by the writers of the Old Testament onto the authors of the New.  There may well be far more influence of the OT on the NT than has previously been appreciated.

The present study sheds interesting light on on old problem in a way that few revised dissertations have.  The clarity of de Campos’ prose;  His mastery of the primary and secondary material;  His flashes of brilliant insight.  All these factors make this an eminently readable and incredibly enjoyable experience.

I have a new appreciation both for Mark’s theological artistry and for his intention concerning his portrayal of the original followers of Jesus.  Perhaps they are just small mirrors of discipleship itself, both in terms of the Christian’s relationship to Jesus and in terms of Israel’s relationship to God.

I recommend this book most heartily to you.  I assure you, you will enjoy it very much indeed.