Mark 13 and Register Analysis
Frequenters of OST who follow the debates surrounding Andrew’s radical re-reading of the gospels according to a historical narrative interpretation, and the focus on the Olivet discourse (Mark 13, Matthew 24 and Luke 17), will be interested in Gustavo Martin’s reading of Mark 13 which draws on the principles of Halliday’s register theory (“the set of meanings, the configuration of semantic patterns, that are typically drawn upon under the specific conditions, along with the words and structures that are used in the realization of these meanings” [Halliday, 1978:23]).
Gustavo Martin’s reading requires an active brain, a working knowledge of NT Greek, and a dictionary which contains the definition of words like ‘ideational’, ‘ergative’, ‘paraenesis’, ‘anaphoric’ etc. His densely detailed examination of the text of Mark 13 draws attention to shifts of language in the three sub-sections: 5-23; 24-27; and 28-37. In particular, his analysis supports the contention that 13:24-27 introduces a different time horizon from 13:5-23 - setting it in the more distant future.
Gustavo Martin also has interesting comments to make on the use of Daniel in Mark, in particular Daniel 7:13, and the supposed trajectory of the Son of Man, which is given considerable interpretive significance by N.T. Wright, whose interpretation Gustavo contests. Gustavo points out significant variations from Daniel in its use in the Markan material, suggesting that an unamended application of Daniel was not Mark’s aim.
Gustavo Martin has, to my mind, made an important contribution in support of the case that the Olivet discourse has two horizons of understanding: the destruction of the temple in AD 70, and a more distant parousia of Jesus which has yet to occur. It’s also a fascinating piece of scholarship.