Two sayings on the “new” and the “old”: Mark 2:21–22 in context

Joseph F Mali, Fordham University


Against the tendency of certain exegetes, such as Marcion and Martin Luther, to interpret Scripture in ways that separate the Church from its Jewish roots, this study, through a redaction-critical analysis of the patch and wineskins logia of Mark 2:21–22, argues that Mark does not leave his readers with a radical break between Jesus and his Jewish heritage. The significance of the proverbial sayings on the “new” and the “old” (Mark 2:21–22) for the Galilean conflict section (2:1–3:6), which many commentators have overlooked, is emphasized. Standing at the literary center of the controversy series (2:1–3:6), the location of the aphorisms on “new” and “old” (2:21–22) corresponds to their function of making a condensed statement for Mark, the Evangelist, of the meaning and impact of the whole conflict section. With this function of hermeneutical focal point for the section, and in their immediate connection to the Gospel's first Passion prophecy (the departing “bridegroom,” 2:19–20), the two proverbs are closely related to the biographical conclusion of the series, Mark 3:6, where the consequence of the incompatibility of the “new” and the “old” is drawn in terms of Jesus' violent destiny at the hands of his foes. The crucial point of the two sayings (2:21–22), the incompatibility of Jesus' ministry and Pharisaic Judaism, goes far beyond the conflict scenes in 2:1–3:6 and 11:27–12:12 to embrace the theology of Mark's Gospel as a whole. This is evident in the coherence of the “incompatibility” theme of the two logia with the pericope on Jesus' “new teaching with authority” (1:21–28) and the Temple sayings (13:1–2, 14:58). Thus, this study enters into the debate on whether Mark 2:1–3:6 is Marcan or pre-Marcan by bringing the double proverbs of Mark 2:21–22 more prominently into the discussion. At the heart of Jesus' collision with his detractors, we argued, is the question of authority. Contra Martin Albertz and his followers, who hold onto the pre-existence of 2:1–3:6 as a collection, Mark's non-eschatological use of the “Son of Man” (2:10, 28) and his early reference to the Passion in 3:6, far from evidence of a pre-Marcan collection, is, in fact, a strong indication of the Evangelist's compilation of the Galilean controversy series (2:1–3:6).

Subject Area

Biblical studies

Recommended Citation

Mali, Joseph F, "Two sayings on the “new” and the “old”: Mark 2:21–22 in context" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3353773.