In Jesus the Oracle, Annelies Gisela Moeser reads Jesus’s journey from Capernaum to Jerusalem in Mark’s gospel through the cultural context of second/third century Roman Egypt. Moeser provides a rich description of the Egyptian practice of oracles, including processional oracles, to build a model with which to read Mark. This prism brings attention to descriptions of Jesus’s supernatural knowledge and wisdom, such as in the story of the Rich Man (Mk 10:17–22). In contrast to Clement of Alexandria’s homily on the Rich Man which counseled detachment from possessions, this reading from a non-elite perspective considers Jesus’s advice to be more radical. This model of processional oracles highlights the importance of access to the divine, including by non-elite crowds, by persons with disabilities (e.g., in comparing Bartimaeus [Mk 10:46–52] with Gemellus Horion of Karanis [a town in Egypt]), and by children. Traditional Egyptian religion upheld the existing sociopolitical regime. However, Jesus’s procession and proclamation of the basileia (reign) of G*d subverts the Roman world order and that of their local, elite allies.
Annelies Gisela Moeser is a graduate of Brite Divinity School and an independent researcher.
List of Figures and Tables
Chapter One: Constructing Markan Audiences
Chapter Two: Readings of Mark by Clement of Alexandria and Richard Horsley
Chapter Three: Oracles in Egypt
Chapter Four: Processional Oracles and Reading Mark
Chapter Five: Jesus the Oracle in the House in Capernaum
Chapter Six: Jesus the Oracle from Capernaum to Jerusalem
Chapter Seven: Conclusion
Selected Primary Sources
Selected List of Papyri, Ostraca, Inscriptions, Coins, and Images
Mark’s Gospel. Roman Egypt. Second/third century. Oracular culture. Working with these elements, Annelies Gisela Moeser constructs the possible reception of Mark’s Gospel in second/third century Roman Egypt from the perspective of oracular culture. Sensitive to the dynamics of cultural-imperial society, social status, and gender, Moeser’s creative method and rich reading provide insight into both Mark’s Gospel and a somewhat elusive sphere and era of the early Jesus movement.
As one who has worked a great deal on Mark’s Gospel in general and the significance of reconstructing its audience specifically, I welcome Annelies Gisela Moeser’s excellent contribution to the ongoing academic conversation regarding both. Moeser offers a compelling and historically grounded reading of Mark’s Gospel from the social location of non-elite Egyptian Christians in the second and third century. Astutely drawing on Egyptian oracular traditions Moeser presents a Markan Jesus who is accessible to non-elites and whose kingdom challenges the elites of the Roman imperial world order.