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What Is Old? What Is New? A Reconsideration of Garments and Wineskins

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image of Horizons in Biblical Theology

Abstract This essay explores the view of Torah implicit in Mark 2:21-22. Setting aside a priori assumptions about the sayings’ preference of the new over the old garment and wineskins, as well as the widespread view that the images correspond to Judaism (and Torah), this study probes both the sayings’ language and setting in Mark’s Gospel and, more tentatively, Mark’s community. In short, we find the following: first, a close reading of the sayings themselves reveals more interest in preserving the “old” than many have recognized; second, their narrative setting in Mark suggests that the sayings pertain more to questions of discipleship than to opposing salvation-historical eras; and third, situating Mark 2:21-22 within the writer’s socio-historical context brings to light their apparent aim, which is to promote within Mark’s beleaguered community the kind of deliberate alignment with Jesus’ messianic mission that befits their identity as “community of the new age.”

Affiliations: 1: Queens University of Charlotte


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