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The Hermeneutics of Fictional Black and Factual Red: the Markan Simon of Cyrene and the Quest for the Historical Jesus

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This article notes the polarized nature of scholarship on Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15.21) and reviews the evidence used to support both the view that he is a fictional character and the view that he is a historical figure. This falls into four categories: competing traditions, homiletic function, absence of Christian witnesses, and the significance of Alexander and Rufus. Concluding that the evidence invoked cannot account for these divergent views, I propose that the decisive factor in scholarly choice is hermeneutical in origin; it is the influence of the matrix of presuppositions that each scholar brings to this text. Until such time as we have investigated these matrices more fully, I suggest that any agreement on texts like Mark 15.21 will remain strictly limited. By way of conclusion, my personal view of Simon is outlined and deemed less than adequate in the light of this study.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bristol Bristol, UK


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