The practice of exegesis is currently characterized by the many and even diverse questions
to which texts are subjected. There is a very lively debate regarding the suitability
and success of the various exegetical methods as well as the possibility and
desirability of harmonization. One should however take into account that an exegetical
method is the product of a particular theory with regard to the question of how knowledge
is arrived at, the character of the text as object of study, and the objectives of the
particular textual investigation. For that reason it is possible that certain methods exclude
one another and can be regarded as irreconcilable. This can be attributed to divergent
theoretical points of departure There are exegetes who consider that the existence
of such exclusive exegetical methods creates a dilemma for biblical scholarship.
According to this point of view the lack of synthesis hampers the search for the 'truth'
(in this case, the 'meaning' of the text).
Ernest vr,n Eck has examined three different popular questions in the area of
Marean research from the past and the present, namely the historical-critical, the literary-critical
and the ideological-critical approaches. It is however not the primary
intention of Van Eck to bring about a synthesis between these exegetical approaches.
The fact of plurality of interpretation does not therefore, according to Van Eck, provide
a dilemma. The application of a variety of exegetical approaches by biblical scholars
can be treated positively. The author is rather, therefore, searching for methodological
gaps in existing research which can be fllled by a new or modified inquiry. In this way
progress can be brought about. The result of the new inquiry does not imply that the
exegete has come 'closer' to the 'real meaning' of the text. It implies at the most relevant
research. The results of a relevant inquiry can provide an explanation for present day
problems and even suggest possible solutions, while earlier inquiries and methods
are regarded as inadequate.
The gaps in research that Van Eck has identified with regard to the above three
exegetical approaches are related to the emphasis placed on the pragmatical dimension
in scientifical investigation today. In this connection pragmatics can be represented as
a social program. Theology without a 'social program' easily develops into static imaginary
propositions. Ernest van Eck shows that the historical-cn:tical study of the opposition
between Galilee and Jerusalem in the Gospel of Mark is indeed inclined to do so.
As regards this opposition, historical critics identify a tension between 'cultic' particularity
and 'eschatological' universality in regard to the Marean Sitz im Leben. 'Cult'
and 'eschatology', however, develop into abstract theological concepts when they are
not interpreted as being incorporated in Mark's 'social program'.
In the light of the possible hermeneutical relevance that the opposition between
Jerusalem and Galilee in the Gospel of Mark can have for present-day social problems,
the historical critic therefore represents a gap in existing research. The pragmatic
dimension of theological reflection is largely ignored by historical critics. The literarycritical
approach has certainly emphasized the interests that Galilee ~d Jerusalem represent
in Mark as narrative. These interests appear to be in conflict with each other.
Nevertheless, there are deficiencies in the literary-critical approach, for reasons such as
that this conflict of interests is not anchored within a social program peculiar to the
first-century Mediterranean world. The ideological-critical approach in the exegesis of
Mark indeed places emphasis on such a political and social program. The hiatus with
regard to this approach is that references to pre-industrial, agrarian social problems in
New Testament texts are erroneously attributed to modern economic and political ideologies,
as though the same or similar dominant ideological forces that Karl Marx
identified - with regard to the modern industrialized century - had been present in
the first century.
Van Eck considers that an association of narratology and social-scientific criticism
in exegesis could flll these gaps in existing research. By means of narratology,
Galilee and Jerusalem are responsibly studied as spheres of interest in the plot of the
Gospel of Mark. Social-scientific criticism enables one to see the advanced agrarian
society of the first-century Mediterranean world as the macrosociological framework of
the Gospel of Mark. Van Eck regards the narrated world of the Gospel of Mark as a
reflexive microsociological version of the agrarian society, seen from a macrosociological
perspective. Using an association of narratological and social-scientific criticism,
he intends interpreting the ideological communication strategy of the narrator (narrator's
point of view) in Mark as a social program without making himself guilty of anachronism
Van Eck's presupposition is, therefore, that the narrator's concern in Mark's
story about Jesus is communicated from an ideological perspective. This ideological
concern is conveyed with aids such as symbols. Galilee and Jerusalem (as topographical
references in the Gospel of Mark) function as symbols that represent particular
interests. Galilee represents the interests of the 'open household' ('politics of commensality')
and Jesus' message of God's unmediated presence. Jerusalem represents
the interests of the temple system ('politics of holiness') and the idea of God's constraining
presence. Galilee (household) and Jerusalem (temple) thus function as
narrative and sociological oppositions.