Date of Award

Summer 2018

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Religion


Early Christianity

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dennis R. MacDonald

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tammi J. Schneider

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Gary Gilbert

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2018 Sungchan Moon


Naked young man in the Gospel of Mark, Elpenor in Odyssey, Mimesis Criticism

Subject Categories

Biblical Studies | Christianity


Mark obviously says that all of the disciples of Jesus desert him and flee (Mark 14:50). Mark, however, introduces a young man as a new character who was following Jesus like other disciples and fled naked before Jesus’s suffering. This young man is the most enigmatic character in Mark. In particular, the young man never appears in other Gospels. For this reason, the young man’s identity and his conduct has been a topic of longstanding dispute among scholars.

Some regard him as historical figures, one of Jesus’ own disciples like John the son of Zebedee, James the Lord’s brother, or John Mark. They consider him as witness of Jesus. Others take the young man to be symbolic figures like an angel, Jesus himself, Christian initiate, and a representative of disciples’ reality. In this work, I suggest that the young man is Mark’ literary creation by imitating Homeric model of Elpenor. Mark relies on a specific genetic model, not on historical reports of witness or symbolic interpretation.

Mark’s literary intention by using Homer’s Elpenor is to substitute his own value for Homer’s. The idea of the afterlife in Homeric epics is replaced to Christianized the concept of the afterlife that is resurrection. In addition, the identity of the young man is Mark’s creation as a

stand-in to substitute for Jesus and exculpate him from responsibility for not warning his disciples before the Jewish Temple destruction. According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus himself told his disciples in advance. Moreover, the young man in Jesus’s empty tomb provides the three women with the message of Jesus to escape from the tragic incident. Therefore, nobody would blame Jesus for the suffering of the Jerusalem Church in Jewish war. The women’s failure to transmit the message doomed Jesus’ followers to the carnage of the war.

The identity of the young man in Mark’s Gospel can be detected by considering Mark’s literary model and his mimetic achievement. As a creative and skillful author, Mark imitates well-known model in Greco-Roman literary world. Mark, however, does not just copy of the model; Mark emulates and transforms it to replace the concept of the afterlife. In addition, Mark’s mimetic achievement in the episode of the young man is to convey the supremacy of Jesus by exculpating him from responsibility not saving his followers from the catastrophe. Mark’s Gospel is the response for the issue. In sum, Mark’s dependence on Homer explains the most enigmatic character and scene in Mark.