Many who promote Markan priority, picture themselves as being in the forefront of opposition to Fundamentalism. But history does not support their picture. During the last decades of the 19th century, the theory was sweeping the Christian world. Protestant Fundamentalism was launched in 1895 at a Congress in America to combat the problem. The Markan priority theory was not a reaction to Fundamentalism, but Fundamentalism a reaction to Markan priority. Fundamentalism (Literalism) became a widely supported attempt to defend basic Christian beliefs against the Markan theory.


Similarly, Markan priority was not a reaction to Pope Leo’s 1893 Encyclical. The Encyclical was a reaction to Markan priority. (It is interesting that Pope Leo had reacted to the theory very close to the time of the Protestant response).


Fr. Raymond Brown was haunted by the fear of Catholic youth being captured by Fundamentalist sects. In his 1990 book, 101 Questions on the Bible, (pages 44-47) he wrote that a rich liturgy; a firm Catechesis and marvellous personal devotions would be of little avail if the study of the bible was ignored. He was correct. He was also correct in writing that such study should be based on modern methods. His mistake was to equate modern methods with the Markan priority theory. He was a very sincere priest, but sadly his recipe to cure the illness was to give more of the same poison.


It was the Markan theory itself which was undermining Catholic education, and the beliefs of Catholic youth, and thereby making Fundamentalism attractive.


[G 318] 6th March 2016