Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 8, Anonymous Persons in Mark’s Passion Narrative.” Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 183-201.
Bauckham observes that it is highly likely that an orderly account of the events around the Passion was known to and used by Mark. This narrative is more dependent on the order of events than other portions of the Gospel (Bauckham 2006, 183). Citing Gerd Thiessen’s work with anonymous characters in the Passion account, Bauckham, who has already argued that most characters are anonymous, suggests that the anonymity in the passion narrative may be significant (Bauckham 2006, 184).
Anonymity in a Gospel account may serve a protective purpose. The person who struck the high priest’s servant at Gethsemane, cutting off an ear, may well be an example of this. If the identity were known, the disciple could be endangered (Bauckham 2006, 85). Likewise, the young man who fled naked could be held up to shame.
Mark also avoids identifying the high priest, though the other Evangelists do provide a name (Bauckham 2006, 186). Bauckham suggests that Mark may have been hesitant to use the name due to the power of that priestly household and their hostility toward Christianity.
Bauckham notes that Mark provides complete anonymity for those involved in getting the donkey for Jesus’ entry into the city and for those who brought the disciples to the place for the passover (Bauckham 2006, 187). Bauckham describes the oddity of both events and concludes they must have required prearrangement by Jesus.
The woman who anointed Jesus in Mark 14:3-9 is unnamed, peculiarly so, according to Bauckham (Bauckham 2006, 189). She appears abruptly, and there is no indication of her connection with anybody. Furthermore, the text says her act will be told “in remembrance of her.” Bauckham notes that if she is to be remembered along with the deed, it is surprising that she has no name (Bauckham 2006, 190). The likely explanation is that the woman may have been in danger if she were known as a participant in Jesus’ claim to be Messiah.
Bauckham weighs the claims that the anointing would or would not be perceived as bearing messianic significance. While the anointing and the entry into Jerusalem can both bear such weight, Bauckham notes that Jesus identified this as an anointing for his burial. It is also presented by Mark sandwiched between the plot to arrest Jesus and Judas’ cooperation in that plot (Bauckham 2006, 192). It may be that the passage is significant of both the Messianic role and the death, as Jesus was put to death in hopes of stopping him from fulfilling a role as Messiah. Regardless, participants may have needed protection through anonymity.
Bauckham continues with the observation that a number of those anonymous in Mark are named in John. Rather than theorizing that names were invented over time, Bauckham sees this as a move which indicates the death, and therefore the safety, of those involved in the earlier, anonymous accounts (Bauckham 2006, 195). He further suggests that Lazarus, discussed in detail by John but absent from Mark, was another similar case (Bauckham 2006, 196).
Bauckham returns at last to the naked youth who fled from Jesus’ arrest. He considers that it would be very unlikely that the narrative would have come from anyone other than the young man, but that he is anonymous (Bauckham 2006, 197). The scene could well be taken as an illustration that Jesus’ arrest created disorder and panic, with people escaping in any way they could. Bauckham does think it likely that this was Mark’s portrayal of himself (Bauckham 2006, 200).