Michael J. Haren, «The Naked Young Man: a Historians Hypothesis on Mark 14,51-52», Vol. 79 (1998) 525-531
The article starts from the premiss that the young man in question - whatever his subsequent symbolical value - was a historical person. It notes the proximity of his association with Jesus implied by the evangelists usage. It comments on the fact that in the sources for the Passion there is only one figure besides Jesus who was the object of a projected arrest by the authorities and one figure besides Jesus on whom an arrest is known to have been actually attempted. Suggesting that the historian dealing with secular sources would be prompted to consider an identification accordingly, the article examines the implications.
Implicit both in the suggestion that the young man was Mark himself and that he was some sort of bystander is the assumption that the attempt to seize him the verb used, kratousin, is the same as that used of the arrest of Jesus was haphazard. Even if he were of the company, this remains a possibility. Despite being young and, as the outcome proves, agile, the figure in question leaves or is obliged to leave his escape until the last moment and is selected accordingly. The supposition remains open as well if he were in the centre of the group and found his exit less readily as if he were a bystander who might not expect to be arrested. R. E. Brown, in an important improvement on the notion that he was a bystander, makes him a late recruit, "the last person to be attracted to the following of Jesus when all the others have fled" 11. The interval between the flight of the other disciples and the arrest of Jesus seems a narrow and scarcely ideal opportunity for the attachment envisaged, even granted the point that "In Mark disciples who are called by Jesus usually follow him or wish to follow after very short contact with him" 12. Strictly read, the young mans near seizure does not have to come after the flight of the others: he may simply be a particular instance of a fleeing disciple, whose escape was especially close-cut and dramatic. However, Browns hypothesis can no more be excluded than can the possibility that the young man was a simple bystander, though one might think that an unknown figure, especially if he is to be understood as bizarrely dressed, pressing himself forward at a moment of crisis, would perhaps rather warrant being driven off with blows than arrested. Browns suggestion certainly has the merit both of catering for the particular form of the verb used and of reducing the utterly haphazard nature of the attempted arrest. But it is not perhaps necessary. There is, in fact, without the invocation of an unknown figure, reason within the sources to allow for the attempted arrests not being haphazard at all.
In the aftermath of his account of the raising of Lazarus, John at separate junctures describes the effect of the incident upon Jewish opinion. It resulted in the attachment to Jesus of many who had come out to condole with Martha and Mary, while others reported adversely (John 11,46). It was from this point that the Jewish authorities plotted the death of Jesus (John 11,53). So seriously was the threat taken that Jesus no longer went about publicly in Judaea but left the region temporarily, returning just before Passover (John 11,54; 12,1). At this point, many Jews came to Bethany to see not only Jesus but also Lazarus (John 12,9). The chief priests then resolved to do away with (literally, to kill) Lazarus as well (John 12,10-11). The impression made by the raising of Lazarus is also specifically associated by John with the success more accurately if less plausibly, in his narration it is presented as the instigation of the messianic entry to Jerusalem (John 12,12-19).
The historian who encountered such evidence in the accounts of medieval chroniclers would be obliged to pose an obvious question. Might not the figure who is identified as the target, by implication, of a projected