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.
arrest and who is recorded uniquely among the secondary figures present as the object of an attempted arrest be one and the same? Of course, the Gospels are not chronicles. Johns Gospel is furthest removed from being one. Yet in its highly theological perspective it does contain a considerable underlay of historically concrete information. The statement (John 12,10-11) that the chief priests resolved to do away with Lazarus (presumably by way of legal process, preceded therefore by arrest, rather than wholly extra-judicially) has the merit both of being historically concrete and of definitively rescuing Lazarus as a historical figure. On the one hand, all the theological charge of the raising of Lazarus could stand without John 12,10-11. On the other, the Lazarus who was the object of such a resolution is not the Lazarus of the parable, whatever, if any, may be the literary relation between them. He was a figure who was judged both threatening to public order and palpable. Johns account gives no indication of his age, though it is probably implicit that he was not expected to die in the natural course (John 11,21; 11,32).
That the sources, in narrating the prelude to the crucifixion and its aftermath, mention only one figure other than Jesus who was targeted for action and only one figure on whom, in fact, an arrest was attempted is as suggestive as it is surprising. If the sources are compounded one might even deduce that after the common flight of Jesus followers from the Garden there was some recovery of spirit. One disciple is represented as boldly entering the courtyard of the high priest, where admittedly he may have expected to enjoy some measure of protection in virtue of whatever degree of acquaintance he possessed 13, and as securing the admission of Simon Peter (John 18,15-16) who had followed at a distance (Matt 26,58; Mark 14,54; Luke 22,54). Had it in the aftermath become clearer that the authorities in the Garden had not been interested in arresting everybody? Neither Simon Peters initial discretion in maintaining a distance nor his subsequent denials can be confidently pleaded against the supposition, since he may have had particular cause for anxiety 14. Nor can the only explicit statement on the point in the canonical Gospels (John 20,19) be safely read with retrospective import. By then the disciples might well have seen in the empty tomb new cause to fear action against them (cf. Matt 28,13-14). Brown, after thorough consideration, concludes: "Historically there is no recorded early Christian memory of an attempt to have Jesus followers put to death with him" 15. That is, except for the implication of John 12,10 and the possible implication of Mark 14,51-52.
It is time to ask whether there is anything to forbid the collation of John 12,10 and Mark 14,51-52. From a topographical viewpoint, certainly, there is nothing implausible about Lazarus presence in Gethsemane, on the route between Bethany and Jerusalem. Evidently, there would be some risk to him: though no more than to Jesus himself and perhaps in the circumstance of a