According to the perspective of PN, Jesus hamartia was his Jewish, messianic
apocalypticism. According to PN, Jesus backed his claim that he was the
Messiah but announcing that the high priest (and everybody else) would soon
witness the fulfillment of Dan 7:13-14, the supernatural establishment of
the messianic age with Jesus installed as the messianic king. But when
Jesus felt death coming on, he prayed, "why have you forsaken me?" Jesus'
death demonstrated to himself the "incredible" conclusion that he was not
the Messiah. The plot moves from an attitude of Jesus' supreme confidence
to one of the most abject despair. I think that the author of PN portrays
Jesus as coming to the tragic hero's anagnorisis, that his death and his
fate proved to himself that he could not be the Messiah. From the Roman
perspective of the author, Jesus' hubris and hamartia, his general
subscription to messianic apocalypticism and more particularly that he was
the Messiah, the author, so painfully and with some relish chronicles that
Jesus' messianism to be bogus. His messianic claim was soundly debunked
and most thoroughly refuted and thus constituted the essence of his passion.
I think we are to read between the lines, that Jesus, in terms of his own
Jewish beliefs, received an answer to his Psalm 22:1 prayer. Why did I
forsake you? Because you are not the Messiah! This moment of anagnorisis
is indicated by Jesus' last breath utterance--a loud cry. Perhaps if he
could, he would have plucked out his eyes.
But our Gentile author has an alternative explanation of what Jesus was--a
uios theou, or a theios aner, a "divine man." So while Jesus' messianism is
proven wrong, our author has a different assessment, Gentile assessment to
explain Jesus, which he puts in the mouth of the centurion, a Roman like
himself. Thus the author not only reject the messianism of both Jesus and
his Sanhedrin detractors, he offers an alternative, highly positive
assessment nonetheless to explain what indeed Jesus was.
The account is rife with dramatic irony, or surprising outcomes. The
Sanhedrin turns out to be "right," Jesus turns out to be "wrong," and Jesus
executioner utters the Aristotelian epiphany about what Jesus was through
it all. Jesus' hamartia? He thought he was a mythological figure. This
was his hubris and his fatal flaw.
You reticence to see here a perfect Aristotelian tragedy seems to simply
ignore the fact that his characterization and the plot of his fate so
perfectly conforms to Aristotle's description of the ideal tragedy and its
tragic hero. Even the issue of detailed, effective diction is shown over
the fact that Jesus, due to lack of breath, could not pronounce 'elohi, but
uttered eloi, the difference between a rough and a smooth breathing over the
omega. For this, he was cruelly mocked.
On form-critical grounds, the genre of PN is an Aristotelian tragedy as a
reading of his Poetics shows, a summary of which I have cited. The story is
profoundly pathetic, inspiring both pity and fear, as a good Aristotelian
The tragedy ultimately scores an important notion about the "forsaking God."
The tragic hero must run the gambit of his fate. But according to the
story, Jesus painful realization lasted for but a moment's breath. God did
let his hero suffer with his most painful anagnorisis for but the shortest
possible duration. His immediate death following it shows the mercy of a
seemingly cruel deity. In this lies the catharsis of the story for the
But, who can believed our report? And to whom can be revealed the arm of
From: Jeff Peterson
Date: 01/02/13 17:42:35
Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] A case for pMark
Perhaps I missed this in an earlier message (I'm engaged in the exciting
business of syllabus-writing, so not able to be as attentive to the list as
I'd like), but I was curious if you could state what you see as the Marcan
Jesus' tragic flaw.
While I'm doubtful that the author of Mark had any personal acquaintance
with Greek tragedy or familiarity with Aristotle's analysis thereof, I see
plenty of heuristic value for Marcan exegesis in employing categories drawn
from that analysis. Death resulting from the protagonist's *hamartia*,
however, seems a real surd in Mark's story of the Son of God appointed to
die by the will of his divine Father (cf. 1:11; 8:31; 14:21), and I'd be
interested to see how you'd define that.
All the best,
Austin Graduate School of Theology
On Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 4:42 PM, lmbarre@... <lmbarre@...> wrote:
> My analysis of the Passion Narrative (Mark 14:1-15:39*) finds it to be, on
> form-critical grounds, a perfect Aristotelian tragedy as described in his
> Poetics." I mean perfect in terms of realistic portrayal ("imitation),
> characterization of the tragic hero with a fatal hamartia, the importance
> plot, appropriate diction, down to the proper use of vowels, a final
> epiphany, a heavy sense of dramatic irony (surprising outcomes) the hero's
> anagnorisis, peripetia (reversal of fortune) and more. Also, there is much
> to argue that 'eloi 'eloi lama sabachthani is an authentic saying of Jesus
> in spite of two other places where Mark has added "fulfillment's" of Psalm
> 22. I would so far as to argue that the pre-Markan PN is not only
> it is based upon an eye-witness account that was collected by the author
> PN. Here is a summary of the traits of Aristotle's tragic hero from my
> With the original PN isolated (argued elsewhere), especially that it ended
> in Mark 15:39, we may then ask the form-critical question regarding its
> literary genre. My contention is that it is a tragedy, and more
> an Aristotelian tragedy. Evidence for this genre designation is drawn
> of all from Aristotle's Poetics:
> Here again I do need to go into some quite detailed arguments to show that
> original PN does indeed conform to Aristotle's ideal tragedy. They may be
> summarized as parallel in terms of plot, characterization of the tragic
> motifs and diction. Here is a summary of the literary features of a
> Aristotelian tragedy:
> An Aristotelian tragic hero must have four characteristics:
> - Nobleness (of a noble birth) or wisdom (by virtue of birth).
> - Hamartia (translated as tragic flaw, somewhat related to hubris, but
> denoting excess in behavior or mistakes).
> - A reversal of fortune (peripetia) brought about because of the hero's
> tragic error.
> - The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the
> hero's own actions (anagnorisis).
> As I have said, I can go into much greater detail to show that the PN is
> be generically classified as an (Aristotelian) tragedy. Your denial that
> this is not so needs to engage what arguments I have just advanced.
> Note also that Aristotle's tragic hero was developed in the history of the
> genre. Here is a list of certain refinements and additions to Aristotle's
> original definition of the tragic hero:
> Other common traits as developed in later tragedies:
> Hero must suffer more than he deserves.
> Hero must be doomed from the start, but bear no responsibility for
> possessing his flaw.
> Hero must be noble in nature, but imperfect so that the audience can see
> themselves in him.
> Hero must have discovered his fate by his own actions, not by things
> happening to him.
> Hero must see and understand his doom, as well as the fact that his fate
> discovered by his own actions.
> Hero's story should arouse fear and empathy.
> Hero must be physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often
> resulting in his death.
> Ideally, the hero should be a king or leader of men, so that his people
> experience his fall with him.
> The hero must be intelligent so he may learn from his mistakes.
> Conclusion: The genre of the original PN is a tragedy as defined by
> Aristotle in his Poetics and as later expounded in other tragedies
> descending from an Aristotelian origin.
> I submit that I have offered detailed arguments regarding the
> literary-critical isolation of an original PN and correctly identified its
> genre as (Aristotelian) tragedy.
> With this definition, I have a basis to argue that the PN is based upon an
> eye-witness account. I go further to argue that the eye-witness was a
> historical centurion who served as the source of factual information. Let
> be quick to say that I am not here "cherry-picking" the centurion as the
> probable witness that the author of PN used to compose his tragedy. That
> may rationally determine that the centurion's account is the basis of the
> should not be dismissed because it is often the case that we cannot
> make such a specific determination of a literary source. Let me also clear
> the air that I am not compelled by any ideology which "need" to have an
> eye-witness report regarding the historical Jesus. I very much argue to
> remarkable and unprecedented conclusion and I am fully aware of its
> claim. It seem most grandiose that I should claim that I have concluded
> quest for the essential historical Jesus! I cannot put enough exclamation
> points behind this allegation.
> That the PN is based upon an eye-witness account is argued upon two bases:
> - the probable conclusion that eloi eloi lama sabachthani is an authentic
> saying of Jesus.
> - that the genre of a Aristotelian tragedy aims at above all "imitation"
> what we call "realism."
> While the traditional criteria for isolating authentic sayings of Jesus
> been critiqued in scholarly literature, I would argue that the following
> criteria are, with noted qualification, yet valid:
> - dissimilarity
> - embarrassment
> - orality
> - diction (Aramaic)
> It should be noted that the lama sabachthani is good Aramaic and is
> expressed Jesus' vernacular.
> I have also argued to the conclusion that the above saying is authentic
> That the genre of Aristotlelian tragedy that aims to be "realistic" is
> stated in the Poetics. Indeed, this is a major characteristic of his ideal
> tragedy--"imitation." What it imitates is the actual phenomenon of a
> dimension of human existence. This is the basis of his argument that it
> should inspire not only pity but also "fear." That fear is to be inspired
> among the audience is based the real threat that they may experience a
> possible tragic situation. The "catharsis" consists of the enlightenment
> that a seemingly senseless tragedy has a most profound and most positive
> As for the meaning of the centurion's epiphany, uios theou is not the
> notion of the "Son of God" (1:1) but is rather a Roman, gentile
> literarily rendered as "a son of a god," otherwise known as a theios aner,
> the Hellenistic concept of the "divine man." The debate whether Mark
> portrays Jesus in terms of Hellenistic notions or one based on Old
> characters is both right when we realize that we are dealing with two
> versions of the Gospel. Mark redacted the theios aner presentation into
> that was more from a Jewish perspective.
> LM Barré
> San Diego
> -------Original Message-------
> From: Ronald Price
> Date: 1/2/2013 11:38:23 AM
> To: Synoptic-L
> Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] A case for pMark
> Chuck Jones wrote:
> > Are you saying that Mark free-composed everything in his gospel except
> > (handful of) aphorisms?
> > I'd appreciate hearing more about your thoughts on this.
> Not quite. Mark would have picked up a few simple facts from Paul (if, as
> believe, the author can be equated with the Mark of Phm 24), and perhaps
> conversation with others in the church at Rome, e.g. that Peter was a
> prominent apostle, that Jesus was crucified in or near Jerusalem, that
> Pilate was the governor at the time.
> > He composed the parables, for example?
> Not the aphoristic (short) parables: Lamp, Mustard Seed, Salt, Eye of
> Needle, but most of the others, and certainly the two long parables: the
> parable of the Sower and the parable of the Vineyard, both of which seem
> have been composed specifically with the Christian mission in mind.
> > And all of the scenes, characters and dialogue in the passion narrative?
> The dialogue, yes, apart from the Last Supper dialogue which I think is
> close to what Mark got from Paul. The scenes as presented, yes. But 14:3-9
> was probably based on an actual anointing of Jesus as Messiah, and the
> by Pilate and the crucifixion may include a few genuine details (e.g. the
> inscription on the cross?). Also at least two of the characters, namely
> Judas the betrayer (here I follow Hyam Maccoby), and Joseph of
> Of course the existence of Jesus, Peter and Pilate does not depend solely
> the testimony of Mark's gospel. They are historical characters.
> Ron Price,
> Derbyshire, UK
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Synoptic-L homepage: http://markgoodacre.org/synoptic-lYahoo! Groups Links
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]