To: Synoptic (GPG)
In Response To: L M Barré
On: Some Suggested Markan Interpolations
[I think the list protocol recommends NOT attaching previous messages, since
it leads to long files. If so, I venture to agree with that recommendation /
LMB: I began with the account of John's death because I think that this is
the most obvious all of the examples I noted. This is due on the one hand
to the relative length of the insertion. One reads the material that
precedes it on the missionary activity of the Twelve and then switches topic
to John s death.
BRUCE: Not exactly. The larger sequence of items seems to be:
6:6b. Jesus goes about the country preaching
6:7-13 Jesus sends the Twelve to go about the country preaching
6:14-16. Herod thinks that Jesus is John redivivus
6:17-29. Explanation of Herod's previous murder of John
6:30. Return of the Twelve
Herod at 6:14 looks past the Twelve, tramping all over his country, and
reacts only to the preaching of Jesus. That is, he ignores the Sending of
the Twelve. This is exactly what happens in the most obvious and most widely
acknowledged of all Markan interpolations: 14:28 and 16:7 (someone in the
following passage responds to something of the previous passage, entirely
ignoring the thing in the middle). Then the chief lesson to be drawn from
this material is that the Sending of the Twelve is an interpolation. Since
the Twelve contradict the idea of Five Disciples (the ones which are called
individually in Mark; see my SBL presentation of some years back), those two
accounts of the selection of an inner circle cannot both be true. Of them,
the seeming interpolation is highly likely to be a later improvement in the
LMB: Then, to some dissonance, we are provided with the ending of the story
that began before the John episode.
EBB: The dissonance is exactly the problem. The ideal situation with an
interpolation is that when it is removed, the rest of the text closes up
seamlessly, like a healed wound. This does not obtain in all cases, since
there may have been smoothing at the edges by the interpolator. But the case
is stronger if that feature is present. It is not present in this case.
LMB: It's as if, "Right, I guess that story was not quite finished."
EBB: The John story, if present, helps to make the sequence smoother. If
absent, it reveals a lack of finish. If we take the John piece as original
(albeit stylistically aberrant, given its outside origin), then our account
gives a smoother text. This is an advantage.
LMB: . . . Indeed, the greater the length of the insertion, the more reader
dissonance is created and the more abrupt is a much delayed return to the
account. Of all the insertions, this is by far the most lengthy.
EBB: Mk 13 is perhaps somewhat longer, not to mention the Empty Tomb sequel.
But an interpolation can be any length. The point here, I think, is that the
reader dissonance arises from taking the John piece out, not from putting it
in. See above.
LMB: . . . In addition, we find it the expansion two occurrences of the
adverb, euthus, which is obviously a Markan stylistic marker. It occurs no
less than 42 times out of a total of 59 in the entire NT. In all these
ways, the episode of the Baptizer's death is strongly indicated to be a
EBB: Euthus is not unique to Mark, though he obviously uses it a lot. That
the Death of John as we have it has passed under the hand of Mark is true on
either account. This is not quite the same as saying that it is an
LMB: My view that PN concluded in 5:39 (rather than 5:38, with the renting
of the veil), is informed on internal grounds as well as my identification
of PN as a perfect Aristotelian tragedy. Before and after 5:38, we have the
connecting link regarding Jesus' last breath. Further, it is one of the
virtues of Aristotle's ideal tragedy that the use of an Deus ex Machina and
is to be excluded as it is not "imitation" or realistic as we would say.
EBB: Euripides does not always follow what Aristotle thinks is a perfect
tragedy (I seem to recall that Aristotle had Sophocles chiefly in mind). But
the idea that Mark has Aristotle in mind surely requires prior
demonstration. Some have thought he had Homer in mind. The unspoken
assumption is that Mark regarded Jesus' death as a tragedy. I don't think
the text itself bears this out. Mark has contrived to make the seeming
defeat of Jesus' death into a triumph. The question is: exactly what kind of
triumph? This question may not lead to an Aristotelian answer, but I
recommend it none the less on that account.
It is, I think, agreed on all sides that Psa 22 is all over the Crucifixion
account, and is meant to be heard in the background (movie music; what my
cinema friends call nondiegetic) as an aid to understanding the foreground
narrative. Accepting that, what does Psa tell us, not about Jesus, but about
Mark's interpretation of Jesus' life and death?
LMB: In PN, we have alleged Markan accretions with the prophetic
fulfillment's of Psalm 22, the supernatural darkness in the 6th hour, and
the renting of the veil. Further still, the centurion voices an
Aristotelian "epiphany" that goes to the kerygma of the author as to
answering what Jesus was. The plot show quite specifically that Jesus, in
terms of his own thinking and in that of his detractors, that he was not the
Messiah as he had so confidently pronounced before the Sanhedrin and in
response to the the High Priest's question. There he backed his claim that
the High Priest (and everyone else) would see the fulfillment of Dan 7:13-14
and himself supernaturally installed as the expected messianic king. As a
vindication of his messianic claim, it makes little sense that he backs his
claim by saying that [someday] you will see . . . " On the contrary, the
claim has force in that it was mean that [at any moment] you shall see . .
." It is this supreme contrast that informs his most pathetic complaint,
"Why have you forsaken me?" and his recorded death, Fate seals the case.
So PN is scoring two points. He is rejecting Jewish apocalyptic messianism
in toto but then in the epiphany of the centurion, finds the true assessment
of this Jesus, in terms of Roman Gentile concepts. He was indeed a uios
theou. Not in the Markan sense of the "Son of God" but rather in the
Hellenistic sense of a theios aner, "a son of a god," one among the many
divine men known from Graco-Roman tradition.
EBB: I note the translation "a son of a god," and disagree with it. I think
the intention is to mirror the claim of God in the Baptism scene, repeated
in the presumption of God in the Transfiguration scene (respectively, the
beginning and precise middle of the story). It is to give Roman authority to
the view of Jesus held at that point by the Markan narrative (the Markan
view of Jesus would evolve somewhat in the later history of the Markan
narrative; this is the whole point of an accretional text - to keep
theologically and otherwise current with the times).
I don't think that gMk at this point was a Greco-Roman Gospel. See my
previous comment, to the effect that the acceptance of Paul and the Gentile
Mission came gradually during the Markan text formation process, and
expresses itself more and more positively as the text continues to update
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst