Reply to: RE: [Synoptic-L] Narrative Structure of Mark (longish)
shawn, until recently i followed the reading of the bartimaeus episode you espouse below (narrative frame of opening blind eyes contrasted with 'blindness' of disciples; "following on the way", e.g. achtemeier, tolbert, et al). but recently i have been rethinking this reading. one can offer, imo, an equally compelling reading that the bartimaeus episode is just a healing story (see Kingsbury, Gundry). The paragraphs below come from my (forthcoming) contribution to the Storytellers Companion to the Bible (Stories About Jesus). I end up arguing that the storyteller/preacher might wish to try both versions on an audience (especially if the format allows for subsequent discussion). let me know what you think.
Not all agree with this interpretation that emphasizes the symbolic value of Bartimaeus for discipleship, arguing rather that the story of Bartimaeus is one primarily of healing and references to discipleship are either incidental or overdrawn. Though Jesus does "call" Bartimaeus, the word used here (phoneo) is not the one (kaleo) typically used in call stories (cf. Mark 1:20); further, Jesus does not call Bartimaeus himself, but does so through intermediaries (contra call stories, Mark 1:29-31, 10:17-22). The reference to "throwing off the garment" need not be taken as representing leaving occupation/possessions to follow Jesus, but rather as part of the narrator's characterization of Bartimaeus' persistent determination. The reference fits into a literary pattern of ABC/A1B2C3 where Bartimaeus' actions correspond to the words of those instructed by Jesus to summon him.
A Take heart; A1 and throwing off his garment
B rise, B1 he sprang up
C he is calling you C1 and came to Jesus
The act of "throwing off the garment" in this pattern corresponds to the imperative, "take heart," and should therefore be viewed as an act of courage, not necessarily part of some larger discipleship motif.
While the audience of Mark has been privy to Jesus' teaching in private about his understanding of his vocation over against the messianic expectations of the disciples and others (cf. Mark 8:27-33), it is not altogether clear that Bartimaeus himself understands the full import of referring to Jesus as "son of David." In fact, far from invoking the popular political understanding of a Davidic messiah, Bartimaeus may simply be appealing to the Jesus as a potential benefactor of merciful healing (see Parallel Stories). Thus, Jesus' silence should not necessarily be taken as endorsement of Bartimaeus' statement. This point is reinforced by the next scene where the crowds' unreflective exuberant proclamation, "Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!" can hardly be viewed as endorsed by the narrator. Nor is it necessary to view Jesus' words, "your faith has saved you" as referring to any deep understanding on Bartimaeus' part about Jesus' identity and mission. In Mark's healing stories, these references to "faith" are almost always in terms of faith adequate for healing, i.e., "trust in an action," not "belief about who Jesus is" (cf. Mark 2: "when he saw their faith,"; Mark 5, "your faith has restored you").
Finally, while it is true that the term "follow" in Mark may often be used of disciples following Jesus on the way to the cross (see above), it is not always used this way. Most significantly, the term does not seem to be used that way in the following episode of the so-called Triumphal Entry where the "many" are divided into two groups, "those who went before" and "those who followed" (11:9). Likewise the term odos, while at times pregnant with theological meaning for the "way of the cross" does not always have this usage in Mark (2:23; 6:8). Most importantly, it does not seem to have this sense in the immediate context where at the beginning of the story Bartimaeus is found "sitting beside the road" (odos, 10:46). Again, in the next scene, the term odos seems to carry its ordinary meaning in the notice that "many spread their garments on the road" (odos, 11:8).
Most telling in support of reading the Bartimaeus story as a healing story is the fact that Bartimaeus' following Jesus appears to be in direct disobedience to Jesus' command. Jesus tells Bartimaeus to "Go (hupage) your way"; but Bartimaeus disregards this imperative and follows him instead. With this action, Bartimaeus joins not the band of disciples who follow Jesus when invited or commanded to do so, but rather the collection of those healed by Jesus who subsequently disobey him. Despite being told to say nothing to anyone, the leper proclaims freely (Mark 1:40-45); when the demoniac is told to go home, he proclaims throughout the ten cities (Mark 5:20); when told to be quiet, the former deaf-mute insists on proclaiming (Mark ); likewise, when Jesus tells Bartimaeus to go off, he follows Jesus on the way. Bartimaeus who seeks out Jesus as a potential benefactor continues to follow him not in a master/disciple relationship but in an effort to continue a patron-client arrangement that has been beneficial to him. Thus, one can make an equally compelling case that this story is a highly dramatic healing story with, at best, only opaque references to discipleship.
Shawn Kelley wrote:
>The idea that the call of disciples is a frame for 1:14 to 10:52
>is highly artificial. It is true that Bartimaeus ends up following
>Jesus. But this is presented as the result, not the purpose, of Jesus'
>power and compassion. Also Jesus says hUPAGE (10:52) which means "Go",
>so Mark didn't see it as a call to follow Jesus. Furthermore it is
>refuted by a clear structural frame, namely "gospel" in 1:1 and 1:15,
>which marks out the opening section to Mark's **gospel**, 1:1-15.
>I hadn't noticed the 1:1/1:15 frame. It's a good point and I'll have to
>think about it some.
>I still think that there is a frame between 1: 16-20 and 10: 46-52. I see
>1:15 as the programmatic statement that sets the theme for the first half: the
>response to Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom. The section opens with the call of
>a disciples ("Follow me" 1:17; "and they...followed him" 1:18). The Bartimeaeus
>scene is similar, as he too follows Jesus (10:52). The same verb (akoloutheo)
>is used in both instances. The Bartimeaus scene also includes a number of themes
>that have been developed in the first part of the Gospel: he asks for and
>receives his sight (10:51), which contrasts nicely with the blindness of the disciples
>(8:17); and follows Jesus on the way/road (hodo), as do the disciples (10:32,
>although note that they are afraid). He is good soil to their rocky soil.
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>Date: Thu, 08 Jul 1999 14:42:36 -0400
>From: Shawn Kelley <skelley@...>
>Subject: [Synoptic-L] Narrative Structure of Mark
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