In a message dated 6/12/2001 10:57:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
<< There is no indication that 14:37-42 is designed
to dramatize the protagonist's [Jesus'] metamorphosis, as if each prayer
stage carried with it a new measure of insight, until at stage three Jesus
has arrived at the supreme decision to take the cross upon himself."
While interpreters often focus their attention on the Jesus prayer as the
central point of the Gethsemane narrative, the way Mark has constructed this
episode suggests that the Jesus-prayer stage only sets up the
disciple-sleeping stage; and that is where, I am convinced, the ultimate
message of this particular Gethsemane episode (14:32-42) is to [be] found.
clearly in the foreground of the narrative interest, after Jesus' initial
prayer, is stage two, the disposition of Jesus' three confidants who have
been invited, apart from the other disciples, to support him in his time of
introspection and wrestling with the divinely ordained fate that has been
established for him (8:31; 9:31; 10:33f.). And I contend that this second
stage is not only at the center of the narrator's interest-its principal
theme, watching vs. sleeping, is already anticipated at the beginning of
stage one with Jesus' charge to his disciples: "remain here and GRHGOREITE
("watch", 14:34)-but he also dramatizes it as a foil to the first stage. >>
I think Weeden is probably correct on the specific question of the emphasis
of this Markan pericope. On this point, I would like to make two further
1. Such a shift of emphasis, from a christological to a pastoral-pragmatic
concern, where the author's focus shifts to the psychology of a secondary
character in a given narrative, and away from Jesus, is not unique to this
pericope in Mark, but can be verified throughout most of Mark's Gospel,
especially when its individual pericopes are compared to their respective
2. This defining feature is at least consistent with (I would say even
probative of) a late Mark. I think it is far more likely that the story of
Jesus was first of all told with a Christological emphasis, and only
thereafter [the well-known story was] "applied" in this dramatic and pastoral
manner to the special concerns of particular Christian communities or to
historically significant pastoral/apostolic issues (the Pauline "thing",
e.g.). The common story of Jesus as told in the Synoptics is ultimately based
on an intensely focused project of reading the known facts in the life of
Jesus against the background of the OT and establishing (arguing!) Jesus'
identity as Israel's Messiah on this basis. This was clearly the work of
Matthew, and it ontologically precedes the later, applicational versions of
the story that are found in Luke and Mark. Mark does not have to make the
case that Jesus is the Christ: he and his readers can take that absolutely
for granted from the very first words of his Gospel.
As an overall criticism of this essay [though I note here that I have not yet
read its first part], I would say that Weeden exaggerates the negative
portrayal of the disciples. Mk 14:28, even if it was lifted almost verbatim
from Matt, was retained by Mark, and it shows clearly that the Evangelist
does not intend to portray definitive apostasy on the part of the Apostles.
Their weaknesses, and even their "falls", are profound, but not to such an
extent that they cannot and will not be reversed by grace, by the action of
Jesus who will go before them to Galilee after his resurrection. To describe
even Peter's dramatic denial of Jesus as "active collusion" with Jesus'
arch-enemies is simply an exaggeration that Mark's story, taken as a whole,
does not bear out. It is not possible to read Mark and to come away from the
text thinking that Peter is no better than those who firmly and consistently
oppose Jesus in the story (I realize, though, that "collusion" does not
necessarily imply this). I think that Mark can make some powerful pastoral
points to a community under threat of persecution and defection by shifting
the focus of the well-known story of Jesus (found, in particular, in Matt)
onto some of its secondary characters, and without undermining that story
itself or irreparably damaging the reputation of even its most humanly weak
and fallible protagonists. This is, in fact, what the general history of
Gospel interpretation has shown to be the case (at least until Weeden).
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