1506Re: [Synoptic-L] On The Earliest Markan Narrative
- Jan 17, 2009To: Synoptic
In Response To: Dennis Dean Carpenter
On: Earliest Markan Narrative
DENNIS: Ted Weeden Sr. has proposed twenty-four parallels between the
portrayal of Jesus of Ananias, found in Josephus' War of the Jews, as well
as common symmetry in the order of the motifs. This would suggest that
portions of the Passion story were influenced by Josephus, placing a date of
closer to 80 for this tale.
BRUCE: That has its attractions, but what does it do to Synoptic Gospel
chronology in general? For one thing, it seems to put the Gospels about
where the very late dating of Acts would accommodate them, which is fine if
you accept that argument. But all NT datings interdepend. Aren't there
DENNIS: As a whole, the book seems very well structured in a chiastic
fashion. Within the chiastic structure of the whole, one finds smaller
BRUCE: Chiasms are extremely easy to discover in almost any text, including
the Carmina of Horace, both with and without Book 4. Some of them are
probably artifacts of analysis rather than effects of composition. Some of
the genuinely authorial ones, in turn, are probably just the author having
fun with his own material (I know the feeling myself). What would escape
that solipsistic level, and be perceptible in performance?
I have to doubt that a chiastic design would have been apparent or cogent
for a hearer or reader unless the performance or the silent reading
comprised the whole text. So of any proposed chiastic text, we may ask the
question, Is continuous performance in fact practical? Final Mark, where the
ABA form is not so apparent (it is rather ABA Coda) takes about an hour to
perform, and that is not necessarily a practical matter, though it has been
done. First Mark (as I have suggested it) is about half that, and thus
enters the realm where integral performance is routinely thinkable. How is
that realm defined? Much musical and literary evidence (including the
genuine folk material collected by Parry) goes to show that 20 minutes or a
little more is about the comfort limit for an audience attending to a
consecutive performance. Somewhere in there, the performer and the audience
both tend to need a break before resuming. In that sense, it would seem that
the proposed First Mark is a much more functionally chiastic text than Final
DENNIS: The book as a whole also seems to be a long parable about how,
though the messiah was rejected and Israel destroyed because of it, "God is
salvation" and will return.
BRUCE: "Though" is exactly it. The implied Resurrection ending of Final Mark
does bring the previous Rejection of Israel plot to a much more satisfying
conclusion. I have previously suggested that this was one reason for its
addition, not only to the text but to the theological evolution which, as it
seems to me, the text mirrors.
DENNIS: When I enter into the first century world of Mark, I wander into a
shell shocked city, possibly Caesara Philippi, after the Romans have
practiced a scorched earth policy on Palestine and diapsoran populations on
the "way" back. When I enter the world of Mark, free from the name "Mark"
and the second, third century traditions associated, I see diasporan Jews
crying "Why?" I see the Gospel of Mark as an attempt to understand this. I
have no compelling reason to view any of this, other than a few locations
and a few names (Pilate, Herod, etc.) as historical.
BRUCE: I think a more mixed view is a better description of the whole. As
von Soden long ago pointed out, large tracts of Mark are extremely sunny.
They have Jesus preaching openly to large and enthusiastic crowds, Jesus
healing many, Jesus commanding the forces of nature, everything going well.
Nowhere in this material does Jesus curse his disciples, or intentionally
hide his message from his hearers. Then, as von Soden also pointed out, you
also have the other and gloomier part, the secretive Jesus, the abusive
Jesus, the impatient Jesus. The problem of Mark, as von Soden thus expressed
it, is to explain what these two types of material are doing in there
together. The tension demands some sort of resolution in the reader's or
hearer's mind. Wrede made a good beginning. More recently, I have suggested
how I see this demand being met, in each successive layer, and most
successfully (as above noted) in Layer 3 and subsequent.
That Mark (or as I would put it, Mark Layer 1) exists to answer the question
Why, is very much my sense also. But the question Why surely relates to the
arrest and execution of Jesus, to which the book devotes so much detail and
with which (in its original form) it climactically ends, and not to
devastation in the countryside, which to my eye at least, except for the
atypical predictions of Mk 13, the book does not depict at all.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>