4788RE: [Synoptic-L] Re: Mk 2:27: A Western Non-Interpolation or not?
- Feb 7, 2013To: Synoptic
In Response To: David Inglis
David: As we don't know whether aMk was bilingual or not . . .
Bruce: Of course not. But are we really entirely in the dark?
1. Mark knew some Greek because he wrote in Greek. His Greek has been
faulted, but I have seen arguments that some of the supposed solecisms may
after all not be that bad; though perhaps not of academic level. It is at
least presentable Greek. Perhaps: provincial Greek. When he gives the name
of Jesus' first-called disciple, he uses the Greek form Peter, not (as Paul
invariably does) the Aramaic equivalent Cephas. In at least this instance,
where a choice offers between Aramaic and Greek, Mark's language of
preference is Greek. In Mark's own household, the maid's name was Rhoda (so
says Luke), a Greek name which implies an affectation of Greek culture.
I am reminded of the cultured Berlin households of the 19c, say that of
Mendelssohn, or of von Ranke (whose wife was Irish; some of his collected
letters are in English), where English as well as German was the medium of
interchange and cultural enjoyment. Or French at the 19c Russian court.
2. Mark seems to have known a number of people fin Jerusalem, possibly
including Simon of Cyrene and his two sons, who are important in the
narrative because at least Simon was an eyewitness to the Crucifixion. If
Simon was a Jew of Cyrene (north Africa), he may not have been a fluent
speaker of Aramaic, and if Mark's circle included people not that fluent in
Aramaic, his own basic language need not have been Aramaic, though
undoubtedly he knew enough Aramaic to get around. The Aramaisms in Mark have
been variously assessed; some who should know find them not always precise.
Mark himself, in giving Aramaisms, invariably translates them for his
readers. Then his expected readers were not assuredly Aramaic-fluent. This
would be another hint that Mark's own circle were not, or not all, or not
all that, fluent in Aramaic. The only parts of the Jesus story that Mark
really knows up close, as it were, are the Jerusalem parts; for the Galilee
parts, where these are not simply invented, he seems (on the evidence of the
shape these things have within the overall story of Mark) to have relied on
the reports of others. It is likely enough that one of these informants was
Peter (though not, I should think, Peter in Rome; that is taking things too
far in a deuteroPauline direction; far more likely, as Luke suggests, Peter
in Jerusalem). The only person Mark describes physically is John the
Baptist, and John was a popular revivalist preacher in the vicinity of,
again, Jerusalem. For a convinced and early believer in Jesus not ever to
have visited Galilee, or to have heard Jesus preach there firsthand, argues
a lack of comfort in a more exclusively Aramaic-speaking area. Of course the
dialect there was crude, but still.
3. Mk, alone of the Gospels, includes some easy Latinisms, which would have
been natural enough for anyone living in Jerusalem, where there was a strong
Roman military and economic presence. He does not translate these Latinisms;
he expects them to be understood. Then for his intended audience, and
conceivably for himself, Latin (a certain amount of contact Latin) was a
given. His own name (Mark) is Latin, and not Greek (like the non-Aramaic
names of many of his contemporaries).
Not to run this too far, I come up with at least trilingual, taking
"lingual" in a somewhat wide and forgiving sense. Or to put it in a phrase:
a cosmopolitan Jew of Jerusalem.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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