Re: [Synoptic-L] Directionality of Mark
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Chuck Jones
*Everything* that one has read three or more times is a literary
masterpiece, especially if it has a discoverable groundplan. I don't propose
to go further than that into what amounts to the literary equivalent of a
music appreciation argument. A point more accessible to philology is:
CHUCK: In Mk, and only in Mk, there is no resurrection appearance in
Jerusalem. Rather, the disciples are told to go to Galilee where Jesus will
appear to them. The Jerusalem appearance traditions of Mt, Lk and Jn have
all of the marking of pious legends and hagiography.
BRUCE: OK, but in my view it's more than just truth vs legend. Taking the
Gospels in their respective final states, which is how they are preserved in
the canon, we have (as I think I have mentioned before) a most suggestive
trajectory as respects location of Appearances of Jesus after his
Mark: Forecast in Galilee; not actually depicted. [The Gospel of Peter,
which is late but which in several points goes back to early tradition, does
depict that scene]
Matthew: Forecast in Galilee; actually first occurs near Jerusalem, though
the Galilee Appearance is duly narrated. Earlier curses the three Galilee
churches: Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum.
Luke: Retains the Matthean curses against the Galilean churches. The
Galilean Appearance forecast is rewritten as a promise *made* in Galilee,
but no longer as *referring* to Galilee. Jesus appears in Jerusalem, and the
disciples are *ordered by Jesus* not to return to Galilee. In Luke's view,
the posthumous church was from the beginning located in Jerusalem.
This is what I call the Jerusalem trajectory, which progressively wipes out
the fact that the oldest Jesus groups were located where his preaching had
also been located, namely in Galilee (but gJn obscures even this, by giving
Jesus a longer preaching career, and including not one, but several, visits
to Jerusalem and preaching in Judea), and that his after-death appearance
was originally thought to be in Galilee. Both the center of the Jesus
movement in fact, AND the tradition of the early church as the later church
chose to remember it, came to be in Jerusalem. By the time of Paul in
Galatians (though, for those of you with no teenaged daughters, there are in
fact challenges to the integrity of Galatians; see for one the interesting
study J C O'Neill, The Recovery of Paul's Letter to the Galatians, SPCK
1972, and among the passages he challenges are precisely those which bear on
Paul's previous career), Jerusalem was IT.
The successive Gospels reflect this shift to Jerusalem, and a
correspondingly progressive obliteration of the Galilee tradition. This is
the sort of thing that is VERY unlikely to have happened in the opposite
direction. It suggests the Synoptic sequence of composition Mk > Mt > Lk >
Jn. As does every other well-grounded trajectory argument.
The trajectory argument does not speak to Synoptic interrelationships, just
to order of composition. But order of composition is a useful limiter on
So far so good, and a considerable number may agree, but now we take, or let
me suggest that we take, a second look at Mark. *How well grounded* is the
Galilee Appearance in Mark?
Answer, not very well. The Appearance itself is never depicted, as I think
all will agree. How about the *predictions* of the appearance, which are all
that is left of that tradition in Mark? There are two of them, and only two.
The second, 16:7, refers back the the first, and so is not independent
evidence. The philological (they used to call this "higher criticism")
evidence is that both passages are interpolations. And why? Because they
make startling and encouraging statements, nothing else than a promise of
Life After Death, for Jesus and indeed for the movement comprising his
believers. But the making of these statements produces exactly no response
in those to whom they are ostensibly made; those persons continue in an
attitude of gloom and panic; their hearts are in no way lifted, nor are
their immediate concerns distracted. Look at this:
Mk 14:27. And Jesus said to them, You will all fall away, for it is written,
I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.
[Mk 14:28. But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee]
Mk 14:29. Peter said to him, Even though they all fall away, I will not.
Peter in 14:29 walks right past the assurance of 14:28, and responds
directly to 14:27. 14:28 might as well not be there, as far as this Peter is
concerned, and the indicated philological inference is that, when Mk 14 was
first written, 14:28 was indeed NOT there.
Of course, it could be some kind of fluke, or fancy rhetoric. Take now
Mk 16:6. And he said to them, Do not be amazed, you seek Jesus of Nazareth,
he is not here; see the place where they laid him.
[Mk 16:7. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you
to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you].
16:8. And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and
astonishment had come upon them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they
Again the same pattern: the women ignore the Galilee assurance, and react
with astonishment to the astonishing fact of the Empty Tomb: Jesus is no
So both these passages are exiguous in context. They *have no effect* on the
context; the people in the story in that point react as they might if these
things were not there. The inference is that both are interpolations, made
at the same time, and intentionally designed to reinforce each other. They
do indeed predict a Galilee appearance.
But the text of Mark, up to the time when these passages were inserted, DID
NOT make that prediction, or have that belief. What did it have instead?
Don't ask me; see for example Fitzmyer on the Philippians Hymn and related
materials, which testify to an early belief that Jesus was taken directly up
to Heaven (just like, ahem, Moses and Elijah in some traditions, and these
traditions are explicitly evoked elsewhere in Mk), and never saw the
corruption of death and burial as do other mortals.
We then have two stages in the growth of conceptions of Jesus. The first
stage is the one attested in Philippi and encountered by Paul in Corinth;
that is, a geographically widespread pre-Pauline tradition, which did not
base itself on the Resurrection Jesus (but rather on the Glorified Jesus in
Heaven). The second stage is the more familiar, because more Pauline,
Resurrection Jesus. It is in the second stage that we get arguments about
where the Appearances occurred, which is now a secondary issue. Dividing
Mark into two strata, one of which witnesses to the first stage, and the
other to the second, we then have a still strong but now more comprehensive
Mark A: No appearances, and indeed no Resurrection-centered Christianity
Mark B: Appearances predicted in Galilee, not shown.
Matthew: Hostility to Galilee; first appearance near Jerusalem; Galilee
Luke: Same hostility to Galilee; all appearances near Jerusalem; Disciples
ordered to remain in Jerusalem; church history now begins immediately and
exclusively in Jerusalem, and the Pauline view of both theology and church
history is entirely in place.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst