Re: [Synoptic-L] Mark and Matthew
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG; WSW
In Response To: Leonard
On: Mark and Matthew
Usefully irenic tone to the latest contribution on this topic; I touch on
just a few points.
I had argued that "copy" is an inaccurate term for what one Synoptist does
to the work of a preceding Synoptist.
Leonard: I concede this point, but I still think you are being a bit too
stringent in your vocabulary demands. I have often argued against the use of
the "copy" concept in Synoptic studies.
Bruce: Very glad to have an ally in the ongoing quest for careful
Leonard [on Moses and the Law]: . . . though cf. 19:8, which shows that
Matthew is quite capable of thinking Moses without saying Moses. I also
think your interpretation of the so-called "antithesis formula" is a little
weak. I think the formula comes a bit closer (though I agree one must be
careful here) to supersessionist in implication than you allow.
Bruce. "Supersessionist." NT people have names for everything; most of them
misleading. I am frankly wary of terms in general, and of abstractifying
ones in particular; they get one too far from the data too fast. I think
there were many replacement strategies for Jesus followers vis-a-vis the
Jewish law. Jesus himself wanted to reinterpret the law of Moses at certain
points, while still retaining the right to speak in the name of Moses
against later Pharisaic and other addenda. This position is best documented
in Mark, though of course not consistently *throughout* Mark (Mark is a
mixture of stuff, all sandwiched together). On the other hand, somebody, I
would say the Jerusalem party in particular, wanted to keep the law as it
was and based their hopes on hyperconformity to it; I think Brother Jacob
comes in about here. Then there was the Allegorical and Prefiguring
approach, which made not Israel but the Christian Community the heirs of the
Israel tradition; the true sons of Abraham, the subscribers to the New
Covenant; whatever (I doubt not there were many versions of this, but one of
them is probably Paul's, not that he necessarily made it up). If we want
terms, we might call this the Appropriation Strategy. And so on.
I think we need to keep alive the possibility that there many different
stances possible along the arc of the "Law" issue. Using any one blanket
term, as I see it, too soon snuffs out the little separate fires that may
have been the life and mind of the Jesus movement (or better, movements) at
an early phase of its/their history.
On the sequence and meaning of Matthew's Voice from the Cloud, any who
thought well of my previous exposition are welcome to continue to do so.
Leonard [On my suggestion that the Jesus/Moses issue waned in importance
over the period of the composition of the Gospels]: Here I agree with you
entirely, though I am not sure why you are so graciously making my point.
Mark's Gospel shows a distinct tendency of waning interest in the question
of the relation of Jesus and Moses.
Bruce: As I read it, Mark (or the earlier part of Mark) reflects the Jesus
version of Moses: a reinterpreted and simplified traditionalism. Matthew,
among other things, tends to redefine the Law itself so as to achieve Jesus
Movement ends by a different route. This is what I would describe as the
Jesus/Moses > Jesus/Law development, and I think it ran largely in that
direction. So after all I am still seeing Mk > Mt.
For the earliest period, the question was, Who defines the law? Here, as I
read it, is where the Jesus/Moses issue, properly so called, comes in, and
its chroniclers seem to use the word "Moses" quite a bit in mentioning it.
As further hints of that early position, there are also signs of an early
Jewish rejection of the Jesus position as involving, not just a blasphemy of
God, but also a blasphemy of Moses (both are present in Ac 6:11, the
accusation being made of Stephen). The original Jesus presumed to give the
people Moses in a form purified of his compromises (eg, on divorce) and a
few of his archaisms. Later on, that form of the authority issue waned, and
the question became rather: given the Law, and never mind about disputing
details with Moses, what does it say? One answer was to read the law simply
as prophecy, and then to find all the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus. This is
no longer the question of what *actions* are necessary for salvation (a
thing to which we see Jesus devoting considerable time in Mk, with specific
reference to the Law as the locus of difference), but what *beliefs* are
necessary for salvation. Jesus himself becomes the point of the Law as thus
understood. By this point, the terms of engagement between the Jesus
movement and Jewish tradition, as it seems to me, have been radically
changed. We have the "religion OF Jesus" being transmogrified into a
"religion ABOUT Jesus."
Here are two comparable passages that may illustrate an aspect of that
change. Both refer to the Coming of Jesus. Both are represented as spoken by
Jesus. But are "verily" assurances, in the face of the long delayed Second
Coming. So far so good. But the grounds of the respective assurances, I
would say, are importantly different:
Mk 13:30 Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till
all these things be done. . Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My Word
will not pass away.
Mt 5:17 Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I
have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For verily I say
unto you, Till Heaven and Earth pass away, not one jot or tittle shall pass
from the Law, till all be fulfilled.
Jesus's personal authority in Mk ("My Word") is replaced in Mt by the
authority of the Law, and the Law itself is no longer a behavior rule, but a
predictive authority. Once this changed is accomplished, the authority
behind Jesus's words is no longer the fact that Jesus spoke them (as still
in Mk, and be it remembered that in the Transfiguration scene we see God
giving authority precisely to Jesus's words), but the fact that all
tradition conspires to predict them, and thus to make them historically
necessary and inevitable (Mt).
A CHINESE PARALLEL
Just to mention: There is a perhaps analogous development in early Confucian
theory, on the general question of historical predictability, and with
specific reference to ritual (Li, behavior codes, what the Pharisees would
have called Law). Early in the 04th century, it was admitted in the School
of Confucius that little was known of the ritual practices of earlier times.
But by the end of the 04th century, and in a later layer of that same text
(the Analects), extreme positivistic confidence was expressed: Not only were
the terms of ritual evolution from remote antiquity to the present assuredly
known, but future changes in ritual, unto the hundredth generation, could be
confidently predicted. The development of a reliable predictive authority
strikes me as an interesting parallel, though of course the respective
cultural contexts are importantly different.
As traditions change (and on the whole, they either change or die), they are
very likely to develop a need for redefined authority. I think that in the
Mk/Mt transition we may see the Jesus tradition, and in the middle chapters
of the Analects, also the Confucius tradition (the latter much more slowly;
in the 04c Confucius had been dead for a century) meeting analogous versions
of that very general tendency, both of them in what one might loosely call a
cosmological direction. In the later theories of divine origin of Confucius
(Han dynasty, as far as I know) and the Pre-existent Jesus (gJn) we can see
further developments, not predictable but perfectly logical, of the
These are twice told tales. Alte Geschichte / immer neu.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst