Re: [Synoptic-L] Date of Mark
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Mark and Paul
I find myself in general agreement with Ron Price's recent statement of the
issues previously discussed, and pick out for comment only one point, which
bears on the detail in which (despite methodological misgivings) I am
inclined to agree with James Crossley: the early date of Mark. (This point
is independent of the question of whether Jesus was entirely
Torah-observant, or so I take it; on that half of Crossley's thesis I remain
RON: The issue is the use of the title [Son of God] for Jesus with an
explicit or implicit indication of uniqueness. We know for sure that Paul
applied the title to Jesus as early as 1 Thess 1:10 ("his [God's] Son").
Luke attributes this theology to Paul within days of his conversion (Acts
9:20), suggesting that this was Paul's special insight.
BRUCE: I'm not sure how safe we are in taking Acts as reportive rather than
emblematic. Michael Goulder (Type and History in Acts, 1964, and highly
recommended) has made what I regard as an excellent beginning on this
question, but I am not sure that we his readers are entirely home free yet.
Meanwhile, I am inclined to treat Acts with considerable circumspection.
RON: . . . This seems to be supported by the fact that in none of his extant
letters does Paul refer to Jesus as "Son of man". Paul didn't want anyone to
be confused as to Jesus' special relationship with God. Mark on the other
hand was prepared to use both labels, which is consistent with the view that
Mark was aiming in some sense to bridge the gap between the original
disciples and the gospel of Paul.
BRUCE: Mark is theologically mixed, and also terminologically mixed. This is
a well-known fact, attested by many commentators down through the decades.
What do we make of it? I can think of at least three possibilities: (a) Mark
was a confused person, and put down whatever came to hand without noticing
the problems. Could be, but it's not terribly polite, and there are some
signs in the work that at least somebody involved with it at one time or
another knew what they were doing, formally and theologically. So I pass on
this one. (b) Mark was trying to harmonize the conflicting doctrines of his
day; this is Ron's suggestion. Though there are some points that could be
cited in support, I don't find it consistent with the frequent simple
juxtaposition of incompatible views elsewhere in Mk. So again, I have to
pass. Finally, (c) Mark may be accretional: consistent within any one layer,
but seeming INconsistent when the resulting stack of theologically distinct
layers are read together as a single text. This is more polite than (a), and
to my eye better respects the actual literary shape of Mk than (b). I adopt
it, not alone for those reasons (politeness in particular has no place in
historical methodology as such, though it is a very agreeable quality
otherwise), but chiefly because I see signs in the text of the insertion of
passages into other passages, and of intentional efforts in what seem to be
late passages to deal at least occasionally with the disharmonious elements
occurring in earlier passages. See again (perhaps most conveniently when it
presently becomes available in a rewritten version) my Mark paper or papers
from SBL/NE 2006 and 2008.
RON: Crossley gives as an alternative the possibility "that Mark came first
and indirectly influenced Paul" (p.53). Possible, but highly unlikely. The
fact that Paul is known to have delved deeply into theology (Romans) and to
have been reluctant to be dependent on others (e.g. Gal 2:6), makes it far
more likely that Mark was dependent on Paul.
BRUCE: Besides Acts, the other person in this conversation I don't trust is
Paul. He is exceedingly and vociferously concerned to distance himself from
the Jerusalem biggies, and to insist on the total independence of his own
vision, giving him equal credentials (if not identical views) with the
biggies. I think he doth protest too much. I think he got his views in the
first place from some stratum or local version of the early Jesus movement,
with which he was intimately involved as its persecutor, not only in Judea
but specifically also in Galilee and Samaria (Ac 9:31). Galilee, and points
north (remember the Road to Damascus) seems to have been the particular area
of operation of the original home-country Jesus movement, and the area of
early Christianity that Mark was chiefly responsive to.
The question for history generally is how to sort together Paul, Acts, and
Mark, and which parts to sort together in the first place. My own suspicion,
from the research mentioned above, is that (a) Mark records a whole series
of early Christologies or anyway theories of Jesus, a series in which the
Son of God theory is definitely earlier (because stratigraphically lower)
than the Son of Man theory; (b) the Historical Paul taps into this evolving
theology at a point after "Son of God" but before "Son of Man." Hence the
situation that Ron describes.
Then in part Mark is, or records ideas reflecting a stage, earlier than the
conversion of Paul. This is one way of saying that at least parts of Mark
are very early. If Mark was accretional, and if Paul tapped into it, or the
tradition which it reported, while Mark was still a "live" text and thus
continuing to reflect developments as they occurred, does this mean that
some parts of Mk are pre-Pauline, and others post-Pauline? The obvious
answer is Yes.
The question then arises: Do the later parts of Mark reflect the views or
activities of Paul? My own impression is again Yes. I see the late parts of
Mk as being aware of the Gentile Mission without wholly approving it, and
certainly not as putting it, as Luke later did (and as Acts still later did
even more vehemently), at the center of the whole Jesus movement. But this
is a story for another weekend. For now, I merely want to suggest that the
accretional model of Mark (should it prove to be philologically well
founded) may offer a new and perhaps useful angle on these recurring but
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Jeff Peterson
On: Paul and Jesus
JEFF: ) The Pauline testimonia to Jesus' ministry don't exhibit the degree
of verbal agreement with the Synoptic parallels that commends a literary
explanation of inter-Synoptic agreements.
BRUCE: I would agree that Paul's Epistle is not here being copied from
Mark's Gospel. We do not have a scriptorium situation. But I think it is
still open that Paul may be expressing in his own words tradition that
ultimately comes from Mark. Not that this is the only option, but neither
does it seem to be eliminated.
JEFF: Seems to me at least equally plausible to hold that Paul and Mark
both derived their knowledge of Jesus' teaching and activity from oral
tradition (as Luke's preface suggests was the norm in the first generation).
BRUCE: I think there are other factors which may help us here. First, it is
notable (and Koester duly noted it) that Paul accepts none of Jesus's
ethical principles; only his sayings on church order. That is, whatever he
knew of, he is apparently being selective with. Second, he himself says that
he has no interest in Jesus "after the flesh," which I take to mean, the
teachings and deeds of Jesus during his lifetime. Why not? I presume,
because others had superior access to those details. It is only in the
revelation department, the spiritual department, that he can hope to rank
even with the other Apostles; to compete with them on a level basis.
Third, take miracles. Mark tells of several miracles of Jesus, obviously
thinking that they will add to readers' impressment with Jesus, and their
acceptance of Jesus as bringing a message, along with healing power, from
God. The demand for a "sign" in Mark assumes that supernatural deeds are the
best proof of Jesus's qualification for what he was doing. All this is
consistent with itself, and with the extreme emphasis on miracles in the
Apostolic literature. Did Paul have any knowledge of Jesus's miracles? I
defy anyone to spend a week in Peter's company, as Paul tells us he had
done, without getting an earful of Jesus's miracles. Presumably in a
Galilean twang which, I have suggested, led a Jerusalem hearer like Mark to
get the name Gerasa wrong; he had misheard Peter's Gergesa (so Origen, I
believe correctly). Likely though it is that Paul was exposed in one way or
another to such stories, he rigorously excludes them from his Epistle
teaching. The only signs he invokes are his own miraculous performances:
healings, speaking in tongues, and other evidence of indwelling spirit.
Somebody else's spiritual feats or doings have no authenticating power, or
other interest, for Paul. The only miracle of Jesus that interests Paul is
the Resurrection, and this is really a miracle of God. The only part of
Jesus's life that Paul can use is Jesus's death. I think the filter here is
in Paul, and not in what was available to him.
(I have earlier said why I find "oral tradition" so vague as to be
analytically meaningless. The question is: Who said what to whom? I have
tried to keep to that more realistic standard in the above).
As for Mark, Peter used to come to his house, and he will have had more than
Paul's opportunity to acquaint himself with what Peter knew, or claimed to
know, as an eyewitness. This seems to me to be a good deal more direct than
the phrase "oral tradition" tends to suggest. And does not Mark himself
slyly claim to have been in at the beginning? Like every other Evangelist,
he seems to contrive to put himself into his own story, in his case as the
youth who fled naked at the Gethsemane Arrest scene. No one has ever
suggested a plausible alternative for this otherwise absurd detail
(including Mt and Lk, who omit it). Luke has his We section (in Acts), with
its implicit claim of accompaniment of Paul for many of his journeys. John,
as is well known, has his teasingly introduced Beloved Disciple figure, who
is validated in the superadded Jn 21 as the real source of that Gospel. It
then seems that staid Matthew is the exception. But is it really? Is our
version the original, or is the original better reflected in the Gospel of
the Ebionites (Epiphanius, Adv Haer 30/13:3), "And you, Matthew, sitting at
the tax office, I called and you followed me." Note the direct address. I
get the sense of Evangelists reaching for something better than indirect
tradition, whether oral or otherwise. Doesn't mean they are right, but I
think their implied opinion deserves to be considered as reflecting the
dynamic of the times.
Nearly every NT text seems to be concerned with authentication. In the case
of the spurious 2 Thess, also with disauthentication. (Compare Paul's own
bitter comments about the Pillars, the Super-Apostles).
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst