Re: [Synoptic-L] Date of Mark
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Date of Mark
I had ventured to agree with James Crossley about "the early date of Mark."
RON: Aren't you being a little imprecise here? If you believe in an
"accretional model", presumably you mean an early date of the original
version/edition. Or are all the supposed accretions also deemed to be early?
BRUCE: Indeed imprecise. Precision takes more time. But in response to the
question, I will spend a little time.
As between those who date Mark after 70, and those who put it notably
earlier, I am with the latter. The question is whether the word "it" is
justified. Of course not; it's a shorthand way of speaking. Nor do I accept
the term "editions," which to me easily implies things I think don't fit the
evidence. What to use for a model of "accretion" that people will recognize?
I don't know.
Maybe the city of Troy, which at last report consisted of, maybe, 9 major
strata, the latest ones being larger and grander than the early ones. If
someone asks, What was the date of Troy? You can only reply, Which Troy? The
Bronze Age one or the Augustan Age one? It's like asking, How old was
Napoleon? Or, How many pages in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae? Last I heard,
work on that accumulating opus was still going on after a hundred years.
So the date of "Mark," not an object but a text process, is a range rather
than a year. How late is the range? A lot depends on whether you see Mark 13
as referring to the destruction of 70 or the threatened "desolation" of 40.
At this moment, I see the latter case as the likelier, with the threat of
that spring pieced out with details from Daniel to make an End Prediction.
The seeming prediction of the martyrdom of the two Zebedees (again, there
are several traditions about whether one or two of them were actually
martyred) was probably written after its fulfilment, which in at least one
case was in the year 42 (under Herod Agrippa, who I think died in 44). These
two dates point in about the same direction. So are these an early or a late
stratum of Mark? The Zebedee prediction and Mk 13 are both predictions.
There are a lot of other predictions in that end of "Mark," and some at
least of them are clearly late. (The rest, as I see it, are clearly later).
The predictions are designed to firm up the credibility of the main
character (Jesus), as would for instance be required by the readership of
the day if his basic prediction, the Return, was beginning to be doubted. A
year or two, in my opinion, would be enough delay for people to start
wondering. Instead, we are looking at a little more than ten years. I see no
problem. It looks to me like enough doubt to justify an amendment to the
tradition as authoritatively proclaimed. I think that for the community in
question, the authoritative tradition was a written document, on its way to
becoming our Gospel of Mark, and that the amendment took the form of extra
material added to the then current text of Mark, slightly slimmer than what
we know, but on the whole already recognizable.
That would be the near end of the Mark process. How early was the far end,
the earliest end? Since it contains, and has designed into it (at certain
points, admittedly overlaid by later designs, but still there if you look in
the right places), doctrines which were not those of the eventual Christian
movement, including the version of it with which Paul made contact, it would
seem to follow that we would have to date those earliest portions, as the
text foundation on which the rest of the City of Troy would be erected, to
at most a couple of years after the Crucifixion.
Then we would get a span of about a decade or a little more for the probable
active period of the text.
BRUCE [earlier]: . . . Son of God theory is definitely earlier (because
stratigraphically lower) than the Son of Man theory; . . .
RON: It will be interesting to see what evidence you have for this.
BRUCE: Nothing novel, nothing outlandish, just evidence of interpolation,
plus the principle that the interpolation is later than the thing into which
it is interpolated. All the Son of Man sayings are either manifestly
interpolated, or at best textually exiguous, in Mark. None of the Son of God
sayings have that philological character; they do not look like plug-ins or
exhibit any of the other features that normally accompany an interpolation.
BRUCE [earlier]: ..... I see the late parts of Mk as being aware of the
Gentile Mission without wholly approving it, . . .
RON: . . . And for this.
BRUCE: I am not prepared to recite the whole paper at this moment, since I
would lose the fun of retyping it this weekend, but consider the
Syrophoenician Woman. This has sometimes been claimed as evidence for
Jesus's approval of the Gentile Mission. If so, it is surely the most
grudging approval ever put on paper. The Gentiles (as represented by the
Woman and her daughter) are explicitly outside the mission of Jesus. She
comes back, but surely we are entitled to a little spillover? Whether she
know of the rule about leaving something to be gleaned after the harvest is
a question I leave to others. Anyway, she scored her point, and Jesus healed
her daughter. But still as a bit of gleaning.
What might have been the origin of this curious story? The Mission of Jesus
in his lifetime was to Jews; the idea was to rebuild the Community of Faith
in Israel that the disaffected God of Israel would return to Israel and get
rid of the Romans. One thing that had obviously occurred to John B as well
as to Jesus was, the center of gravity of the Jewish population is outside
Israel; much of it lies in the prosperous cities of Syria: Damascus,
Antioch, Ephesus (the latter having evidently been reached by John). Hence
all these journeys of Jesus to mercantile Tyre and Sidon, not to mention
Caesarea Philippi, which is not by any means located in Galilee. It was to
reach the communities of Jews in these places, and add them to the roster of
the rightful and repentant Greater Israel.
The righteousness of Gentiles, while nice in its way, would have had no
effect on the Restoration of Sovereignty to Israel, which was what both John
B and Jesus were working for. Only the Jews. So any preaching done in the
North was to that end, not to the conversion of the Gentiles. Still,
somewhere in the first decade of the early Jesus movement, Gentiles were
beginning to be interested. Not in the Israel part, but in the other stuff.
This presented itself as a problem. What to do with these people? They have
no role in the Coming of God, but they are not exactly wrong either.
I see the early answer as being, Well, we aren't aiming at them, but let
them come in if they want to. They can be saved along with the rest of us,
even if, technically speaking, their faith or lawful living has no effect on
the Coming of God.
This, I think, is what the Syrophoenician Woman represents.
How do we know this is not an early, original, First Layer of Mark bit? We
don't; we don't know that or anything else. But as evidence in the direction
of that working hypothesis, for one thing, the healing is atypical. It is
done at a distance.
How do we know that it is not actually a memory of the Historical Jesus?
Again, we don't; that or anything else. But it is perhaps suggestive that
this long journey to Syrophoenicia has no other content in Mark, and thus no
other imaginable purpose in Mark, than to bring Jesus up against a
representative of the interested Gentiles, and give a chance for whoever was
in charge of Correct Answers at that point the opportunity to have Jesus
himself answer the question that was being asked at the time.
If the Jesus Movement of that time had wholly embraced the Gentile Mission,
they would probably have done so in a less grudging manner. Those who are
trying to design a Mission to the Gentiles would have proceeded more like
Luke did, with the Mission of the Seventy (to Samaria, but Samaria was
famously not Jewish in the sense of the early Jesus movement). Notice too
how John makes much more of Samaria than even Luke, and shows not offstage
(as in Luke), but up close, and not through emissaries (70 or so), but
through actual words of Jesus, that the faith of Gentiles was coming to be
an important thing in the movement. Here is another Synoptic Trajectory,
which despite a considerable garbling of Retained and New traditions,
especially in Mt and Lk (Jn is pretty consistent and cleaned up in this
regard), shows a steady rise in the place accorded to non-Jewish believers
Belief in Jesus how? Not, one may be reasonable sure, as the Restorer of
Sovereignty to Israel (or to Tyre, or to Samaria), but as the dispenser of
salvation to individuals. The shift from the Messiah to the Savior, as I
(and a number of others) see it, is precisely the shift from the Historical
Jesus to the Christ of Faith.
Paul is already an early believer in the Risen Jesus as the emblem of the
Christ of Faith, whereas Mark retains considerable traces of the Messiah
theory of Jesus, which was probably the one held by Jesus's followers in his
lifetime. Mark is at some pains to show they were mistaken, that the Death
and Resurrection was the real point. The pains taken with this demonstration
only show that there were contrary opinions to be overcome. By the time that
Paul made contact with Jesus tradition (or it with him), that evolution was
already complete in at least some places. Ergo (as I think I mentioned
above), the earliest stories in Mark are pre-Pauline. And even the latest
are not really Pauline in the sense of "Paul." They just slightly legitimate
the incidental conversion of Gentiles to what was still a reform Jewish
Suppose someone says, Maybe these early bits are just retained tradition in
Mark, and not evidence of its date of composition, or that of any of its
I answer, That possibility is subject to philological examination. We would
reframe it this way: Do the parts of Mark which are pre-Son of Man,
pre-Twelve, pre-Caligula, etc, fall apart when the stuff here claimed as
later is scraped away? Or is there a consecutive narrative left? In the
former case, we may have merely some retained "heritage traditions" that
were not really live for author Mark. In the latter, we have a consecutive
if brief Gospel with a Messianic Christology, later overwritten by material
with a quite different theology, and having a coherence and form of its own.
And how do we know that this is so? Because the text itself argues, in its
later layers, against the position held in its earlier layers. Much of Mark
is devoted to showing that those who heard Jesus preach, or those who
accompanied him on his preaching tours, completely missed the point of what
he was saying, a point which would only be revealed to them (by miraculous
means) after his death. I can't imagine anything more openly revisionist.
Anyway, this is turning into an SBL/NE postsession, and I should stop.
Thanks to Ron as always, and best weekend wishes to everyone.
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