Re: [Synoptic-L] Date of Mark
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG; Klyne Snodgrass
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Author of Mark
Ron had queried my previously suggested ground for believing Mark to be both
(a) stratificational and (b) early. To my reply, he answered in turn:
RON: I suggest that here you may be missing the underlying Sitz im Leben of
Mark as an author. / For Mark wanted to present a gospel primarily for
Gentiles, yet he knew that Jesus historically had had very little contact
BRUCE: I begin by not knowing anything about "Mark," whether singular or
plural, and for methodological reasons, I prefer to draw any inferences
about the text from close study of the text itself. The text is what we
have. It may be that Ron has been through that sort of close study on his
own, and is here reporting the kind of "Mark" he finds at the end of it. If
so, he is way ahead of me. But without further showing of that argument, I
can't regard Ron's conclusions as operative for my side of the conversation.
I am willing to try to figure out what a given passage is attempting to do
(examples follow below), but not what an imputed single authorial "Mark" is
trying to do, across the whole of the Gospel. Apart from the obvious perils
of imagination, about someone for the state of whose mind we have no
evidence at all save the abovementioned text, the chances are too great, as
it seems to me, that there is more than one authorial hand at work in the
creation of Mk. Should that be so, then all unitary imaginings about "Mark"
are beside the point. So I simply have to pass on this comment, and proceed
to the next one.
RON [on the Syrophoenician Woman]: . . . But he could create a story which
hints that Jesus was favourably disposed towards a non-Jew.
BRUCE: Disposed? Pretty grudgingly disposed. She can have what leftover and
adventitious benefits she can draw from the activities of Jesus, but even
after being granted that crumb, she is not admitted to be of equal status
with the people Jesus explicitly says he is really concerned about. She is
excepted, not admitted. Some have thought that Luke [no parallel here]
should have included this story because he liked women and because he should
also have liked Jesus' seeming acceptance of Gentiles. Others argue that
Luke rejected the story because he was offended at Jesus' contemptuous
treatment of the woman. The point as stated is moot, because Luke is not
*rejecting this story,* he is rather omitting a whole hunk of Mark
*including* this story. But the mere existence of the "contemptuous"
argument among modern readers tells me that the story *can be read* as less
than full acceptance. I can't myself come up with any more convincing
reading, and so I adopt that one.
If some Galilean Elder had said to his inner circle, OK, guys, we need a not
too obviously anachronistic story showing Jesus's acceptance of the Gentile
Mission, and if one of the inner circle had come back next week with the
Syrophoenician Woman, I think the Elder would have said, Nice try, but let's
give it another week.
BRUCE [excursus]. Mt ameliorates the Mk story in some ways, eg in having
Jesus credit her with "faith," which moves her a little closer in his
direction, perhaps narratively justifying Jesus's eventual granting of her
request. Her "faith" is a Mt detail that is not in Mk. Also in Mt (but not
in Mk) is her persistence, and the fact that it annoys the disciples.
(Both uniquely Mt elements perhaps provide the kernel which Luke (with a
little help from Sirach 35:12-20; see Snodgrass 456) would later expand in
his otherwise independent Parable of the Persistent Woman, Lk 18:1-8.
Fitzmyer ad loc rejects this renaming of the parable, but I think he is
wrong to do so; the focal person is not the judge. Note Lk 18:8b "will he
find faith?" which is not in the Lukan parable as such, and thus does not
pick up on anything precisely in the Lukan parable, and is not in Sirach,
but perhaps echoes Mt 15:28).
I had suggested the existence of "a Synoptic Trajectory, which . . . shows a
steady rise in the place accorded to non-Jewish believers in Jesus."
RON: Surely the trajectory reflects either an increasing remoteness from
knowledge of the historical Jesus, or a progressively increasing boldness in
the gospel writers' willingness to misrepresent him, or some combination of
both. After all, Paul's first extant letter already reveals a church
composed primarily of non-Jews (1 Thess 1:9).
BRUCE: I don't allow the emotional word "misrepresent," I would think it
more fruitful to say "rerepresent." Otherwise, Ron's first sentence is not
exactly an objection to what I said; I take it as more or less an agreement.
As to the second sentence, I note the reference, and the non-Jewish
character of the Thessalonian community which it implies; I also agree about
the earliness of 1Th among the genuine Paulines. But Paul is not evidence
for the whole of early Christianity; he is geographically confined. The
Thessalonian community in particular was in Greece, not Asia, and it was
created almost 20 years after the death of Jesus (so Schnelle). That is,
almost a generation has elapsed since the Crucifixion. I cannot take 1Th as
automatically relevant to questions about early Galilean or Asian Diaspora
BRUCE [previous]: 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.
RON [now]: Yes. But those traces were retained because Mark's aim (among
others) was to compose a biography of Jesus, whereas Paul showed more
interest in Jesus' death than in his life.
BRUCE: As to "Mark's intent," again I must decline to discuss it (see
above). The Gospel as a whole I would categorize as an apologia, not a
biography, and the point to be chiefly apologized for (that is, explained)
would seem, from the effort the text itself expends on it, to be the death
of Jesus. My inspection of the text leads me to think that, for whoever
conceived the outline that we still see in Mk, Jesus's death was a
problematic interruption of Jesus's life. To get rid of the problem, to
interpret it so that it was no longer a problem, would have been the point
of the effort.
BRUCE [excursus 2]: There were certainly people around, anterior to Paul
since he quotes some of their Jesus hymns in the course of his Epistles (see
Fitzmyer's article reprinted in To Advance the Gospel), who thought of Jesus
as soon to return from his present Glorification in Heaven, to resume the
interrupted eschatological work, but who placed no emphasis, and founded no
creed that is visible in their literature, on the importance of Jesus's
Resurrection. Those hymns (not *all* the fossilized hymns, but a definite
subset of them) do not even mention the Resurrection. They focus on other
things. To the makers of those hymns, salvation was from God, and Jesus was
honored as the agent of God on earth; specifically, as the one who would
bring on the Eschatological Event. To the makers of other hymns, and as we
know also to Paul, salvation was from the Atoning Death of Jesus. The shift
from the Coming of Jesus as the central expectation of Jesus followers, to
the Crucifixion of Jesus as the whole point of the Jesus story (this being
the view held by Paul), must have been complete in at least some places by
the time Paul began preaching. What Paul himself preaches is that later
form: Resurrection Christianity (as one might say) rather than Glorification
Christianity. It is from this perspective (which, from previous discussion,
I know is not shared by Ron) that I would agree with Ron.
Indeed, I think Ron's statement should be made stronger. Paul showed *no
interest whatsoever* in Jesus's life. Apart from the Resurrection, he was
interested in Jesus chiefly as the source of certain traditionally
transmitted statements relevant to church government in its juridical and
liturgical aspects. (And there are certain Words of the Lord in Paul for
which Koester Ancient 53, at any rate, can adduce no Gospel source; another
reminder of the many Christianities loose at the time. The only Dominical
Saying not in these categories is the "apocalyptic" one in 1Th 4:15-17;
perhaps a reminder of the distance of the churches in Greece from the
traditions reflected in the Gospels). Jesus's miracles, which in Mk are
proofs of his standing as God's Agent, are completely lacking in Paul. They
were part of an argument for Jesus as a different kind of savior, and Mk
(not "Mark," about whom I know nothing) is much concerned to make that
argument, but they were not part of the argument that Paul was making. If he
knew that other argument, he completely rejected it.
To me, it is a sign of earliness in Mk that it preserves in some detail an
argument for what I can only take to be one form of pre-Pauline
[Books on Paul don't seem to spend much time on the question of what annoyed
Saul about Christianity. I think they should. Can anyone recommend a
RON [responding to a similar comment in previous message]: Of course the
earliest material in Mark is pre-Pauline.
BRUCE: Hardly "of course;" these things have to be demonstrated. I'm doing
RON: Mark was portraying the life of someone who died ca. 30 CE . . .
BRUCE: On the "biographical" genre, see above. But even if we should agree
to assign gMk a biographical intent, that does not make it a *successful*
representation of what actually happened in the years 29-30. The accuracy of
the work would need to be separately demonstrated.
RON: . . . when Paul was not even a blip on the radar.
BRUCE: Well, the Jesus movement seems to have been a blip or two on *Paul's*
radar, since he was its first and most zealous persecutor. Not sure what to
make of this radar remark.
RON: Some of the material had to be early, otherwise the whole biography
would have been a fabrication, which I don't accept.
BRUCE: Accusations of forgery tend to arouse feelings, and feelings are
detrimental to thinking. I would rather call Mk a construction (in my view,
a construction of several strata or stories, like Troy aforementioned, but
in any case a construction). The question is whether any of the materials
used in that construction go back to the period 29-30, or accurately report
it. That does not follow a priori.
It seems to me that the Gospels Mt > Lk > Jn progressively contest, where
they do not leach out altogether, the most plausibly historical of the
materials in Mk, and I infer that to do just this is part of their raison
d'être. They are trying to present a late Jesus image which is not confused
by the simultaneous presence of elements of one or more earlier concepts of
Jesus. Revision in this sense was the motive of the later authorial hands in
Mk (as I intuit them from evidence previously mentioned), it was the motive
of each successive Gospel after Mk, it was the motive of Marcion, it was the
motive of Irenaeus. Christian belief was constantly evolving, and these
texts are witnesses to some stages and diverse directions in that evolution.
BRUCE [previous; I had argued that Mk presents early views of Jesus and
then, in later added material (as I see it, and as the philological evidence
tends to suggest), contests those views as after all erroneous; Mark is
then] ". . . openly revisionist."
RON [now]: I agree with the last sentence. But I would argue that Mark had
to report the material you call the "earliest layers" in order to expose the
views deemed erroneous - such as Peter's view that Jesus was (only) the
Messiah - of which his own pro-Pauline view was the revision.
BRUCE: As between this and the accretion theory of Mk, all would seem to
depend on whether a case can successfully made that some of this material is
interpolated into the rest of the material. I gave elements of that case in
my last. I stand by them; I think that, properly considered, they are
But in general: Mk's view need not be "pro-Pauline" (that is, after Paul and
in agreement with Paul). On present evidence, Mk may as easily represent a
pre-Pauline view which has evolved to the point where Paul himself picked it
up. That is, both the first and second thoughts of Mk about Jesus may have,
and to my mind more probably did, come before the conversion of Paul.
Why "more probably?" Because Paul either picked up his Christianity from the
churches he happened to be persecuting at the time (in a dramatic reversal
of attitude, but without any differences of content), or else he invented
it, *in contrast* to those early Christian beliefs. No matter how we slice
him, Paul seems to be one of history's great innovators, but I don't think
he could have done this all by himself. Ananias of Damascus it was, or so
our only report tells us, who laid hands on Paul and baptized him,
immediately after his vision of Jesus, and it was "the disciples" of
Damascus, that is, the Christian community of Damascus, among whom Paul
remained thereafter for "several days." Here then, if not in his own head,
de novo and ab initio, is where Paul would seem to have been instructed in
detail about the content of Christianity.
[Paul in his own write is fain to deny or omit anything of the sort, whether
in 2Co 11:32 or in Ga 1-2. Paul does not like to appear indebted for his
views to any man living; to hear him tell it, with (I believe) the only oath
which he is recorded in his own Epistles as making, everything he knows is
from no man but straight from Jesus. As I mentioned before, I think he doth
protest too much].
So, what was the content of Damascus Christianity in that year? Or if one so
prefers to read the troubled narrative of Acts, of Antioch Christianity some
time later? Here, as it seems to me, is a relatively unhackneyed way to pose
the pesky "Mark/Paul" question. Can anyone refer to, or supply, an answer to
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