Re: [GPG] A Reconstruction of the Pre-Markan Passion Narrative
- To: GPG
In Response To: Dave G
On: Pre-Mk Passion Narrative
Alexander and Rufus. That struck me too, and my feeling is also that if
there is an earliest form of this part of Mark, those names don't belong in
it. I have a suggestion to make, but it will take me a moment.
(1) Both names were common enough at the time, and would be possible for
Jews, though probably Jews from a Hellenistically assimilated family. From
other evidence, those people (cf "James of Alphaeus") were perhaps
especially susceptible to early Jesus preaching, whatever exactly its
content might have been. Relatively Hellenized Jews, who would have been not
scarce in Galilee and the nearby Diaspora (and later Hellenized non-Jews in
those same locations). Old Jerusalem inhabitants, evidently less so.
(2) Simon is said to be from Cyrene (that is, Libya), but at the same time,
he is not described as just getting off the boat from Libya; he is described
as just coming in from the country, so though he was originally from Cyrene,
he was probably living in the vicinity of Jerusalem at this time. Being from
Libya, he will have been a Septuagint Jew, just like Paul.
(3) Alexander and Rufus are identified by some, perhaps many, as identical
with persons whom Paul refers to in his letters. Let's follow that out and
see where we get. Rufus is mentioned in Rom 16:13, a portable and thus
disputable section; the only other mention of a Rufus in the NT, and
Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:20, where he is cursed by the deuteroPauline author
as one of those, presumably at Ephesus, who have "made a shipwreck of their
conscience," that is, relapsed believers. We may take both Alexander and
Rufus (this probably being their birth order) as believers, and both as
energetic and visible in their own way, Alexander perhaps in ways
corresponding to Ephesian tendencies not approved by the Pauline school.
(4) Rom 16:13 is more interesting, "Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also
his mother and mine." Rufus's mother, that is, Simon's wife, had therefore
been something of a second mother to Paul at one point. When would he need a
second mother? Don't know. But perhaps after his conversion, when it may be
presumed his original family relations had been strained. (Though not at all
points; that same passage refers to "my kinsman Herodion"). Conversion to
Christianity had a way of doing that, as the various Apocalypti remind us.
(5) So the picture we get is of older brother Alexander at Ephesus, and
younger brother Rufus and his mother at Rome; no sign of father Simon, who
need not be counted among the faithful. To be "eminent in the Lord" Rufus
cannot have been less than, oh, 30 at that date, which is somewhere around
the year 58. In other words, Simon (and his wife) were slightly older than
Jesus (and Paul), and their sons belonged to something like the next
generation. Younger, indeed junior, contemporaries of Paul, whose relations
seem to have been more important with the parents than with the sons.
(6) Where could Paul have made contact with the family of Simon, and
particularly his wife? Not in Libya, and not in Rome. Of that much we can be
sure. Ephesus maybe, which was something of a headquarters for Paul. But
there is also a Jerusalem possibility. From Acts 6:9 we learn of a synagogue
at Jerusalem "which is called that of the Libertini, both Cyrenians and
Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia," who disputed matters with
Stephen and brought about his death. Paul (from the capital of Cilicia) was
part of that event, or so thinks Acts. The synagogue in question would have
been his, when in Jerusalem, as he frequently was in those days of his
opposition to the Jesus movement. And also Simon's. Here, then, is a
possible point of contact between Paul and the family of Simon: they were
both members of the same Outlanders' Synagogue. For that synagogue, which
has probably been recovered archaeologically, see the full notes in Jackson
and Lake, v4 ad loc. When Paul was away from home, that is, in Jerusalem, he
may have found a sort of second home in the Outlanders' Synagogue, and on
the evidence of Romans, particularly in the family of Simon. It seems
probable that Simon himself was with the majority of that group and against
Stephen (to the extent that the Stephen incident took place in Jerusalem),
just like Paul. Here, most likely, was the beginning of the relationship. Of
those five persons, Paul plus the family of Simon, it seems that at least
four, all but Simon himself, later joined the Jesus movement which it had
earlier been a main purpose of the Synagogue membership to oppose.
All this is conjectural, needless to say, but I can find no other conjecture
which makes any sense of the idea that the mother of Rufus was also some
sort of mother figure to Paul.
(7) Back to Mark. Let's suppose that the "Simon" detail was historical, and
appears in Mk as a historical memory (I think there are several such; the
question is, which ones). It is this detail which is repeated from Mk in
both Mt and Lk. Mk later added the detail linking Simon with Alexander and
Rufus, presumably because the Markan audience of that period would have
recognized them, and found it interesting. But this cannot have been before
Alexander and Rufus became known in Christian circles, and the first
indication we have of that is near the end of the 50's. Is the
Alexander/Rufus detail an interpolation in an original "Simon" sentence? It
would have been easy enough to add that phrase, though its removal is not
necessary to the sense of the sentence.
(8) The Crucifixion is the kind of event likely to generate its own set of
legends. Saint Veronica does not turn up at this period, but we do have the
Woman of Bethany, who performs the symbolic office of anointing Jesus's body
for later burial. Mk itself tells us that her deed would be remembered among
Christians forever. It was obviously being remembered at the time that piece
was added to Mk. And that it *was* added is manifest from the context, which
is greatly improved in flow and narrative consistency if the whole incident
is removed. The addition of Alexander and Rufus is not quite of this type,
but it does have the effect of associating them (in the Markan story) with
the Crucifixion, and giving them something like a credential in the Faith.
(9) Does that mean that the Alexander/Rufus detail, being late in Mk, was
not present for Mt/Lk? This and several other places invite that conclusion,
which may be true. It makes for a somewhat complex text history, but
sometimes complexity happens. At this moment, I am inclined to think not.
Mt/Lk rather often omit details in Mk which they may plausibly have regarded
as colorful but not material to the narrative; they both tend to clean up
Mark's gingerbread in this way. The reference to Alexander and Rufus can
easily have been so regarded.
But it does follow that in the earliest version of the Crucifixion
narrative, whether it was within or prior to the Markan textual process
properly so called, Alexander and Rufus might not yet have appeared.
(10). AYC ap Mk 15:21 takes the other path: "He [Rufus in Rom 16:13] is
probably not the same person as the Rufus mentioned here, since the latter
was Jewish." She describes the Rom 16:13 person as "a freeborn Gentile
Christian named [Rufus] who probably emigrated from the East to Rome." That
in turn comes from the name. "Rufus was originally a Latin name, but it was
common among Greeks as well. [n56] Rufus of Ephesus was a Greek physician
active in the second half of the first century CE [ref OCD 1337]." I am
quite prepared to grant that the overwhelming majority of people with the
name Rufus at this time were Gentiles, so the general odds are surely with
this view of the matter. My problem is that I can't relate the mother of a
Gentile Rufus to Paul in any very satisfactory way. Can someone provide a
bridge across this one little declivity?
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- Bruce Brooks wrote:
> Alexander and Rufus. That struck me too, and my feeling is also that ifBruce,
> there is an earliest form of this part of Mark, those names don't belong in
> it. I have a suggestion to make, but it will take me a moment.
> (1) Both names were common enough at the time, and would be possible for
> Jews, though probably Jews from a Hellenistically assimilated family. From
> other evidence, those people (cf "James of Alphaeus") were perhaps
> especially susceptible to early Jesus preaching, whatever exactly its
> content might have been. Relatively Hellenized Jews, who would have been not
> scarce in Galilee and the nearby Diaspora (and later Hellenized non-Jews in
> those same locations). Old Jerusalem inhabitants, evidently less so.
> (2) Simon is said to be from Cyrene (that is, Libya), but at the same time,
> he is not described as just getting off the boat from Libya; he is described
> as just coming in from the country, so though he was originally from Cyrene,
> he was probably living in the vicinity of Jerusalem at this time. Being from
> Libya, he will have been a Septuagint Jew, just like Paul.
> (3) Alexander and Rufus are identified by some, perhaps many, as identical
> with persons whom Paul refers to in his letters. .......
I don't think it's possible to build a 'Pre-Markan Passion Narrative' on
data which appears to be nothing more than informed speculation.
More to the point, you surely underestimate Mark's superb narrative skills.
You are in good company, for so do the commentaries on Mark on the bookshelf
behind me. In a refreshing contrast to these, the JSem's "The Acts of Jesus"
sees the names in Mk 15:21 not as history but as part of Mark's narrative
plot. Thus the name "Simon" in "Simon of Cyrene" is taken as having been
invented by Mark as a deliberate contrast to Simon Peter who denied Jesus
and therefore did *not* take up his cross and follow Jesus (c.f. Mk 8:34).
"Alexander" and "Rufus" are taken as created simply in order to add
verisimilitude to the story.
To me, Nineham and Hooker look naive here and the JSem's explanation looks
much more credible.
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