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Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: The Measure You Give (Mk 4:24-25)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Dave Gentile From: Bruce I had questioned Dave s assumption that Mk 4:21 (the Parable of the Lamp) is a later layer in Mk.
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 29 2:20 PM
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Dave Gentile
      From: Bruce

      I had questioned Dave's assumption that Mk 4:21 (the Parable of the Lamp) is
      a later layer in Mk.

      DAVE: I assumed it there because I'm convinced that the lamp in Mark,
      combined with a couple other passages in Mark, are a reference to Zachariah
      4:1-14. The punch line of this is that Jesus is "Lord of the whole world",
      which I would argue is not likely to be an early theme, but rather a much
      later one. To me the evidence for the reference to Zach. is completely
      convincing. However, having attempted to present the
      evidence before, I've noted that others are not likewise convinced. I find
      this disagreement inexplicable, but I'll decline to explore it more at this
      time.

      BRUCE: I would distinguish several ideas here: (a) OT references are likely
      to be late; (b) the theme Mk 4:21 is world dominion, which is specifically
      late; and (c) Mk 4:21 and others are a complex reference to Zc 43:1-14. They
      could be evaluated separately.

      At least as of this moment, I would think that: (a) Though it is very
      reasonable to expect that late layers of Mk will be designed on an OT model,
      while the early material is more naive, I am finding that it doesn't work
      out in practice. Chiefly by identifying interpolations (B inserted into A,
      meaning that A is earlier), I think it is possible to separate layers in Mk,
      and in so doing, I find that both early and late layers have OT resonances.
      With the Yarbro Collins Proto-Passion Narrative (she seems to rely on a
      somewhat similar OT criterion), I find again that it is not possible, even
      in that section, to construct a narratively plausible earliest layer which
      is wholly without OT dimensions. So my view, my conclusion from experience
      so far, is that the Markan narrative is likely to be OT-controlled at all
      layers, though not in all layers from exactly the same OT passages. If so,
      then point (a) doesn't help us either way, and at worst it doesn't refute
      Dave's suggestion. (Which if I recall was made on GPG a year ago).

      For (b), I think that the unaided words of Mk 4:21 are simply that the
      purpose of a lamp is to be seen, and (metaphorically) that the purpose of a
      revolution is to come into the open, albeit only at the opportune time. If
      we read 4:21 as assuring the hearers that all will eventually come to pass
      in real time, even if it is delayed for the time being (Gottes Zeit ist die
      allerbeste Zeit), I think we have gotten the message. I am reassured in this
      reading by noticing that the same theme runs through the other Parables in
      the Mk 4 Sermon (small things later growing into mighty ones). This does not
      preclude a decorative OT echo, it merely means that the echo is not crucial
      to decoding the basic meaning of the Mk text. Again, the Zc dimension is not
      necessarily refuted if we date Mk 4:21 early. I admit, however, that Dave's
      specific reading, which involves world domination (Zc 4:14, "the LORD of
      the whole earth"), would indeed get us into, not only the mission to the
      Syrian Gentiles, but into the pan-Mediterranean phase of the early Church.
      This does not conflict with the usual dating of Mk (way after Paul), though
      it does conflict with my reading of the earliest layer of Mk (which I think
      predates Paul). Here we have a conflict, without necessarily also having a
      basis for deciding which end of it is right. I thus turn to (c).

      Does (c) work? Tastes will differ, but to my eye, the idea of complex
      references (separate passages in one text together constituting an allusion
      to another text) is simply too complex. Each passage alone should carry its
      share of the text being echoed. Any hearer of Mk who was acquainted with the
      Septuagint would catch what I will call the direct echoes in any one
      passage, and be enriched thereby. But if the echoes have to be further
      assembled to permit the sense of any one constituent passage to be
      appreciated, I think they fail. In Dave's view as I understand it, the Mk
      4:21 passage contains the idea of world dominion only because of Zc 4:14
      (whose point of contact in Mk is the two criminals crucified with Jesus),
      whereas the Mk 4:21 part of the comparison is simply with the golden
      lampstand of Zc 4:2. Now, Zc itself interprets the meaning of the lampstand
      in terms of the seven lamps on top of it; that is, the lampstand as such
      does not carry the meaning of the larger prophecy of Zc. It is the seven
      times seven motif that carries it. Much the same could be said of the
      lampstand in Exodus.

      Do we have a decision basis here? Maybe. I note that the image in Zc (as in
      Ex) is not a lamp, but an assembly based on a lampstand. On my current
      theory, as far as it has gone, the lamp in Mk 4:21 ought to have a meaning
      compatible with a Messianic agenda, a literal restoring of sovereignty to
      Israel by the return of God to his now repentant people. Is there an OT
      resonance, based not on a lampstand but on a lamp, that might reinforce that
      sense? Maybe:

      Ex 27:20. "And you shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you
      pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn
      continually." The veil of the temple (prominent in the symbolism of the
      Markan Crucifixion narrative) is mentioned in the next verse.

      1Sa 3:3. "The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down
      within the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was." Again the inner
      sanctum of the Temple.

      2Sa 21:17. "Then David's men adjured him, You shall no more go out with us
      to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel." That is, its hope of a
      Davidic rule. The whole point of the Messiah concept in Jesus's time was the
      restoration of Davidic rule. The lamp in Mk 4:21 may without great strain be
      interpreted as the ongoing hope of that restoration, whether or not we have
      our finger in 2Sa as we read.

      2Sa 22:29. The whole passage is in effect a Psalm of David, albeit
      incorporated within 2Sa. Our particular passage reads "Yea, thou art my
      lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness." Identification of God with
      the lamp, cf 1Sa 3:3, above.

      And from the Book of Psalms, explicitly so called, we have

      Ps 119:105. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
      Much like 2Sa 22:29. But further, the whole Psalm is a celebration of the
      Law as ordained by God, and as showing the way to God. If there were a
      Messianic movement around the year 30, and if it drew definition from the
      OT, what would that movement preach, as the way to regain God's favor and
      restore sovereignty to Israel? Obedience to the Law. Given that disobedience
      to the Law is the cause of Israel's present woes [Roman occupation], what is
      to be asked of the people of Israel before they can expect sovereignty to be
      returned to them? Repentance for their previous disobedience to the Law.
      What did John, and Jesus after him, preach? Precisely that. Mk 1:14-15, "Now
      after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of
      God [sic] and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at
      hand; repent [sic] and believe in the Gospel."

      Looks admirably close to me. I find that the lamp (not lampstand) of Mk 4:21
      works simply as a familiar object invoked as a primary image, but if audited
      in the context of a Messianic movement as above suggested, that image has
      available to it much reinforcement from Davidic and other Kingship contexts
      in the OT. The more you know of the Septuagint, as it seems to me, the more
      the Markan lamp will shine for you.

      Now to Dave's other point.

      I had said, "My sense, then, is that the Lamp (4:21) and its interpretation
      (4:22-23) fit the old series perfectly, and for that reason, I am not
      prepared to assume that they are later material.

      DAVE: It connects to the rest of the material in that it deals with the
      theme of something hidden. But it does not seem to make any points about the
      coming Kingdom or needing to wait for it or continuing to follow
      teachings, so in that sense it does not connect. If the Lamp were a late
      addition it could have been added at this point in the text because of the
      rough surface level thematic agreement about something hidden.

      BRUCE: The point it *says* it makes about the coming Kingdom is that the
      Kingdom will inevitably appear, just as it is in the nature of a light that
      it should shine. It is asking too much that the lamp symbol alone should
      carry all else that Jesus wants to say about the Kingdom. But to me, it
      already carries the essence of the whole Sermon. The eventual coming of the
      Kingdom, by inevitable natural processes (seeds germinating, and then
      finally appearing out of the soil), is the running theme of the rest of the
      Parables. It is central to the whole discourse.

      It almost follows that that theme would have made an attractive point of
      attachment for Mk 4:21 if Mk 4:21 were late, so that part of Dave's
      suggestion surely stands. The prior question is whether Mk 4:21 *is*
      thematically late. If it means world dominion, than as I read the layering
      in Mark, it *is* thematically late. If it means the presence of God in
      Israel's temple, and the hope of Davidic sovereignty under God, it is not.

      So there is our choice. I ask: Is there any reason, other than those adduced
      above, to think that the OT lamp imagery, taken together, is consistent with
      the Messianic lowest (and thus earliest) layer of the Markan narrative? We
      might think of this test: If that is so, then we might expect some focus on
      the Temple inner sanctum, and its veil (see the OT quotes above) in the
      later Markan narrative. And I think we do find such a focus. I would mention
      in particular the Cleansing of the Temple to make it a fit abode for God (Mk
      14), and the tearing of the veil at the end of the Crucifixion narrative (Mk
      15:38), as a sign of the failure of that hope. These are not trivial
      details, they are hinge points of the whole Mk 14-15 story. I agree with
      Yarbro Collins (as will appear) in seeing the latter as the final words of
      the primitive Passion narrative; she does not include the former within the
      boundaries she defines for that narrative.

      So I conclude that there IS reason to relate the design of Mark's narrative
      to the symbol of the Lamp, taken as 1Sa and Ps bid us take it. This at least
      permits the reading I suggest for Mk 4:21.

      Respectfully submitted,

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • gentile_dave@emc.com
      Bruce mentions other OT passages involving a lamp, and I would concede that an earlier version of Mark might have contained a lamp and might have referred to
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 29 3:21 PM
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        Bruce mentions other OT passages involving a lamp, and I would concede
        that an earlier version of Mark might have contained a lamp and might
        have referred to one or more of these, but I still contend in its
        current form it is a reference to Zach.

        Bruce: Does (c) work? Tastes will differ, but to my eye, the idea of
        complex
        references (separate passages in one text together constituting an
        allusion
        to another text) is simply too complex. Each passage alone should carry
        its
        share of the text being echoed.

        Dave: "should" might be taken to imply a value judgment. Unless this is
        a universal moral "Should", we need to ask "for what purpose?" Each
        passage should carry its own weight if we desire what? If we desire an
        unaided reader to catch our meaning with relative ease, then yes the
        passage would fail.

        If instead with this version of the document we intend a teaching aid,
        accompanied by oral commentary, then it does not fail. The oral
        commentary would make the point that "See this is references is obscure,
        so the disciples missed it, but once you read it in light of this OT
        passage, the intent is clear. Jesus is the Lord of the whole world based
        on his own words even though the disciples missed this!"

        In order to accomplish this, the reference must be something that would
        plausibly have been missed by the disciples. Surely it succeeds on this
        point. It would also have to be something that was clear once pointed
        out by oral commentary. Again, it succeeds.

        In Mark 4:21-23 the lamp is almost personified. Rather that being
        brought in, the Lamp "comes". Then in Mark 10:35-40 the sons of Zebedee
        ask about places at Jesus's right and left, but are informed that they
        are reserved for the ones anointed. In Mark 15:27 we then have the
        bandits placed "one on his right and one on his left".

        This combination of passages uniquely identifies Zach, it could be
        nothing else. The only alternative is that this apparent reference to
        Zach is coincidental. This alternative can be demonstrated to be quite
        improbable. The only way to salvage the coincidence argument would be to
        show that the intentional design argument was even more implausible. And
        while it might not be one's very first guess about how the author of
        this passage intended it to be used, the idea that it was a supposed to
        be a teaching aid, accompanied by oral commentary does not strike me as
        incredibly implausible.


        Dave Gentile
        Riverside, IL
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Dave Gentile On: OT and the Design of Mark From: Bruce I am glad Dave has set up his own shop in the Roadside of Ideas; I
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 29 4:00 PM
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          To: Synoptic
          Cc: GPG
          In Response To: Dave Gentile
          On: OT and the Design of Mark
          From: Bruce

          I am glad Dave has set up his own shop in the Roadside of Ideas; I don't
          feel comfortable representing other people's theories to a shared audience.
          As to the specific Lamp question,

          DAVE: Bruce mentions other OT passages involving a lamp, and I would concede
          that an earlier version of Mark might have contained a lamp and might have
          referred to one or more of these, but I still contend in its
          current form it is a reference to Zach.

          BRUCE: A reference to or invocation of the Zc 4:2 "lampstand" would probably
          do best if it included the word "lampstand," whereas Mk 4:21 instead has
          "lamp." Does Dave assume that the original passage had "lampstand," and was
          overwritten later? If so, what was the motive of the overwriting? If not,
          what is the scenario?

          But my major hesitation here is with the phrase "it is a reference to Zc."
          In rhetorical terms, I don't think that there can realistically be a
          reference to the whole of Zc, any more than the many echoes of this or that
          Psalm in Mk together constitute an invocation of the whole repertoire of
          Psalms.

          Still, it is always possible that Dave is seeing something which, in my
          cruder way, I am missing. I can think of one way to explore the
          possibilities without adjudicating the present point to a finish.

          It is this. Dave, like some other investigators, is assuming early and late
          states of Mark. Me too. One obvious question to ask of any such theory (and
          I recall that Ron Price has already answered it for his view of Mk) is, What
          is the earliest state of Mark like? What does it consist of? What is its
          idea of Jesus?

          If Dave can conveniently give, or compactly characterize, his version too,
          his Oldest Mark, that might advance Synoptic discourse.

          Suggested herewith.

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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