Cc: GPG, WSW
In Response To: Karel
On: The Twelve
In responding to Jeffrey Gibson's inquiry (about how you distinguish
interpolations when the style is consistent, to which I earlier gave a
different reply), Karel said in part:
KAREL: I myself believe the introduction of "the twelve" into the text and
with it the figure of Iscariot, "one of the twelve", is redactional.
However, it remains difficult to prove.
BRUCE: Maybe not so difficult to prove. Meyer proposed a "Twelve Source" for
Mark. I cannot find that the Twelve passages together form any sort of
coherent independent text. They consist of three longer passages and a few
tipped-in phrases. I find instead a *Twelve Layer* in Mark.
As those who can call the text up in memory will not need to be informed,
gMk recounts individually the calling of exactly *five* disciples: Peter,
Andrew, James and John the sons of Zebedee, and Levi. Every disciple who
figures by name, anywhere else in that Gospel, utterly without exception
(unless you count Judas, and I agree with Karel that Judas is better left
out of the reckoning for now) is one of those Five. Here, I would suggest,
is the early tradition of the disciple circle of Jesus. They accompany him.
They or a subset of them are present at his healings. Rabbinic tradition
also (as summarized by Klausner) also speaks of five disciples, not twelve.
That seems to be a pretty stable situation. It has a few rough edges, but
the general congruence of numbers is not unencouraging.
In addition to this Five tradition, we have the snippets aforementioned,
which are superfluous ("he called his disciples, with the Twelve" - exactly
why are not the Twelve included in the Disciples?), plus three longer
passages, where the Twelve are chosen, where they are sent out, and where
they return. All this is phony on its face. The Twelve have no other
preaching function (and no nonpreaching function) anywhere else in the
Gospel, apart from these highly confined places, it is always and only Jesus
who preaches. One can readily imagine that the Twelve are there to
regularize the conduct of twelve who emerged as leading figures after
Jesus's death, but their superfluity *during the story of his life* is
That's in general. Is there anything more specific? Yes, the latter is an
especially clear interpolation. Remember how the women in 16:8 behave as
though the assurance in 16:7 had never been given? Remember how Peter in
14:29 responds to 14:27, as though 14:28 with its identical reassurance were
not there in between? I think the likely supposition in both cases is that
those passages were NOT originally present, and that when they were added,
they created the inconcinnities just mentioned. That is why 14:28 and 16:7
are plausibly judged to be interpolations.
OK. Now we turn to the Sending of the Twelve, and this is what we find:
6:6b. And he went about among the villages teaching.
6:7-13. Sending of the Twelve. "So they went out and preached that men
should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many
that were sick and healed them.
6:14. King Herod heard of it; for Jesus's name had become known. Some said,
John the Baptizer has been raised from the dead, that is why these powers
are at work in him. . . ."
Now, question on the weekly quiz: To which of these preachings is Herod
responding? To the contiguous Twelve preaching? Not in a million years. It
is to the noncontiguous Jesus preaching, as the text clearly states: "for
Jesus' name had become known." He completely ignores the seemingly much more
threatening whole army of preachers, out there exorcising demons over the
countryside. As though they were not there. It is my conclusion that in fact
they WERE NOT there when this passage was originally written. Mentally
eliminate 6:7-13 and read from 6:6b straight on to 6:14, and you will see
what I mean. The road has been fixed; there is no more bump of inconcinnity.
That fact, that the text of Mk 6 reads more consecutively without the
Sending of the Twelve passage, is independent of the fact that the Twelve
are *substantively* anomalous in gMk generally. The two facts together
support each other, and constitute a very strong case for judging the Twelve
here to be an interpolation.
How about the Calling of the Twelve? The case there is not quite as
clearcut, but it is certainly possible. I will give the passage as it would
be without the Calling present, and ask if anyone would really see a problem
with the text that way:
7:11. And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him
and cried out, You are the Son of God. Then he went home, and the crowd came
together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his friends heard
it, they went out to seize him, for they said, he is beside himself . . .
See? Jesus attracts a crowd by his healing in one place, and goes home
afterward, but the crowd assembles again and gives him no peace. His friends
start to worry about him, his family come to plead with him, and you know
the rest. It is completely consecutive.
So the tiny "and the Twelve" phrases are mere flyspeck annoyances, and the
two major Twelve passages are something that the consecutivity of the text
would be much better off without. How much clearer a case do we need? I
think that the secondarity of the Twelve mentions in Mark is very strongly
evidenced, at all points.
So much for the Twelve. I further agree with Karel that Judas is a later
insertion within the Twelve; this one is a little more complicated to
demonstrate, and I defer that demonstration for now. But the Twelve proper,
technically speaking, is a pushover.
What does this tell us about Mark? That it is a historical account of Jesus?
That is certainly what it purports to be. But here as in the other places so
far mentioned, we can see that it is also functioning as an authentication
document. Practices mentioned in gMk are OK for the Markan community to
follow. Leaders certified by mention in gMk are OK to accept as guides.
Doctrines that gMk embraces, even if a little late in the day, are cleared
for general belief. The theory of Jesus that gMk conveys, albeit that the
gMk theory keeps mutating in line with rapidly evolving post-Crucifixion
attempts to make sense of it all, are OK theories, each in its turn. If the
community, having first been in the Glorification camp, shift instead (under
what influences, we need not here inquire) to the Resurrection persuasion,
gMk is right on the button and shifts with them. It both leads and follows
the evolution of thinking in at least one segment of the early Christian
Where that segment was located, I would be happy to know. Who exactly the
author or series of authors was, ditto. What dates subtend the beginning and
ending of this evidently protracted text formation process, ditto. But I can
wait on those. Indeed, I have little choice, since I am not yet quite where
I would like to be, before I take up the evidence in any new light which the
stratification of the text - a new factor in NT calculations as far as I
know - may throw on the aetiology of the text.
Iscariot next time. Meanwhile, I am happy to support Karel's suggestion on
intrusive nature of the Twelve, even if I have had to end by differing with
him as to its supposed undemonstrability.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst