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Mark's Informants

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic On: Mark s Informants From: Bruce It is sometimes urged, in support of theories of Markan authorship, that one passage can only have been
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 1, 2008
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      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic
      On: Mark's Informants
      From: Bruce

      It is sometimes urged, in support of theories of Markan authorship, that one
      passage can only have been supplied from the memory of Peter, or that
      another passage shows the kind of familiarity with Jerusalem that John Mark
      would have possessed. The two thoughts are sometimes combined: Mark absorbed
      Peter's reminiscences and then added his own. That is tidy, and something
      like it may be true. But I point out that, in principle, these arguments
      from informability are treacherous.

      Take Mk 14:10:11. "Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went to
      the chief priests in order to betray him to them. [11] And when they heard
      it they were glad, and promised to give him money."

      The only possible witness here, among the Jesus circle, is Judas himself. Is
      there a scenario by which this information could have gotten back to the
      rest of the circle, to be eventually written up by one of them, or by one
      who somehow came to know what they knew? Yes, it would work if Judas had
      written the scene up immediately, and then later, on leaving the Passover
      Supper, he had said, "Well, fellas, gotta go. Here's my notes."

      Logically, Judas was the hero of Christianity, precisely by bringing about
      the salvific death of Jesus. There exists a Gospel of Judas which takes more
      or less that line. But I don't think that this scenario is going to appeal
      to most analysts of Mark. I think that they will prefer to assume that Mark
      has made up Mk 14:10-11, and has not relied on a prior written text, a
      "source," for the information they purport to contain.

      But if this alternative of invention is preferable here, surely it is also
      at least a possibility in the passages for which only Peter (the Denials in
      the Courtyard) or Mark (this or that detail of back street Jerusalem) would
      seem to be a possible informant. That puts us back with Mark as the author
      of Mark, which is where I think we should begin. Whoever, or whatever series
      of people, we may at first think that "Mark" was.

      JUDAS

      It has been suggested (most recently by Brandon) that Jesus was the leader
      of an armed rebellion. The text of Mark does not support this. What the text
      *does* seem to support, at a good many places, is what the Romans executed
      Jesus for: Aspiring to the Kingship of Israel. Not by military, but by
      magical means. I think we see this in the many details Mark tells about
      Jesus in Jerusalem: journeying there, scoping out the lay of the land,
      residing safely outside the city (out of immediate reach of the
      Staatssicherheit people), and attempting to purify the Temple of its
      nonMosaic accretions and abuses ("den of thieves"), the Temple being the
      spot to which, it had been foretold, God would return if he returned to
      Israel at all. I think we see it in the signs and countersigns by which
      Jesus's helpers found their way about the city: picked up the mule for the
      Triumphal Davidic Entry, or located a safe spot to eat the Passover.

      Who would have been in charge of these arrangements? Possibly Mark, who
      lived in Jerusalem, but he was perhaps a little young at the time (the lad
      who fled naked from the Staatssicherheit people may or may not have been
      meant for Mark, but even if he was, my point stands).

      Possibly Judas. It has been noticed, but never followed up as far as I know,
      that Judas is the only non-Galilean on Mark's list of the Twelve. He was
      from Kerioth, or so one commentarial tradition has it: near Jerusalem, and
      thus likelier than the Galileans to have contacts in Jerusalem. Who, then,
      would have been better equipped to go ahead to make arrangements for the
      Jesus party a few days later? Who better placed, knowing all the
      arrangements as he did, to betray those arrangements in due course to the
      Stasi? One later tradition has it that Judas had charge of the money for the
      travelling group. About that I do not know. But he would very likely have
      disbursed some money in Jerusalem in lining things up before the Arrival.
      Maybe this function is the seed of the later story.

      One later tradition, represented by the Epistle of the Apostles, retitles
      Judas as Zelotes. I think that the uniform Synoptic tradition "Iscariot"
      tells us more, but that is not to say that Judas, sobriquet or no, might not
      have been a fervent nationalist. I think it at least possible that, like a
      lot of people of the time, he wanted to see sovereignty restored to Israel,
      and was prepared to take his share of risks to achieve it. He was at first
      convinced that Jesus's scheme would work - occupying the Temple just long
      enough to purify it, thus bringing about the "sudden return of God to his
      Temple" (Malachi 3:1, from the historical Jesus movement's favorite prophecy
      text). That accomplished, the supernatural power of God would go on to
      accomplish what the swords of Peter and company (Mk14:47) could not of
      themselves hope to do: drive out the Romans.

      That attempt fizzled, and having fizzled, it endangered everyone who was
      part of it. Sooner or later, if they stayed, they would be caught. Some
      continued on as before, hoping to celebrate the holiday in secret and thus
      in safety, and perhaps exit the city under cover of the post-holiday crowd.
      Judas, we may without too great difficulty imagine, realized that the
      situation was hopeless, and preferred to abandon it at least with some
      little profit to himself.

      He may also have wanted revenge for the failure of his misplaced hopes. One
      early conjecture about these matters, that of Luke, envisions people in his
      situation as chiefly disappointed. Note the follower of Jesus who, traveling
      home in company after the holiday, is envisioned by Luke as saying, "We had
      hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel."(Lk 24:21)

      Of course there are a lot of ideas of Jesus running around in Mark. That
      Christological complexity is precisely the problem of Mark. But if someone
      should go through a (spare) copy of Mark, and cross out all passages which
      are explicitly incompatible with the above suggestion (the Davidic Jesus), I
      think they will be amazed at how much is left. I make it out at something
      like half. Including of course the unacknowledged quote from Malachi (!) at
      the very beginning of the text.

      This is not an interpolation argument (a form argument). It is a content
      argument. I think it interesting that the results of the form argument and
      those of the content argument tend to coincide.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Adam Crumpton
      E Bruce Brooks wrote: Take Mk 14:10:11. Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. [11] And
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 1, 2008
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        E Bruce Brooks wrote:
        Take Mk 14:10:11. "Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went to
        the chief priests in order to betray him to them. [11] And when they heard
        it they were glad, and promised to give him money."

        The only possible witness here, among the Jesus circle, is Judas
        himself. Is
        there a scenario by which this information could have gotten back to the
        rest of the circle, to be eventually written up by one of them, or by one
        who somehow came to know what they knew? Yes, it would work if Judas had
        written the scene up immediately, and then later, on leaving the Passover
        Supper, he had said, "Well, fellas, gotta go. Here's my notes."

        Adam: I would think that any believer who had some personal anecdote
        concerning Jesus (especially about the intrigue surrounding his death)
        would have told their story every chance they got. And since according
        to Acts, many Pharisees came to believe, the story of Judas' betrayal
        could have come to light through any number of channels.
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Adam Crumpton On: Mark s Informants From: Bruce ADAM: I would think that any believer who had some personal anecdote
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 1, 2008
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          To: Synoptic
          Cc: GPG
          In Response To: Adam Crumpton
          On: Mark's Informants
          From: Bruce

          ADAM: I would think that any believer who had some personal anecdote
          concerning Jesus (especially about the intrigue surrounding his death) would
          have told their story every chance they got. And since according
          to Acts, many Pharisees came to believe, the story of Judas' betrayal could
          have come to light through any number of channels.

          BRUCE: I think we have to take Acts as later tradition. Also, would any
          Pharisees have been present when Judas met with the group which Mark labels
          only as "the chief priests?" It is true that other passages here and there
          in Mark group Pharisees and scribes and Herodians and Goodness knows who
          else as in league against Jesus. That is not necessarily earliest Markan
          tradition (see again Adela Yarbro Collins' reconstruction of what I would
          call the Passion section of Proto-Mark:

          http://www.umass.edu/wsp/biblica/quest/index.html).

          And how much did believer attention immediately focus on the intrigue, as
          distinct from merely the treachery, of Judas? How prominent was hatred of
          Jesus in the growing believer tradition? My own reading (for which I can
          make a detailed argument if desired) is that this is one of the themes that
          developed in the early Church, and was not always present at the same level.
          Deferring the detailed argument, notice what I will call the Judas
          Trajectory among the Gospels:

          FATE OF JUDAS
          Mark: Not mentioned, and presumably of no great interest
          Matthew: Returns the money; hangs himself
          Luke > Acts 1:18f: Bought a field, fell down, his bowels gushed out
          John: [Nothing; the necessity of Jesus' death is explicit]

          I think the signs, as far as they go, are consistent, and suggest that anger
          against Judas did not gather much mythic steam until after Mark was written,
          meaning that it is precisely myth and not report. Mark's readers may well
          have had their own feelings of repugnance at the treachery of Judas, but
          those feelings seem not to have been given scriptural form until the second
          tier Gospels. No?

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        • Dennis Dean Carpenter
          If we look at Mark through a literary lens (strictly at Mark) and see the possibility that the twelve disciples (Mark 3) are symbols, like the sons of Jacob
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 8, 2008
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            If we look at Mark through a literary lens (strictly at Mark) and see the possibility that "the twelve" disciples (Mark 3) are symbols, like the sons of Jacob (Gen. 35), we find that the only common name in the two lists is "Judas/Judah." In the grand scheme of Mark, we have the fictional Judas (Mark 14) turning Jesus over to the henchmen of the priests, scholars and elders. This implicitly connects the Judeans (or Jews) as the unenlightened (which is generally how the Markan protagonist Jesus treats the disciples) who killed their messiah. I don't see a compelling reason to treat "Judas" as a historical figure.

            Dennis Dean Carpenter
            Dahlonega, Ga.

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Karel Hanhart
            I second Dennis position here. The expression one of the twelve is too emphatic in Mc 14 to deny the fictinal role of Iscariot in Mark s grand scheme .
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 19, 2008
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              I second Dennis' position here. The expression "one of the twelve" is too emphatic in Mc 14 to deny the "fictinal"role of Iscariot in Mark's "grand scheme". This grand scheme was FORMALLY taken from the rhetoric of a Greek tragedy (so rightly Benoit Standaert), while IN CONTENT it is a (messianic ) hagada concerning Israel's passover. The cup (trublion) - a near hapax - is unmistably connected with all of Numb 7 and the legend of the twelve tribes contributing to the house of God.

              cordially

              Karel.
              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Dennis Dean Carpenter
              To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2008 9:30 PM
              Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Mark's Informants


              If we look at Mark through a literary lens (strictly at Mark) and see the possibility that "the twelve" disciples (Mark 3) are symbols, like the sons of Jacob (Gen. 35), we find that the only common name in the two lists is "Judas/Judah." In the grand scheme of Mark, we have the fictional Judas (Mark 14) turning Jesus over to the henchmen of the priests, scholars and elders. This implicitly connects the Judeans (or Jews) as the unenlightened (which is generally how the Markan protagonist Jesus treats the disciples) who killed their messiah. I don't see a compelling reason to treat "Judas" as a historical figure.

              Dennis Dean Carpenter
              Dahlonega, Ga.

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





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