Outline of the Accretional Mark session at SBL/Boston (Revised Information)
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG, WSW, several individuals
On: Outline of the Accretional Mark session at SBL/Boston
It might be useful if I once more go over the logic behind this session, and
behind the material presently available on line as background to it. The
on-line material has been augmented, and I also add some technical details
not earlier available. This note thus replaces any earlier announcements.
The point of departure is Adela Yarbro Collins' recent Mark commentary,
which intrigued me by offering (on p819) a reconstruction of a proposed
Pre-Markan Passion Narrative. This commentary will be discussed during the
whole of the SBL Mark Group meeting at 9 AM Saturday morning, 22 Nov, (in
Liberty Ballroom A/B, Sheraton Hotel; this is Session SBL 22-2). Whether the
PPN reconstruction will come up I do not know.
1. That reconstruction is available at
2. So is an interlinear version constructed by myself, which displays the
text omitted to reach the reconstructed original.
3. The AYC reconstruction proceeds along lines familiar to those who are
familiar with these things. A few specific details of her construct might be
disputed, as might the conclusion that the result is a valid independent
text. I provide three Critiques in detail, the result of which is that (1) I
offer some alternative possibilities for the distinction of original and
added material, nothing very momentous, and, potentially of more
consequence, (2) I doubt that the result would have been viable as an
independent document. On the contrary, to my eye that story depends for its
intelligibility on the preceding text of Mark. (3) Further, the arguments
used by AYC to distinguish interpolated material in Mk 14-16 can also be
applied, with equal convincement, elsewhere in the Gospel, where signs of
interpolation abound. The reconstruction process thus might well be applied
on a wider scale. All this suggests that the proposed PPN is in reality the
last portion of a reconstructed Proto-Mark narrative.
4. To proceed to this Proto-Mark possibility by steps, I first offer my own
separation of original and later material in Mk 14-16. This two-layer model
takes account of points made in the three Critiques.
5. But not all the added material is of the same character, or implies the
same authorial impulse. I accordingly separate the added material into
several groups, and have provided a PDF of that enhanced version of my view
of Mk 14-16. This is the last thing available at
We now proceed without preliminary on-line documents.
The next step is to demonstrate that the distinctions thus made in the Mk
14-16 added material can be consistently and fruitfully maintained over the
balance of the Gospel. A full reconstruction at this stage (my work on Mark
only goes back about 50 years, and the project is thus still young) must be
to some degree tentative, but I believe that the plausibility of a
consistent layer theory of Mark can nevertheless be demonstrated,
sufficiently to countenance continued research.
6. The demonstration requires the full reconstruction, and I will have
several paper copies of the current version with me at the SBL meeting, for
sharing during discussion (and to collected afterward).
The results include some details that are perhaps sort of interesting. All
will know the plethora of names by which Jesus is called in Mark, at least
some of which seem to imply different conceptions of his mission and role.
It may thus be of interest that, as far as my own efforts suggest, there
seems to be a Son of God layer in Mark, and a separate (and later) Son of
Man layer in Mark, and that neither of these happens to be the oldest layer
in Mark. If that result holds up, it means that the earliest author of Mark
was content to describe Jesus's career without employing either of these
titles, and that both titles must thus be attributed to a slightly later
stage in the development of ideas within the post-Crucifixion movement;
neither can be sited during the lifetime of Jesus.
There have also been books written on both sides of the question of whether
Mark is a Pauline Gospel. If I consult the reconstruction, I can easily see
what both parties are talking about. The question is whether the Pauline
contacts (or whatever) are pervasive, or are confined to one or two strata.
Answer: they are confined to one late stratum. This tends to work against
the possibility that our Gospel was written in the first instance by a
companion of Paul. (The possibility of a Paulinically knowledgeable last
author, on the other hand, is not precluded).
There are several passages in Mark that invite coordination with external
events. One is the Caligula defilement in 40 (Mk 13), another is the
execution of brothers James and John (following Syrian tradition) in c45 (Mk
10:45). Yet another, if we may for a moment accept the report of Acts 11:26,
is the point at which members of the Jesus Movement were first called
Christians (which was when Saul joined Barnabas in Antioch, c44). All these
dates cluster in time. They also cluster in Mark: all of them are in what is
currently numbered as Layer 5.
There is also the question of Paul's Christianity. If the doctrines
reflected in Mark are continually evolving, as seems to be the case, we may
ask, at what point in that evolutionary process did they reach what is
recognizable as the Christianity of Paul? The answer, which I must repeat is
tentative like all these answers, is that Paul's Christianity comprises
Layers 3 and 4.
It will be obvious that a certain real chronology tends to emerge from this.
In whatever community of believers Mark represents, we seem to have had a
fairly rapid evolution of doctrine during the first few years after the
Crucifixion, as people came to terms, but in successively different ways,
with the death of the movement leader. By Layer 2, this process had reached
the stage represented by the Corinthians who did not believe in the
Resurrection, also present at Philippi, etc. In Layers 3 and 4, the Markan
evolution had reached the stage of those who *did* believe in the
Resurrection, including Paul himself. The date of his effective instruction
(perhaps in Damascus) must thus follow the completion of Layer 4, and that
date in turn must be sometime in the 30's. There follow a great number of
things in Layer 5 (which is undoubtedly capable of being resolved into
several different strands), but all the ones with hints of date tend to
cluster, as above noted, in the early 40s. This, according to the current
reconstruction, is the latest material in Mark. The successive stages of the
text, as philologically determined, thus seem to map reasonably well onto
real time also. The philologically suggested sequence and the temporally
suggested sequence both run in the same direction, and within the same span.
As for what Bart calls Lost Christianities, the one in Layer 1 was so
snuffed out that even Luke was able to detect (or construct) only a hint of
it; the one in Layer 2 did get diffused fairly widely in the Pauline world
before Paul came to it, hence repeated complaints in his Epistles. From
Layer 3 on, we begin to be in territory which is familiar from subsequent
orthodoxy. And all of this not in documents from different places, which
might imply parallel but contrastive developments, but in one text, evolving
in one place over about the first 15 years of the Jesus movement, and
concluding at the point where (if we for once credit Acts) the Jesus
movement began to be called the Christian movement, as is still the case
Anyway, that's the general drift of it so far. I thought it was sort of
A LAST WORD ON LOGISTICS
As for the logistics of the SBL session, the above will cover it, except to
mention again that if those attending are accustomed to coffee at 7 in the
morning, they are encouraged to bring it with them; also a bagel if desired.
We have been unable to arrive at a figure for probable attendance, and
having the session catered on spec turned out to be prohibitively expensive.
Maybe next year.
If there are questions, procedural, Markan, or other, I will be glad to try
to deal with them.
Otherwise, see you there.
[I want to repeat my earlier note of thanks to Adela, for her commentary and
also for her cooperation in the present matter].
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst