The Delay of the End
- To: Synoptic
In Response to: John Poirier
On: The Delay of the End
JOHN: There's a big difference between 1 Thess 4:17 and Mark 9:1, in that
the former addresses the problem of interpreting the promise of a "soon"
return, while the latter addresses the problem of a deadline in stone.
BRUCE: On this account, which I need not argue or even paraphrase for
present purposes, both are addressing the problem of a delayed End Event.
That the specifics of formulation vary is not surprising, one text coming
from within the direct Jesus tradition, probably not far north of Galilee,
and the other from an indirect tradition in Greece. One describes how both
living and dead will be raised at the Last Day, the other implicitly assures
its hearers that the death of some does not mean the failure of the Last Day
promise. Both assurances look to the arrival of the Last Day within the
lifetimes of some present. I would call this a Second Level modification of
the original Imminent Last Day message of John, and presumably of Jesus also
in his early preaching - and perhaps, with modifications, all the way to the
A Third Level modification (leaving out a certain number of nuances and
variants) would be what I recall as the E R Dodd solution, which emerges in
the 1c also, and which spiritualizes the whole idea.
Needless to say, no new idea in this area necessarily eliminates any of the
previous ideas from the slate of live theories. If we could make a house by
house survey around the year 40, from Alexandria to Edessa to Rome, I
suspect we would find all these and a dozen others actively in being.
As to the late layers of Mark and the early evidences for Paul, I think
those are right who see overlap, some of it hostile and some of it mutually
functional. I do not hold with those who simply call Mark a Pauline Gospel;
there are too many divergences, and the overlap is too clearly confined to
the late and not the early layers of Mark. But the overlap when it comes,
both hostile and functional, seems to me to be very adequately explained as
a synchronicity. On Paul's side, the limits for date are fairly well
understood, and I see nothing on the Markan side that suggests a drastically
different absolute date.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst