Sanders 3 (Mk 1:33 par]
- To: Synoptic
On: Sanders 3 [Mk 1:33 par]
As earlier noted, if there is a definitive response to the Sanders list in
the literature since Bellinzoni, I will be very grateful to be informed of
it. I can use the time for other things.
Pending such advice, the third Sanders item is:
3. Mk 1:33, cf Mt and Lk. The verse is missing in Matthew and Luke, and was
added by a redactor to Mark. J Weiss, Evangelium, 148. Vincent Taylor states
that the verse is in Mark's style, and so must have been known to Matthew
and Luke. He does not explain why they agree together in omitting it; The
Gospel according to St Mark, 181.
The verse in question is:
Mk 1:32-34.  That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were
sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together
about the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases,
and cast out many demons, and he would not permit the demons to speak,
because they knew him.
Mt 8:16. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with
demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were
Lk 4:40. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick
with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every
one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying,
"You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to
speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
There is more going on here than just the lack of a Mk 1:33 correspondence
in the other two Synoptics, but let us concentrate on that. I would say that
it belongs to the class of narrative exaggerations which are recurrent in
Mk, particularly as describing the press of the throng of Jesus's hearers,
or patients. The "all" in Mk 1:32 already invites qualification in the mind
of a realistically inclined reader, and that the whole "city" (or even
village) were gathered about the door [1:33] looks like an overstatement
too. An overstatement such even a child might question. We may be reminded
of "so that they could not even eat" (Mk 3:20, which also has no parallel in
Mt or Lk, though the following passage, Mk 3:22f, does have parallels (at Mt
12:24 and Lk 11:15).
That all this breathless exaggeration is very typical of Mark (as Taylor
seems to be saying), with his perennial and wearisome euthus and his
generally headlong narrative style, seems to me obvious. That Matthew and
Luke were striving for a more measured pace and a more plausible account of
things seems also, on consideration of the whole of those texts, to be a
well grounded inference. If one is going to read one Gospel outdoors, the
choice would surely be Mark, but for a cathedral environment, equally surely
Matthew). Then we may without strain on any other inference about AMt and
ALk which general reading inspires us to draw, assume that here too, the
overstressed Mk 1:33 is simply omitted in the interest of dignity and
credibility. There are miracles to be narrated, and whose account of a
miracle are you more likely to believe? That of a wild-eyed and disheveled,
excitable person, whose words tumble over each other, or of a calm
three-piece suiter with measured diction? Different rhetoricians might well
choose differently. My suggestion is that AMt and ALk both chose to go with
the latter mode of presentation, and accordingly might well have opted, in
their (here) quite different ways, to avoid arousing reader incredulity on
minor matters. That is, the scenario of Mt/Lk omission violates no
observable general tendencies in those texts.
There is at the same time a point on which both Matthew and Luke are
stronger, not milder, than the Markan narrative. Mark has only some being
cured; both Matthew and Luke insist that it is "all." It has been often
noted, by observers from Hawkins on down, that when Jesus's limitations are
attested in Mark, Matthew and/or Luke often have a less limited version.
Here is one instance. I think we are entitled to ask, not in light of any
prior assumptions about Gospel priority but simply as the most likely
scenario for beliefs about Jesus over time: Is it more likely that the
powers of Jesus will be diminished within his tradition over time, or
amplified? I think it overwhelmingly likely that the latter option, what I
call the aggrandization scenario, is the true one. Then Mk with his
portrayal of Jesus's limited success in healing on this occasion, is
evolutionarily earlier than the uniformly successful picture given us, at
the same place, by Mt and Lk. The evidence would then suggest Mk > Mt, Lk.
Weiss (not seen) evidently thinks that Mk originally lacked 1:33, and that
this reduced version was behind the agreement of Mt/Lk not to include it.
This seems to be a version of the Ur-Markus theory, or one of its variants,
according to which the Mk seen by Mt/Lk contained only, and exactly, what
their version of it contains. This at one stroke (if one can get in that
stroke) eliminates the present case, and all other cases of apparent
omission. That theory still requires a plausible scenario for the later
addition of these unique details into Mark. I do not find that there is a
plausible scenario for that later addition in the case of Mk 1:33. But if
there is, then it seems likely that the other cases where Mk oversteps
conventional narrative credibility will also be due to this same impetus.
That implies not a spot addition, but a more comprehensive revision. And why
do we imagine that this revision was undertaken? To exaggerate a narrative
that was perfectly satisfactory and consecutive as it stood? I don't think
that there is a parallel for this kind of change in any of the thousands of
scribal alterations to scripture in the "public" phase of the textual
tradition, whereas there is abundant material to show that aggrandization of
the power and dignity of Jesus was a common motive among the later copyists.
With that precedent, we may I believe plausibly refer the Mt/Lk variants in
this case (the greater power of healing) to an aggrandizing process, here
applied to a prior narrative which is represented by Mk. The implied
directionality is then Mk > Mt, Lk.
Commentators on "agreement in omitting [Mk 1:33]:"
Swete (1898): nothing.
Rawlinson (1925): nothing
Grant (IB, 1951): notes the difference between "some" and the "all" of the
parables; denies that there is an issue of limitation of Jesus's power (but
contrast Mk 6:5). Nothing on the parallel lack of 1:33.
Mann (1986; a Griesbach partisan): nothing.
Perkins (NIB, 1995): nothing.
Witherington (2001): nothing.
France (2002): notes the implausibility; nothing on the parallels.
Not a bumper crop (though I would like to acknowledge the thoroughness of
Grant). I stopped checking at this point. Be it noted in passing that any
difficulties with the "redactional" theory of Weiss (the later addition of
1:33 to Mark) also apply to the "conflational" theory of Mark held by some
modern persons. Why would these things, not previous in Mark (or in the
sources conflated by Mark) be added? I can't answer that, to my own
As far as the above investigation has been able to go, then, I conclude
that, far from being an argument against Markan Priority, this passage,
taken as a whole, appears to provide quite credible evidence in its favor,
and to be at minimum consistent with that conclusion if reached on other
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst