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Sanders 4 [Mk 1:35 par]

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic On: Sanders 4 [Mk 1:35 par] From: Bruce Sanders #4 is stated thus: 4. Mk 1:35, cf Lk 4:42. Mark s and there he prayed may have been added by a
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 17, 2005
      To: Synoptic
      On: Sanders 4 [Mk 1:35 par]
      From: Bruce

      Sanders #4 is stated thus:

      4. Mk 1:35, cf Lk 4:42. Mark's "and there he prayed" may have been added by
      a redactor. J Weiss, Evangelium 148.

      The texts (RSV):

      Mk 1:35-38. And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went
      out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. [36] And Simon and those who
      were with him followed him, [37] and they found him and said to him,
      Everyone is searching for you. [38] And he said to them, Let us go on to the
      next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.

      Mt : [no parallel to any of this]

      Lk 4:42-44. And when it was day he departed and went into a lonely place.
      And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from
      leaving them, [43] but he said to them, I must preach the good news of the
      kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.
      [44] And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea [some texts read, of

      Weiss's comparison [not seen] is presumably to show the lack of the phrase
      about prayer in Lk, and to suggest (along the lines of an Ur-Markus
      hypothesis) that it was originally lacking in Mk also. This however does not
      solve all difficulties, for the Lukan version is drastically different in
      other points as well. Those who seek Jesus are his followers in the Mk
      version, but the entire local population in Lk. Is it possible to say which
      might be the older form of this piece? I would suggest that the Markan
      version is earlier, because, whether as a real event or as an imagined real
      event, it makes better consecutive sense. (1) It is likelier that Jesus's
      disciples would notice his absence that early, and come to find him, whereas
      it would take longer for the whole village to seek, let alone to find. (2)
      If it was Jesus's purpose simply to leave before he was missed, it makes
      little sense for him to go a certain distance and then tarry for no reason
      until the population overtakes him and attempts to keep him there. It implie
      s an unbeseeming coyness, a wanting to be coaxed. If however he went to a
      particular place to pray, and spent time doing so (for either guidance or
      strength, preparatory to a departure), a narrative motivation for the pause
      in a remote place exists, and the story works better. In the Markan version,
      considered as a report or invention of a real event, it was presumably
      Jesus's intention to return to the disciples after praying, and then depart
      with them. They obviate this by turning up of their own accord. Jesus's plan
      to depart for other places is then revealed to them.

      These are small matters; I think there is a larger, church-historical issue
      here, which concerns the place of prayer in the life of Jesus, the practice
      of his disciples, and the usages of the early Church. And I think that the
      larger issue points in the same direction.

      It seems to me conspicuous in Mark generally that the resort to waste
      places, and prayer in those places, are for Jesus sources of renewal and of
      contact with God, the austerities of the one probably being thought to
      facilitate, or indeed to enable, the other. This is the standard ascetic
      paradigm which is familiar not only in the Mediterranean, but much further
      east as well; it is endemic in India. As a disciple of the wilderness
      ascetic John the Baptist (a relationship acknowledged in all three
      Synoptics, albeit in differing ways), Jesus is not unlikely to have made
      that connection also. That connection, occurring (if at all) during Jesus's
      contact with John, at or before the beginning of his own career as a
      preacher and healer, is probably to be referred to early tradition. The
      association of prayer (and perhaps also of ascetic practices) with
      charismatic performance, eg in healing, is made very strongly in Mk 9:28f,

      Mk 9:28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him
      privately, Why could we not cast it out? [29] And he said to them, This kind
      cannot be driven out by anything but prayer [A C D et al add, "and

      Mt: [no parallel]

      Lk: [no parallel]

      Since no prayer occurs in the story, it is presumably previous prayer, in
      secret, that is here referred to. [I don't care to get into it at this
      moment, but this episode in Mk is in fact preceded by a Jesus visit to a
      remote and indeed mountainous place, albeit in our present Mk that visit is
      turned to other and, I would argue if there were time, later, narrative

      In Mk, prayer seems to be an activity confined to Jesus and not originally
      shared with the disciples. Luke and Matthew both have the disciples ask to
      be shown, or at some point being shown, how to pray (Lk 11:1-4, note the
      reference to John teaching his disciples how to pray, meaning that this is
      not the standard Jewish forms of prayer that all of them would have known,
      but an esoterically imparted kind of prayer). In Mk, on the contrary, (see
      11:25-26), the form of prayer that the disciples are expected to use is
      exactly the common prayer which the "hypocrites" of the time also use, with
      the admonition that prayer must be preceded by forgiveness, in order that
      forgiveness for oneself may be asked in prayer. That is, this prayer of the
      disciples in Mk is a request for forgiveness. If so, then it is not a
      special form of divine contact resulting in greater charisma or strength, as
      seems to be the case with Jesus, and the above suggested contrast stands.

      The Lord's Prayer in either its Matthean or its Lukan form, on the other
      hand, is a prayer seemingly crafted to the needs of the posthumous Church.
      That form of prayer, like the instructions Jesus gives for the future
      observance of the Lord's Supper in all three Gospels, thus seems to look
      ahead in order to legislate for a followership at a later time, and in a
      different condition, than the crowds at Capernaum. It reaches outside the
      story proper. The likelihood is then that Jesus's prayer as communion with
      God and renewal of charismatic power (the Chinese sage Mencius has the same
      thing, only without the God part) represents early tradition, and the Lord's
      Prayer and other general prayer usages by the followers of Jesus represents
      late tradition.

      If so, then Mk in this instance is presumptively early, and the absence of
      that linkage in Lk, and the presence of a conflicting and late theory or
      prayer in Lk, are both presumptively late. That is, in Synoptic sequence
      terms, Mk > Lk. Given the extension of this case to the general Lord's
      Prayer question, we may indeed say, Mk > Mt, Lk. As has repeatedly been
      found in previous notes on the Sanders items.

      There is another suggestive point of difference: Mk says Jesus say "why I
      came out [to this remote place]," whereas Lk has the more grand "why I was
      sent [into this world]" The latter is a rather imposing answer to the
      unspoken question of why Jesus has left the house; it seems to intrude a
      rather high Christological note which the immediate narrative context does
      not justify. But the idea that Jesus was sent to preach to the towns is also
      not necessarily the Christology of the explicit Jesus, as expressed in
      either Mk or Lk, apart from this passage. This Lk passage may thus be
      something of a problem from various points of view, whereas the Markan
      parallel, though rough as so much in Mark is rough, seems not to present the
      same difficulties.

      I now come to Weiss's suggestion that the prayer phrase in Mk was added
      later, presumably after the composition of Lk? And again I ask, added why?
      It would solve a problem of Lukan omission if it were so, but the solution
      of a problem for us, without a plausible motive for the supposed redactor
      several thousand years ago, is not a proper theory. And, prayer apart, is
      the Markan passage a plausible derivative of the Lukan passage? If we
      envision Mark as conflating Matthew and Luke, and here operating without any
      conflicting precedent from Matthew, and thus presumptively following Luke,
      why not just follow Luke? The affection of the crowd for Jesus is a nice
      touch (Luke is pre-eminently the Nice Gospel). Why meddle with it? And
      especially, Why meddle downward with it? Why reduce that affecting scene to
      just the disciples, with their standard lack of understanding of anything
      whatever? It is true that Mark is consistently down on the disciples, and
      this general trait will support Mk 1:35 if as a consistent part of the
      original Mark. But in what way would that anti-disciple disposition lead a
      secondary Markan author to the sort of alterations in Lk 4:43-44 which would
      yield as their result Mk 1:35-38? Not just the prayer bit, but the whole
      thing? It may be a want of imagination on my part, in which case assistance
      will be welcome, but as of this hour, I can't make this sequence work. I
      can't make it authorially intelligible to myself.

      For the present, then, and pending greater light, I submit that the Markan
      passage in question, though hardly transparent to the modern understanding,
      and perhaps a little uptempo for modern tastes, is from several points of
      view better understood otherwise than as Weiss proposed to understand it,
      and that his suggestion of later redaction accordingly has little weight as
      evidence against a hypothesis of Markan Priority. It need not be taken as a
      bar to that hypothesis if other and more directly directional evidence
      happens to point that way.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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