Re: [Synoptic-L] Evolution in Christianity 2
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG, WSW
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Mk 4:10-20 (in: Evolution in Christianity 2)
I had been pleased to accept the verdict of Rawlinson and Wellhausen,
to mention no other giants among the scholarship of a century ago,
that this passage is a later addition to the Parable of the Sower (Mk
4:1-9), which it explains. Ron, casting doubt on the value of early
scholarship in general, offered to defend the originality of the
RON: On the one hand, Mark's narrative sequence is no more fluent than his
handling of the Greek language.
BRUCE: Maybe a little worse. Let us see what would be involved if we
take Mk 4:11f as narratively consequent with the Parable proper. (1)
Jesus delivers the parable from an offshore boat. The colloquy with
the disciples necessarily takes place on land, and there is no boat-to
land transition. (2) The colloquy is necessarily private, for reasons
including the fact that it includes an egregious insult to the crowd,
but there is no narrative transition from the crowd scene, whether
imagined as taking place on land or on water, to the private scene.
(3) Following this intimate scene with the disciples, the narrative
continues with the Parables of the Seed Growing Secretly and the
Mustard Seed, each linked to the preceding parable by "and he said."
Then comes a manifest passage of narrative conclusion, 4:33 "With many
such parables he spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it,
 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his
own disciples he explained everything." Here, after 4:34, if anywhere,
was the tag on which to hang a private session with the disciples,
"explaining everything." But no, the session, though (if one like)
countenanced by 4:34, takes place instead interuptively after 4:9.
Finally, (5) there is no provision for getting Jesus out of his
on-land private explication or help session and back into the boat,
where he resumes his preaching (and the crowd, all ignorant of how -
as he has just said to the disciples - he despises their capacity of
understanding, resumes its welll-behaved listening.
I think it is far more likely that a later writer (by which I mean to
include the possibility of the same writer at a later date) has taken
his cue from 4:34 but inserted his explanation at the point of danger
for him, namely directly after the Parable of the Sower (4:9). Both
actions make sense for a later explainer (or explainer-away). But the
two together strike me as nonsense for a single writer, however
halting his Greek.
RON: On the other hand I think you have underestimated the versatility
of Mark as
an author. He was quite capable of creating a parable and its explanation
with the dual purpose of illustrating the spread of the "gospel" (which goes
back to Paul, not to Jesus) and having another dig at the original
BRUCE: Now we get the opposite tack: Mark was a clumsy writer. But
also he was a brilliant and versatile writer. This looks to me like a
smorgasbord of convenience. I think a scenario of one writer should
make up its mind about what kind of writer it is envisioning. There
are people in Sinology who maintain that the Han Feidz, a long series
of tough Legalist writings, which takes a bewilderingly different
series of positions vis-a-vis such view as those of the rival
statecraft Dauists, was written by one man, with no doctrinal
predispositions whatever, but concerned only to demonstrate the
versatility of his writing skill. I have never met a convincing case
of an author who behaved that way, unless you count some Six Dynaties
poets for whom the whole game was the successful imitation of the
styles of different earlier poets (one thinks of poor Scaliger,
hoodwinked by a colleague who showed him some Old Latin verses which
the colleague had himself composed). Stylistic virtuosity as a merit
in itself comes at a certain point in an evolving literary tradition.
I don't think Han Fei was in such a tradition, nor can I easily so
situate the author or authors of gMk.
As for "goes back to Paul," how so? I should think there is evidence
throughout the text, including what for me are its earliest layers,
that Jesus was concerned for the spread of the Word. Which term in
gMk, by the way, has an interesting distribution within gMk, and does
not necessarily mean the Resurrection Doctrine.
RON [illustrating "digs at the disciples"]: on For the latter, c.f.
3:31-35, 8:33. 14:30 etc..
BRUCE: In the first place, I don't see 4:10f as a dig at the
disciples. I see it as a dig at the crowd, plus a concern to impart an
esoteric meaning to a parable whose exoteric meaning (crowd meaning)
had become unacceptable, or at minimum exegetically unfruitful, to the
later Markan community. There are many such touches in Mk, where the
post-Crucifixion practices of the group, such as baptism and fasting,
are taken up for explanation. Neither of these was practiced in the
Jesus movement in the lifetime of its founder, but both grew up later.
The still early community had to somehow regularize these contrasts,
and they did so by putting legitimating passages into their authority
text, namely gMk.
So how about Ron's examples of digs at disciples?
3:31f is Jesus's rejection of his blood kin in favor of his real
family, "whoever does the will of God," presumably including the
disciples. This is pro-disciple and anti-family. Strike one.
8:33 is Jesus's rebuke of Peter for Peter's protest against the
doctrine of Jesus's necessary death, which is introduced at this point
in gMk. That is not a dig at anybody, and certainly not at any group,
it is a rejection of Peter's solicitude for Jesus. The issue is
whether Jesus must die to achieve his purpose on earth. We have here
an adjustment of previous doctrine, which was that Jesus would survive
his own attempt to purify Israel and secure the return of God to his
now repentant nation. Strike two.
14:30 "Verily, I say unto you, this very night, before the cock crows
twice, you will deny me thrice." Again, not disciples collectively
(for which Ron has missed the better example in 8:21, but it's not my
job to hold up his end of the conversation too), but just Peter, and
not so much a rebuke as a prediction. Peter here is portrayed, not as
misunderstanding Jesus, but as cowardly in the crisis that was
presently to present itself to Jesus. What is the point of Jesus's
predictions of this sort? Largely, it is to legitimate, or to take
credit for foreknowledge of, specific circumstances in the actual
history of the Jesus group. Peter's cowardice at the Crucifixion
(capitalized on by the coy author of gJn, by the way, as a vindication
of another disciple at Peter's expense) was nothing to his credit in
the eyes of the later movement, but if Jesus himself had predicted it,
then it acquired the aura of a foreknown and thus predetermined event,
and the courage of Peter before the event at least put him in the best
light possible, vis-a-vis later community members who might be
disposed to snicker at, or even to challenge, Peter's leadership. The
purpose of this piece, then, is not a "dig" at the disciples, or even
at Peter, but a charter of forgiveness for Peter as a later leader.
I have above parenthetically noted a Ball One on this count, but I
think that on balance, the position strikes out. The description does
not well characterize the passages cited in its support.
Still, waiving that, what about 8:21 and company (for there are
others)? The claim that Jesus's disciples did not understand him was
necessary to the later movement's claim that Jesus's message was not
what he had said it was at the time (and which many will still have
remembered), but rather something else. The something else was the
Resurrection Doctrine, at the first appearance of which in the text of
gMk (as we have just seen) stout Peter so greatly rebelled. That
doctrine does indeed appear, in the larger narrative of gMk, as though
it were a second thought of Jesus. (We may here usefully remember that
this fault, for fault it was, is cured in gJn, where Jesus from the
first preaches, incredibly as it may seem, the Doctrine of the
Resurrection). But what was his first thought? Meaning, what did his
original actual historical followers think he was going to do? Luke
gives the answer as clearly as may be, in thus describing the puzzled
disillusionment of one follower, on the road away from Jerusalem after
the event: "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel" (Lk
Everything about the Resurrection doctrine, as it appears in the
earliest textual witness to the movement, namely gMk, implies that it
was an afterthought of the early community, a rationalization, if you
will, and not a preachment of Jesus.
Background Issue: As witnesses to earlier instalments of this
conversation, going back some years, will know, Ron holds to a view of
Mk in which a very few interpolations are acknowledged (the pair I
remember are the linked two: 14:28 and 16:7), but others must be
disallowed if his scenario for the text is to stand. We have of course
had very much this conversation before, and I have to say again, with
all respect for Ron's labors and the ingenuity of elements of his
construction, that for the reader with philological instincts, the
traits that identify Mk 14:28 and 16:7 as interpolations speak just as
loudly for other passages in Mk; the same conditions apply, and the
same conclusion is indicated.
So it looks from here.
If so, then what would be a productive next step? I think one tempting
avenue of thought is to ask: What in the Parable of the Sower needed
to be reinterpreted to suit later community needs and/or perceptions?
Most of us, and especially most of us in our impressionistic early
teens, will have thought that the secret explanation was very much
what we had thought the parable meant without it, so why all this
labor (and this arranging of meetings in and out of boats, with all
the attending hazards of falling in, etc) to make that point? The
answer can only be that the original meaning of the parable, as
probably still remembered by people from the crowd who were still
present in the later movement, was something else: it did not speak of
the vicissitudes of the later converts to the movement, but of
What? That, from where I sit, is the relevant question. I am not about
to scour the twenty commentaries to see if anyone has had a suggestion
(the patched-up and jury-rigged setup from which I am writing this
note will shut down on me in a couple more minutes), but perhaps
someone in the present tense has a suggestion. One place to look for
inspiration is the following parable, the untouchable parable of the
Seed Growing Secretly, which has defied orthodox interpretation from
the beginning of time until now. Perhaps, like its mates in the
original Markan series of parables, it was not addressed to the later
community, but to the community of Jesus's lifetime, the small band
who, as Luke's character puts it, were setting out "to redeem Israel."
All suggestions welcome.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- Bruce Brooks wrote:
> ..... Let us see what would be involved if weBruce,
> take Mk 4:11f as narratively consequent with the Parable proper. (1)
> Jesus delivers the parable from an offshore boat. The colloquy with
> the disciples necessarily takes place on land, and there is no boat-to
> land transition. (2) The colloquy is necessarily private, for reasons
> including the fact that it includes an egregious insult to the crowd,
> but there is no narrative transition from the crowd scene, whether
> imagined as taking place on land or on water, to the private scene.
The transition is indicated by "When Jesus was alone with the twelve ..."
(Mk 4:10a, REB).
> Finally, (5) there is no provision for getting Jesus out of hisThey get back into a boat in 4:35-36.
> on-land private explication or help session and back into the boat,
> where he resumes his preaching (and the crowd, all ignorant of how -
> as he has just said to the disciples - he despises their capacity of
> understanding, resumes its welll-behaved listening.
> ..... Now we get the opposite tack: Mark was a clumsy writer. ButYou have added the word "brilliant" here. Mark's versatility exceeded his
> also he was a brilliant and versatile writer.
fluency. It's all about ideas versus presentation. Surely you have come
across people who have original ideas but cannot present them fluently?
> As for "goes back to Paul," how so? I should think there is evidenceYou appear to be admitting that Mark's presentation of Jesus added the
> throughout the text, including what for me are its earliest layers,
> that Jesus was concerned for the spread of the Word. Which term in
> gMk, by the way, has an interesting distribution within gMk, and does
> not necessarily mean the Resurrection Doctrine.
Resurrection Doctrine. I would go further. To me, 8:29 indicates that Peter
(and therefore presumably Jesus also) got no further in Christology than
seeing Jesus as the "Messiah". It was Paul who first referred to the
Christian mission as the "gospel", with its connotation of Son of God,
Saviour etc.. Jesus' mission was based on the proclamation that the kingdom
of God was imminent.
> ... In the first place, I don't see 4:10f as a dig at theThe dig is in 4:13. The disciples had failed to understand Jesus.
> So how about Ron's examples of digs at disciples?You've missed the subtlety of Mark's treatment of the disciples. The
> 3:31f is Jesus's rejection of his blood kin in favor of his real
> family, "whoever does the will of God," presumably including the
> disciples. This is pro-disciple and anti-family. Strike one.
'Christologically-defective' Peter is openly denigrated in several places in
Mark. But the even more despised leading disciple, James the brother of
Jesus, is simply air-brushed out of the Markan history as if he were some
out-of-favour Soviet leader. 3:31-35 is an insult to James because James was
part of Jesus' family.
> 8:33 is Jesus's rebuke of Peter for Peter's protest against theYou would be right if it were a historical record, but it is not.
> doctrine of Jesus's necessary death, which is introduced at this point
> in gMk. That is not a dig at anybody ...
> 14:30 "Verily, I say unto you, this very night, before the cock crowsWhere's the courage? I don't see it.
> twice, you will deny me thrice." .....
> and the courage of Peter before the event .....
> ..... The claim that Jesus's disciples did not understand him wasIf the original disciples had accepted the new (Pauline) message when it
> necessary to the later movement's claim that Jesus's message was not
> what he had said it was at the time (and which many will still have
> remembered), but rather something else. The something else was the
> Resurrection Doctrine .....
came on the scene, Mark could easily have adapted his narrative to avoid the
> Everything about the Resurrection doctrine, as it appears in theSurely you should also include the predictions of suffering, and the
> earliest textual witness to the movement, namely gMk, implies that it
> was an afterthought of the early community, a rationalization, if you
> will, and not a preachment of Jesus.
rejection by the Jewish leaders, for these also appear in e.g. 8:31.
> ..... for the reader with philological instincts, thePhilology is not an exact science. So it has to be balanced against other
> traits that identify Mk 14:28 and 16:7 as interpolations speak just as
> loudly for other passages in Mk; the same conditions apply, and the
> same conclusion is indicated.
considerations, such as the aims and the capabilities of the author, and the
inherent structure of the document.
> ..... the original meaning of the parable, asMark's 70 CE Roman audience was far separated in time and place from anyone
> probably still remembered by people from the crowd who were still
> present in the later movement, was something else: it did not speak of
> the vicissitudes of the later converts to the movement, but of
> something different.
who might have heard Jesus speak. In any case, the parable of the sower
should no more be attributed to Jesus than the obviously late parable of the
vineyard with its allegory of Jesus' rejection.
The teaching of the historical Jesus has been transmitted to us not in
lengthy parables but in aphorisms, and even these have survived not via oral
tradition but by being written down by a group which included eyewitnesses,
namely the Jesus movement in Jerusalem.
Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG, WSW
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Mk 4:10f
I had said that the session with the disciples, where Jesus explains
the meaning of the previous parable, is narratively interruptive and
thus open for interpretation as an interpolation.
RON: The transition is indicated by "When Jesus was alone with the twelve ..."
(Mk 4:10a, REB).
BRUCE: That would be sufficient if the explanation (4:10f) were the
end of the series. But it isn't. The explanation is followed at 4:26
by the next parable in the series, and the next after that, and
finally a series closer, at 4:33f. Given the series opener in 4:1, we
are presumably to imagine all the parables as being delivered from the
boat, that is, in the same setting as was defined for us in 4:1-2. For
Ron's theory of original composition to work, we would thus need a
more specific transition to a non-boat locale than 4:10 presently
gives us. As for getting back into the boat after this private
explanatory interlude. . .
RON: They get back into a boat in 4:35-36.
BRUCE: Yeah, but unfortunately, this comes after the series closer in
4:33 ("With many such parables he spoke the Word to them . . ."). It
begins a new series, the Stilling the Waves incident. It reads:
4:35 "On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, Let us go
across to the other side."  "And leaving the crowd, they took him
with them, just as he was, in the boat."
If this were the transition Ron's reading is looking for, the private
colloquy would then follow directly. But it doesn't, it has already
appeared. 4:35-36 will thus not do service as a transition to 4:10f
"And when he was alone . . ."
I'm sorry, but it just won't work. There is no such thing in
literature as a retrospective transition, least of all with the
supposed transition actually transits to something else aotogether: a
thrilling storm scene which allows no time, and has no narrative logic
to justify, a quiet expository scene.
[I add that the REB, quoted by Ron at the beginning of this note,
seems to smooth over the many, and usefully indicative, roughnesses in
the narrative of Mk. I think that this is dangerous for the critical
reader. RSV has, for 4:10, "And when he was alone, those who were
about him with the Twelve asked him concerning the parables."That
seems to me to fit the Greek much more closely, and to present much
more clearly the problems in the text, the places where, so to speak,
the new paint has dried on top of the old paint. On this showing, I
can't in conscience recommend REB to the critical reader.]
Ron likes to say, this year as in years gone by, that I am missing the
subtleties of Mark. I am entirely satisfied if I can grasp the
obviosities of Mark. I repeat my earlier suggestion that the above
failure of narrative concinnity at Mk 4:10 is one of the obviosities.
And that it has obvious implications for the way the text of Mark grew
into the form that we see before us.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG, WSW
Again On: Mk 4:10f PS
I had recently argued that Mk 4:10-25 are an interpolation,
essentially because they are a narrative interruption in the preaching
sequence 4:1-34. Of course the worst crux in this area is 4:11-12, by
far the most terrible statement in the entire NT. It comes to this:
Jesus's preaching is intentionally obscure (in riddles, Hb meshalim),
lest the people he is preaching to understand his message and be
forgiven, and thus be saved. That is, everyone in the audience except
the disciples (and them only by the narrowest of margins and narrative
interventions) is damned to hell forever.
This has caused some little consternation among the exegetes.
Archibald M Hunter, Interpretating the Parables (Westminster 1960)
devotes a whole Appendix to it. He lists in ascending order of
personal approval three solutions previously offered:
(1) C H Dodd takes the saying "as a later church construction, not a
saying of Jesus." He notes words reminiscent of Paul, and "thinks the
saying reflects the doctrine of the early Church, that the Jews were
providentially blind to the significance of Christ's coming. In other
words, this explanation of the purpose of the parables is an answer to
a question which arose after Jesus's death and the failure of his
followers to convert the Jewish people." Hunter comments, "A simple
solution but a drastic one."
(2) T W Manson thinks that v12 "conceals a mistranslation from the
Araramaic," partly because Mk 4:12 quotes not the Hebrew, or the LXX,
but the [Aramaic] Targum: Aramaic de can mean "that" (Gk hina, as in
our text) but "can also mean "who." This makes the sentence
descriptive, not intentional. Jesus does not intend that the crowd
shall fail to understand, but simply describes the condition of "those
outside." Hunter comments,
This view seems to us more satisfactory than Dodd's." I respond: It is
not. It leaves the idea of the parable teaching, which it is evidently
the purpose of the passage to comment on, uncommented on. The reading
is palliative rather than successful.
(3) Jeremias accepts Manson's Targum point, but does not believe that
the saying originally referred to teaching by parables. He translates:
"To you God has given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but to those
who are outside everything is obscure, in order that they (as it is
written) 'may see and yet not see, may hear and yet not understand,
unless they turn and God will forgive them." Jeremias notes that
"various features show v11 to be an insertion into an older context.
Since this is so, we must, when interpreting, ignore its present
context," also "The saying is early, Palestinian, and probably
authentic, since it agrees with the Targum and contains several
Aramaisms. Hunter continues: "The Aramaic dilema underlying mepote
('lest') here means 'unless,' as the rabbinical exegesis of the
passage proves. Mark, misled by the catchword parabole, inserted the
saying into his parable chapter, but originally it did not refer to
the parables, as it affords no criterion for their interpretation."
And Hunter concludes, "This seems to us the best solution."
I disagree. Mark probably knew enough Aramaic to display what modern
scholars detect as Aramaisms, but for that reason, is unlikely to have
misinterpreted an Aramaic original. The passage means what it has
always seemed to mean. Jeremias' acknowledgement of the secondarity of
Mk 4:10f, with which (as will have been seen) I strongly agree,
supports Dodd's point, that we likely have here a saying arising in
the post-Crucifixion community, and not a saying of Jesus. His
interpretation of the hostility of 4:12 to the audience makes sense of
they were symbolically regarded as typifying Jews in general, rather
than those eager to hear his own message.
The Markan community, as of the composition and insertion of this
passage, had written off the Galilee followers en bloc, an attitude
which is carried a step further in the Second Tier Gospels, both of
which curse the key Galilean centers, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin.
The other effect of the intrusive explanation of the Sower parable is
to transfer it from the time of Jesus to the time of the later
community, and to make it portray the vicissitudes of later attempts
to convert the populace.
The corollary, if one works this conclusion back along the veins and
tendons of one's theory of Markan formation, is that the Markan
community could not have been located in Galilee. I happen to regret
this implication, since I always liked the idea of a Galilee locale,
but evidently it will not work. Like so much other early lit,
including the Didache, we are probably going to have to accept a
The church dynamic that this Syrian text then reflects, as of the
intrusion of Mk 4:10f, is the one in which Jerusalem has become the
dominant center of what I may call Palestinian Christianity, and the
conservative (and nationalistic) Jewish communities of Syria are
beginning to rid themselves of the Galilean embarrassment.
Retrospectively, and by manupilating of previous authority text, as
seems to be the standard way with these things in much of antiquity.
Chinese antiquity included (see The Original Analects, Appendix 3, for
the question of Confucius's House).
I am not by and large a fan of C H Dodd, but still, sometimes the
simple solution, "drastic" or no (drasticity is a matter of the eye
and Sitz im Leben of the beholder), is the best.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Louis Martyn (whose marginalia to Hunter I happen to be watching out
of a corner of my eye), a propos Jeremias' comment "various features
show v11f to be an insertion into an older context," has added, and in
red yet, "not if one BEGINS with Mark!!"
Not so. It turns out that there are Marks and Marks, and by the
standard rules of evidence, v11f are indeed an insertion into "an
older context [within Mark]."
The first question to ask of any text one wishes to use in historical
research is, Do we have here one text or more than one? The answer for
this prerequisite query for Mark is, More than one. That gained, we
can begin to look productively at otherwise tough conundrums like Mk
4:10f. To everything there is a season, and the fun of autumnal
interpretation can only come after an energetic spring of philological