- To: Synoptic
On: Lk 1:5f
I had some time back (1) offered reasons for thinking that there are several
transpositions of material in Lk, and noted that the state of Lk before
those transpositions were carried out more closely resembled the Markan
order. Separately, I had ventured to agree with several previous suggestions
that (2) the double birth narratives in Lk 1:5f were later additions to Lk,
one but if evidence being that Lk 1:4 > 3:1 is perfectly consistent and
coherent without the intervening material. Someone who finds these
suggestions worth considering may then ask, Which of these changes came
first? The ultimate answer probably requires a good deal of attention to the
theological import of the changes, which I won't attempt to assess here. But
there is a further detail that may perhaps be added on the philological
In responding to Chuck Jones, I referred in passing to Mary's Magnificat
speech or hymn as "not responsive" to what in context is made to evoke it.
This has been noticed in the literature, and it has also there been observed
that the text at that point would be much improved if the Magnificat were
simply lifted out of it. It comes in better later in the narrative. Let us
suppose that these people are right. Then we would have a relocation of
material also within the Births section of Lk.
There is no warrant for referring all relocations of material to one phase
of text formation. There may have been several. If for present simplicity we
do however make that conjectural assumption, we would have at minimum the
following Lukan formative stages:
1. No Births material; all Markan counterpart material occurs in Markan
2. (non-Markan) Births material added; all Markan material still in Markan
3. Rearrangements of material both in Births section and in older material.
It is the third of these steps, on this probably still too simple
hypothesis, that produces our Canonical Luke.
Is there any assignable motive for these actions? Other than the circular
one of a desire to produce the text which we have? I think so.
1. The composition of a Gospel like Mark in sequence, but adding greatly to
the literary finesse and human motivation coherence of Mark. The motive will
be simply to make the Markan story more real to readers, and few would argue
that the author has not succeeded in doing so.
2. The addition of Births material. The motive would be to extend the
contact point of Jesus with the higher divinity back from the Baptism (which
is where Mark has it) to an earlier, indeed, a prenatal stage. This is
standard aggrandization scenario, and one common to the mythic development
we may observe in many evolving traditions, not only sacred but secular.
(How much other new material may have been added at this same time I do not
3. The relocation of material within the previous text. This consists always
in promoting certain passages or pericopes to a position earlier in the
narrative. Apart from leaving some narrative inconcinnities in their wake,
as such relocations are apt to do, these seem to have an interpretive
function. The movement forward of Mary material into Elizabeth material in
Lk 1 reduces the distance between John and Jesus, and further subordinates
John (I note that the subordination of John is carried still further in
GJohn, so that this supposition very well fits a pretty well established
trajectory of early Church theory). The movement forward of eg the Nazara
material establishes at the outset the theme of opposition between the Jews
and Jesus, and does not leave it to develop gradually (as in Mark), perhaps
permitting the idea in some readers that the thing might have gone the other
way. The relocations in various ways (or so I would put it) make the Jesus
story notably more foreseen, more predetermined, more inevitable, than the
Markan narrative, which is a road with many possible other turnings.
The philological evidence (the fit of text with other text, or lack of it)
seems to me already strong. The support available from the fact that there
exist plausible and relevant literary, mythical, and simplifying motives for
the supposed three stages surely counts something toward making the
philological implications cogent as a hypothesis.
In any event, cogent or not, this I think is the direction in which the
philological evidence would tend to lead us.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- Bruce Brooks wrote:
> Thinking about Ron's suggestion, just now, reminded me of something possiblyBruce,
> relevant, which I toss in as a sort of second reply to at least that aspect
> of his comment. It concerns the degree to which local communities and
> traditions were in mutual contact in the 1st century.
> I start with the ending of Mark, and I note that those who feel it is
> interrupted in the middle of a sentence seem to have the better of the
> argument. Parallels can be found, with extreme effort, for ending a sentence
> or even a segment with gar, but not a whole work, and anyway, the point with
> Mark is that if it ends at Mk 4:8 [16:8], it does not narratively deliver what
> it has narratively promised, and that is a no-no.
I don't know what you think was narratively promised but not delivered. If
you are referring to the promises in 14:28 and 16:7, then I understand your
point, but would answer it by arguing that both these verses were
interpolated into the text. Anyway you'll have to make a very good case if
it's to outweigh the overwhelming consensus of recent critical scholars that
16:8 is the original ending.
Mark is the subtlest of the synoptic authors. His picture of an empty tomb
is quite enough to suggest the resurrection of Jesus. He avoids presenting
any of the original disciples as seeing the risen Jesus, for this would add
to their status, contravening his persistent denigration of Peter et al..
Of course, as we know, later generations did try to plug what they saw as an
omission (Mk 16:9-20 etc.), but all such later additions can be shown to be
Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm