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Brandon and Trocme

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  • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic In Response To: Dennis Goffin On: Brandon and Trocme From: Bruce A short note on a point of style. Style is not substance, but as
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 16, 2010
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      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic
      In Response To: Dennis Goffin
      On: Brandon and Trocme
      From: Bruce

      A short note on a point of style. Style is not substance, but as
      Confucius was once said to have said, Style and substance are both in
      the picture.

      DENNIS: "Picking up Trocmé's book, he confesses at the end of 293
      pages that he has got nowhere, and I'm not surprised since he spends
      his time in directionless research to no good purpose, running round
      the foothills with a microscope, whereas Brandon gives a magnificent
      aperçu from the mountaintop,connecting all the confusing detail in one
      master plan in a mere 60 pages.. I take my hat off to him."

      BRUCE: Well, with Brandon, you either take it off or you have it blown
      off for you. There are roughly two ways of driving through Strasbourg.
      You can barrel through at 50mph, klaxon blaring all the way; this is
      Brandon. Or you can pause for twenty minutes with Trocme in his quiet

      He does indeed say, at p260 (sic), "Having reached the end of this
      enquiry, the reader will perhaps be surprised to have found only a few
      brief allusions to the question that must be uppermost in the mind of
      any sensible person who opens the Gospel according to Mark: what does
      this little book, in which Jesus is the centre of the stage from
      beginning to end, tell us about him? Have we, indeed, merely skirted
      round a problem whose historical face is sheer and whose theological
      face is marked by numerous precipices?"

      [There speaks a man who knows mountains, not from the dictionary -
      Strasbourg lies just east of the Vosges Mountains - but in his back
      and thighs].

      Trocme continues, a little further down, "If then, this study has
      helped even a little to throw light on the history and thought of the
      first Christians, it has at the same time, we believe, helped to bring
      Jesus closer."

      "On the other hand, if our conclusions regarding the formation of the
      canonical Mark and its two component parts are correct, we have in the
      steps of other critics, but in rather a new way, freed the documents
      concerning the Master's ministry in Jerusalem from the ties that bound
      them to Holy Week and made new hypotheses concerning the course of the
      passion events, of which chapters 14-16 seem to us to give a stylized
      account, but a very early one . . . "

      In short, as a preliminary to solving the Problem of Jesus, Trocme
      claims to have solved the Problem of Mark. That this is the correct
      sequence of things, there can be no doubt among the philologically
      aware. That Trocme's own solution will wash (it identifies Mk 1-13 as
      the original document), I regret to say I cannot agree.

      But on the way to that conclusion, we find Trocme considering the
      material in some detail, not only the parts which support his idea of
      Mark's provenance (be believes in Rome), but also those which, after
      careful examination, seem to tell on the opposite side. He spends time
      on the question of Who Mark is For, and another chapter on the
      complement, Who Mark is Against. It is a patient and sensitive
      performance, and if the conclusion is not, to me at least, at the same
      level as the author's care with the evidence, one takes from reading
      him a more acute and finely-nuanced sense of the evidence, including
      some difficulties which must be solved, whether in Trocme's way or
      another (and I must say that I find my recent thought on Mk 2:21f far
      superior to anything Trocme has to say, in any more successful final
      view of Mark.

      Be it added to his credit that Trocme is also patient with other
      writers; his note on Brandon (p109) is that his ideas on obedience to
      Rome "are highly intelligent, if sometimes carried rather too far."
      This is one of nine references to Brandon.

      On balance, Trocme's seems to me to be a book whose usefulness lies
      largely in its suggestiveness rather than in its conclusions, but that
      suggestiveness is itself a useful quality; at that level, his book may
      well outlive some of its louder make-or-break contemporaries.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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