Brandon and Trocme
- To: GPG
In Response To: Dennis Goffin
On: Brandon and Trocme
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
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
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
"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