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Re THE TORN VEIL

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  • Dennis Goffin
    I am amused and gratified to see the flurry of interest in this matter. Brandon adds a footnote quoting Vincent Taylor opining that The reference to the
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 26, 2010
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      I am amused and gratified to see the flurry of interest in this matter. Brandon adds a footnote quoting Vincent Taylor opining that "The reference to the rending of the Temple veil appears to be a legendary addition doctrinal in origin" , so it may not even be an original Markan comment. If it is viewed as signifying the failure of the project of Davidic restoration of the kingdom of Israel, I have a problem in accommodating this in any 'proclamation of good news' which is my understanding of what a gospel is, since it seems precisely the opposite. Was a text ending in this fashion meant to be read to an ekklesia ? If not, by whom was it prepared and for what purpose, since I cannot envisage one. Does Adele Yarbro Collins have an answer ? I await an answer from those who have delved into these matters more deeply than me.
      Dennis
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: E Bruce Brooks
      To: gpg@yahoogroups.com
      Cc: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 10:37 PM
      Subject: [Synoptic-L] Re: [GPG] THE TORN VEIL



      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic
      In Response To: Dennis Goffin
      On: Meaning of Mark (Torn Veil)
      From: Bruce

      In logic we have the false binary: my theory being wrong doesn't prove
      yours is right. The same weakness, I suspect, attaches to multiple
      choice questions. Dennis offers, as meanings for the Torn Veil in Mark:

      ==========

      1) Clementine Recognitions 1:41 "The veil of the Temple was rent, as
      in lamentation for the destruction impending over the place."

      2) Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, page 55 "The veil of the
      Temple is torn in two, from top to bottom, thus symbolizing that
      access to God's presence is now open to non-Jews."

      3) E Bruce Brooks: "The rending of the veil (symbolizes) the
      desacralization of the Temple as the abode of the returned God
      (signifying) the end of the project of Davidic restoration of Israel."

      4) S G F Brandon: "The incident is evidently regarded by Mark as a
      theologoumen, proclaiming that the sacrificial death of the Son of God
      marked the end of the Temple cultus, decreed under the Old Covenant
      with Israel."

      ===========

      These aren't in chronological order, none of them is very early (last
      I heard, the Pseudo-Clementine writings were being put somewhere in
      the early 4c), and several obvious options are excluded, among them
      the Epistle to the Hebrews. So who knows if the sought needle is even
      in the haystack?

      DENNIS: Given that Mark's Gospel is addressed to non-Jews,since he
      explains Jewish customs, . . .

      BRUCE: Only in what may well be an incorporated marginal gloss. The
      audience of Mark (or Marks) needs to be determined on sounder
      evidence. I suspect that this task is still pending.

      DENNIS: . . . is it not possible that 2) above is the more likely meaning ?

      BRUCE: I rather liked (3) myself, though that was perhaps to be expected.

      Seriously, though, how shall we grope for an answer? I think we should
      first agree among ourselves that the answer we seek is not what works
      best in a modern sermon, but what Mark intended. On the way to that
      question, we need to ask a prior question: What role does this detail
      play in Mark's narrative? Adela Yarbro Collins and I both find,
      independently, that the Torn Veil is not a speck on the landscape
      which culminates in the Resurrection; it was instead the final
      symbolic gesture which originally ended the story of Mark. If so, then
      the concept of Mark (at the point when this was his entire narrative;
      obviously, other ideas intruded at a later period) was not likely to
      be a triumphant one, but a failed one.

      Without going further than that, I note that option (2) (and if we had
      added it, also option 5 or Hebrews) is eliminated; only the other
      three have negative possibilities.

      The problem I see with options (1) and (4) on this assumption is that
      both are prospective, and that (4) in particular involves an Atonement
      conception of the death of Jesus, which I suspect (like the
      Resurrection theology with which is is often, though not invariably,
      associated) is a later growth, though surely not MUCH later. That is,
      (1) is prospectively negative, and (4) is prospectively positive. That
      any prediction, whether positive or negative, is being carried by
      anything so slight as this one symbolic event does not seem likely to
      me.

      I have lost count, and can't think which option that leaves standing,
      but I hope to have clarified the options a little bit by these
      ratiocinations.

      MARK]

      Why was Mark written? Not to preserve his teachings, since it doesn't
      spend much time on this, and focuses instead on a story line. More
      probably, to explain his death, and the opposition evoked by his
      teachings, which led to his death. But his death was not caused by a
      riot among the Pharisees, for example (unlike Stephen), nor by
      incarceration and murder by Herod (unlike John). It came about in a
      different way, and as a result of a purpose he pursued of his own
      volition. What that purpose was, it behooves us to determine. In
      determining it, is is probably helpful to remove from consideration as
      much interpolated and extraneous matter as possible (the same applies
      to the Clementine Recognitions, as far as that goes).

      I would thus end by proposing that a prior and urgent matter is to
      detect the interpolations in Mark. Otherwise, if we take it up in its
      present condition, we are not really going to know what thing it is we
      are talking about.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Synoptic Cc: GPG, WSW In Response To: Dennis Goffin On: The Gospel of Mark From: Bruce Dennis raises this problem for any interpretation of gMk: DENNIS: .
      Message 2 of 5 , Mar 27, 2010
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        To: Synoptic
        Cc: GPG, WSW
        In Response To: Dennis Goffin
        On: The Gospel of Mark
        From: Bruce

        Dennis raises this problem for any interpretation of gMk:

        DENNIS: . . . so it [the Rending of the Veil, following Taylor] may
        not even be an original Markan comment. If it is viewed as signifying
        the failure of the project of Davidic restoration of the kingdom of
        Israel, I have a problem in accommodating this in any 'proclamation of
        good news' which is my understanding of what a gospel is, since it
        seems precisely the opposite. Was a text ending in this fashion meant
        to be read to an ekklesia ? If not, by whom was it prepared and for
        what purpose?

        BRUCE: The presumptions here are: (1) Mark is a gospel, (2) a gospel
        is meant to be read in church, and (3) anything read in church must be
        happy. I venture to suggest that none of these presumptions is secure.

        Point 1. The seeming self-designation "gospel" may be only a
        librarian's label for Mark. I don't propose to deal with this "genre"
        question further. It has proved over the past century to be one of the
        reddest of herrings. It represents an insertion of Lit Talk into the
        subject, and the Lit Talk disease has all too often proved fatal to
        good thinking. Mark is what it does, and our task is to figure out
        what it does.

        Point 2. "Read in church" all too readily implies "read as part of a
        worship service," which is not a reasonable expectation. The typical
        church will at first have greatly resembled, and perhaps in many cases
        will have been, a synagogue meeting, and one thing that went on at
        synagogue meetings, I gather, was discussion (sacrifice, for example,
        the unarguable act of worship, seems not to have been present). I
        think we are on safe grounds in thinking that the intended audience of
        Mark was a Christian community. But that it was, or was meant to be,
        part of the liturgy, is too big a step. As a particularly wrongheaded
        example of that thinking, I instance the lectionary theory of one or
        another Gospel, a failing to which those of Episcopalian leaning
        (Carrington, Goulder) seem to be especially liable. Perhaps later,
        gentlemen, but as originally designed for that purpose, not given and
        not notably plausible. Lectionaries, it seems to me, are not written
        apurpose; they are extracted from previously existing and respected
        documents which originally had other purposes. They are a
        routinization of a practice - reading edifying material to one another
        - whose earliest imaginable roots are much more informal, and anterior
        to the age of stained glass, incense, and the big parking lot.

        Point 3. Happiness. As Diana Vreeland once noted to her American
        readership, "happiness" is not a very European concept. It was perhaps
        not very Semitic either. That is a proposition which we can readily
        check. Midweek quiz: Is the tone of the OT, taken together,
        predominantly cheerful or predominantly gloomy? Those who checked the
        "cheerful" box are invited to read the whole thing again. Coming down
        to Christian cases, the one thoroughly attested genre of early
        Christian writing is the epistle, and there is much early evidence
        that epistles came to be read, or in some cases were even meant to be
        read, in meetings of Christians. We may then ask, Are epistles happy?
        I should think that the answer is overwhelmingly No: most epistles at
        root, and some in extenso, are admonitory. They are meant not to
        engender self-satisfaction, but to correct errors. The
        self-satisfaction is there too, but it is chiefly confined to the
        framing material; the message proper is of another sort.

        I would not have had to deal with these unrealistic expectations if
        the present generation had ever sat through a proper hellfire sermon
        (or even paid attention to the hellfire sermon embedded in Mark), but
        so it goes. In any case, having dealt with them, and (it is hoped)
        created a more historically useful atmosphere, I proceed directly to
        the question of what Mark does.

        THE ERROR OF JESUS

        Candidates must dread being assigned to preach a trial sermon on the
        text "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" (unless the rules of
        the audition permit citation of St John of the Cross). On its face,
        this cry expresses the disappointment of an expectation about God, who
        was expected to have been present in a big way. What had Jesus been
        attempting at that point, and how would God have been involved?

        I think the obvious answers are (1) Jesus was attempting to purify the
        defiled Temple, so as to make it a fit place for God to realize OT
        prophecy by returning to it, and (2) in returning to it, God was
        expected, by an exercise of divine and thus unlimited power, to bring
        about in an unspecified but efficacious way the end of Roman rule and
        the restoration of kingship in Israel. Since in the times of Jesus,
        God was not thought to walk the earth in person, he would have needed
        a delegate to actually represent the new sovereignty once it was
        established. For that, Jesus himself, as the leader of the strike
        force, would seem to have been the obvious candidate.

        VERIFICATION

        Note at once the confirmation available from Rome: Jesus was crucified
        as a would-be King of the Jews. This fact has become very easy to
        overlook, but the Romans were not complete fools, and none of the
        Gospels is a complete lie either. Stuff persists, it seeps through, it
        avoids being entirely neglected or effaced. We just have to be alert
        for the unrestructured pieces of evidence. Well, I think we are here
        in the presence of an unrestructured piece of evidence. Since later
        Christian policy was to avoid the appearance of sedition (up to and
        including the preaching of a doctrine of extra credit in Heaven for
        suffering wrongfully on Earth), and since this detail amounts to an
        official condemnation for sedition, the chance of it having been
        introduced by some later apologist seems distinctly small.

        gMk too gives extensive support. Now, gMk as a whole gives only
        confusion, since it is a composite text. But the above is confirmed by
        much in Mark that has no other purpose, including much that is
        resistant to late Nice Jesus preaching purposes, and therefore
        presumptively early. Among the more obvious passages are Jesus's
        argument that the Messiah, that is, the leader of restored sovereignty
        in Israel, need not be (as Jesus was then known not to be, but as the
        usual Messiah scenario expected he would be) a literal son of David.
        (That Jesus was later provided with unimpeachable Davidic credentials
        is true, but it is a truth that belongs to the history of the Second
        Tier Gospels and their own particular agendas; I forbear taking that
        topic up on this occasion).

        I have earlier noted a seeming turning point in the Markan narrative
        of Jesus at the end of Mk 3; a turning point which the later Gospels,
        which naturally prefer a consistent Jesus, are much concerned to
        efface. In terms of the present argument, that was the shift in
        Jesus's ideas from the Baptist-apocalyptic to the Davidic-messianic.
        It was here that many of his previous associates, including his
        family, gave up on him or tried unsuccessfully to reason with him, and
        it was immediately after this that Mark shows him preaching a whole
        series of covert (because at root seditious) parables (Mk 4)
        encouraging his small following by saying that small things can have
        momentous consequences. So unacceptable was this whole series to later
        orthodoxy (meaning the orthodoxy of five or ten years later) that one
        parable (the Sower) was radically reinterpreted in via Crucis terms,
        another (the Seed) was totally dropped from the repertoire, a very
        drastic step reserved only for the most intransigent and unsalvageable
        materal in Mk, and a third (the Mustard Seed) was let alone,
        presumably because its visual picture is so pretty. But the tension
        between these covert Messianic preachments of Jesus and the outer
        limit of accommodation in later orthodox Jesus theory should be obvious.

        Brandon seems to envision a mass movement led by Jesus. He is often
        described by commentators as making Jesus the leader of a "revolt." I
        find that Brandon is very coy about what he thinks Jesus actually had
        in mind, but on p333, at any rate, he posits a large enough crowd to
        overpower the Temple functionaries and their police, not to mention
        the nearby Roman garrison (who however may have been distracted by
        other events). This is not militarily sound. Jesus's attempt on the
        Temple was not a military campaign, it was more properly what the
        experts call a decapitation strike - an attempt by a small party to
        remove a particular entity from the scene (in this case, the
        corrupting presence of the money changers and other traffickers in
        impiety), with other desired results to follow of their own internal
        dynamic and propensity. (See again, a propos internal dynamic and
        propensity, the Forbidden Parable of the Seed).

        [The military model, for those who in our day are capable of thinking
        militarily, is the crack British hit team landed by submarine to
        assassinate Rommel in his North African headquarters. The overland
        campaign of Montgomery had an analogous purpose, but on an unspeakably
        larger scale, and on an almost intolerably longer timetable]. These
        are the extremes, and those who envision Jesus (like Bar Kochba) at
        the big end of it are not taking our oldest text evidence seriously
        enough.

        Much in Mark is intelligible to the modern church, most particularly
        its later added Resurrection material. That this material was indeed
        added, much internal evidence in Mark strongly suggests. But if we
        make the effort of disregarding the later material (always an
        interesting thing to do, if we would get a sense of the earlier
        material), we find that we have left not a celebratory Gospel in the
        sense of Dennis, but an admonitory tract in the sense of Paul. Luke,
        be it noted, in whom the signs of Zealot affinity in Jesus's followers
        are much stronger than in Mark, makes exactly the same refutation a
        small cameo in his own Gospel. I have repeatedly mentioned this
        passage, and I mention it again. We thought, says a Jesus follower on
        the way back from the festivities, that he was the one to redeem
        Israel. Exactly. That is precisely what the Jesus followers, or at any
        rate those who followed him to Jerusalem, had expected. Now comes an
        interesting question. What does Luke do next? He has Jesus, no less
        (though at first in disguise) disabuse this dispirited follower of his
        error, showing from the scriptures that the death of the leader, so
        far from being a disappointment to the movement, was a triumph, and
        one foreseen of old, and thus in effect foreknown and indeed required
        by God. This is the Resurrection answer to the problem of Jesus's death.

        Mark too follows up with a Resurrection sermon, but only after a
        certain interval, maybe a couple of years, when the Resurrection
        Interpretation of Jesus had taken hold in that community (and without
        effacing the signs of the earlier view which the original Mark had
        preserved). At first, and before that new theory was there to carry
        the problem of Jesus's death into other pastures of discussion, the
        historically true but operationally dangerous idea of action against
        Rome had to be dealt with as right deviationism. As far as I can tell,
        it is the exposure of this error that is the only possible purpose for
        this portion of Mark. Those who warm up for the task of reading the
        pre-Resurrection passages of Mark by reading the scolding sections of,
        say, Corinthians (and this I highly recommend) should have no
        inordinate difficulty in recognizing the genre, and in detecting its
        intended message.

        So what exactly was the message? I would envision the picture this
        way. The Jesus community in the year 30 had two Jesuses to choose
        from: the ethical and personal salvation teachings of Jesus while he
        was still in his John the Baptist or Mk 1 apocalyptic mode (teachings
        already rather heretical in detail from a Jewish standpoint, but
        whatever their content, taken for granted as known by the writer of
        the earliest Mark), and the program of Jesus in his later messianic
        mode, a specifically anti-Roman and thus exceptionally dangerous mode.
        Danger or no, that effort had clearly and decisively failed, and it
        was thus important to emphasize the other option, if the Jesus
        movement was not simply to vanish away. For this, it was somehow
        necessary to demonstrate the failure and thus the untruth of the
        active option. That demonstration was the message.

        We may finally ask (finally in the sense of the last paragraph of the
        400-page close commentary on Mark which I here omit in the interest of
        concision), was the message successful? I would say, overwhelmingly.
        The Jesus movement from this point on was conspicuously docile toward
        Rome, intensely avoided anything like a confrontation with Rome, and
        energetically sought to portray itself as approved by Rome. The bit
        about Caesar's image, already in Mark (12:13f), is a parable of times
        to come. The policy of accommodation implicit in the parable was
        rigidly followed in later days, and when the later Christian writers
        find it unavoidable to mention some outrage perpetrated on Christians
        by an actually hostile Rome, they do so only under the code name
        "Babylon" (Rev, 1Pt).

        In short, if we want an outrageous attention-getting high-circulation
        statement to conclude this otherwise boring, dull, sober, and obvious
        presentation, we can probably come up with one. How about this: It has
        been said that Mark was written against the Jews, or maybe against
        Paul, or maybe against Peter. Instead, it appears that Mark in the
        first instance was written against Jesus.

        (And in defense of what, borrowing a title from another of my books, I
        will call The Original Jesus. To the success of that homiletic effort,
        the invented Nice Jesus material of the Second Tier Gospels is
        witness. And of the doctrinal progression from the Militant Jesus
        image to the Nice Jesus image, Brandon's Chapter Six "The Pacific
        Christ" is not at all a bad summary).

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
      • Dennis Goffin
        Thank you, Bruce, for taking the trouble to give such a long and detailed reply. I am obliged as a result to give it the respect it deserves and to make my
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 27, 2010
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          Thank you, Bruce, for taking the trouble to give such a long and detailed reply. I am obliged as a result to give it the respect it deserves and to make my further points in detail.

          Your point 1.
          ========= I am not talking of literary genres when I use the word gospel. The Greek evaggelion just means 'any kind of good news' as you know. The failure of a mission is surely 'bad news'. I agree our job is to find out how and why this substrate , if it is such, got into gMk.

          Your point 2
          ========= Are we on safe ground in thinking the intended audience of this substrate is Christian ? No, because there were no Christians before 'the resurrection'; before that there were only Judaic Messianists who were disappointed in their expectations (Luke 24:21). The failure of a mission could therefore only apply to the latter, not the former. I am very relaxed about the substrate document being produced in and for a synagogue.

          Your point 3
          ========= Happiness. I agree with you that this is irrelevant to the points at issue, especially your point 1.

          The error of Jesus
          ============ Since the disciples had fled, who was there to hear and remember this cry ? It is in any case almost impossible for a crucified man to make a loud cry, because of the pressure on the lungs etc. Since it is also a straight quotation of Psalm 22:1, it smells too strongly for me of just another NT back-formation from the OT, which the Gospels are littered with. If taken at face value as an accepted historical event, it has to mean that Jesus' expectation, that God would intervene to inaugurate the kingdom of God through his Anointed, had undergone bitter disappointment.

          Jesus as leader of a 'strike force'.
          ====================== Too many commentators, on too dubious grounds, have tried to foist this conception on Brandon. All patriotic devout Jews bitterly resented the domination of Rome and its client Idumean ethnarchs. In this the followers of Jesus were at one with the Essenes and the Zealots. One of Jesus' followers was nicknamed the Zealot and Judas was probably nicknamed the 'Sicarius' . Brandon says plainly, on page 358, "Sympathy, stemming from similar values and sufferings, finding expression sometimes in active cooperation, did not mean identity,"
          On pge 344, Brandon says "Whatever may have been his exact conception of the kingdom of God and the mode of its establishment [Note Brandon's caution, DG] , there can be no doubt that Jesus looked forward to the achievement of an apocalyptic situation that necessarily involved the elimination of the Roman government in Judaea." No mention of leading any strike force - merely expecting Michael turning up with numberless legions of angels, as did the Qumran community.
          On a further note of caution,Picknett and Prince quote Klausner's "The Messianic Idea in Israel" " that the Messiah in the Prophets is not a redeemer per se, as the Messiah becomes in later times: the Lord (God) is the redeemer, and the King-Messiah is only the head of the redeemed people." They go on to say, very reasonably in my view, that due to the paucity of materials setting out the evolution of Messianism from circa 200BCE to 100CE, many areas remain dark and unknowable, despite the dicovery of the DSS. In my view also, regard has to be paid to the fact that systematic theology is at best an oxymoron and apocalypticism was driven by emotion not cold logic and could easily combine two conflicting ideas in the same lengthy passage.

          The Entry into Jerusalem and the Purification of the Temple.
          ========================================= For me, the first incident smells too strongly of another back-formation from the OT. Take a supposed prophecy and form a pericope from it. Bart Ehrman has difficulty in swallowing its historicity and at best it can only be viewed as something Jesus staged to underline his Messianic claims. Given the tension in Jerusalem at Passover however he would have been inviting arrest on the spot as another potential disturber of the Pax Romana. In line with Sanders, Ehrman sees the cleansing of the Temple incident as essentially a prophetic gesture rather than an all out attempt to change the operation of the Temple, however much he may have disapproved of the hierocracy. His claim to be the King-Messiah was undoubtedly the reason for his crucifixion for sedition, providing the ruling caste of the Jews with a handy means of disposing with someone likely to rock their comfortable boat.

          This will have to suffice for now. I await the blow back.
          Regards to all,
          Dennis

          ----- Original Message -----
          From: E Bruce Brooks
          To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
          Cc: GPG ; WSW
          Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2010 11:41 AM
          Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Re THE TORN VEIL



          To: Synoptic
          Cc: GPG, WSW
          In Response To: Dennis Goffin
          On: The Gospel of Mark
          From: Bruce

          Dennis raises this problem for any interpretation of gMk:

          DENNIS: . . . so it [the Rending of the Veil, following Taylor] may
          not even be an original Markan comment. If it is viewed as signifying
          the failure of the project of Davidic restoration of the kingdom of
          Israel, I have a problem in accommodating this in any 'proclamation of
          good news' which is my understanding of what a gospel is, since it
          seems precisely the opposite. Was a text ending in this fashion meant
          to be read to an ekklesia ? If not, by whom was it prepared and for
          what purpose?

          BRUCE: The presumptions here are: (1) Mark is a gospel, (2) a gospel
          is meant to be read in church, and (3) anything read in church must be
          happy. I venture to suggest that none of these presumptions is secure.

          Point 1. The seeming self-designation "gospel" may be only a
          librarian's label for Mark. I don't propose to deal with this "genre"
          question further. It has proved over the past century to be one of the
          reddest of herrings. It represents an insertion of Lit Talk into the
          subject, and the Lit Talk disease has all too often proved fatal to
          good thinking. Mark is what it does, and our task is to figure out
          what it does.

          Point 2. "Read in church" all too readily implies "read as part of a
          worship service," which is not a reasonable expectation. The typical
          church will at first have greatly resembled, and perhaps in many cases
          will have been, a synagogue meeting, and one thing that went on at
          synagogue meetings, I gather, was discussion (sacrifice, for example,
          the unarguable act of worship, seems not to have been present). I
          think we are on safe grounds in thinking that the intended audience of
          Mark was a Christian community. But that it was, or was meant to be,
          part of the liturgy, is too big a step. As a particularly wrongheaded
          example of that thinking, I instance the lectionary theory of one or
          another Gospel, a failing to which those of Episcopalian leaning
          (Carrington, Goulder) seem to be especially liable. Perhaps later,
          gentlemen, but as originally designed for that purpose, not given and
          not notably plausible. Lectionaries, it seems to me, are not written
          apurpose; they are extracted from previously existing and respected
          documents which originally had other purposes. They are a
          routinization of a practice - reading edifying material to one another
          - whose earliest imaginable roots are much more informal, and anterior
          to the age of stained glass, incense, and the big parking lot.

          Point 3. Happiness. As Diana Vreeland once noted to her American
          readership, "happiness" is not a very European concept. It was perhaps
          not very Semitic either. That is a proposition which we can readily
          check. Midweek quiz: Is the tone of the OT, taken together,
          predominantly cheerful or predominantly gloomy? Those who checked the
          "cheerful" box are invited to read the whole thing again. Coming down
          to Christian cases, the one thoroughly attested genre of early
          Christian writing is the epistle, and there is much early evidence
          that epistles came to be read, or in some cases were even meant to be
          read, in meetings of Christians. We may then ask, Are epistles happy?
          I should think that the answer is overwhelmingly No: most epistles at
          root, and some in extenso, are admonitory. They are meant not to
          engender self-satisfaction, but to correct errors. The
          self-satisfaction is there too, but it is chiefly confined to the
          framing material; the message proper is of another sort.

          I would not have had to deal with these unrealistic expectations if
          the present generation had ever sat through a proper hellfire sermon
          (or even paid attention to the hellfire sermon embedded in Mark), but
          so it goes. In any case, having dealt with them, and (it is hoped)
          created a more historically useful atmosphere, I proceed directly to
          the question of what Mark does.

          THE ERROR OF JESUS

          Candidates must dread being assigned to preach a trial sermon on the
          text "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" (unless the rules of
          the audition permit citation of St John of the Cross). On its face,
          this cry expresses the disappointment of an expectation about God, who
          was expected to have been present in a big way. What had Jesus been
          attempting at that point, and how would God have been involved?

          I think the obvious answers are (1) Jesus was attempting to purify the
          defiled Temple, so as to make it a fit place for God to realize OT
          prophecy by returning to it, and (2) in returning to it, God was
          expected, by an exercise of divine and thus unlimited power, to bring
          about in an unspecified but efficacious way the end of Roman rule and
          the restoration of kingship in Israel. Since in the times of Jesus,
          God was not thought to walk the earth in person, he would have needed
          a delegate to actually represent the new sovereignty once it was
          established. For that, Jesus himself, as the leader of the strike
          force, would seem to have been the obvious candidate.

          VERIFICATION

          Note at once the confirmation available from Rome: Jesus was crucified
          as a would-be King of the Jews. This fact has become very easy to
          overlook, but the Romans were not complete fools, and none of the
          Gospels is a complete lie either. Stuff persists, it seeps through, it
          avoids being entirely neglected or effaced. We just have to be alert
          for the unrestructured pieces of evidence. Well, I think we are here
          in the presence of an unrestructured piece of evidence. Since later
          Christian policy was to avoid the appearance of sedition (up to and
          including the preaching of a doctrine of extra credit in Heaven for
          suffering wrongfully on Earth), and since this detail amounts to an
          official condemnation for sedition, the chance of it having been
          introduced by some later apologist seems distinctly small.

          gMk too gives extensive support. Now, gMk as a whole gives only
          confusion, since it is a composite text. But the above is confirmed by
          much in Mark that has no other purpose, including much that is
          resistant to late Nice Jesus preaching purposes, and therefore
          presumptively early. Among the more obvious passages are Jesus's
          argument that the Messiah, that is, the leader of restored sovereignty
          in Israel, need not be (as Jesus was then known not to be, but as the
          usual Messiah scenario expected he would be) a literal son of David.
          (That Jesus was later provided with unimpeachable Davidic credentials
          is true, but it is a truth that belongs to the history of the Second
          Tier Gospels and their own particular agendas; I forbear taking that
          topic up on this occasion).

          I have earlier noted a seeming turning point in the Markan narrative
          of Jesus at the end of Mk 3; a turning point which the later Gospels,
          which naturally prefer a consistent Jesus, are much concerned to
          efface. In terms of the present argument, that was the shift in
          Jesus's ideas from the Baptist-apocalyptic to the Davidic-messianic.
          It was here that many of his previous associates, including his
          family, gave up on him or tried unsuccessfully to reason with him, and
          it was immediately after this that Mark shows him preaching a whole
          series of covert (because at root seditious) parables (Mk 4)
          encouraging his small following by saying that small things can have
          momentous consequences. So unacceptable was this whole series to later
          orthodoxy (meaning the orthodoxy of five or ten years later) that one
          parable (the Sower) was radically reinterpreted in via Crucis terms,
          another (the Seed) was totally dropped from the repertoire, a very
          drastic step reserved only for the most intransigent and unsalvageable
          materal in Mk, and a third (the Mustard Seed) was let alone,
          presumably because its visual picture is so pretty. But the tension
          between these covert Messianic preachments of Jesus and the outer
          limit of accommodation in later orthodox Jesus theory should be obvious.

          Brandon seems to envision a mass movement led by Jesus. He is often
          described by commentators as making Jesus the leader of a "revolt." I
          find that Brandon is very coy about what he thinks Jesus actually had
          in mind, but on p333, at any rate, he posits a large enough crowd to
          overpower the Temple functionaries and their police, not to mention
          the nearby Roman garrison (who however may have been distracted by
          other events). This is not militarily sound. Jesus's attempt on the
          Temple was not a military campaign, it was more properly what the
          experts call a decapitation strike - an attempt by a small party to
          remove a particular entity from the scene (in this case, the
          corrupting presence of the money changers and other traffickers in
          impiety), with other desired results to follow of their own internal
          dynamic and propensity. (See again, a propos internal dynamic and
          propensity, the Forbidden Parable of the Seed).

          [The military model, for those who in our day are capable of thinking
          militarily, is the crack British hit team landed by submarine to
          assassinate Rommel in his North African headquarters. The overland
          campaign of Montgomery had an analogous purpose, but on an unspeakably
          larger scale, and on an almost intolerably longer timetable]. These
          are the extremes, and those who envision Jesus (like Bar Kochba) at
          the big end of it are not taking our oldest text evidence seriously
          enough.

          Much in Mark is intelligible to the modern church, most particularly
          its later added Resurrection material. That this material was indeed
          added, much internal evidence in Mark strongly suggests. But if we
          make the effort of disregarding the later material (always an
          interesting thing to do, if we would get a sense of the earlier
          material), we find that we have left not a celebratory Gospel in the
          sense of Dennis, but an admonitory tract in the sense of Paul. Luke,
          be it noted, in whom the signs of Zealot affinity in Jesus's followers
          are much stronger than in Mark, makes exactly the same refutation a
          small cameo in his own Gospel. I have repeatedly mentioned this
          passage, and I mention it again. We thought, says a Jesus follower on
          the way back from the festivities, that he was the one to redeem
          Israel. Exactly. That is precisely what the Jesus followers, or at any
          rate those who followed him to Jerusalem, had expected. Now comes an
          interesting question. What does Luke do next? He has Jesus, no less
          (though at first in disguise) disabuse this dispirited follower of his
          error, showing from the scriptures that the death of the leader, so
          far from being a disappointment to the movement, was a triumph, and
          one foreseen of old, and thus in effect foreknown and indeed required
          by God. This is the Resurrection answer to the problem of Jesus's death.

          Mark too follows up with a Resurrection sermon, but only after a
          certain interval, maybe a couple of years, when the Resurrection
          Interpretation of Jesus had taken hold in that community (and without
          effacing the signs of the earlier view which the original Mark had
          preserved). At first, and before that new theory was there to carry
          the problem of Jesus's death into other pastures of discussion, the
          historically true but operationally dangerous idea of action against
          Rome had to be dealt with as right deviationism. As far as I can tell,
          it is the exposure of this error that is the only possible purpose for
          this portion of Mark. Those who warm up for the task of reading the
          pre-Resurrection passages of Mark by reading the scolding sections of,
          say, Corinthians (and this I highly recommend) should have no
          inordinate difficulty in recognizing the genre, and in detecting its
          intended message.

          So what exactly was the message? I would envision the picture this
          way. The Jesus community in the year 30 had two Jesuses to choose
          from: the ethical and personal salvation teachings of Jesus while he
          was still in his John the Baptist or Mk 1 apocalyptic mode (teachings
          already rather heretical in detail from a Jewish standpoint, but
          whatever their content, taken for granted as known by the writer of
          the earliest Mark), and the program of Jesus in his later messianic
          mode, a specifically anti-Roman and thus exceptionally dangerous mode.
          Danger or no, that effort had clearly and decisively failed, and it
          was thus important to emphasize the other option, if the Jesus
          movement was not simply to vanish away. For this, it was somehow
          necessary to demonstrate the failure and thus the untruth of the
          active option. That demonstration was the message.

          We may finally ask (finally in the sense of the last paragraph of the
          400-page close commentary on Mark which I here omit in the interest of
          concision), was the message successful? I would say, overwhelmingly.
          The Jesus movement from this point on was conspicuously docile toward
          Rome, intensely avoided anything like a confrontation with Rome, and
          energetically sought to portray itself as approved by Rome. The bit
          about Caesar's image, already in Mark (12:13f), is a parable of times
          to come. The policy of accommodation implicit in the parable was
          rigidly followed in later days, and when the later Christian writers
          find it unavoidable to mention some outrage perpetrated on Christians
          by an actually hostile Rome, they do so only under the code name
          "Babylon" (Rev, 1Pt).

          In short, if we want an outrageous attention-getting high-circulation
          statement to conclude this otherwise boring, dull, sober, and obvious
          presentation, we can probably come up with one. How about this: It has
          been said that Mark was written against the Jews, or maybe against
          Paul, or maybe against Peter. Instead, it appears that Mark in the
          first instance was written against Jesus.

          (And in defense of what, borrowing a title from another of my books, I
          will call The Original Jesus. To the success of that homiletic effort,
          the invented Nice Jesus material of the Second Tier Gospels is
          witness. And of the doctrinal progression from the Militant Jesus
          image to the Nice Jesus image, Brandon's Chapter Six "The Pacific
          Christ" is not at all a bad summary).

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • E Bruce Brooks
          To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Dennis Goffin On: The Torn Veil (Purpose of Mark) From: Bruce I will try to make this short, if only to average out some
          Message 4 of 5 , Mar 27, 2010
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            To: Synoptic
            Cc: GPG
            In Response To: Dennis Goffin
            On: The Torn Veil (Purpose of Mark)
            From: Bruce

            I will try to make this short, if only to average out some previous
            messages. I will do that by avoiding some terminological traps, as I
            tried also to do last time.

            Point 1 began with a quibble over "evaggelion;" I pass it up. Then:

            DENNIS: The failure of a mission is surely 'bad news'. I agree our job
            is to find out how and why this substrate , if it is such, got into gMk.

            BRUCE: If it is a substrate, then by definition it was there from the
            beginning. There is no question of its "getting into" anything else.
            The job is then to ask what its purpose was. That is what I have been
            trying to do.

            Point 2 consists of a quibble over "Christian." I avoid the quibble by
            rephrasing: gMk was addressed to followers of Jesus. That is, to such
            people, and not to (a) unconverted Jews, (b) unconverted Gentiles, or
            (c) the Roman authorities.

            DENNIS: I am very relaxed about the substrate document being produced
            in and for a synagogue.

            BRUCE: That agrees with more than I recall suggesting. Where it was
            produced I have no idea. Maybe a penthouse in Jerusalem, maybe on the
            beach at Capernaum, maybe in a storefront mission in Damascus. That it
            was meant to be read informally to, or by, an audience of early Jesus
            followers, seems a reasonable starting assumption. It can probably be
            clarified as we go. No big problem for now.

            Point 3: [It is agreed that "happiness" is not a universal expectation
            for pieces of early Jesuine literature, and that a minatory tone is
            one of the possibilities].

            The Error of Jesus. I think this discussion wanders into questions of
            historicity. Again, I don't intend to get decoyed down that particular
            path at this moment. I would rather stay focused on the things that
            Mark says (whether plausible or not, and whether imaginably reportable
            by identifiable eyewitnesses or not). The question is not whether Mk
            is telling the truth, but what he is trying to achieve by what he
            says. Beyond that:

            DENNIS: Since [Jesus's cry] is also a straight quotation of Psalm
            22:1, it smells too strongly for me of just another NT back-formation
            from the OT, which the Gospels are littered with. If taken at face
            value as an accepted historical event, it has to mean that Jesus'
            expectation, that God would intervene to inaugurate the kingdom of God
            through his Anointed, had undergone bitter disappointment.

            BRUCE: There is certainly an echo of the OT. That doesn't mean that
            gMk is a bit of automatic writing, with the OT working the Ouija
            Board. It does mean, I can't help thinking, that Mark strengthened
            (supported, dignified) his story by putting it in terms often
            evocative of ancient prophecy, or anyway of ancient scripture.

            Did this music play from the heavens at Jesus's crucifixion? I would
            say it is perhaps not very likely. Then the OT element is not a
            historical report, whatever may be said of the rest of the scene. It
            is just conceivable for Jesus, but it is more likely Markan artistry,
            and its content is part, perhaps at some points all, of Mark's
            message. I agree with Dennis's reading of the message in this
            particular passage.

            Strike Force. There is a quibble over whether Brandon said this or
            not. I don't care either way; I only note (and previously noted) that
            it is hard to say what exactly Brandon had in mind. What *I* have in
            mind I think I made clear. The strike force is quite possibly my own
            proposal, and if so, pending legal notice to the contrary, I here take
            possession of it. Proud to. I think it is the only way one can
            possibly make both military and theological sense of the Jerusalem
            part of Mark as it stands.

            DENNIS (still quoting Brandon): . . . there can be no doubt that Jesus
            looked forward to the achievement of an apocalyptic situation that
            necessarily involved the elimination of the Roman government in Judaea.

            BRUCE: I think there is a confusion of terms, or anyway, I recommend
            using them differently. By "apocalyptic" I mean the end of the world
            as we know it, and the coming of God in final judgement, with
            everybody in the world going either to Heaven or Hell at the end of
            the day. By "messianic" I mean the coming of a new order IN the world,
            with Israel (however defined) having a central and dominating place in
            that order. On this understanding of the terms, Brandon is mixing
            scenarios.

            DENNIS: On a further note of caution, Picknett and Prince quote
            Klausner's "The Messianic Idea in Israel" "that the Messiah in the
            Prophets is not a redeemer per se, as the Messiah becomes in later
            times: the Lord (God) is the redeemer, and the King-Messiah is only
            the head of the redeemed people."

            BRUCE: Exactly my impression. No argument here. I think Jesus really
            truly expected to be the earthly head of the new earthly order, whence
            his henchman's request for the Number Two spot, and that the Romans
            very logically crucified him for attempting to bring about that order.
            Very logical for both of them, on their respective assumptions and
            terms of indicated procedure.

            What about the redeemed people? I call attention to the tales of Sodom
            and Gomorrah, and of Noah. In both these cases, the whole city (or
            world) is destroyed by God, save for a few favored individuals who are
            allowed to escape. I think it is just this scenario that John the B
            has in mind; as he is quoted in gMk, I can see no point of difference.
            The world is coming to an end, as soon as God arrives (which he will
            do shortly), and the only good plan is to try to be one of the
            exceptional people who will escape the general destruction. There is
            no question, in John the B, of any Davidic restoration.

            CRITICAL MASS

            It seems to me, following the implications of Mark in the order he
            tells his story, that Jesus began his preaching with exactly that
            message: the good news of God (sic) that there was a way to evade the
            coming catastrophe. Not that the catastrophe is good news, but that
            escaping it is good news. Israel, in other words (thinking again of
            Sodom, and I note again that Sodom figures more than once in the
            canonical NT texts), did not have the critical mass of dutiful persons
            needed to save the world by causing God to relent, but the few dutiful
            individuals could at least hope to escape, either by their prior
            virtue or by repenting of their prior faults and being henceforth in a
            state of virtue. Those two categories and no others. Their total was
            not thought (by John) to reach the level that would actually turn
            aside the coming general catastrophe.

            Then what happened? According to Mark?

            Mark shows Jesus as being quickly and phenomenally successful as a
            preacher. Maybe he is lying, but we are not concerned with that just
            now; only with the story he tells. Jesus's discovered skill in healing
            (so Mark invites us to infer) was evidently part of his popularity.
            This skill John had not had, and the large crowds Jesus attracted
            seemed to him to offer new possibilities. What if, by each converted
            (and thus saved) person going out to convert thirty, or sixty, or a
            hundred more (such as I see it was the original meaning of the Parable
            of the Sower; in a "discipleship" context seems to me utterly
            unintelligible), the number of the pious actually reached critical
            mass? Then God would still come, but this time not as a destroyer of
            the world; rather, to reorder the worldly power situation in favor of
            his chosen, and now sufficiently repentant, people Israel.

            This, I submit, was Jesus's big discovery, the one that took him down
            a path different from his original John path, and in the process
            alienated his family and some of his previous supporters. As well it
            might, given the obvious risks involved.

            Anyway, Jesus (as Mark tells it) continued, and once he thought he had
            the critical mass of converted, the only thing left was a suitable
            place for God's actual physical appearance. God would then do the
            rest. Scripture specified the Temple, so there was really no other
            option; it had to be the Temple. Hence the dangerous journey which,
            despite careful advance planning by some of the Jerusalem adherents to
            the Jesus movement, turned out to be unsuccessful. Due to a defection
            of one member who realized the thing had failed, and wanted out on the
            best possible terms. Good business thinking.

            DENNIS: The Entry into Jerusalem and the Purification of the Temple.
            For me, the first incident smells too strongly of another
            back-formation from the OT.

            BRUCE: Exactly. See above. Mark is in charge here, and this is more of
            his background music. For this particular detail, which involves the
            crowd, I think it not impossible that the Scriptural allusion was part
            of the Jesus group's own stage management. But be that as it may, the
            final report is due to Mark, and he has either extended the Jesus
            Group's original background music, or provided it entirely on his own;
            it is not essential to reach a final decision on that detail at this
            point in the investigation.

            DENNIS: Take a supposed prophecy and form a pericope from it.

            BRUCE: Supposed nothing; this would have been felt as at least
            potentially prophetic by the people at the time.

            DENNIS: Bart Ehrman has difficulty in swallowing its historicity and
            at best it can only be viewed as something Jesus staged to underline
            his Messianic claims.

            BRUCE: Bart's a nice guy, and so for that matter is Ed; nice guys,
            both of them, but all the same, this involves a logical confusion.
            Between what happened and what Mark is telling. Personally, I think it
            just possible that the Historical Jesus did stage just such an event.
            It is also possible that, like the Last Cry, it is Markan decoration.
            I should think that Blind Bartimaeus is very likely to be Markan
            decoration). As above, I don't at this moment care about historicity,
            I care about the meaning of the story Mark is telling. If we can get
            that straight, we will be making progress.

            But that the Markan story corresponded more or less, in its factual
            core, with what the Jesus followers knew to be the case, I think is a
            necessary assumption. Mark (as I read him) is trying to explain
            Jesus's death, and to achieve that, the death he reports would have to
            sufficiently resemble the death of which the Jesus followers in
            question had heard. I think he operated under that inevitable
            constraint.

            DENNIS: Given the tension in Jerusalem at Passover however he would
            have been inviting arrest on the spot as another potential disturber
            of the Pax Romana. In line with Sanders, Ehrman sees the cleansing of
            the Temple incident as essentially a prophetic gesture rather than an
            all out attempt to change the operation of the Temple, however much he
            may have disapproved of the hierocracy.

            BRUCE: These people, as here reported (I haven't checked the
            originals), are envisioning a forcible rearrangement of the Temple
            structure. They are welcome to do so. I leave them to it. But I am
            not. I think that any such attempt would have been suicide, and I
            don't think the group planners were that stupid. I think they had
            figured it differently, with almost no margin for error, but with a
            better chance of success than Ehrman and Company. (Always assuming the
            validity of the expectation that "the Lord would suddenly come to his
            Temple," Malachi 3, and it is interesting, isn't it? how often Malachi
            comes up in this text. Malachi, sitting right there next to Zechariah,
            whom we have also seen in the film credits).

            I see Jesus and his team as concentrating on eliminating just one
            factor from the Temple setup - not the priests and not the hierarchy
            and not the Roman Quislings who infested the vicinity, but simply the
            corruption of commerce in the holy place. I see this not for some
            wacko reason of my own, but because that, and no more, is what Mark is
            showing me. Mark is all I am paying attention to.

            DENNIS: His claim to be the King-Messiah was undoubtedly the reason
            for his crucifixion for sedition,

            BRUCE: Good, we agree on the bottom line. This note might have
            suitably ended on that irenic note, but we then had . . .

            DENNIS: . . . providing the ruling caste of the Jews with a handy
            means of disposing with someone likely to rock their comfortable boat.

            BRUCE: The purpose of Mark is to report and explain Jesus's death, not
            to provide a bit of history or pseudohistory for later scholars to
            puzzle over, but with the immediately necessary moral that the Jesus
            movement should not henceforth meddle with the Romans. On the
            contrary, the movement should be conspicuously accepting of Roman rule
            (see again the Coin incident, which I seem to recall citing before).

            How much of the Sanhedrin stuff in gMk is original, and how much was
            added later as the Jesus movement came into collision with the
            Quisling Hierarchy, is not at once apparent. Some philological
            spadework is required, and even when we distinguish the layers in that
            way, we have still to date them. But to take one fairly obvious item,
            Adela Yarbro Collins eliminates the First Sanhedrin Trial as an
            impossibility, with which I (and not a few others) agree. I think it
            is there to deepen the charge of murder against the Jews.

            And why? It seems historically very likely that relations with the
            Jews, in particular those who held that Temple piety was the
            mainthread of Judaism, worsened over time, leading eventually to the
            decree expelling Jesus followers from synagogues (we seem to know
            which Rabbi promulgated this decree; it came much later, after the
            relatively mild tenure of the Hillel disciple Johanan ben Zakkai).

            Meanwhile, over the decade following the Crucifixion, and surely very
            early in that decade, we have Jerusalem-based Jewish persecution of
            Jesus followers, leading in some cases to the death of the Jesus
            followers. Saul, as is well known and I think also not doubted,
            acknowledges that he was part of the police force in this early
            effort. Perhaps the chief figure in it.

            This would have provided reason enough, at least for some Jesus
            communities (and the Markan community seems to have been one of them)
            to feel resentment of the establishment Jews (who figure in gMk as the
            high priests and Herodians), and it is in turn not really unlikely
            that this feeling would in time have worked its way into an enhanced
            version of the original Mark.

            DENNIS: This will have to suffice for now. I await the blow back.

            BRUCE: I decline the imputation. There are no blows here, as far as I
            know, only an effort, a collegial one if any should be inclined to
            join in, to figure out what Mark is up to. Once we have got that
            reasonably straight, we should then, as a second step, have a chance
            of seeing what Jesus was up to. As previously hinted, and as defended
            a paragraph or so above, I think Mark knew the Jesus facts pretty
            well, and so did the people for whom he wrote, and Mark's only purpose
            in writing was to shape that story as a lesson to the community, or
            rather as reinforcement of a lesson already implicit in the failure of
            the Jerusalem escapade: Don't continue with this line of things. Don't
            mess with the Romans. God has signalled to us that it will no longer
            work. Back, by default, to our earlier understanding of Jesus's message.

            (Which, as I see it, following as best I can the way Mark saw it, was
            in fact also Jesus's first understanding of his own message).

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • David Mealand
            In fact there seem to have been thirteen in all. Josephus (War 5.5.4 s 212) describes one of the two more important ones as representing the universe: the
            Message 5 of 5 , Mar 30, 2010
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              In fact there seem to have been thirteen
              in all. Josephus (War 5.5.4 s 212)
              describes one of the two
              more important ones as
              representing the universe: the colours
              signifying fire, earth, air, and water.
              He adds that it had on it all that was
              mystical in the heavens except for
              living creatures.

              That tells us what Josephus thought
              about it a little later on. Given
              that some later synagogue mosaic
              floors had representations of
              the chariot of Helios, and the
              signs on the zodiac, Josephus may
              not have been alone in his view of the veil
              he describes having cosmic imagery.

              The imagery does suggest some cosmic
              significance to the event of the
              crucifixion, but the proliferation
              of more exact proposals hardly suggests
              that we can endorse any of them easily.
              T Levi 10.3 and T. Benj 9.4 offer differing
              earlyish views for a start (expose misdeeds/
              include gentiles).

              My memory is that Lucan has some dramatic
              cosmic portents in his portrayal of Roman
              Bellum Civile (aka Pharsalia) to point up
              the dreadful horrror of Romans fighting Romans.

              David M.

              ---------
              David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


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