RE: [Synoptic-L] Mark's biggest sayings block
- To: Synoptic (GPG)
In Response To: Ron
On: Sayings Blocks in Mark
[Another resent message. Sorry if the first submission should later turn up.
Taking now a look at Ron's overall picture:
RON: I define a sayings block as text comprising at least three adjacent
sayings units, where each sayings unit contains an aphorism, sometimes
elaborated or placed in a context designed to help explain its meaning. Mark
has five such blocks, the biggest being Mk 9:33 - 10:31, which contains 13
sayings units, each based on a different aphorism.
BRUCE: Well, sort of. Ron's first and last (his 1st and 13th) sayings were:
Mk 9:35b. "And if any one would be first, he must be last of all and a
servant of all."
Mk 10:31. "But many that are first shall be last, and the last first."
These look pretty much like the same aphorism to me. Not the same text, but
the same thought (status reversal). Their identity might be thought to be an
intentional framing device, which would support Ron's idea that Mk
9:33-10:35 are a meaningful sequence.
But Mark himself seems to have a different idea. Part of Ron's sayings
sequence, but only part of it, is the famous "salt" series, on which Dave
Gentile has a theory (see his web site), but some others, myself included,
find largely a sweeping together of keyword-linked material. Here (persons
who take this sequence as I do), if anywhere, is Mark gathering things from
elsewhere (not necessarily a text), not knowing what to do with them
narratively, and simply stringing them together as a quasi-sermon (compare
the Mk 4 parables, which are more or less explicitly labeled as sample
material, and not an actual transcribed sermon).
The one thing that seems structurally clear to me in that part of things is
that the salt sequence is marked at its end, which I take to be Mk 9:50b
"Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." Here, it seems
to me, Jesus is no longer addressing a general audience, as in his advice to
cut off your hand rather than have it drag you into Hell along with it
(referring to the hand's propensity to steal, etc). Instead, he is making a
final comment to the feuding disciples, disputing priority among themselves,
at Mk 9:34 "But they were silent, for on the way they had been discussing
which was the greatest," after which follows the saying about who would be
first (Mk 9:35, see above). So far, so consecutive. The challenge is to see
how much of the intervening material can be construed as Jesus talking on
the same subject. The child, perhaps (all the child sayings in Mark are
troublesome). Certainly not, as I think, the hellfire passages, which seem
to imply a different message for a different audience. But then comes the
closer in 9:50, where with a perhaps rather forced transition in 9:49, Mark
winds up the series as though it were responsive to the previous dispute.
Whereas Mk 10:1 explicitly begins a new sequence, in a new locality (it
begins the Markan Travel Narrative). So it might be profitable to consider
these parts of the proposed sequence separately: Mk 9:30-50 (the Salt
Sayings, including their possible point of attachment), and Mk 10:1-45 (the
Markan Travel Narrative; by 10:46 they are at Jericho, preparing to enter
Looking back now at Ron's list (minus, at last for me, his 12th), this is
how the sayings appear:
THE SALT PART
9:35b "first shall be last"
9:37 "whoever receives me"
9:40 "He who is not against us is for us"
9:41 "whoever gives you a cup of water" (not contexted)
9:42 "whoever causes one of these little ones to sin" (not contexted) 9:43,
47 "if your hand/eye causes you to sin"
9:50a "if the salt has lost its saltness"
THE TRAVEL PART
10:11 "whoever divorces his wife"
10:15 "whoever does not receive the Kingdom as a child"
10:21 "sell all you have and give to the poor"
10:25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle"
[this one omitted]
10:31 "first shall be last" (not contexted)
The first group, by and large, if they have a single audience, probably have
the disciples as their audience. The second group, again by and large, look
like general church pronouncements. 10:11 was known to Paul as precisely a
church order prescription, and to that kind of Dominical Saying he was
receptive. Which is to say that it does not look, at least to me, as though
Mark intended these two sequences as one sequence.
Not that analysis may not be superior to authorship (what do authors really
know, anyway?). But as a general maxim, I am inclined at least to begin by
consult the author's own sense of what he thinks he is up to. I can always
overrule him, if that becomes necessary later on.
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst