Bruce, Why is the presumption here that we are dealing with an actual event and not an imagined event based on the OT passage ? The fact that the other 3 writers copy Mk means just that and no more. All we know is that we are reading a story. Given the number of actions of Jesus recounted in the Gospels which too easily recall similar tropes in the OT, should we not be more wary in our interpretations ?Dennis
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2011 12:02:34 -0400
Subject: RE: [Synoptic-L] Mark's biggest sayings block (Mt 19:28)
To: Synoptic (GPG)
In Response To: Ron
On: Markan Priority Etc
The background argument here is about the viability of a Q-like hypothesis,
this being perhaps the leading modern way in which the unsettling Gospel of
Mark is replaced by something more to the liking of the current posterity.
RON: . . . Nonsense. The fact that Matthew was written after Mark, does not
necessarily show that all the material in Mark had an earlier origin than
all the material in Matthew.
BRUCE: But the earliness of Markan material, especially where Mt/Lk have
parallels, is the logical first presumption, and in no place where such
parallels exist can it convincingly be shown that Mark is later. This covers
a large proportion of both Mt and Lk. It is, as I suppose, the chief ground
on which the priority of Mark rests in the first place. To put it mildly,
this situation does not create an expectation of earliness for the M, L, and
(if I may give it a new name) ML material in Mt/Lk.
RON: For instance, if one or both made use of an even earlier written source
BRUCE: Which there is no a priori reason to assume.
RON: . . . and if Mark was more inclined than Matthew to modify X, e.g. to
better suit a Gentile audience,
BRUCE: But there is no reason to make that assumption either, and the
material in Mk which most strikingly suggests a Gentile audience (meaning,
one unfamiliar with Jewish ways) is Mk 7:3-4, in parenthetical form, and
thus not necessarily characteristic of the early layers of Mark. So what
*does* characterize the early layers of Mark? I think Ropes (describing not
any layers at all, but, as he supposes, the whole text of Mark) has got it
right: Mark is an apologia for the death of Jesus. It seeks to explain that
death to the followers of Jesus. That is, its first and primary and defining
audience was the members of the Jesus movement shortly after the death of
Jesus. There is an awful lot of stuff in Mark that has no other discernible
purpose save to recount the failure of Jesus at Jerusalem, which has no
other very obvious textual purpose save to serve as the data for the
quaesita which Ropes sees in the text: to give that failure an
interpretation tolerable to Jesus's followers.
It is an excellent exercise to see what the later Gospels do with some of
that material. Did Jesus himself stage the Davidic entry into Jerusalem, as
Mark inescapably shows him as doing? Take a look at Matthew and the others,
and see how well that survives in their telling. (John is especially
RON: . . . then some of the X material will appear in a more primitive form
in Matthew, i.e. Matthew will reflect the earlier version of that material.
For 'X', read the logia, and this is the essence of my case.
BRUCE: And of everybody else's, more or less. But for reasons already
interpolated, I find the case gratuitous. It is also circular: If Matthew
were disposed to treat the supposed X material differently than he treats
his Markan material, then his treatment would show that the X material was
different from Mark, and thus possibly earlier than Mark. But we do not know
X otherwise than via Matthew (and/or Luke); the rest is supposition.
RON: If the components of the Synoptic Problem had been as black-and-white
as you make out here, NT scholars would surely have solved the problem long
BRUCE: And I think that in fact they did. The trouble is that the solution
went against current preferences in theology, which is exactly what Mark by
itself does. I mentioned in an earlier note that though Markan Priority is
widely conceded, it is almost never implemented in practice. Take any recent
book (if you can afford one) on the Historical Jesus. What Gospels do they
cite? By and large, they cite all the Synoptics together, without any
consistent sense that some Synoptic evidence might be of more weight than
other Synoptic evidence, and with Matthew very prominent among the
citations. So yes, the problem (insofar as it consists of Synoptic sequence)
has been solved, at least in a rough crude way, but that solution is dead,
inert, and nonfunctional in contemporary scholarly discourse. It does not
guide contemporary scholarly discourse. The Synoptic Problem does not so
much need to be solved again (though I and a few others have been trying to
urge some refinements) as the old solution needs to find ears willing to
hear it. So far, the record is not very impressive. But perhaps another
decade will tell a different story.
RON (to my comment that anybody can write in a parallelistic style): Again
this is incorrect. Only a very small percentage of the first-century
population knew how to write.
BRUCE: Red herring, and even the herring is wrong. What counts is the
capacity of the literate, whatever their absolute numbers, to write in
parallelistic style. No one acquainted in any serious degree with the Jewish
Scriptures was unfamiliar with parallelistic style, as characterizing
Scriptural pronouncement. That is the point of relevance for the writers of
the Gospels, or of any other texts of which the Gospel writers made use. And
as for the nonliterate majority, what about the old guy over there in the
corner, who had never learned his letters, but had spent a lifetime
absorbing and indeed memorizing large chunks of Scripture. What if he went
forth on alternate days as a street preacher, making up tales or sayings of
Jesus? Doing so in parallel fashion would have been, to him, approximately
as easy as breathing.
RON: Besides this there are other indications of the early origin of the
aphorisms. (1) Jesus the Jew was known as a teacher. If he didn't teach
parables which just happen to fit the needs of Gentile churches, or parables
whose style is suspiciously Lukan, he must have taught aphorisms such as the
mission instructions, the authenticity of part of which was confirmed by
Paul in 1 Cor 9:14, c.f. 1 Cor 1:21-23a & 1 Thess 5:2,6 which also reflect
early synoptic aphorisms.
BRUCE: The Twelve myth (on the exiguousness of which in Mark, see again
Eduard Meyer, with or without my subsequent improvements) was widespread. It
was widespread at a certain time. But what time? Paul alludes to it as
common property in the mid 50's. Not that Paul is always strictly accurate
in his claims of what everyone believes, but suppose that to be correct.
Then when did that symbolic organizational myth, the myth of the Twelve,
arise? On present evidence, at any time between 30 and, say, 53. Lots of
room in there. Do we have witnesses to the early tradition of Jesus's
followers? Yes we do, in the Rabbinic literature. Then (accepting Klausner's
report) how many of those followers does Rabbinic tradition report? Twelve?
Nope: Five; same number as in Mark. Are the Rabbinic Five the same as the
Markan Five? Again, nope. They are a later substitution set, the population
of the Jesus leadership after the death of James Zebedee and the flight of
Paul (see again my SBL paper of 2010). John Zebedee is there, but not James.
Interesting fact, or so I should have thought. It would seem to date the
Rabbinic inventory of the Five to shortly after the year c44.
Let me pause a moment over this. Scholarship has accustomed itself to the
idea that Paul is the earliest witness to Christianity, and thus to Jesus.
But all we know of Paul's beliefs is that (a) they were violently opposed to
those of some other Christians, not least but not exclusively at Corinth,
Paul's own treatment of those differences being as violent as could be
desired, and (b) we know absolutely nothing of the content of Paul's beliefs
earlier than his own epistles, meaning, earlier than the decade of the
Fifties. Repeat: Nothing. A seven-year span, from c50 to c55 or so, and that
toward the end of Paul's life, is all we know firsthand about Paul. What he
believed in the Forties we do not know, and as to what beliefs he
encountered as a foe of the Christians in the Thirties, we do not know them
either, though we do know that he sought to persecute unto death those who
RON (proceeding with evidence for earliness in Mt/Lk material): (2) The
leaders of the original apostles thrived for 30 years in Jerusalem from ca.
30 CE to ca. 60 CE.
BRUCE: No. The myth of Jerusalem is propounded by Matthew, and echoed by a
somewhat chastened Luke, in (among other things) the claim that Jesus's
appearances to his disciples, the key proof of the Resurrection, occurred in
Jerusalem. But Mark makes it obvious that the Appearance of Jesus took place
in Galilee. Lohmeyer and a few others have had the colossal nerve to take
this fact seriously. I think their nerve is well bestowed, and that we have
here a Jerusalemization trajectory running through all four Gospels (John
even Jerusalemizes the teaching career of Jesus, with some ludicrous results
in terms of narrative inconcinnity). See again my Trajectories paper,
in which four of the most obvious ones are briefly spelled out. Keith Yoder
has called attention to data which in effect defines a fifth Trajectory; see
This is very careful work, and I think firmly establishes its thesis. Given
the implication of the Trajectories, not only is Mark early, but early in a
developmental sense; that is, early in ways which cannot with historical
plausibility be reversed. For instance, it is not within the realm of the
probable that the Jesus movement began in Jerusalem and later spread to
provincial Galilee, to take up its HQ at the seaside village of Capernaum,
there to make up trifling tales about Peter's mother-in-law. The likelihood
is all the other way. But if so, the idea that the direction of Christian
matters was from the beginning located in Jerusalem will have to be
rejected. It wasn't.
RON: Surely they produced something in writing during this period to back up
BRUCE: There is a lot of traditional material about what the Twelve taught,
in their role as teachers. Of course the texts we have are late, and they
are also fantastical, and worse, they are uncanonical (except for the We
material in Acts, which has somewhat of the same character, including
miracles wrought by Paul). But it is surely interesting that the thrust of
that teaching is overwhelmingly non-Resurrection. That is, it is at more or
less the doctrinal level of (a) the early layers of Mark, (b) the Epistle of
James, (c) the hymn embedded in Philippians 2, and (d) in further liturgical
terms, the Didache and the earlier Two Ways tract of which the Didache
incorporates the earliest form (the one in Barnabas is much later, and has
been rearranged by someone who did not understand its original logic). That
is, the Apostolic literature, in its overall tenor, is very much in the
doctrinal line of these extant and early documents, some canonical and some
not. But very little of this literature has anything to do with the
Resurrection; it preaches a quite different Christianity. So what the
Apostles produced, or conformed to, insofar as the Apostolic literature is
worth anything as evidence, is likely to be an early form of Christianity,
the thing whose basic teachings were propounded before the death of Jesus.
(And let me note parenthetically that the Resurrection interpretation about
Jesus's death can hardly have arisen before his death, for all that Mark,
when Mark finally comes to embrace Resurrection theology, tries to provide
predictions thereof - predictions at which Mark honestly enough shows
Jesus's lifetime followers as rejecting).
We know that Paul in the Fifties held a strong version of the Resurrection
theory, namely the Atonement theory, that Jesus not only survived his death,
but that his death is the key event in salvation history. Luke reports Paul
at great length in Acts. Does the Lukan Paul hold the Atonement theory?
Nope. Why not? Perhaps it has something to do with the authorial purposes of
Luke. I forbear to cite yet another paper of my own, but surely this fact
bears thinking about.
RON (with a third reason for the earliness of the Mt/Lk material): (3)
Certain of the aphorisms contain evidence of mistranslation from Aramaic,
and word play which only works in Aramaic. This takes their origin back to
the time of the original apostles.
BRUCE: The Aramaic sea is one of storms, with people who know Aramaic
disagreeing about what is a mistranslation and what is acceptable if
inelegant Greek. At which a non-Aramaic-possessing bystander like myself can
only stare in puzzlement. But I think it is fair to say that not all who
seem to be capable of judging the matter agree with Torrey, or with each
other, about the extent of Aramaic mistranslation. Let us however suppose
that there are incontrovertible cases. Do those necessarily take us back to
"the time of the original apostles?" No, they don't. Aramaic continued in
use for centuries after Jesus; an origin in Aramaic does not, of itself,
prove an early date. What are the dates of the Aramaic Targums?
RON: (4) A few of the aphorisms reveal a Jewish environment in which
Gentiles were seen as alien. This places their origin firmly before the
massive expansion of the Jesus movement inspired by Paul, and well before
the period when the gospels were penned.
BRUCE: Again, no, though this too is a very widely held idea.
There are a very few places in the NT generally in which "the Jews" are
perceived as alien (gJohn has a couple, the interpolation in the otherwise
Pauline 1 Thess is a famous example). This is good evidence for a church
which has separated itself from Judaism, and cast off its Jewish roots, as
Marcion wanted all Christians to do. Note that they are either clearly
post-70 (the 1 Thess interpolation, 1 Thess 2:13-16, see Walker, whose
easiest interpretation is a reference to Titus in 70) or very late 1c
As for the Gentiles seen as alien (the other side of the coin), the Gentile
mission (the validity of accepting Gentile converts, and eventually, the
whole "Jewish Christian" controversy) is variously regarded in Mark, and
also as between Matthew and Luke (both of whom symbolize Gentiles as
Samaritans). That Mark in his early layers, and Matthew at certain moments
(eg, Go not to any town of the Samaritans) show the Jesus message as
directed exclusively at Jews, proves, I should have thought, that these
Gospels in fact reflect, or in the case of Matthew, at least remember, the
time when this was indeed the case: the time before the open acceptance of a
Gentile Mission. A time before the universalization of Christianity. If so,
then it is not correct to say that this perception of Gentiles as alien
existed "well before the Gospels were penned." Instead, it is correct to say
that it existed *at the time* the earliest segments of the two earliest
Gospels were penned.
RON (to my dating of the Taylor Apocalypse segments and Mk 10:39): Such
early dating of Mark seems fashionable in some circles. I don't agree with
it, but this would take us into a whole new debate.
BRUCE: No, it is very much the substance of the present debate (see above).
The problem with several published early datings of Mark (eg Wenham) is that
they assume that Mark is integral, which it is not, and make other
assumptions and inferences with which I, for one, am not prepared to go
along. I would not call that position "fashionable" (a plonking word, in any
case); I would call it marginal, meaning merely, not widely held by the
professionals. My position is that the early date of Mark comes up for
serious consideration when it is realized that Mark, as an accretional text,
does not have a single date of composition, but a span during which its
formative process took place.
RON: Talk about swings and roundabouts. You start with a rigidly
black-and-white synoptic gospel dependence view, and you end with a Markan
analysis whose complexity is reminiscent of Kloppenborg's layering of Q. In
neither case does the nature of the data justify such complex layering. But
let's count our blessings: at least you are analyzing a document that
BRUCE: This misrepresents my view, which perhaps is best strategy for those
whose own views conflict. It should be obvious, but let me nevertheless
note, that Kloppenborg's layering of Q does not impugn (nor would it
support) my stratification of Mark; for that matter, it does not necessarily
impugn the Q layering of Allison or the Thomas layering of DeConick and
others. No result for any one text necessarily constrains solutions for any
other text, whether reached by the same or different persons. Except in fun,
and I am not prepared to reduce the present issue to the level of fun. I
think it is important, and needs serious thought.
MORAL FOR THOSE INTERESTED
The evidence for multiple stages in a text, at least the evidence to which I
try to confine myself, is manifest, open, and apparent. It is not
suppositious; it is there for everybody. It consists in things like the
intrusiveness of Mk 14:28 (which interrupts a sequence, and is ignored, in
the following verse, by the person to whom it is supposedly addressed,
namely Peter in 14:29. who speaks to the issue of 14:27, not to the
blockbuster promise of 14:28). Or the intrusiveness of Mk 16:7 (ditto,
mutatis mutandis). At last report, Ron actually accepted these two passages
as intrusive; that is, as not originally part of Mark. Given that starting
point, and agreeing to accept as equally intrusive other passages in Mark
with comparable credentials, we rather quickly reach a stratified model for
Mark. Which is what I have done.
But suppose we stop with just Mk 14:28 and 16:7. That is the position
occupied by Frederick C Grant in the Fifties, and by Ron today. To what
position does this acceptance lead us? It leads us to the conclusion that
what these two obviously related interpolations provide was not originally
present in Mark, and that it is their purpose to supply it. What then do
they provide? They provide a prediction of an Appearance of Jesus to his
disciples, not in Jerusalem, but in Galilee. Without those passages, could
we say that Mark envisions an appearance to the disciples in Galilee? Yes,
but rather indirectly, and with the important qualification that the said
Appearance would have been a surprise to the disciples, not an expected and
indeed a promised event.
Two question follow, and then the midweek is over.
1. Given the reality of an appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Galilee,
is there any other text besides Mark (that is, Mark without these two
interpolations) which agrees in making that event a surprise to the
disciples? Yes, the Gospel of Peter, where the disciples go fishing, rather
than setting out to see Jesus. Of course the Gospel breaks off at an
unfortunate place, but that much can be firmly said. Still firmer is the
version of that tale which was added to the otherwise finished Gospel of
John, as Jn 21 (the original Gospel ended at Jn 20). Here the story is
complete, not interrupted, and again, the disciples are surprised to see
Jesus, to all intents and purposes alive again, and cooking fish for lunch.
Then several attested and recoverable traditions portray the appearance of
Jesus in Galilee as unexpected, and those traditions (given the interpolated
nature of the predictions in Mark) are earlier than the others.
2. Why were the interpolations added? Those with an essay of their own may
contribute it, either to this list or to Princeton, where it counts toward
AP Reading. But in the meantime I would say, they were added to avoid the
impression that anything important in the life of Jesus was a surprise to
Jesus; to give him divine foreknowledge of every part of it. And is there
any other sign of such a preference or tendency? Yes, see again the
Trajectory Arguments. I should think that this one tiny detail is part of
the long process of the divinization of Jesus, one aspect of which is the
increasing omniscience of Jesus in the later texts. Is that development
intelligible in general historical, or history-of-religion terms? Nothing
more so; it is how movement founders, whether religious or otherwise, are
very commonly seen by their later followers, and the later the followers,
the more complete the divinization (or its secular equivalent,
So the first position in Mark, that Jesus did not predict his own Appearance
in Galilee, is on general as well as philological principles likely to be
earlier than the one to which the two interpolated passages lead us. If so,
then Mark contains within it two stages in its own evolution, and those
stages can be recognized by anyone (not necessarily Frederick C Grant,
though that probably helps) who can see the signs of inconcinnity in the
passages in question.
I think it is thus manifest, even from this tiny example - the common
ground, as far as I know, between Ron and myself - that Mark contains more
than one stratum of material, and that the earlier stratum is different from
the later stratum in doctrinally consequential ways. The question is whether
that fact is general rather than isolated, and whether, isolated or not, it
leads anywhere. My answer to both is Yes.
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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