In Response To: Ron Price
On: Interpolations in Mark
RON: I am fairly confident that Mk 14:28; 14:61b-64 and 16:7 were not in the
original text of the gospel, and that there are no other early
interpolations of a significant size. This conclusion is based on Redaction
Criticism, and a careful analysis of the structure of the text . . .
BRUCE: I am leery of making any item in the toolkit into a discipline of its
own, with proponents and capital letters and all the rest of it. Remembering
to be aware of the text from the author's point of view is useful. Beyond
that, I see trouble. Same with all the other "-geschichte." They too readily
Anyway, thanks to Ron for his response, and now we have some material to
work on. We also have some agreement. I have earlier expressed my own
adherence to the position that 14:28 and 16:7 are interpolations, and in
present methodological context it may be relevant to say why.
First, they produce an inconsecutive context. Peter in 14:29 responds, not
to anything Jesus says in 14:28, but rather to the prediction of denial in
14:27. He talks past 14:28 as though it were not there, and I conclude that
it may not have been there when 14:26 and 14:28 were written. I believe that
those passages originally stood adjacent to each other. It is the simplest
proposal that will account for what we see.
Second, there is the linked passage 16:7, linked because of its overt
reference to 14:28. Here again we have the same pattern: interruption of
continuity. It is often said that the women in 16:8 are disobeying the young
man in white, but given the vocabulary there and in 16:6, it is at least as
possible that they are reacting with fear in 16:8 to the shocking discovery
they make in 16:6. The action of 16:8 is then sufficiently motivated by
16:6, and 16:7 (in the middle) is not so much disobeyed as disregarded. The
women behave as though 16:7 (with its encouraging news) were not there. Same
Third, the link between the two surely reinforces the fact that each can be
seen as interruptive. They are severally insecure in context, and jointly
suspicious as a single phenomenon. The linkage confirms and supports the
Fourth, the linkage is stronger yet in that these are the only passages in
Mark that look to an Appearance of Jesus after his Resurrection. Without
those passages, that doctrine would not exist, at least as far as Mark is
concerned. So we seem to be in the realm of doctrinal motivation, and motive
is always a welcome part of the picture.
Fifth, it is easy to imagine the specific motive. The whole of the
surrounding context is basically the Empty Tomb story, and the point of the
Empty Tomb story was to demonstrate the Resurrection. But as we know from
Matthew, and in fact from Rabbinical tradition, it was widely claimed by the
enemies of the Church that Jesus had not risen at all; his disciples had
merely stolen the body to make it look as though he had risen. All you have
is a corpse. But in fact there were eyewitnesses to Jesus living and moving,
like a man of flesh and not a specter, well, that would strengthen the case
for the claimed Resurrection. I feel it is highly likely that these two
passages were inserted into Mark to make just that counterclaim. They are
one side of a contemporary argument, the other side of which is available to
us in early Jewish tradition, and also visible in the report of Matthew.
So we have local incongruity to draw our attention, and to confirm that
impression of trouble, we have the fact that the passages in question can be
removed from Mark, not only without damage to the remaining text, but with
positive benefit to its continuity and coherence. We have the two passages
linked together, by mutual reference and than again by common theme, and we
have a plausible motive for that theme being inserted into the doctrinal
repository which (at this point in its existence) is how Mark is functioning
in its own human context: the voice of right thinking for a particular part
of the world.
I don't think it gets much better than this. Anyway, I am glad to find that
my methods of detection lead in some cases to results which coincide with
Ron's. I think they strengthen one's faith in those methods.
RON: . . . together with some mathematical tools which I have developed.
BRUCE: Fine, if they lead you in the right direction. I find the old tools
still very useful, and capable of doing a lot of the necessary work. I have
a few analytical algorithms of my own, as far as that goes. But as I once
told a lecture audience in Leiden (home of Joseph Scaliger; a special moment
for me), in the end, the results of any such analysis are going to be
submitted to the literary judgement of the human audience, and they are
going to have to be expressed in terms of humanly perceptible features in
the texts. But if those features are present as confirmation, then whatever
shortcuts we may devise for own convenience, the features can themselves
also be used as the discovery tool.
I have not yet found a mathematical algorithm that gives 100% accurate
results (just as even the good chess machines can be beaten by a really good
human). The output, as it seems to me, must always meet the text of literary
convincement. And in at least some cases, the literary confirmation may
itself provide an adequate entry point.
That's where I'm at; working at what look like the adequate entry points.
Of course, once we identify an Appearances layer in Mark (as I believe I
have done in the short argument above), the question arises, How secure in
Mark is the Resurrection layer? That it is insecure, at least in the minds
of some previous investigators, is already implicit in Grant's summary of Mk
14-16, which I referred to earlier. But those who would like to have the
point expounded in real time, however hurriedly, may like to drop in at the
SBL (New England) meeting this Friday. My panel opens at 1 PM sharp, in
Sherrill Hall Room 1D, at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge
Massachusetts. Abstracts and other information available via the SBL web
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst