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Re: [Synoptic-L] Mk 14:61b-64

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Ron Price On: Mk 14:61b-64 From: Bruce Thanks to Ron for his clarification. Undoubtedly the passage has its strangenesses, and the
    Message 1 of 4 , May 4, 2006
      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Ron Price
      On: Mk 14:61b-64
      From: Bruce

      Thanks to Ron for his clarification. Undoubtedly the passage has its
      strangenesses, and the proposal may work. To me there are still loose edges.
      I mention a couple below, by way of inviting wider opinion one way or
      another, or some third way.

      RON: As Nineham remarks ("Saint Mark", pp. 404-405), the public
      self-revelation in 14:62 runs counter to the fundamental plan of the gospel,
      and may not have been part of the original.

      BRUCE: Neither here nor in 15:2 does Jesus make any original claims. In
      both, he assents to a characterization of his interrogator. In 14:61b-64,
      the silence in the face of conflicting accusations precedes, rather than
      follows, the acceptance of the interrogator's statement, but otherwise, the
      two packages are the same. Would Nineham, or one agreeing with him as to
      14:61b-64, not be obliged to cancel 15:2 also, leaving in both cases a
      silence in the face of conflicting accusations? Nineham notes the difficulty
      (p415), but does not here propose an interpolation; obviously, if he should,
      he would be committed to removing 15:26 also, which picks up the "King of
      the Jews" theme which seems to appear in 15:2. Nineham explains how the King
      of the Jews might be the way that the Messiah label of 14:61b-64 was
      translated for Pilate. But this is to abandon the idea of an interpolation
      in 14:61b-64, is it not? I get the impression that the self-revelation
      passages either belong in the narrative at these points, or should all be
      removed, as not really compatible with Nineham's characterization of the
      whole Gospel.

      How does Hooker handle 15:2? Again, acceptingly, and to my eye, in a way
      that somewhat reinstates 14:61b-64. She notes that Pilate behaves "as though
      Jesus had already been condemned, and the session before Pilate was merely a
      ratification: "Certainly the effect of [Mark's] narrative is to suggest that
      the sentence was pronounced by the Sanhedrin, in 14:64, and that Pilate was
      simply the instrument through whom they were able to carry it out" (366).
      This surely leaves 14:64 in place, as part of the basis on which the Pilate
      session makes whatever sense it makes. Taking 14:64 out would thus undermine
      15:2. This may be why Taylor restricted his interpolation suggestion as he

      RON: As I see it, Mark wanted to emphasize the contrast between Peter's
      Christologically deficient profession (8:29), and the (Gentile) centurion's
      insight (15:39). 14:62 detracts from this contrast.

      BRUCE: Mk 8:29 seems to me a long way back, but there is no doubt, at least
      not to me, that Peter earlier on made an affirmation of Jesus as the Christ,
      again, not denied by Jesus. It is one of hot-headed Peter's (not my
      characterization; see the Gospel of Mary] good moments. That he gets it a
      little bit wrong, or shrinks from the entailed suffering, doesn't to me
      cancel it out. If one wants to be picky, one could also say that the Roman
      soldier's comment is Christologically deficient, but I give it full rank as
      a significant element in Mark's design (I make it the last words of the core
      Mark, and thus highly prominent by position). But I think its purpose is not
      to put Peter in the shade, back in 8:29, but rather, to attest Jesus.

      As to all this witnessing at the end (that of Jesus being passive, as indeed
      it is also in 8:29), the real difference is not that it occurs (it has been
      spotted here and there throughout), but that, as Hooker says, "it is no
      longer necessary to conceal the truth about Jesus" (367). The Roman
      soldier's remark does not seem to have been private, and Pilate's too was in
      open court. The Gospel could thus be said to end, accepting for the moment
      Nineham's and Hooker's idea of it, by the previously secret truth about
      Jesus being at last openly revealed. On this view, the Crucifixion and its
      attendant wonders (the veil of the Temple) are its announcement.

      Doesn't this need a little further work?

      RON: Hooker points out ("The Gospel According to St Mark", pp. 360-361) that
      the unequivocal "I am" is surprising in view of the secrecy about Jesus'
      identity up to this point. I would add that it also looks out of place in
      view of the more cautious "You have said so" in a similar situation in 15:2.
      Why would the author make his hero more cautious as the accusations reach
      their climax?

      BRUCE: See above. It seems to me that Hooker weighs in on both sides of the

      RON: The contemptuous "Prophesy!" in 14:65 alludes to the false accusation
      regarding the prophecy in 14:58, and the allusion is more obvious without
      the intervention of the astounding proclamation in 14:62 and the subsequent
      accusation of blasphemy. Surely most readers would miss the allusion after

      BRUCE: I don't think they would miss the connection, at least I recall not
      doing so at a young age, but it is true enough that removing 14:62 does link
      the accusation and the demand more closely. Be it remembered that some would
      remove only 14:62, not the larger passage, and this argument supports that

      As I noted earlier, the Synoptic history of this Temple Destruction theme is
      interesting. I won't go into it here either, but note merely that from being
      explicitly a false accusation in the earlier Gospels, it becomes a true
      accusation in the latest ones, and Jesus is even shown making it. Surely
      this shifts the ground of the story that the Synoptists are giving us. First
      a false accusation (Jesus never really said it), then a true one (he really
      did say it, and it was true). The latter version is more convincing: it is
      easier to teach a Sunday School class on the basis that Jesus's symbolic
      prediction was true (it has become part of dogma, as we know) than
      otherwise. The larger problem of which this is perhaps a part is that the
      later Evangelists continually supply realism or concinnity where Mark lacks
      it; it is this pattern which perhaps gave rise to the view of Mark as a
      careless condensation of Matthew and Luke. I don't think that this theory
      holds up under examination, but here are some of the objective facts which
      that theory addresses.

      RON: The verdict of blasphemy in the extant text is a red herring. The Roman
      authorities would not have been concerned about it, and why would the Jewish
      authorities focus on a charge which they knew the Romans would ignore? The
      inscription "The King of the Jews" (14:26) makes it clear that Jesus was
      crucified for claiming to be (and/or being acclaimed as) Messiah-King, and
      thus a threat (potential or otherwise) to the peace in Jerusalem.

      BRUCE: The whole legal procedure in Mark, Jewish or Roman, has been
      pronounced dubious, and I have nothing to offer in its defense. But Mark has
      to have some view of it, and it seems to me that he sees it this way: (1)
      Jesus claimed to be a Messiah, in some sense or other; this is the content
      of Peter's recognition; (2) this alarmed Herod, and it potentially alarmed
      the Romans and all their collaborators, who interpreted Messianic movements
      as dangerous popular unrest (Mk 6:14f), aimed as they were at restoring
      Jewish sovereignty; Mark spells out the case of Barabbas for us, lest we
      miss this point; (3) the Romans were therefore ready to execute Messianic
      leaders as such, but the motive of the Jewish council will not have been
      simply to act as Rome's eyes and ears in the civic sense; they need a cause
      of estrangement of their own, and (4) blasphemy would suffice to antagonize
      them. On something like this ground, it seems to me that we can at least see
      what Mark was up to in putting together his story as he did, whatever the
      facts of the time may have been. If so, then the admission of Messiah claim
      might not have seemed to Mark sufficient, and we therefore have the claim of
      Coming Again in Judgement, at the Right Hand of Power, etc, in 14:64. Here,
      for a change, is a claim that Jesus actually made, as he did not (at any
      rate, not in Mark as we have it) make the claim about the Temple. As Mark
      tells it, it is the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus, but (as John explains)
      they not having power to carry out that sentence, asked to have it confirmed
      by Pilate, who did so. Taking out any step in this procedure weakens the
      Markan logic, or so it seems on present reading. (5) The "King of the Jews"
      accusation was the "Messiah" accusation, translated into terms intelligible
      to Pilate.

      RON: The text reads smoothly when 61b-64 is removed: "But he was silent and
      made no answer. And some began to spit on him ..."

      BRUCE: I have said why I think that taking out this passage may rather
      complicate than simplify the narrative thread as Mark perhaps planned it.
      This particular juncture has the High Priest's men abuse Jesus merely on the
      strength of accusations, rather than of a verdict accepting the accusations.
      I find that not altogether convincing (why should they strike him if nothing
      has been officially found against him?), though it is certainly possible,
      and extralegal beatings would reinforce the wrongful nature of the
      Sanhedrin, which I agree it is one of Mark's purposes to emphasize. One
      passage that could be adduced in defense of the text as Ron reconstructs it
      is John 18:22f -- "When he had said this [appealing to witnesses to what he
      had openly taught; no Messianic or other secret here], one of the officers
      standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, Is that how you answer the
      High Priest? Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to
      the wrong, but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?"

      In other words, John has Jesus ask just the question I asked above. How did
      that question arise in the first place? It is perhaps conceivable that in
      the text of Mark that lay before John, the striking followed directly on the
      accusation, without the verdict intervening, and that John found just the
      difficulty in that sequence that I have admitted feeling. And that he
      expressed it in his admittedly very much recast narrative. I can't construct
      a text history of Mark as a physical object that makes room for this
      possibility, but maybe somebody else can. Assuming that it would help the
      present argument to do so.

      I guess my final question is: assuming that the passage in question is
      indeed not original, who put it in? I think I have been able to supply a
      theological motive for adding 14:28 and 16:7 to Mark, a motive that would
      apply to the proprietors of the Mark text, and to give evidence for the
      reality of that motive in early Christianity. Motive and opportunity. I
      don't as readily see a motive for the addition of 14:61b-64, with or without
      the seemingly related passages in Mk 15, and so I can't in this case readily
      visualize the act of interpolation.

      Anybody else have an opinion?


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Synoptic In Response To: Off-List Inquiry On: Mk 14:61b-64 From: Bruce I had suggested, as a counter to my own preferred view of the matter, that in the
      Message 2 of 4 , May 4, 2006
        To: Synoptic
        In Response To: Off-List Inquiry
        On: Mk 14:61b-64
        From: Bruce

        I had suggested, as a counter to my own preferred view of the matter, that
        in the beating of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, John 18:21-23 might be
        explaining or rationalizing an anomaly that would arise if, as has been
        suggested, the blasphemy and sentencing passages Mk 14:61b-64 were not
        originally present in Mark, and thus that John's version of Mark might have
        lacked that passage, giving rise to the sequence Mk 14:61a directly followed
        by Mk 14:65 (beating not motivated or explained by prior conviction),
        creating a problem which we might perhaps see as solved in John (who
        supplies a different situation, and gives a motive for a single blow by one

        Preserving anonymity but responding to a suggestion:

        Q: Just a thought here. If John is not dependent on Mark, and if John
        preserves part of the more original reading there (prior to Mark and John),
        and adds to it as you have suggested, then Mk 14:61b-64 could be seen as an
        addition, but an addition made by the original author of Mark to his source

        A: My own impression is that the "order of events test" shows that John,
        insofar as it deals with events, is in the Markan tradition, so I am not
        inclined to grant the first "if." John strikes me as divergent, if not
        heretical, but still derivative. All four Gospels, as it seems to me, at
        least in their original form, followed the same sequence of major events,
        and the most efficient explanation of that commonality is that the later
        three got that sequence, such as it was, from Mark.

        The sequence of events in Mark is nothing to brag about, as is well known,
        and the later Evangelists may be excused for trying to improve on it, but
        excusable or no, I think that is what we see them doing.

        As I see the Synoptic picture, and of course there are other ways of seeing
        it, a source prior to Mark and John would be above all a source prior to
        Mark, and a source containing details of Jesus's appearance before the
        Sanhedrin would in addition be a *non-Sayings Source* prior to Mark. I
        noticed, in the previous thread, that some scholars assume a primitive
        Passion narrative behind Mark, and the suggestion to which I am here
        responding would seem to be along those lines. I am not convinced, but some
        substantial people have been, so suppose for a moment that this were the
        case. Suppose further that Mark is inaccurately reporting that source, and
        that John, coming later but still having that same source at his disposal
        (Heaven knows how, but we are agreeing to suppose it), is more accurately
        reporting that source. We would need to explain how the source in question
        survived over a good many years without being known to the intervening
        Evangelists, and also why Mark diverged from it in the way he did, but
        suppose those queries too can be met.

        Granting all this, then the situation we would have prior to Mark, at least
        in the majority opinion, is a Sayings Source over here, rigorously excluding
        all narrative, and a Passion Source over there, consisting of nothing but
        narrative. In other words, we would have the ingredients of a Gospel, all
        laid out like eggs for a cake, ready for someone to come along and see the
        possibility, but neither of the sources themselves realizing that
        possibility, and neither of them exerting the slightest influence on the
        general public, pending the arrival of one or more Synoptists to light the
        oven and bake the cake. I continue to have trouble with this picture. I
        think the phrase is deus ex machina, but one way or another, it looks like a
        construct designed to give the situation we see, but without a strong logic
        of its own.


        But that's just me. Is there a more objective way of deciding the matter? To
        put it in different terms, but terms still relevant to the question at hand:
        Can we decide whether Mark is a late and clumsily conflative document, or an
        early and inexpert document? I think so, and here is how I would proceed.

        Mark, as I see it, and I seem to have ample support from many close students
        of Mark over the past century, is a riot of different Christologies. Let's
        accept that for the moment. The question then is: How did it get that way?
        We don't need to posit only one process or pressure bearing upon Mark, but
        the majority options in my opinion are: (a) Mark copied indiscriminately and
        none too smoothly from a Christologically diverse set of pre-existing texts,
        none of them then attested or now extant; or (b) Mark itself took shape over
        a period of time, and was continually adjusted by its proprietors to include
        or at least acknowledge the Christology of the moment, beginning with some
        distinctly pre-Pauline views of the question, but ending with some details
        which in the opinion of many are not only Pauline, but *distinctively*
        Pauline (eg, as has often been pointed out, the Atonement Christology which
        is suddenly implicit in Mk 10:45, "ransom for many;" see also Mt 20:28 (||),
        1 Titus 2:6, and Revelation 5:9, and nowhere else in NT).

        So how can we distinguish between these possibilities? I would say: By
        noting the literary structure of Mark. If Mark is a continuous narrative,
        consequential but with a Christologically confused content, then option (a)
        looks good. If, on the other hand, it shows signs of interpolation, and if
        the interpolated material tends to correlate with Christological
        differences, then option (b) recommends itself. This, I suggest, puts the
        question in a form where it can be answered not by the exercise of
        imagination but by inspection of the text of Mark. I proceed to inspect the
        text of Mark.

        Or rather, to cite my previous inspection. I have earlier mentioned
        interpolation scars that tend to isolate certain passages in Mark, and
        pointed out that the intrusive material thus identified has a distinctive
        Christological character (the Appearances Doctrine; the Resurrection
        Doctrine, and as to the noninevitability of the Resurrection Doctrine,
        earlier discussed, may I here point out that Paul in 1 Cor 15:12f lambastes
        those who do not believe in the Resurrection Doctrine, this apparently
        proving, whether or not one agrees with Fitzmyer about Philippians 2, that
        there were Christians in early times who did not in fact accept the
        Resurrection Doctrine). That is, by removing one or another layers of text
        in Mark (layers defined by their interpolated quality, or their
        precariousness in context, and not by their content), one at the same time
        (a) increases the narrative concinnity of Mark, and (b) reduces the
        Christological confusion in Mark. That (b) is a result independent of and
        simultaneous with (a) seems to me to be a strong argument in favor of the
        validity of (a).

        Not everything that is weird in Mark needs to be amenable to this sort of
        solution, but where this solution does exist, I submit that it is
        philologically convincing: repair of the text along philologically suggested
        lines also reduces problems in the text which are of a purely substantive

        That is how I would propose to judge between the alternatives above
        contrasted, and that is where I come out by applying the test in question.

        So, then: If the diversity in Mark is partly due to its having adjusted
        itself over time to different Christological conceptions, say from the years
        just after the Crucifixion to some time not long after the death of Paul,
        then the diversity in question is later than, not earlier than, the
        beginning layer, the textual core, of Mark; and Mark (or its first state) is
        the oldest document in the situation; it did not form itself late, and from
        a smorgasbord of previous and Christologically divergent, but yet
        unassembled, Gospel ingredients.

        I thus think that Lachmann was ultimately right on the main point, and that
        one of the big facts about the Synoptic situation, indeed, the Gospel
        situation, is that when the other Gospels report Markan events, they (or
        their first textual states) report them in Markan order, but when they
        include other events, they disagree among themselves as to the nature and
        sequence of those events. I would not call Mark the "middle term" in the
        situation (to me, that suggests a transitional state between A and B), but
        rather the common root of the situation, the point from which the later
        Gospels diverge.

        I think that the way Mark is implicitly viewed by the later Evangelists is
        in keeping with this suggestion. I would sum up their attitude this way:
        Mark is the oldest document of its type, and thus intrinsically deserving of
        respect, and as to its framework and not a little of its exact wording, in
        fact it gets respect. But Mark is also a very exasperating document, one
        which one's fingers itch to correct and improve and touch up and supplement,
        combing its hair and straightening its tie and chiding its solecisms and
        brushing the crumbs off its sweater, and in general making it more fit (as
        they would have seen it) for decent company. As for the attitude of one late
        Evangelist to the improvements in Mark made by *another* late Evangelist,
        well, it would not be printable if transcribed, and so I leave it off the
        page. But the contempt of Luke for his predecessors (to take only that
        example) is to me manifest in the Lukan Preamble, not to mention in every
        line that follows.

        *This,* he might have muttered blackly to himself as he dipped his pen in
        oak gall and acid, is how you do a *Gospel.*

        Respectfully reiterated,


        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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