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Re: [Synoptic-L] A case for pMark

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  • lmbarre@gmail.com
    My analysis of the Passion Narrative (Mark 14:1-15:39*) finds it to be, on form-critical grounds, a perfect Aristotelian tragedy as described in his Poetics.
    Message 1 of 44 , Jan 2, 2013
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      My analysis of the Passion Narrative (Mark 14:1-15:39*) finds it to be, on
      form-critical grounds, a perfect Aristotelian tragedy as described in his
      Poetics." I mean perfect in terms of realistic portrayal ("imitation),
      characterization of the tragic hero with a fatal hamartia, the importance of
      plot, appropriate diction, down to the proper use of vowels, a final
      epiphany, a heavy sense of dramatic irony (surprising outcomes) the hero's
      anagnorisis, peripetia (reversal of fortune) and more. Also, there is much
      to argue that 'eloi 'eloi lama sabachthani is an authentic saying of Jesus,
      in spite of two other places where Mark has added "fulfillment's" of Psalm
      22. I would so far as to argue that the pre-Markan PN is not only realistic
      it is based upon an eye-witness account that was collected by the author of
      PN. Here is a summary of the traits of Aristotle's tragic hero from my
      With the original PN isolated (argued elsewhere), especially that it ended
      in Mark 15:39, we may then ask the form-critical question regarding its
      literary genre. My contention is that it is a tragedy, and more specifically
      an Aristotelian tragedy. Evidence for this genre designation is drawn first
      of all from Aristotle's Poetics:
      Here again I do need to go into some quite detailed arguments to show that
      original PN does indeed conform to Aristotle's ideal tragedy. They may be
      summarized as parallel in terms of plot, characterization of the tragic hero
      motifs and diction. Here is a summary of the literary features of a
      Aristotelian tragedy:
      An Aristotelian tragic hero must have four characteristics:
      - Nobleness (of a noble birth) or wisdom (by virtue of birth).
      - Hamartia (translated as tragic flaw, somewhat related to hubris, but
      denoting excess in behavior or mistakes).
      - A reversal of fortune (peripetia) brought about because of the hero's
      tragic error.
      - The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the
      hero's own actions (anagnorisis).
      As I have said, I can go into much greater detail to show that the PN is to
      be generically classified as an (Aristotelian) tragedy. Your denial that
      this is not so needs to engage what arguments I have just advanced.
      Note also that Aristotle's tragic hero was developed in the history of the
      genre. Here is a list of certain refinements and additions to Aristotle's
      original definition of the tragic hero:
      Other common traits as developed in later tragedies:
      Hero must suffer more than he deserves.
      Hero must be doomed from the start, but bear no responsibility for
      possessing his flaw.
      Hero must be noble in nature, but imperfect so that the audience can see
      themselves in him.
      Hero must have discovered his fate by his own actions, not by things
      happening to him.
      Hero must see and understand his doom, as well as the fact that his fate was
      discovered by his own actions.
      Hero's story should arouse fear and empathy.
      Hero must be physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often
      resulting in his death.
      Ideally, the hero should be a king or leader of men, so that his people
      experience his fall with him.
      The hero must be intelligent so he may learn from his mistakes.
      Conclusion: The genre of the original PN is a tragedy as defined by
      Aristotle in his Poetics and as later expounded in other tragedies
      descending from an Aristotelian origin.
      I submit that I have offered detailed arguments regarding the
      literary-critical isolation of an original PN and correctly identified its
      genre as (Aristotelian) tragedy.
      With this definition, I have a basis to argue that the PN is based upon an
      eye-witness account. I go further to argue that the eye-witness was a
      historical centurion who served as the source of factual information. Let me
      be quick to say that I am not here "cherry-picking" the centurion as the
      probable witness that the author of PN used to compose his tragedy. That we
      may rationally determine that the centurion's account is the basis of the PN
      should not be dismissed because it is often the case that we cannot usually
      make such a specific determination of a literary source. Let me also clear
      the air that I am not compelled by any ideology which "need" to have an
      eye-witness report regarding the historical Jesus. I very much argue to this
      remarkable and unprecedented conclusion and I am fully aware of its radical
      claim. It seem most grandiose that I should claim that I have concluded the
      quest for the essential historical Jesus! I cannot put enough exclamation
      points behind this allegation.
      That the PN is based upon an eye-witness account is argued upon two bases:
      - the probable conclusion that eloi eloi lama sabachthani is an authentic
      saying of Jesus.
      - that the genre of a Aristotelian tragedy aims at above all "imitation" or
      what we call "realism."
      While the traditional criteria for isolating authentic sayings of Jesus has
      been critiqued in scholarly literature, I would argue that the following
      criteria are, with noted qualification, yet valid:
      - dissimilarity
      - embarrassment
      - orality
      - diction (Aramaic)
      It should be noted that the lama sabachthani is good Aramaic and is
      expressed Jesus' vernacular.
      I have also argued to the conclusion that the above saying is authentic
      That the genre of Aristotlelian tragedy that aims to be "realistic" is
      stated in the Poetics. Indeed, this is a major characteristic of his ideal
      tragedy--"imitation." What it imitates is the actual phenomenon of a tragic
      dimension of human existence. This is the basis of his argument that it
      should inspire not only pity but also "fear." That fear is to be inspired
      among the audience is based the real threat that they may experience a
      possible tragic situation. The "catharsis" consists of the enlightenment
      that a seemingly senseless tragedy has a most profound and most positive
      As for the meaning of the centurion's epiphany, uios theou is not the Markan
      notion of the "Son of God" (1:1) but is rather a Roman, gentile formulation,
      literarily rendered as "a son of a god," otherwise known as a theios aner,
      the Hellenistic concept of the "divine man." The debate whether Mark
      portrays Jesus in terms of Hellenistic notions or one based on Old Testament
      characters is both right when we realize that we are dealing with two
      versions of the Gospel. Mark redacted the theios aner presentation into one
      that was more from a Jewish perspective.
      LM Barré
      San Diego
      -------Original Message-------

      From: Ronald Price
      Date: 1/2/2013 11:38:23 AM
      To: Synoptic-L
      Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] A case for pMark

      Chuck Jones wrote:

      > Are you saying that Mark free-composed everything in his gospel except for
      > (handful of) aphorisms?
      > I'd appreciate hearing more about your thoughts on this.


      Not quite. Mark would have picked up a few simple facts from Paul (if, as I
      believe, the author can be equated with the Mark of Phm 24), and perhaps by
      conversation with others in the church at Rome, e.g. that Peter was a
      prominent apostle, that Jesus was crucified in or near Jerusalem, that
      Pilate was the governor at the time.

      > He composed the parables, for example?

      Not the aphoristic (short) parables: Lamp, Mustard Seed, Salt, Eye of
      Needle, but most of the others, and certainly the two long parables: the
      parable of the Sower and the parable of the Vineyard, both of which seem to
      have been composed specifically with the Christian mission in mind.

      > And all of the scenes, characters and dialogue in the passion narrative?

      The dialogue, yes, apart from the Last Supper dialogue which I think is
      close to what Mark got from Paul. The scenes as presented, yes. But 14:3-9
      was probably based on an actual anointing of Jesus as Messiah, and the trial
      by Pilate and the crucifixion may include a few genuine details (e.g. the
      inscription on the cross?). Also at least two of the characters, namely
      Judas the betrayer (here I follow Hyam Maccoby), and Joseph of 'Arimathea'.

      Of course the existence of Jesus, Peter and Pilate does not depend solely on
      the testimony of Mark's gospel. They are historical characters.

      Ron Price,

      Derbyshire, UK


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Synoptic In Response To: L M Barré On: pMark From: Bruce LMB: I have to say that I think you err not to conclude that we have in euthus and marker of the
      Message 44 of 44 , Jan 7, 2013
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        To: Synoptic
        In Response To: L M Barré
        On: pMark
        From: Bruce

        LMB: I have to say that I think you err not to conclude that we have in
        euthus and marker of the Markan redaction.

        EBB: Euthus is characteristic of Mark, but whether of redaction (editing of
        prior material) or composition (authorial material) I think we cannot say.
        There is also the question, not separately examined, of whether euthus is
        equally typical of the later material in Mark. The answer according to my
        own investigation is: not as much so. But there are also themes and modes in
        what I take to be original mark where euthus (immediacy in narrative) would
        not apply in any case, and if late Mark is turning to those questions (eg,
        how soon will the Second Coming be), then the style change is simply an
        artifact of the topic change. The continuing authorship or proprietorship of
        the single author (call him Mark or whatever) is not precluded.

        LMB: . So also is the much repeated "amazement" motif, which I take as
        another indicator of Markan redaction.

        EBB: Again, I sort of agree, and have used that test myself, following Dwyer
        1996 (though I think it is possible to refine his data set). But again,
        there are types of material in Mark that do not invite that motif. It would
        take more precision to make "amazement" an indicator of Markan vs
        post-Markan material.

        LMB: but also with typical repetition (another Markan stylistic marker), the
        thrice predicted passion, death and resurrection.

        EBB: I agree with Yarbro Collins that the triplets (and I would add,
        including the Passion Predictions) are late in Mark. I would not call them
        non-Markan, but they are a device of style which occurred to the late Mark,
        and were not present in the relatively straightforward early Mark.

        LMB: Let me here add that I think that the ending of Mark is indeed lost and
        that the current ending in 16:8 is not deliberate. The reason why it is
        noted that the women said nothing, is to prepare for the Great Astonishment,
        that Jesus was alive. This would be all the more shocking because they were
        unaware of the empty tomb "information" due to the women's silence.

        EBB: I agree that 16:8 was not meant to be the end of Mark, and that our
        text is artificially abbreviated. Matthew's supplied ending owes details to
        other texts, and does not come from his seeing a more complete version of
        Mark (there was none in his time), but is a good normal guess at what the
        ending might have contained, at least on the circumstantial level.

        LMB: In the logic of the story of Mark's redaction, the predicted appearance
        in Galilee is not particularly freighted. Where else would they go but home?
        Where more appropriate for Jesus to meet up with them?

        EBB: I think weight must be given to the pair of interpolations I mentioned
        earlier: 14:28 and 16:7. These predict that the disciples will see Jesus in
        Galilee. What if the story had continued without those predictions?
        Evidently in the way that the insertions predict: they would see Jesus in
        Galilee. What then do the predictions add? Simply this: Jesus's
        foreknowledge of that event. Without that element, Jesus's appearance would
        have been a surprise, not only to the disciples, but to Jesus himself. The
        prediction puts him back in control, has him fully anticipating, and thus
        fully accepting, the end of his life and its sequel.


        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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