Re: [Synoptic-L] Deute-Vision
- To: Synoptic-L
In Response To: Leonard Maluf
On: Zechariah Vision
Not to delay anybody on the eve of their departure for hurricane country,
but in response to my request for a hint as to where in Zechariah we might
find a prototype for interpreting Mark's Baptism scene:
LEONARD: I was just thinking generally of the early chapters of Zechariah
(1-6) where the prophet sees something, asks a question about it, and then
receives a divine response in the form (in Greek): hOUTOS/hOUTOI
ESTIN/EISIN.... with an explanation.
BRUCE: The Zechariah context is generally Apocalyptic, no doubt of it. That
atmosphere is unquestionably part of the psychological and textual
background for the Messianic agitations of which we are also dimly aware in
the 1st century.
The visions of Zechariah are of two kinds (and critics seem to regard the
book as being composite for that reason). Some, in the later chapters, are
prophecies uttered by God, concerning the terrible things God is about to do
[to other people] Thus Zec 12: "The word of the Lord concerning Israel:
"Thus says the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and
formed the spirit of man within him: Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem . . ."
These directly reported predictions of God are in the latter part of the
book, and it is not this to which Leonard directs our attention. I ignore
Other visions, in Zec 1-6, are announced and identified as visions, and then
they are interpreted - not, as with the Major Prophets, by God, but by
angels. God, as one commentator remarks, has in this book become very remote
from his people, and indeed from his prophets. Thus Zec 1:7f: "On the
twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in
the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, the son
of Berechiah, son if Iddo, the prophet; and Zechariah said,  I saw in the
night, and behold, a man riding upon a red horse! He was standing among the
myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.
 Then I said, What are these, my Lord? So the man who was standing among
the myrtle trees answered, These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol
the earth. And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among
the myrtle trees, We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth
remains at rest. Then the angel of the Lord said, O Lord of hosts, how long
wilt thou have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which
thou hast had indignation these seventy years? And the Lord answered
gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.  So the
angel who talked with me said to me, Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I
am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.  And I am very angry
with the nations that are at ease . . ."
To repeat, in this portion of Zechariah: (1) the vision is labeled as a
vision [not presented as a reality], (2) the vision is not presented for the
beholder's understanding, but has to be asked about by the beholder, and it
is then interpreted *within the vision,* and (3) the highest-ranking
interpreter within the vision is not God but an intermediary angel.
In the Markan Baptism story, on the other hand, (1) the descent of the
Spirit is presented not as a vision but as something on the same level of
reality as the surrounding events, (2) Mark, the reporter, asks no questions
about the symbolic meaning of these events, but simply goes on reporting
them, and the supernatural voice is not explicitly concerned to interpret
the preceding event (the descent), but rather plays its own role in the
thing being described, adding information rather than clarifying previous
information, and (3) that voice is not that of an angel, but of God. The
typological nonparallels, the differences of form (or as some would say, of
genre) seem to me to be significant.
That the background atmosphere is generally Messianic in both cases may be
granted. Israel to some degree had been in a state of Messianic agitation
for more than a few centuries, and the Century of Jesus was no different.
But beyond that general similarity of ambience, I fail to detect in
Zechariah any precise guide to unlocking the meaning of the words of God at
Jesus's baptism in Mark. That scene is not offered in Mark (or, for that
matter, in any of the parallels) as a vision, and I think it is a
hermeneutical imposition to take it as a vision. Intrinsically symbolic,
sure. Visionary? Well, that is not what the text of Mark seems to say, or to
invite us to say.
We might have had, "I, John Mark, in the Nth year of Caesar, beheld a vision
of a man being baptized in the Jordan, and lo, I saw the heavens opened, and
a dove descending upon that man, and I said, What meaneth this dove? And a
voice came, the voice of an angel, saying, This dove is the Spirit of God,
given to one with whom God is well pleased."
But we don't. There is no interlocutor; the events in Mark are offered to us
as self-interpreting. If we struggle with the proffered interpretation, it
may be that we are too many thousand years after the fact, or have read the
wrong things before coming to the problem, rather than approaching it fresh,
or something else. But our struggles, whatever their cause or cure, are not
evidence for Mark. They are evidence for Us, and we are less interesting.
Having thus failed with this line of enlightenment as to the nature and
meaning of Mark, I will abandon it and turn to the other suggestion; namely,
analyses offered in the course of previous thread. It may take me a while to
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst