- Topic: Levi (was: The Twelve)
In Response To: Philip Lewis
Nobody seems to have picked up Philip's suggestion, but I found it
fascinating. It was:
PHILIP (on my remark that an unnamed Four are better integrated into GMk
than the seemingly exiguous Twelve): Allow me to point out that in GMark -
and subsequently in GMatt and GLk - "the robust four" are mentioned as such
only in the Call of the Four,
Mk.1.16-20 and in Mk.13.3 where Peter, James, John and Andrew are named as
the recipients of the apocalyptic discourse.
BRUCE: Even here I don't find them mentioned "as such," that is, as a named
group of Four. The callings in Mk 1:16-20 simply summon, in sequence what
happens to add up to four individuals. The text does not indicate, other
than by ceasing to summon others at this point, that they might constitute
a closed group. In Mk 13:3 the four collectively ask Jesus about the world
or end of world to come. That is an implicit, not named, group of Four, but
it goes far to validate the implicit four of 1:16f as a narratively
As to whether the Four are an extraneous concept imposed on the narrative,
I take the mentions of individuals or subgroups from that set as evidence
to the contrary. Peter, James, and John (omitting Andrew) in the Jairus
healing, 5:37, the transfiguration, 9:2, and the Gethsemane vigil, 14:33.
James and John asking a favor in 10:35. Peter alone, passim. That's what I
meant by "narratively integrated." With the exception of Judas (elsewhere
discussed), none of the new names on the list of Twelve counts for anything
elsewhere in GMk. Of course, even the set of sayings involving the Four is
subject to objection as part of an imposed layer. I wouldn't be averse to
that suspicion; on the contrary, I would be interested in investigating it.
Part of what follows is a beginning in that direction.
PHILIP: One notes that in the Call of the Four, the call is to an
eschatologically framed mission, punctuated in my analysis of the thematic
structure of GMark by the first Son of man saying in the Gospel, "the Son
of man has authority on earth to forgive sins," Mk.3.10.
BRUCE: Mk 1:17 "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." If by
eschatological you mean apostolic, I agree. If so, then this group is open
to the same objection that applies to the Twelve: it looks ahead to a
preaching mission that is not attested in, or at least in my terms not
narratively integrated into, GMk. That could get interesting.
PHILIP: And is it not strange that Levi is not named in the list of the
Twelve, though he has been so designated in the Call at Mk.2.14?
BRUCE: Ah, yes indeed. Levi's call at Mk 2:14 uses the same "follow me"
phrase as the earlier four, though it does not go on to add "and I will
make you an ingatherer of men." I don't see that he is designated as
anything in that passage, but the parallel to the earlier four calls is, to
me (and I might add, to the commentators), unmistakable. If we are keeping
score, as readers of GMk, we will certainly say, OK, now we have five.
Then comes the Calling of the Twelve, Mk 3:14f. This list does not include
Levi, though it does include a Matthew (this name is substituted for Levi
in the GMt parallel to Mk 2:14) and it does include a "son of Alphaeus,"
whose given name unfortunately happens to be James. To which if any of
these does the Levi of Mk 2:14 correspond? Famous conundrum.
One answer, which is that of the Bezae, Koridethian [Tiflis], fam 13, and
other MSS, as well as Tatian and other early church writers, is to
substitute "James" for "Levi" in Mk 2:14. It would be so lovely if this
were correct. Against it is precisely its convenience, the likelihood of
harmonizing improvements in the later MSS, and the parallel Lk 5:27, which
has Levi. It is probable that Lk 5:27 is later than, and thus preserves and
attests, Mk, and why? Because in the following Mk 2:15 "and it came to
pass, that he was sitting at meat in his house," the most natural implied
antecedent of "his" is "Jesus." But did Jesus have a house? It nowhere else
says so. It would be less baffling narratively if the house were that of
Levi, since the point of that story is Jesus eating with publicans and
sinners. What nicer if Levi invited Jesus to dinner in Levi's house? This
is exactly what Lk 5:29 makes clear has happened. But this too is a
harmonizing improvement (Jesus in Mk 2:14 is clearly summoning a disciple,
not soliciting an invitation), and presumably obscures something which the
inconsecutive Mk leaves exposed to other analysis. However, for present
purposes, it does attest the presence of "Levi" in Lk's Markan source.
Notice that GLk and CBezae are alike harmonizing a problematic Markan
original, but unfortunately in individually unconvincing and mutually
The Matthean revision Levi > Matthew seems also a harmonization, rather
than a plausible scribal correction. Rejected for the same reasons.
That the same person had the names James and Levi is not supported by Mk
(cf Mk 3:16 for the case of Peter). Rejected as ultimately a harmonizing
So, at least for the present contributor, none of the harmonizations of Mk
2:14 (Levi) with Mk 3:14f (Calling of the Twelve) work. Then,
provisionally, the two cannot be harmonized, and are mutually antithetical
in the text. Maybe we should leave Mk 2:14 alone for a moment and turn to
3:14f. We there find lots more incongruities. Not only does 3:24f contain
several names never elsewhere heard of in GMk, but of the analogous lists,
exactly one each in the 4 Gospels, no two are identical. It seems fair, at
least provisionally, to ascribe the incongruity between Mk 2:14 and 3:14 to
problems with 3:14.
Having gotten that far, how integral is Mk 2:14 iself in the Markan text?
Exactly zero. Levi never recurs in the story; he is introduced only to
vanish. He is introduced in a way (call to discipleship) that creates
narrative inconsequentialities with the following dinner scene (acceptance
of hospitality), and he never appears later in the text, alone or in
combination with other named followers. For that matter, no *single*
disciple except Peter (and, if you like, Judas) appears by themselves in Mk
at any point after their first introduction. So, as Philip asks, what are
we to make of this?
Passing Judas for the moment, my personal impression of GMk as so far
considered is: (1) the Twelve in 3:14f are a red herring; an introduction
at odds with other Markan material which there is reason to believe may
have been earlier, (2) the Four in Mk must, as Philip reminds us, probably
be taken instead as the Five, with Levi only a little less recurrent than
Andrew in latter incidents involving named disciples. (3) That amounts to
saying that the Five are not well developed in the text as we have it,
which is to say that the text as we have it is not a fully finished
literary narrative. I don't love that implication, but I can live with it
if I have to, and it looks as if I am going to have to.
ADDENDUM. Any consideration of Fives and Twelves in GMk sooner or later
comes to the details of the two Feeding Miracles. These are the more
mysterious because of the treatment they receive in the Jesuine explication
of Mk 8:18f. Which deals not with the implied supernatural power which they
attest (or so I feel, with absolutely every commentator I have so far
consulted on the other side), but with the numerical details they contain.
The Five may be alluded to in the Five Loaves of the 5000 miracle. Or
rather the Mk 6:35f miracle. Not to go through an inductive process this
late in the message, my scenario is the following:
(1) At one time, only Mk 6:35f was present in the text. It did not specify
the size of the crowd. It fed the crowd (symbolic meaning: supplied its
religious lack and need) with five loaves (symbolizing the Five Apostles)
and producing a superabundance (the Twelve Baskets, symbolizing an entire
(2) Later on, the Mk 8:1f parallel story was added, perhaps as part of a
series of doublets and tropes on earlier material, perhaps not, I am not
looking at that much material at this moment. Its intent was to convert the
given and unalterable symbolism of Mk 6:35f so as to produce not Five but
Twelve [loaves =] Apostles. This it did by having seven loaves in the added
miracle. Then the author was confronted by the question of how many baskets
to have at the end. Given that, a two-miracle total of 12 + x is
constrained. The total of 19 baskets for two miracles seems to me a
symbolically void number, hence the intentional symbol must be the 7
baskets. 7 is a pretty good symbolic number; 19 is the unavoidable
consequence of having opted for it.
There is a way this symbolic suggestion can be tested. There was no
narrative need to mention the size of the crowd, and the 6:35f miracle did
not, I think, originally do so. That figure is given in the afterthought
passage 6:44 (it is, with more narrative cogency, transferred to the head
of the story in the Lk parallel; another case of Lk improving on the
literary finish of Mk). It is, presumably by symmetry, a final statement
also in Mk 8:9 (no Lk parallel; cf Great Omission thread). But these
numbers too are focused on by Jesus in Mk 8:18f. They must, singly or
together, have had some meaning that a reader of that layer of the text
could realistically be imagined as detecting (once attention was drawn to
What, then, could have been the import of 5,000 + 4,000 = 9,000? It is
allowable that 5,000 did not stand in the first miracle in its original
form, and that both are supplied in the later text layer containing the
second miracle. There would then be no constraint from the first miracle;
the second author can freely supply both details. Why would he have chosen
just these ones?
Here, as a reminder, is the inventory of details:
5 loaves / 5 thousand people / 12 baskets left over
7 loaves / 4 thousand people / 7 baskets left over
Any suggestions (or, as usual, refutations) will be appreciated.
E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts