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Re: [XTalk] Mark's women

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  • Theodore Weeden
    ... Bob, see my response to Mark Goodacre s issue on the importance of mark writing an account that coheres with his hearers thinking about the story.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2005
      Bob Schacht wrote on February 11:

      > At 12:29 PM 2/11/2005, Mark Goodacre replied to Steve:
      >> > He could have done a zillion other things if he felt like it. As it
      >> > is he does what you say and what I say. What's to disagree about?
      >>
      >>But could he have done a zillion other things? If he wants to be
      >>credible, he's got to write an account that in some way coheres with
      >>what the Christian hearers already know, hasn't he? There's loads of
      >>room for omission, addition, spin and the like, but he also has to
      >>write something that his audience finds plausible, i.e. on some level
      >>coheres with what they think they know of the story, hasn't he?
      >
      > Thanks, Mark, for a great response (in toto, not just what I've copied
      > forward.)
      >
      > What I like about your questions is that they proceed from the premise
      > that
      > Mark's sociocultural and personal context (i.e., his audience) *matters*,
      > and that his audience is not totally ignorant of the Jesus story. This
      > premise appears to be totally absent from Weeden's otherwise brilliant
      > literary analysis.

      Bob, see my response to Mark Goodacre's issue on the importance of mark
      writing an account that coheres with his hearers' thinking about the
      story." With respect to my literary analysis and its lack of grounding in
      the sociocultural and personal context of Mark's audience: let me speak to
      that as I understand the issue you are driving at. If I have misunderstood
      you, please let me know.

      From the beginning development of my Markan thesis, as presented in
      _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_ and subesquent publications, I think I have
      taken seriously the need to understand the sociocultural context of the
      Markan community as a fundamental principle for interpreting the purpose of
      Mark's Gospel. That is why Mk. 13 became such an important chapter for me
      in understanding the Markan Sitz im Leben (see _Traditions in Conflict_,
      70-100). It is there Mark has Jesus predict the future, i.e., the present
      of Mark's own time, namely, (1) the christological conflict raging in Mark's
      own church, (2) his community growing anxiety over the delay of the eschaton
      and Jesus' reappearance as the exalted Son of Man, and (3) the existential
      crises facing his congregation and others like his as members proclaim and
      defend their faith in a suffering-servant Messiah, who by God's ordained
      plan, was crucified. I have addressed precisely the sociocultural character
      of latter in my essay "Two Jesuses: Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of Jerusalem
      and Markan Mimesis," Part Two, which is accessible as and XTalk file.
      Moreover, my thesis that the Markan community is located at Caesarea
      Philippi has also been based upon the textual reference to Jesus going on
      the way to Casearea Philippi when he first proclaims his own interpretation
      of christology and the work that John Wilson and others have done in
      reconstructing the sociological character and context of Caesara Philippi in
      the first century CE that, in my judgment, fits the Markan Sitz im Leben.
      So, from my perspective my literary analysis of the Markan text has been
      grounded in the sociocultural and personal context of the Markan community
      and Mark's time. If I have missed your point here, please let me know.

      > Let me pose a question, perhaps to Ted: Given your thesis about Mark's
      > polemic, do you think that Mark (and/or his audience) knows any of Paul's
      > letters? If so, how does what Paul says about Jesus, especially regarding
      > the passion story, affect what Mark wrote? For example (I'm at work now,
      > so
      > not in a position to check sources), Paul's account of witnesses to the
      > resurrection makes no reference to the women, does it? So, if Mark's
      > audience is familiar *only* with Paul, the introduction of the women in
      > the
      > passion narrative would be a new element, would it not? How would they be
      > likely to view this new information?

      Mark. polemic, as I see it, and I think you know, is aaginst Peter and the
      Twelve, and secondarily against Jesus' family and the church at Jerusalem.
      But Bob, Bob, I do not find any direct awareness of Paul letters. There is
      no doubt that Paul's theology of the cross is narratively better represented
      in Mark's Gospel than any other NT writing. However, Mark departs radically
      from Paul with respect to the resurrection and particularly the pre-Markan
      resurrection appearance tradition. As I indicated in my response to Mark
      Goodacre, Mark advocates a theology of absence, as Crossan puts it. I
      prefer a christology of absence. By that I mean that while Jesus was
      present and represented himself as a suffering servant Messiah during his
      public ministry, according to Mark, Jesus, in Mark's view is resurrected but
      not yet exalted. His exaltation does not take place until the final end time
      event, an event which is traditionally called Jesus' parousia. Only it is
      not a parousia in Mark. He does not come down from heaven to earth. But
      rather he is exalted in heaven. The empty grave story is solely the
      creation of Mark to counteract the resurrection appearance tradition, as
      Crossan has shown ("A Form for Absence: The Markan Creation of Gospel,"
      _Semeia_, 12 [1978], 44-53). For Mark, Jesus is translated to heaven from
      the grave to await his investiture by God as the exalted Son of Man. Thus,
      for Mark there can be no resurrection appearance has only been translated to
      heaven to await his exaltation as the Son of Man. Consequently in Mark's
      theological/christological scheme of things post-crucifxion, there never
      were any resurrection appearance experiences in which Jesus was present to
      Peter and the Twelve, 500 brothers and sisters, James and the apostles, and
      finally to Paul, as 1 Cor. 15:5-8 tells us. In this respect, Mark is not
      only anti-Peter and the disciples but he is also, in a sense, anti-Paul.
      Mark, contra Paul, implicitly avers, by virtue of his theology/christology,
      that Paul could not have had a resurrection experience as Paul claims to
      have had.
      >
      > Of course, if Mark's audience had no knowledge of Paul's letters, then the
      > question would be moot. But how realistic is it to suppose that this was
      > so?

      > But Paul in many of his letters shows a favorable attitude towards women
      > as
      > leaders among the followers of Jesus. Therefore, they might be disposed to
      > accept Mark's new information because it would be received as congruent
      > with the role of women in the evolving network of Jesus-folk.
      >
      > Not much mention has been made on this thread of Karen King's book on the
      > Gospel of Mary. It seems to me that I recall that one of Ted's works in
      > progress(?) was a somewhat favorable commentary on King's book, and the
      > idea that the Gospel of Mary derives from an early tradition. Is that
      > right? And if so, how does this factor into Mark's treatment of women in
      > his Gospel?

      > In other words, if Ted is going to stick to literary analysis, how about
      > at
      > least extending the scope to consider, however briefly, the role of women
      > in Paul's letters, and in the Gospel of Mary?

      If you are asking me whether Mark has a positive view of the role and
      function of women as followers of Jesus in his ministry and in positions of
      church leadership in Jesus' absence from the community, my answer is
      affirmative. See my post to Mark on this issue. In fact, I think Mark has
      a more favorable vew of the role and status of women in his church than did
      Paul in his congregations.

      With respect to Karen King's book _The Gospel of Mary of Magdala_, I think
      she makes a strong point that the status and role of woman, such as Mary
      Magdalene has been suppressed, even denigrated, in some of canonical
      treatments of women as followers of Jesus. In this regard, I am in the
      process of develop-ing a thesis that both Luke and John polemicize against
      the _Gospel of
      Mary_ (henceforth: GMary), and its apostolic authority of Mary Magdalene.

      In her book King describes GMary as portraying Mary Magdalene as
      Jesus' designated successor, the true and model disciple --- loved by
      Jesus more than all other disciples --- who fully comprehends all the
      Savior's teaching and who, through her pre-resurrection vision of and
      dialogues with the Savior, is authorized by him to teach, lead, comfort and
      serve as counselor to the other disciples, i.e., the male disciples, to
      turn them toward the Good (God), to instruct them with advanced spiritual
      wisdom. Any opposition to Mary, according to GMary, constitutes opposition
      to the Savior himself (29-34, 148, 177-179). GMary, King submits,
      promulgates a spiritual message of salvation achieved by renouncing and
      freeing oneself from the material world and turning inward to the spiritual
      Son of Man within, the archetype, true self present in all, in order to
      discover that one's authentic roots are spiritual, and, thus, follow that
      Son of Man within, i.e.., conform to that archetype image, and thereby
      become truly human and ascend spiritually to into oneness with the Good
      (God) and ultimate peace. Unlike the canonical Gospels, the term "Son of
      Man" in GMary is never applied to Jesus, nor is it used christologically
      (32f., 59-61). (King [33, 59] translates the Coptic and Greek as "the true
      child of humanity" in order to avoid the gender specific translation "Son of
      Man", a translation which she thinks is in the spirit of GMary's nongendered
      ideal. I have chosen the literal translation "Son of Man" here to
      elucidate clearly the terminological parallel between GMary and John.)

      In contrast to Mary, who is portrayed as the GMary's protagonist, the male
      disciples, particularly Andrew and Peter, are portrayed in GMary, per King,
      as uncomprehending antagonists. Peter, especially, is depicted as an
      "ignorant hothead," jealous of Mary's special status with the Savior, both
      in her special revelatory role as well as the fact that she is a woman whom
      the Savior has chosen to impart special spiritual instruction to male
      disciples. Peter mounts an _ad hominem_ challenge to Mary's apostolic
      legitimacy which only exposes his own adherence to the flesh and inability
      to discern spiritual truth (135, 140f.). Given the conflict between Mary
      and the male disciples it is clear that GMary reflects a schism within the
      Christian community, in which opposing sides are battling each other for
      apostolic power and validation of their respective ideological positions.
      King (175) thinks that GMary 's author could be "directing an
      all-but-explicit polemic against locating apostolic authority solely with
      twelve male disciples."

      It is my thesis that the Gospels of John and Luke are written in large part
      to polemicize against GMary, its kerygmatic message and particularly Mary
      Magdalene, its apostolic leader. For his part John engages in a hostile
      attack against Mary by stripping her of her roles and functions as the
      ideal, beloved disciple, counselor-successor and revelatory mediator for the
      Savior in GMary and transfering those roles and functions to John's own
      literary creations, the Beloved Disciple, who reclines closest to Jesus at
      the Johannine Last Supper and to whom Peter turns for enlightment
      (13:21-24), on the one hand On the other hand, the Paraclete, counselor,
      spiritual instructor and guide, Jesus' chosen successor and truth-revealer
      (14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 12-14). Stripped of her celebrated GMary-status
      Mary is reduced by John to no more than a secretary-courier directed by the
      risen Jesus to inform the disciples of his resurrection/ascension and things
      Jesus said to her (Jn. 20:17f.).

      Contra GMary's kerygma, John insists, that the "Son of Man" is not an
      archetype within the self which provides a spiritual and interior path to
      oneness with the Good [God]. Rather, John polemically insists that it is
      God's son, Jesus the Son of Man, who saves via his crucifixion and
      ascension, which provides the only way to oneness with the Father (14:1-6).
      John transgresses, transforms and transvalues GMary's universal Son of Man
      inherently interior to all humans and externalizes it in Jesus as the one,
      unique revealed figure whose salvific program enables all persons who
      believe in him to be saved and ascend to God.

      The post-resurrection dialogues of Mary with the Savior are imitated
      (mimesis) by John by polemically transforming and transvaluing them into the
      Jesus' farewell discourse to his male disciples (Jn. 13:31-16:33), in which
      he includes GMary motifs which he transvalues for his own theological
      purpose, e.g., the motifs of troubled hearts, comfort, bestowal of peace,
      seeking and finding, and special instruction, Jesus' successor (the
      Paraclete).

      I am convinced that my thesis best explains, in the most cogent and
      simplest way, the origin of John's mysterious Beloved Disciple. My thesis
      is able to satisfy all eight of Charlesworth's criteria (_The Beloved
      Disciple_) for accounting for the presence of the Beloved Disciple figure in
      John, and in a far less complicated and convoluted way than does
      Charlesworth in his advocacy for Thomas as the identity of the Beloved
      Disciple. Furthermore, I am convinced that the Johannine commuity followed
      polemical suit against the GMary with t1 John, 2 John and Jn 21 to discredit
      further those who were advocating the theology and christology of the Gospel
      of Mary. Raymond Brown's profile (The Epistles of John) of the Johannine
      secessionists and their theology, who left the Johannine community, fits
      almost hand in glove with the theology of the GMary in Karen King's
      presentation of that theology.

      For his part, Luke pursues his own ad hominem attack on Mary's unique
      apostolic status by reversing the narrative polarity of GMary's two
      principal dramatis personae. Whereas Peter is cast in strong negative
      terms in GMary, in the Lukan narrative he is presented in the most positive
      light of any person in the narrative, his denial of Jesus notwithstanding
      (Lk. 22:54-62). Not only is Peter elevated to primacy among all followers
      of Jesus, depicted as having, presumably, the first experience of the
      resurrected Jesus (24:34) and as CEO of the 12 apostles (Acts 1:15-26), but
      he is also made the authoritative voice of the post-Easter kerygma (Acts
      2:14-36; 3:11-26; 4:5-12). By contrast, Mary's GMary-narrative polarity
      is almost completely negative. Luke discredits Mary in her first narrative
      appearance (8:1-3) by reporting (1) that before she was exorcised by Jesus,
      she was "the mother of all demoniacs" (to draw on an American colloquial
      expression), possessed by not one but seven demons (the ultimate and
      complete possession, the most thoroughly possessed person of all scripture);
      and (2) that after her exorcism she served Jesus in a subordinate role as
      his financier. In respect to this particular Lukan portrayal, King
      declares perceptively (142): "Even though she has been healed, the story of
      Mary's possession effectively portrays her as unclean and susceptible to
      demonic influence. It is hard not to read these two details [her exorcism
      and role as financier] in Luke's description of Mary as an attempt to
      conceal her prominence rather than as a report of historical facts."

      Luke further diminishes Mary's role in the Gospel and ultimately her
      credibility by failing to follow suit with Mark and placing her explicitly
      by name at two of the three key kerygmatic events of the early creed of I
      Cor. 15:3-5. Luke makes no specific mention of her as being present at
      either Jesus' crucifixion or burial. And even when it comes to the third
      kerygmatic event cited in the creed of I Cor. 15:3-5, namely witness to the
      historical fact of the resurrection vis-à-vis the empty-tomb story, Mary is
      only cited by name after that narrative account (24:1-11) almost as an after
      thought (24:12). And then, following that, Luke has her report to the
      disciples about her empty-tomb experience dismissed by the disciples as an
      "idle tale," thereby maligning her as an unreliable tale-spinner. Unlike
      GMary, Luke grants Mary no personal experience of the risen Christ; and
      unlike GMary, it is not Mary but it is the male disciples to whom Jesus
      gives special instruction after his resurrection and just prior to his
      ascension (24:44-51). Then in a final coup de grace Mary is ruled out of
      any possible apostleship in an initial incident in Acts 1:15-26 when Peter
      seeks an apostolic replacement for Judas in order to restore the full
      complement of Jesus' specially chosen disciples. The only candidates that
      need apply for that vacancy are obviously men ("one of the men [Greek:
      ANDRWN] who have accompanied us:" Acts 1:21) who have been with
      Jesus since his baptism by John (which ironically effectively brings into
      question the legitimacy of the apostleship of the original and remaining
      eleven).

      Finally, I think there is some evidence that the writer of the _GMary_ knew
      the Gospel of Mark and both appropriated certain motifs from it, such as the
      negative depiction of Peter, as well as opposing its eschatological
      paradigm. If my thesis can be sustained, I would then suggest the order of
      canonical and non-canonical Gospels as the following: Q1 (with later
      redactions), early Thomas (with later redactions), Mark, Matthew, Mary,
      John, and Luke.

      Ted Weeden
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