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Re: [XTalk] Praised woman in Mark

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  • Theodore Weeden
    Bob Schacht wrote on ... [snip} ... the ... [snip] Now, I thought I got that notion from Ted Weeden s book, ... Bob: Perhaps Ted himself will explain. Ted: I
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 29, 2006
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      Bob Schacht wrote on

      Steve Davis wrote:

      >I've got a question. It has been
      >observed that in Mark the praised woman who anoints Jesus before his
      >burial, evidently knowing that he won't be there for the anointments at
      >the usual time, J having gone off to Galilee in the meanwhile, knows
      >that Jesus is going to die and rise again. Hallelulia for her. She is
      >to be contrasted to the women who followed J from Galilee and who,
      >clueless, go to anoint the body only to discover it missing.


      >This is taken to be a final attack on Jesus' accompanists, specifically
      >women among them, who thus far have seemed to be doing right as opposed
      >to the fellas.


      Now, I thought I got that notion from Ted Weeden's book,
      >but recent of his letters indicate that that's not so. Did I get the
      >idea from Crossan? Did I make it up myself? Can anybody recall
      >instances of somebody discussing such a notion?


      Perhaps Ted himself will explain.


      I am somewhat reluctant to respond to Steve and the topic of this thread
      because I am behind in responding to Rikk Watts, you (Bob), and Brian
      Trafford on responses to me a month old. It has been a very busy month,
      with family visits and a major speaking engagement with has taken much time
      to prepare for. I, also, have spend a great deal of time during extensive
      research and thinking in response to Rikk's last post to me. That time has
      been spent on only one of the issues which he has raised with me. I hope
      soon to post an extensive essay, in only very partial response to Rikk,
      showing that John has used Mark, alone, as his source for Judas and his
      betrayal. I will respond to other issues Rikk raised later, as well as
      answer later posts from Brian and you.

      Steve, with regard to your query, I think the response of the woman must be
      seen within the context of the way in which Mark portrays women in his
      Gospel, as well as the way in which he has placed rhetorical emphasis in
      14:1-11, of which 14:3-9 is the centerpiece. !6:8b aside for the moment,
      women in Mark's drama serve as models for appropriate, intuitive responses
      to the Markan Jesus and manifestations of the suffering-servant ideology he
      advocates. In this narrative capacity the women exist dramatically as
      positive foils to the chosen Twelve and their dense, dissident, and
      disassociative response to Jesus and his suffering-servant ideology. These
      female positive foils to the Twelve are (1): Peter's mother-in-law
      (1:29-31), (2) the woman with hemorrhage (5:25-34), (3) the Syro-Phoenician
      woman (7:24-30), (4) the poor widow (12:41-44), (5) the anointing woman
      (14:3-9), and (6) Jesus' Galilean women followers, particularly the named
      trio of women, Mary Magdalene, the mother of Joses, Salome (15:40-41, 47,
      16:1). With the exception of the trio, all these women are nameless,
      perhaps intentionally so.

      A.. Woman with Hemorrhage

      To be more specific now, as a positive foil to the Twelve, the woman with
      the hemorrhage instinctively recognizes that Jesus possesses extraordinary
      supernatural powers, such that even his clothing, by its attachment to him,
      has the power to heal her, where previous physicians have failed. She
      stands in mark contrast to the Twelve who do not have a clue as to why Jesus
      should query regarding who touched him after feeling "that [healing] power
      had gone forth from him" because of the woman's touch of his garments. The
      denseness of the Twelve, their imperceptivity vis-à-vis the woman's
      perceptivity is even more striking, since she perceives Jesus'
      miracle-working power the first time she encounters him, whereas the Twelve
      have been with Jesus all along in his miracle-working ministry, yet are not
      instinctively aware of what has transpired and what has prompted Jesus'

      B. Syro-Phoenician Woman

      Moving on, the Syrophoenician woman, technically an "outsider," per 4:10-11
      and thus incapable of understanding Jesus, is a stellar example of one who
      demonstrates great perspicuity in understanding Jesus' riddle about bread
      being given to dogs in contrast to the "insiders," the Twelve, who cannot
      understand the meaning of Jesus' parables (4:13) and other teachings
      (7:14-18), even though as insiders they have been given the "secret" for
      understanding (4:10). It is no accident that Mark tells the story of the
      perspicacity of the Syro-Phoenician woman immediately after the episode in
      which the Twelve are depicted with struggling to understand some far less
      complex teaching of Jesus than the riddle he responded with at the request
      of the woman for healing of her daughter.

      C. Poor Widow

      Next, the poor widow serves as a positive foil not only to the rich, such as
      the rich young man (10:17-22), reluctant to give up their riches for the
      kingdom and eternal life, but, also, of course, the Twelve, who struggle
      with how any one can be saved, if it is so nigh unto impossible for a rich
      man to be saved (10:23-26). The poor widow is an exemplification of a
      person who fulfills the suffering-servant ideology of giving up all one has
      for God vis-à-vis 8:35f.).

      D. Galilean Women

      Next, the Galilean serve as positive foils to the Twelve in that they are
      present with Jesus in his suffering death on the cross, in contrast to his
      chosen twelve disciples, all of whom have in one way or another forsaken
      him. Moreover, note the way in which Mark introduces these women, now late
      in his narrative. He tells us these women HKOLOUQOUN AUTW KAI DIHKONOUN
      ("followed him [Jesus] and served him," 15:41). What differentiates these
      women from the Twelve is that they not only like the Twelve followed Jesus,
      but also *served* him. Now, I think Mark's use of the verb DIAKONEW has a
      wider meaning then these women provided material assistance for Jesus (food
      or whatever: see Lk 8:1-4). Mark uses the verb DIAKONEW ("to serve") and
      its related substantive DIAKONOS ("servant") very discretely and with
      distinctive theological meaning. He uses DIAKONEW only in 1:13; 1:31;
      10:45 and 15:41. He uses DIAKONOS only in 9:35 and 10:43. It is in
      10:43-45, a passage in which both DIAKONOS and DIAKONEW appear in the same
      context, that the verb DIAKONEW receives its richest theological meaning.
      It is there, in his repudiation of the Twelve and their competitive striving
      for status, that the Markan Jesus declares that he, in contrast to the "lord
      it over" Gentiles, serves in the christological role of servant, and
      admonishes his disciple to seek the servant role as their own by serving
      others, rather than striving for greatness as culturally defined (10:42-45).
      The same theme is promulgated by Jesus in 9:35, where Mark uses DIAKONOS to
      underscore the fact that only role that a disciple of a suffering-servant
      Jesus should emulate, in contrast the Twelve's competitive aspiration for
      greatness (9:33f.), is that of a servant of all.

      Thus, in these two passages (9:33-35 and 10:35-35), which follow immediately
      upon the Markan Jesus' suffering servant messiahship, the terms DIAKONEW and
      DIAKONOS are specifically used as code words for suffering-servant
      discipleship. With regard to two other Markan uses of DIAKONEW, aside from
      15:41, there is reason to believe that Mark foreshadows his technical use of
      DIAKONEW in 10:45 in both cases. In 1:13, the angels are described as
      serving Jesus during his period of temptation in the desert. In 1:31,
      Peter's mother-in-law, in response to Jesus' healing of her, *serves* Jesus,
      i.e., like a servant to a master. Consequently, given the way in which
      Mark has used his specific understanding of DIAKONEW in his drama to denote
      suffering-servant christology and suffering-servant discipleship, his
      depiction of the Galilean women who followed and served Jesus, including the
      trio, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joses, and Salome, suggests that
      they emulated the role of suffering-servant discipleship. They are then
      depicted as positive dramatic foils in contrast to the Twelve, who resisted
      the role of suffering-servant discipleship and finally rejected it variously
      by betrayal, denial and abandonment of Jesus.

      That the rhetorical point in 15:41 is emphatically upon the women's servant
      role is underscored by the Markan DNA rhetorical technique of using a
      two-step progression throughout his drama, a two-step progression in there
      is a repetitive character in a narrative description (see David Rhoads,
      _Reading Mark_, 74), as in the case of the conjoining of two clauses in
      stating that the women "followed him and served him." The first step in
      this progression is the clause "followed him." The second step in the
      progression is the clause "served him." In such Markan rhetorical two-step
      progression, the second step refines further and more explicitly the meaning
      of the more general statement in the first step, with the second step
      representing the rhetorical emphasis which Mark intended his hearers/readers
      to give special attention to (see Rhoads, 74). Thus, Mark, in the two-step
      progression depicting the Galilean women's relationship to Jesus, is
      intentionally underscoring, in contrast to the obstinate Twelve, that these
      women fulfilled the role of suffering-servant discipleship in their
      relationship to Jesus.

      E. The Trio

      With respect to the trio of women, Mary Magdalene, the mother of Joses, and
      Salome, Mark elevates them to a celebrative status as positive foils to the
      apostate Twelve by having them be the primary and only witnesses of the
      three foundational kerygmatic events represented creedally in the creed of 1
      Cor. 15:3-5, namely that Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised again on
      the third day. These three women, in the Markan drama, alone vouch for
      the empirical reality of all three of the creed's kerygmatic events. The
      Twelve in their apostasy exit the drama and are absent from any of these
      events. Furthermore, the rhetorical force of 16:8b, I still contend,
      indicates that the remaining eleven of the Twelve, sans Judas, never
      received the news of the resurrection of Jesus. I will be glad to speak to
      this more fully, contra the interpretations of others that Mark does imagine
      the eleven experiencing the post-crucified Jesus, a la 14:28. I am
      convinced that Mark conceives of the time from Jesus' burial to the final
      event in which he returns glorified, as a period in which the resurrected
      Jesus is absent (see John Dominic Crossan, "Empty Tomb and Absent Lord," in
      _The Passion in Mark_, ed. W. Kelber, 135-152). Thus, from Mark's point of
      view, there were no post-resurrection appearances, contra the creed of 1 Cor
      15:3-5. All we have as evidence of the resurrection is an empty tomb and
      the message of the young man in the tomb that Jesus is raised from the dead.
      What Mark has in mind in 14:28 is the appearance of the end-time appearance
      of the exalted Jesus (13:24-27), returning to his community of followers in
      Galilee, Mark's eschatological Mecca. It is then that Peter and the
      eleven will see him, not before (see my _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_,

      F. The Anointing Woman

      Returning now to the story of the woman anointing Jesus, what I have sought
      to underscore here is the fact that in the Markan drama women exemplify true
      discipleship a la suffering-servant discipleship. They and only they
      instinctively and intuitively respond to Jesus, have the perspicacity to
      understand him and the commitment to follow him faithfully from his ministry
      in Galilee to his death, attend to his burial and have an epiphany, via the
      young man (angel?) in the tomb of his resurrection. Women, throughout the
      drama, are positive foils to the apostate Twelve in their faithful following
      and serving Jesus. I think the woman who anointed Jesus is cut out of the
      same cloth of Markan rhetorical composition. Let me explain.

      It is clear that Mark has carefully composed 14:1-11, which begins with the
      Judean cultic authorities seeking a way to apprehend Jesus and put him to
      death and ends with Judas supplying the missing ingredient to their plan,
      someone who can deliver Jesus into their hands without the general public's
      knowledge. It is clear, in my judgment, that Mark has composed this
      passage using his framing technique, in which a story rhetorically is
      interrupted by the inclusion of another story before the previous story is
      brought to conclusion. The purpose of this framing technique is to draw
      attention to the interior story and its point (see David Rhoads, Donald
      Michie, _Mark as Story_, 51). Thus, in this rhetorical scenario, the
      first story is the story of the plot of the cultic authorities and Judas'
      role in that plot, namely, 14:1-2, 10-11. That story is interrupted by the
      inclusion within it of the story of the anointing of Jesus by the woman.
      Within the story of plot and betrayal, then, Mark is drawing his attention
      specifically to the interior story of the anointing to be interpreted within
      the framework of the plot-betrayal story.

      The unexpected appearance of the woman, unidentified by name, as are all of
      Mark's woman, with the exception of the trio mentioned above, and her lavish
      act of devotion to Jesus creates disdain of her act and repudiation of her
      personally by certain unnamed who were present. We are not told what her
      own motivation was for performing the act. We are left to Jesus to
      interpret it. He interprets it as her recognition of his forthcoming death
      and her desire, absent of any other way to identify and empathize with him,
      to anoint his body prior to the traditional anointing at the time of his
      death. Thus, like the other women in Mark's drama, this woman is in sync
      with Jesus and what he faces. She is intuitively and instinctively
      empathic with Jesus as crucifixion looms before him. She, like the widow
      woman earlier, has sacrificed her material possessions, and symbolically
      herself, to buy an exorbitantly expensive perfume as the only fitting
      sacrificial way by which she can demonstrate her empathic oneness with
      Jesus. Recognizing her inner motivation and the reason for her "wasting,"
      as the grumblers at the scene aver, an extraordinary amount of money for
      such an extravagant act, Jesus praises her and pronounces the highest
      approbation upon her of any person in the Markan drama: namely, wherever the
      Gospel is preached what she has done will be told in memory of her.

      Mark with great rhetorical skill depicts her, as in the case of other woman,
      as a celebrated positive foil to the apostate disciples, and does so through
      the framing technique. He accomplishes this foil motif in the case of the
      anointing woman, by beginning the story of the plot against Jesus, but then
      breaking it off to pick up the story of the anointing. His breaking off of
      the plot story at that point creates a measure of suspense in the mind of
      Mark's first hearers. There desire to know what the cultic authorities are
      going to do to apprehend Jesus is frustrated by Mark turning to another
      story. The hearers are left hanging, and their curiosity with regard to
      what happened next is unsatisfied. With the conclusion of the story of
      anointing, Mark returns to the conclusion of the plot-betrayal story which,
      now by virtue of Mark's rhetorical tour de force, stands in sharp bold
      relief and contrast to the story of the anointing. For Mark's hearers are
      led from the empathic sensitivity of a woman to the plight of Jesus, via her
      extraordinary sacrifice of money on Jesus' behalf, to the dastardly deed of
      one of Jesus' twelve disciples, betraying him for to fill his own pockets
      with money. By the way, not surprising, I think it is probable that Mark
      created the story of the anointing for its dramatic effect as stated.

      Finally, I have often wondered, given the esteemed role of women in Mark's
      Gospel, the fact that they turn out to be true disciples of
      suffering-servant Jesus, whether Mark may not have been a woman, and we
      should call the Gospel not the "Gospel of Mark" but the "Gospel of Marcia."

      Ted Weeden
      Fairport, New York
      Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
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