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[XTalk] The Mutilation of Mark's Gospel

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  • McGrath, James
    For me, one of Croy s strongest arguments that Mark originally continued further is a comparison with Moby Dick. Apparently, a first printing omitted the final
    Message 1 of 9 , Jul 18 5:38 AM
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      For me, one of Croy's strongest arguments that Mark originally continued further is a comparison with Moby Dick. Apparently, a first printing omitted the final chapter, with the result that "no one survived". As one reviewer appropriately asked, if no one lived to tell the tale, then how am I hearing about it?!

      This logical problem, combined with the fact that so many different ancient readers of Mark's Gospel (Matthew, Luke, and at least two early scribes) felt that Mark's ending was abrupt, are sufficient indication, for me anyway, that something is indeed missing. The Gospel of Peter is also important evidence - it provides an ending that flows logically continuing where Mark leaves off, and does not follow either Matthew or Luke at this point, suggesting the author knew Mark's complete story (which does not necessarily mean he had a complete text of Mark before him).

      What is more perplexing to me is that neither Matthew nor Luke seems to have known the continuation of Mark's story. Whatever Mark originally had, whether this abrupt ending or a continuation that is now lost, Matthew and Luke did not know what happens next, except that the disciples saw Jesus. They disagree on where and on most major details.

      Research on oral tradition suggests that group testimony tends to be an outline. Would it not be a plausible explanation that the early testimony about the resurrection appearances was a list, perhaps resembling the first part of that given in 1 Corinthians 15? What Matthew and Luke offer would then be an attempt to elaborate that list, in the absence of much other information, into a flowing narrative.

      James McGrath
    • Matson, Mark (Academic)
      ... is ... wrote ... it ... Kurt: I suppose one might allow that Matthew and Luke could have used a mutilated text. But for me, how likely is that? We know
      Message 2 of 9 , Jul 18 6:03 AM
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        Kurt Noll wrote:

        > Mark, I agree and disagree with your comment that I snipped above.
        >
        > Your point about Matthew and Luke going their own ways after Mark 16:8
        is
        > important but, does it not cut both ways? They clearly did not have a
        > Mark that continued past that verse, but was it the Mark that Mark
        wrote
        > or was it a mutilated text? I don't think that could be the most
        > compelling argument for either side in the debate because, in my view,
        it
        > fits both sides.

        Kurt:
        I suppose one might allow that Matthew and Luke could have used a
        mutilated text. But for me, how likely is that? We know they used
        Mark, and undoubtedly a Mark that ends with 16:8....but there is no
        evidence that they know of any other text. This is an argument from
        silence, and while it may be true, I wish there were evidence. Clearly
        they were impressed enough with Mark "as is" to use it as the basis of
        their revised gospels. Moreover one has to imagine how they accessed
        this. They probably were not using an "original" codex that had some
        pages lost. No, rather copying of the text must have already taken
        place and been distributed to various places. Thus Luke and Matthew
        used copies of a text that was already a shortened one. So this short
        Mark was considered important enough to copy and distribute, perhaps
        broadly. (and here I find Bauckham's argument that the gospels were
        meant to be distributed broadly, not just products for a closed
        community convincing). So for the mutilation hypothesis to work, the
        mutilation must have happened in the original form, and yet in this
        form it was copied and distributed and used elsewhere.

        > <snip>
        > On the other hand, I can't let go of the mutilation hypothesis because
        it
        > fits with some anomalies that have always bothered me: If Mark was
        > composed so early, why does no trace of him seem to appear in early
        > Fathers? Ignatius knows Matthew (and a few scholars say he knows
        John).
        > What about Mark? Then I note that Papias seems to make excuses for
        the
        > nature of Mark's text. Why? For this reason, I am not uncomfortable
        with
        > the issue you express discomfort over. Hypothetically, I can envision
        a
        > text that was circulated not at all until Matthew got hold of it.
        After
        > his revision, the original (mutilated) text begins to circulate and
        later
        > Luke uses it.

        Well, Mark doesn't disappear. Matthew and Luke at least used it. And
        it was always considered part of the early gospel canon. Granted,
        Matthew becomes used far more commonly. But that probably comes about
        because of the nature of Matthew's gospel -- as didactic instruction.
        Mark, on the other hand, functions far more as an evangelistic text --
        one which seeks to draw the reader into a self-examination: would I
        react like this? Do I believe? Will I be more faithful than they?
        Matthew as didactic instruction (more focused on the church), and Luke
        as salvation history, both become more functional in the developing
        church. But Mark is not lost -- it is just used less.
        I guess I don't find the argument that Mark was unused until Matthew got
        a hold of it convincing. And then Luke used it. Why? If Matthew's use
        spurred on later use of Mark, well that would be great in one way, since
        it would suggest that Luke knew and used Matthew (which I would agree
        with). But even here, why then would Luke use Mark in addition to (or
        instead of, in the two document hypothesis) if Matthew was available.
        But if Mark used Matthew, there is ample evidence in this scenario that
        Luke valued Mark over Matthew and thus utilized both. So why is Mark,
        if it has been unknown and essentially sequestered, still valued and
        used by Luke? Perhaps it was not that difficult or viewed that
        negatively, despite Papias' later concern about it. Granted, Mark
        stylistically is rough, and thus would cause some difficulty, and yet
        was never totally shelved.

        Again, for me the strongest argument for Mark's integrity as it stands
        (at 16:8) is that it works so well internally as a narrative.


        Mark A. Matson
        Academic Dean
        Milligan College
        http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/mmatson/personal.htm
      • Matson, Mark (Academic)
        ... continued ... one ... how ... James: I actually don t find that terribly convincing. Mark s story leaves enough pointers in the story forward to a
        Message 3 of 9 , Jul 18 9:56 AM
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          James McGrath wrote:
          >
          > For me, one of Croy's strongest arguments that Mark originally
          continued
          > further is a comparison with Moby Dick. Apparently, a first printing
          > omitted the final chapter, with the result that "no one survived". As
          one
          > reviewer appropriately asked, if no one lived to tell the tale, then
          how
          > am I hearing about it?!

          James:
          I actually don't find that terribly convincing. Mark's story leaves
          enough pointers in the story forward to a post-resurrection time, so the
          fact that some were restored is implied in the story line. Hence, the
          abrupt ending rather than being impossible only emphasizes the dilemma
          to the reader -- "would you too run away?" It matches so well the
          underlying story line that the disciples (including women) are all
          potentially "outside" even when Jesus draws them in. It is a narrative
          pattern throughout the story (cf. Mk 8:14-21, where midway despite being
          included as hearers, they too fail to understand. This pattern is set
          early in the gospel, and continues right through Peter's denial, all
          leaving, and then the women too.) Thus the abrupt ending performs
          magnificently, rather than being defective.

          > This logical problem, combined with the fact that so many different
          > ancient readers of Mark's Gospel (Matthew, Luke, and at least two
          early
          > scribes) felt that Mark's ending was abrupt, are sufficient
          indication,
          > for me anyway, that something is indeed missing. The Gospel of Peter
          is
          > also important evidence - it provides an ending that flows logically
          > continuing where Mark leaves off, and does not follow either Matthew
          or
          > Luke at this point, suggesting the author knew Mark's complete story
          > (which does not necessarily mean he had a complete text of Mark before
          > him).

          Well, granted the ending is problematic for an evangelist who is trying
          to instruct the church (Matt), or give a pattern of the role of the
          church in the grand sweep of Israel to the new kingdom (Luke). But that
          has more to do with the very different purposes these gospels have,
          rather than simply seeing Mark as defective. Indeed, if they were so
          troubled, why use Mark as their primary outline?

          > What is more perplexing to me is that neither Matthew nor Luke seems
          to
          > have known the continuation of Mark's story. Whatever Mark originally
          had,
          > whether this abrupt ending or a continuation that is now lost, Matthew
          and
          > Luke did not know what happens next, except that the disciples saw
          Jesus.
          > They disagree on where and on most major details.

          Agreed. They didn't have an ending. Because one was never written. And
          they didn't have a birth narrative, because one wasn't written.

          > Research on oral tradition suggests that group testimony tends to be
          an
          > outline. Would it not be a plausible explanation that the early
          testimony
          > about the resurrection appearances was a list, perhaps resembling the
          > first part of that given in 1 Corinthians 15? What Matthew and Luke
          offer
          > would then be an attempt to elaborate that list, in the absence of
          much
          > other information, into a flowing narrative.

          I am quite willing to assume the existence of oral traditions that Matt
          and Luke may have drawn on / in addition to some creative work on their
          own to tell the story that they felt needed to be told (for their own
          purposes)

          Mark A. Matson
          Academic Dean
          Milligan College
          http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/mmatson/personal.htm
        • Bob Schacht
          ... But isn t it also possible that the shortened version was copied because *no complete version was available*? ... No, it need only to have happened to the
          Message 4 of 9 , Jul 18 11:08 AM
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            At 06:03 AM 7/18/2007, Matson, Mark (Academic) wrote:


            >[snip]
            >
            >Kurt:
            >I suppose one might allow that Matthew and Luke could have used a
            >mutilated text. But for me, how likely is that? We know they used
            >Mark, and undoubtedly a Mark that ends with 16:8....but there is no
            >evidence that they know of any other text. This is an argument from
            >silence, and while it may be true, I wish there were evidence. Clearly
            >they were impressed enough with Mark "as is" to use it as the basis of
            >their revised gospels. Moreover one has to imagine how they accessed
            >this. They probably were not using an "original" codex that had some
            >pages lost. No, rather copying of the text must have already taken
            >place and been distributed to various places. Thus Luke and Matthew
            >used copies of a text that was already a shortened one. So this short
            >Mark was considered important enough to copy and distribute, perhaps
            >broadly.

            But isn't it also possible that the shortened version was copied
            because *no complete version was available*?

            >(and here I find Bauckham's argument that the gospels were
            >meant to be distributed broadly, not just products for a closed
            >community convincing). So for the mutilation hypothesis to work, the
            >mutilation must have happened in the original form, and yet in this
            >form it was copied and distributed and used elsewhere. . . . .

            No, it need only to have happened to the *only extant copy,* whether
            original or not. For example, other copies might have gotten lost
            during the Jewish Wars of 70 C.E.

            Bob Schacht
            University of Hawaii
          • Bob Schacht
            ... I actually like the mutilated Mark hypothesis. It comports well with what we know about other ancient codexes, and with physical realities. BTW, did any
            Message 5 of 9 , Jul 18 1:57 PM
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              At 03:26 PM 7/17/2007, K L Noll wrote:
              >Mark wrote:
              >I found the argument that Mt. and Luke vary from Mark the most
              >precisely after 16:8. Yes! To me this is a strong argument for
              >the shorter original version of Mark. They didn't have it. Period.
              >Much more satisfying than somehow a codex version lost the front and
              >the back very early in its transmission.... and no-one copied it in
              >its original form?
              >
              >
              >My comments:
              >
              >. . . Mark, I agree and disagree with your comment that I snipped above.
              >
              >Your point about Matthew and Luke going their own ways after Mark
              >16:8 is important but, does it not cut both ways? They clearly did
              >not have a Mark that continued past that verse, but was it the Mark
              >that Mark wrote or was it a mutilated text? I don't think that
              >could be the most compelling argument for either side in the debate
              >because, in my view, it fits both sides. . . .

              I actually like the 'mutilated Mark' hypothesis. It comports well
              with what we know about other ancient codexes, and with physical
              realities. BTW, did any of the early codexes have true covers to
              protect the first and last pages? That might be an important clue. If
              Matthew and Luke knew only the 'mutilated Mark', and had physically
              seen it and the evidence of missing beginning and end, would that not
              have served as extra motivation to supply the "missing" information?
              It also does not surprise me much that no complete (unmutilated)
              copies survived, because if Mark wrote shortly before 70 BCE, the
              Wars would have made it difficult to keep intact the small number of
              autographs.

              I also like it because it combines two domains of knowledge: literary
              analysis, and manuscript curation (I mean that part of textual
              criticism that deals with actually handling and transcribing the
              physical manuscripts themselves.) The trouble with much biblical
              criticism is that these methods are too often conducted in isolation
              from each other.

              Bob Schacht
              University of Hawaii
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