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Mark (2)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG; WSW In Response To: Rikk Watts Notes Being: Mark (2) From: Bruce [As far as I am concerned, we are through discussing the Yarbro
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2008
      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG; WSW
      In Response To: Rikk Watts' Notes
      Being: Mark (2)
      From: Bruce

      [As far as I am concerned, we are through discussing the Yarbro Collins
      commentary, except as it and the SBL comments on it offer points of interest
      for further clarification and research. Thanks again to Rikk for setting
      many of those points before us. I proceed to consider another of them].

      In summarizing his points made at SBL, Rikk had said,

      RIKK: as far as dating, Adela employed Mark 13, proposing some time close to
      the revolutionary war.

      BRUCE: Like everybody else since the beginning of time. Doesn't mean it's
      necessarily right.

      RIKK: I thought this was misreading Mark 13 as though it was some kind of
      history when for me although containing some general historical tendencies
      (increasing national tensions and hostility toward Jesus' followers) it
      consists mainly of prophetic judgment topoi.

      BRUCE: Mark, especially here, has a lot of OT decoration, but in substance,
      as a whole, as a part of the story Mark is working to get across to his
      people, MK 13 obviously refers to something contemporary, something that was
      either there or looming up outside the window. Just so nobody will miss
      this, Mark himself gives the reader a dig in the ribs (Mk 13:14), as though
      to say, "Get it? You know what I am referring to, don't you?" I am not so
      sure that the analysts of the present day DO actually get it, but that's
      another paragraph; indeed, another millennium.

      RIKK: This is why, e.g. the abomination of desolation is so darned tricky to

      BRUCE: Maybe not so tricky for those who can distinguish desecration (AD 40,
      threatened) from demolition (AD 70, accomplished).

      RIKK: (BTW: it is a gold standard in the Law, the Prophets and the Writings
      that it is Israel's abominations that lead to Jerusalem's desolation).

      BRUCE: No doubt. But now we come to the problem of how to read the OT in the
      NT. There are roughly two theories. Theory A says, Stuff happened, and the
      NT writers sought in OT for a way to justify, or explain, or reconcile
      themselves to, or perhaps even to dignify, what had happened. In that case,
      the fit of the OT line with the NT fact will sometimes be tenuous or even
      merely literary. Theory B says, OT was the playbook, and Jesus in his life
      and/or Mark in his writing held it in one hand while deciding what to do
      next. In that case, the fit of NT facts with the OT scenario will tend to be
      both precise and extensive.

      In this matter, I am with Theory A. I agree that OT echoes are many in NT,
      but I do not think that OT is determinative for the events that NT is
      dealing with. If so, then the historical context of the original OT sayings
      need not be, and perhaps should not be, brought forward to supply the
      missing historical context of the NT events.

      RIKK: Given Jesus' identity (Adela sees him as a divinized Messiah)
      Jerusalem's rejection of him necessarily entails judgment.

      BRUCE: Jesus's identity is a famously disputed problem. Disputed first of
      all within Mark, whose "Christology" is notoriously multifarious and
      many-termed. Adela, going Kingsbury one better, sees Jesus as a collapsed
      version of all three of major identities which Mark attributes to him
      (Kingsbury collapses only two of them). Only so can one get a unified Jesus
      out of a previously unified Mark. But is Mark in fact a unified text? Was
      Jesus in fact conceived in only one way in the early Church? These are the
      metaquestions. Not without documentary support, I think that the answer to
      both of them is No. If that should be correct, then we need to back up the
      tape a couple of feet and start over on the whole question.

      RIKK: But how those judgments precisely work out in history is no more
      Mark's concern than it was in the prophets before him.

      BRUCE: NT writings on the whole are not prophecy, where the far end of the
      string can be left in the air. They are something else. To take the
      particular case of Mark, I can only imagine that what he was dealing with,
      in real time, was precisely how the past Jesus events, and above all their
      implied expectations, were working out in present-tense Church history. The
      Gospels, and in their way the Epistles, really deal with little more than
      this. What after all is the purpose of Mark? *What do we have,* if we have
      it, that we wouldn't have if we *didn't* have it? Chiefly, I should think,
      we have an explanation of Jesus and his meaning for the present moment.

      It happens that the Markan explanation is complex, and consists of several
      successive theories, laminated one over another like the archaeological
      strata of Troy, or a stack of pancakes in the House of Pancakes, but that is
      just a detail, a mere complication, a bone to keep the philologists chewing.
      At any given moment in its formation process, Mark presents an idea of
      Jesus, an interpretation of Jesus, which it implicitly recommends to those
      reading it. In technical terms, it is not a history, it is an apologia.

      Plus some rather kindergartenish motivation gestures, such as "You don't
      want to be like those stupid crowds, do you? You don't want to be like those
      slow-witted disciples, do you? Of course you don't. Then what you want to
      think about Jesus is this . . . "

      Elementary. But demonstratively effective. Exegetes from then until now have
      been massively warned off the manifest meaning of the elements of earlier
      doctrine which are still embedded in, and incompletely buried under, the
      Markan exposition of later doctrine.

      RIKK: This not only has important implications for how one interprets Mark
      13 but it obviates the need to posit any time close to the first Jewish war
      simply because this neither occasioned the prophecy nor
      inspired its language.

      BRUCE: In my view, it obviates all too much. Mark , in all human or
      theological probability, was not doing needlepoint. He was writing for
      certain people at a certain time, and his writing will make sense to us
      insofar as we can succeed in recovering those now lost certainties. So far
      and no farther. Otherwise it is indeed needlepoint to us, and we might as
      well hang it on the gallery wall and get some art type to write up the
      exhibition catalog for it. No?


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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