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Re: [WSW] Mark (2)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: GPG; Crosstalk In Response To: Chris Beckwith (on the WSW list) On: Mark (2) From: Bruce CHRIS: Interesting discussion. It reminds me of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2008
      To: WSW
      Cc: GPG; Crosstalk
      In Response To: Chris Beckwith (on the WSW list)
      On: Mark (2)
      From: Bruce

      CHRIS: Interesting discussion. It reminds me of discussions of Buddhist
      'prophecy' texts from Central Asia and Tibet, particularly those predicting
      the decline and disappearance of Buddhism in Khotan, a place where Buddhism
      did indeed 'decline', and certainly disappeared, within a couple of
      centuries of the purported prophecies. . . . One of those prophecies was
      translated into Old Tibetan twice, evidently in Tun-huang, and once into
      Chinese. . . Because the translator of the Chinese version is known (Wu
      Fa-ch'eng/'Go Chos-grub), it is possible to date it to the mid-ninth
      century. By that time, Buddhism had indeed been severely damaged due to
      T'ang anti-Buddhist policies, especially in the first half of the 8th
      century under Hsuan-tsung (most monasteries closed and the monks turned out,
      or worse), but under Tibetan patronage, evidently, what was left survived
      into the time of Fa-ch'eng, the mid-9th century. By around 1000 Khotan was
      Muslim or becoming Muslim, and in the process the Buddhist sites
      (monasteries, saint's shrines, etc.) that remained were converted along with
      the people, a process which clearly took place at about the same time on the
      other side of the Pamirs in what is now Tajikistan in the early 11th
      century. My teacher, the late Helmut Hoffmann, referred to these texts, most
      of which clearly describe events that had already taken place, as "ex eventu
      prophecies."

      BRUCE: That is the term. It occurs often in NT scholarship.

      There is an interesting subset of prophecies in Mark, the ones that are
      marked as emphatically guaranteed by the initial phrase "Verily [Gk Amen] I
      say unto you." That set breaks into three groups. One group of prophecies
      are fulfilled within the story of Mark; we as readers watch them coming
      true, and we gain more respect for Jesus's powers of prediction accordingly.

      A second group have evidently come true within the knowledge of the movement
      members whom Mark is addressing; they are future to the Historical Jesus but
      past to the *readers* of Mark. They have a longer time range, and thus would
      have been still more impressive to those readers. The great example here is
      the Woman of Bethany, of whom the Markan Jesus is made to say, "Verily, I
      say unto you, wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she
      has done will be told in memory of her" (Mk 14:9). This Bethany story is
      interruptive in narrative context (it punctuates the betrayal of Jesus to
      the High Priests by Judas), and it refers to a late stage of Christianity,
      when its doctrines were being preached beyond the limits of ethnic Judaism.
      That is, the Bethany passage is philologically secondary (interpolated) and
      chronologically late (the spread of Christianity is pretty well known; most
      of Mark accepts Jewish limits for the message of Jesus and thus reflects an
      early situation; the exceptions, which are aware of the later situation, are
      few and textually insecure). The implication of the one fact matches the
      implication of the other. Nice.

      The third group is the predictions of Jesus's Second Coming, at the End of
      the World, and it was the nonfulfillment of this prophecy that agitated the
      early Church, as years passed and it did not come true. All sorts of
      theories were propounded to account for this, the explanations growing
      increasingly thin as the years continued to pass. It was certainly to
      bolster faith in this "open prophecy" that so much narrative stress was
      laid, in a very late layer of Mark, on predictions similarly guaranteed, and
      known to *have* come true. At the same time, and in a different corner of
      the world, the epistles of Paul, and of those after him but writing under
      his name are doing a similar job of persuasion and reassurance for the folks
      in and around Anatolia and Macedonia.

      In the "Verily" passages we can see Mark, at an early period, but a period
      sufficiently late to produce anxiety in the believer group, dealing with
      their anxiety. Reassuring them with verbal emphases and positive examples of
      successful predictions. No mere sermon on the subject would have equal
      powers of convincement or comfort. It takes inclusion in a respected text,
      and so it IS included in an already respected text: the previous textual
      state of the house text of the Markan congregation. The result is what we
      see.

      The late layers of Mark are thus, functionally speaking, a little like the
      late and even Deuteropauline Epistles of Paul. They continue to urge the
      previous doctrines, but in terms adapted to the current times and to the
      current situation of those they are addressing.

      And the path leading to that result, to the text of Mark as we have it, we
      can hope to reconstruct. Here is the contribution of philology (what used to
      be called the "higher criticism"): not just the thing we have, but the way
      it got to be the thing it is.

      Bruce
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