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The Anger of Jesus

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Crosstalk On: The Anger of Jesus From: Bruce Dictionary or no dictionary, I have to feel that those who see anger in Jesus s treatment of the leper
    Message 1 of 11 , Dec 7, 2008
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      To: GPG
      Cc: Crosstalk
      On: The Anger of Jesus
      From: Bruce

      Dictionary or no dictionary, I have to feel that those who see anger in
      Jesus's treatment of the leper in Mk 1:43 are barking up the wrong stem. The
      story doesn't work unless Jesus feels compassion for the leper, heals him
      with a touch (the characteristic gesture of the Mark Layer 1 healings), --
      and then sternly counsels him not to say anything to anyone, except the
      Mosaic authorities, lest Jesus's whereabouts become known.

      This latter was no trifling or enigmatic matter; it was life and death.
      Israel was an occupied nation at the time, and Jesus was dodging the secret
      police as he went about trying to recruit enough righteous persons to bring
      about the return of God to Israel, so as to oust those very Romans, and
      their Quisling collaborators, the Temple authorities and the "Herodians."

      So no, all Jesus feels in Mk 1:43 is compassion for the sufferer, plus a
      decent concern for his own day to day safety. Mk 1:43 balances those
      feelings in a perfectly convincing way.

      But Jesus does sometimes feel real anger, and it is interesting to note
      WHERE and AT WHOM he feels it.

      ONE

      One is the moneychangers of the Temple, whose commercial defilement so
      pollutes the premises as to prevent the return of God to the place (see
      Malachi) where he must return if he is going to return (Malachi 3:1,
      helpfully spotted at the head of the Gospel, where nobody can miss it). This
      is original Mark, and it is quite possibly also original Jesus. The anger
      here is hot.

      TWO

      There are quite different anger moments, where Jesus expresses impatience
      with "a sinful and adulterous generation," and refuses to give a sign that
      will prove his credentials, though in other passages he has been passing
      miracles like they were going out of style. These "anger with the
      generation" passages are sometimes textually insecure in Mark, and my
      conclusion is that they are late. And that they do not express Jesus at all,
      but are the voice of the Church leadership's impatience at their flock's
      wish to see some hint that the long awaited Second Coming was about to come
      off. Years had passed . . . Well, they had passed for the leaders also, and
      truth to tell, some of the leaders were about out of reassuring things to
      say. You can see this as one letter of Paul succeeds another, and I submit
      that you can also see it as one layer of Mark is laid down over the previous
      ones.

      Ennui.

      I think this may help explain the excitement that was apparently felt by the
      believing public at any event that threatened a crisis (such as the
      threatened Caligula defilement of the Temple in the year 40). Not that a
      crisis as such was exactly welcome, but they had been waiting so long that
      ANYTHING, no matter how dire, would have been a relief.

      As Wellington is said to have said at Waterloo, "Would that night or Blücher
      would come."

      Respectfully suggested,

      Bruce
    • Loren Rosson
      ... Actually it does. The leper s appeal to help could be construed as an honor-challenge that puts Jesus on the spot in front of crowds. If you choose, you
      Message 2 of 11 , Dec 7, 2008
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        E Bruce Brooks wrote:

        > I have to feel that those who see anger in
        > Jesus's treatment of the leper in Mk 1:43 are barking
        > up the wrong stem. The
        > story doesn't work unless Jesus feels compassion for
        > the leper,

        Actually it does. The leper's appeal to help could be construed as an honor-challenge that puts Jesus on the spot in front of crowds. "If you choose, you can cleanse me", is a veiled way of questioning Jesus' ability to heal, and daring him to prove himself. That's part of the reason why Jesus rebukes him and tells him to get lost.

        > So no, all Jesus feels in Mk 1:43 is compassion for the
        > sufferer, plus a
        > decent concern for his own day to day safety.

        I think Bart Ehrman has made a convincing case for anger over compassion on textual grounds, following ORGISTHEIS from Codex Bezae. The real problem with SPANGNISTHEIS is that Matthew (Mt 8:2-3) and Luke (5:12-13) would have followed this in their own versions of the account (or surely at least one them would have), since they both favor the theme of compassion. Of course, they don't portray him angry either, but that's expected, since they go out of their way to censor Mark's accounts of Jesus' anger elsewhere (as in Mk 3:5 -- Mt 12:13/Lk 6:10).
      • Loren Rosson
        Apologies for omitting my sig in the last post... ... Actually it does. The leper s appeal to help could be construed as an honor-challenge that puts Jesus on
        Message 3 of 11 , Dec 7, 2008
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          Apologies for omitting my sig in the last post...

          E Bruce Brooks wrote:

          > I have to feel that those who see anger in
          > Jesus's treatment of the leper in Mk 1:43 are barking
          > up the wrong stem. The
          > story doesn't work unless Jesus feels compassion for
          > the leper,

          Actually it does. The leper's appeal to help could be construed as an honor-challenge that puts Jesus on the spot in front of crowds. "If you choose, you can cleanse me", is a veiled way of questioning Jesus' ability to heal, and daring him to prove himself. That's part of the reason why Jesus rebukes him and tells him to get lost.

          > So no, all Jesus feels in Mk 1:43 is compassion for the
          > sufferer, plus a
          > decent concern for his own day to day safety.

          I think Bart Ehrman makes a convincing case for anger over compassion on textual grounds, following ORGISTHEIS from Codex Bezae. The real problem with SPANGNISTHEIS is that Matthew (Mt 8:2-3) and Luke (5:12-13) would have followed this in their own versions of the account (or surely at least one them would have), since they both favor the theme of compassion. Of course, they don't portray him angry either, but that's expected, since they go out of their way to censor Mark's accounts of Jesus' anger elsewhere (as in Mk 3:5 -- Mt 12:13/Lk 6:10).

          Loren Rosson III
          Nashua NH
          http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com
        • David Cavanagh
          ... I agree about the anger......but isn t Jesus term lestes the same term Josephus uses for brigands, and which also reappears in the crucifixion accounts
          Message 4 of 11 , Dec 7, 2008
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            E Bruce Brooks wrote:
            >
            > To: GPG
            > Cc: Crosstalk
            > On: The Anger of Jesus
            > From: Bruce
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > According to Bruce Jesus feels anger at "the moneychangers of the
            > Temple, whose commercial defilement so
            > pollutes the premises as to prevent the return of God to the place (see
            > Malachi) where he must return if he is going to return (Malachi 3:1,
            > helpfully spotted at the head of the Gospel, where nobody can miss
            > it). This
            > is original Mark, and it is quite possibly also original Jesus. The anger
            > here is hot.
            >

















            I agree about the anger......but isn't Jesus' term "lestes" the same
            term Josephus uses for brigands, and which also reappears in the
            crucifixion accounts of the two men Jesus was crucified with? I agree
            about the extent and force of the anger, but it seems to me that the
            motive is different: not abhorrence for commerce (which, as Sanders
            points out, was a virtual necessity, and for the abuse of which we have
            very little evidence) but the use of the Temple as a focus for
            nationalistic hopes......

            David Cavanagh
            Major (The Salvation Army)
            Florence (Italy)



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • David Cavanagh
            ... Well, that s an interesting way of reading the story, and it makes sense.....except that it doesn t, because Jesus does not send the man packing ( get
            Message 5 of 11 , Dec 7, 2008
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              Loren Rosson wrote:
              >
              >
              >
              > Actually it does. The leper's appeal to help could be construed as an
              > honor-challenge that puts Jesus on the spot in front of crowds. "If
              > you choose, you can cleanse me", is a veiled way of questioning Jesus'
              > ability to heal, and daring him to prove himself. That's part of the
              > reason why Jesus rebukes him and tells him to get lost
              >








              Well, that's an interesting way of reading the story, and it makes
              sense.....except that it doesn't, because Jesus does not send the man
              packing ("get lost"). He heals him, tells him to present himself to the
              priest (so that the healing can be certified and he can be reintegrated
              into normal social life) and then tells him not to spread about the news
              of what has happened to him.

              David Cavanagh
              Major (The Salvation Army)
              Florence (Italy)


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • E Bruce Brooks
              To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Loren Rosson On: Healing of the Leper (Mk 1:41) From: Bruce BRUCE (previous): The story doesn t work unless Jesus feels
              Message 6 of 11 , Dec 7, 2008
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                To: Crosstalk
                Cc: GPG
                In Response To: Loren Rosson
                On: Healing of the Leper (Mk 1:41)
                From: Bruce

                BRUCE (previous): The story doesn't work unless Jesus feels compassion for
                the leper,

                LOREN: Actually it does. The leper's appeal to help could be construed as an
                honor-challenge that puts Jesus on the spot in front of crowds.

                BRUCE: (Except that no crowds are narratively present, so that construal is
                not strongly indicated)

                LOREN: "If you choose, you can cleanse me", is a veiled way of questioning
                Jesus' ability to heal, and daring him to prove himself.

                BRUCE: All I get out of the beseeching (sic) and keeling (sic) leper is an
                emphatic if respectful appeal for Jesus to heal him. It assumes (and the
                leper's words in fact state) complete confidence in Jesus's healing ability.
                "You can make me clean." The only doubt is whether Jesus will, not whether
                he can. I can't see a challenge to Jesus's powers as conveyed by the
                kneeling posture. Or by anything Mark makes the leper say.

                LOREN: That's part of the reason why Jesus rebukes him and tells him to get
                lost.

                BRUCE: Except that Jesus doesn't tell him to "get lost" (that is, he does
                not refuse him), and in fact does heal him. It seems to me that this account
                of the story is going against all the hints in the story. And why? As it
                might be, in order to implement a decision by Bart Ehrman. On which see
                below.

                BRUCE (earlier formulation): So no, all Jesus feels in Mk 1:43 is
                compassion for the sufferer, plus a
                decent concern for his own day to day safety.

                LOREN: I think Bart Ehrman makes a convincing case for anger over compassion
                on textual grounds, following ORGISTHEIS from Codex Bezae.

                BRUCE: Sure; Bart is always convincing. That is why he is on the talk shows,
                and we are sitting here in the cold, watching talk TV. Not that Bart is
                original in this case; that preference goes back to Rawlinson, and was
                followed by inter alia Turner and Taylor. The rule these people are
                following is something like the difficilior formulation, plus the statement
                that it is easier to see a directionality anger > compassion than the
                reverse. That is reasonable as far as it goes; it creates a responsible
                first presumption on general principles. But when we put it back into the
                text, it leads to what looks to me like a distortion of all the other
                narrative hints in the story. That result - the worsening of the text -
                tells me that it is time to go back and reconsider the text decision.

                (Those who like authority arguments may like to replace Bart, undoubtedly
                the Heir Apparent of Textual Criticism, with his master Metzger, who
                [Textual Commentary, either edition, ad 1:41] feels that the Bezae reading
                may have been influenced by EMBIMHSAMENOS in 1:43. Just to complicate
                things, Metzger mentions a possibility of confusion within Aramaic [Matthew
                Black was on the committee in question]).

                In any case, looking at it for ourselves, what is the whole textual picture?
                Is it like the Western Non-Interpolations, where Bezae, supported by a small
                set of other texts, seems to preserve an early (and short) reading? A
                reading, moreover, which makes sense as reflecting an earlier stage in the
                liturgical evolution of the early Church? Or is it like Acts, where Bezae,
                unsupported by anything whatever, indulges in wild growth additions with a
                certain theological tendency of their own?

                I would say it is more in the latter category. The word difference in Bezae
                is not very plausible as a scribal mistake (in either direction), it is much
                more likely to be a substance change on somebody's part. Purposive rather
                than inadvertent. The Bezae reading is not supported by any other manuscript
                (at least not among those reckoned with by Swanson); it is therefore in the
                "unique Bezae" category. In substance, it requires reconsideration of the
                nature of Jesus and his relation to his own powers, as we have just seen. At
                this point, it seems to me that a small monograph on "Theological Tendencies
                of Bezae in Mk 1:41" might be in order. Pending its appearance (will 4 PM
                EST today be time enough?), I seem to see in the general pattern of
                variation here not the preservation of an older reading lost elsewhere, but
                a change made for reasons of substance. And my first guess, again from the
                pattern of variation, is that it is Bezae, not everybody else, that has a
                special agenda, and is making a special change.

                LOREN: The real problem with SPANGNISTHEIS is that Matthew (Mt 8:2-3) and
                Luke (5:12-13) would have followed this in their own versions of the account
                (or surely at least one them would have), since they both favor the theme of
                compassion.

                BRUCE: As said before, I for one rank all "they would (not) have" arguments
                very low. Imagining what is inside the heads of the Synoptists does not, of
                itself, seem to me to be a very fruitful exercise. The inside of the head is
                the last thing we are likely to find out about the Synoptists. Without
                getting inside anybody's head, is there any directly observable tendency of
                the hand in Mt and/or Lk that might help us here? I think so. I seem to
                discern in Mt and Lk a pervasive tendency to theologically aggrandize Jesus,
                and one of the ways this manifests itself is that they tend to eliminate
                anything that would testify to merely human emotions in Jesus. This is not a
                psychological argument; it is a description that can be checked against the
                entire respective texts. As witness . . .

                LOREN: . . . Of course, they don't portray him angry either, but that's
                expected, since they go out of their way to censor Mark's accounts of Jesus'
                anger elsewhere (as in Mk 3:5 -- Mt 12:13/Lk 6:10).

                BRUCE: Exactly my point. And not only anger, as far as I remember:
                everything. No?

                E Bruce Brooks
                Warring States Project
                University of Massachusetts at Amherst
              • Gregory Leiby
                My understanding of Jesus and the leper (no reference to other researchers) is that he wanted the miracle verified by the proper authorities (which were the
                Message 7 of 11 , Dec 15, 2008
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                  My understanding of Jesus and the leper (no reference to other researchers) is that he wanted the miracle verified by the proper authorities (which were the priests at that time).

                  If such a miracle happened toady, the instruction might be to go to a physician and have all the lab work done to verify a miracle had truly taken place.

                  In Acts 4: 13-17, the leadership was dumbfounded how to react to a verified miracle.
                  _________________________
                  Gregory Leiby
                  Greenville, SC, USA
                  http://www.theleibys.com/


                  --- On Sun, 12/7/08, E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...> wrote:

                  > From: E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...>
                  > Subject: [XTalk] The Anger of Jesus
                  > To: "GPG" <gpg@yahoogroups.com>
                  > Cc: "Crosstalk" <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                  > Date: Sunday, December 7, 2008, 3:20 AM
                  > To: GPG
                  > Cc: Crosstalk
                  > On: The Anger of Jesus
                  > From: Bruce
                  >
                  > Dictionary or no dictionary, I have to feel that those who
                  > see anger in
                  > Jesus's treatment of the leper in Mk 1:43 are barking
                  > up the wrong stem. The
                  > story doesn't work unless Jesus feels compassion for
                  > the leper, heals him
                  > with a touch (the characteristic gesture of the Mark Layer
                  > 1 healings), --
                  > and then sternly counsels him not to say anything to
                  > anyone, except the
                  > Mosaic authorities, lest Jesus's whereabouts become
                  > known.
                  >
                  > This latter was no trifling or enigmatic matter; it was
                  > life and death.
                  > Israel was an occupied nation at the time, and Jesus was
                  > dodging the secret
                  > police as he went about trying to recruit enough righteous
                  > persons to bring
                  > about the return of God to Israel, so as to oust those very
                  > Romans, and
                  > their Quisling collaborators, the Temple authorities and
                  > the "Herodians."
                  >
                  > So no, all Jesus feels in Mk 1:43 is compassion for the
                  > sufferer, plus a
                  > decent concern for his own day to day safety. Mk 1:43
                  > balances those
                  > feelings in a perfectly convincing way.
                  >
                  > But Jesus does sometimes feel real anger, and it is
                  > interesting to note
                  > WHERE and AT WHOM he feels it.
                  >
                  > ONE
                  >
                  > One is the moneychangers of the Temple, whose commercial
                  > defilement so
                  > pollutes the premises as to prevent the return of God to
                  > the place (see
                  > Malachi) where he must return if he is going to return
                  > (Malachi 3:1,
                  > helpfully spotted at the head of the Gospel, where nobody
                  > can miss it). This
                  > is original Mark, and it is quite possibly also original
                  > Jesus. The anger
                  > here is hot.
                  >
                  > TWO
                  >
                  > There are quite different anger moments, where Jesus
                  > expresses impatience
                  > with "a sinful and adulterous generation," and
                  > refuses to give a sign that
                  > will prove his credentials, though in other passages he has
                  > been passing
                  > miracles like they were going out of style. These
                  > "anger with the
                  > generation" passages are sometimes textually insecure
                  > in Mark, and my
                  > conclusion is that they are late. And that they do not
                  > express Jesus at all,
                  > but are the voice of the Church leadership's impatience
                  > at their flock's
                  > wish to see some hint that the long awaited Second Coming
                  > was about to come
                  > off. Years had passed . . . Well, they had passed for the
                  > leaders also, and
                  > truth to tell, some of the leaders were about out of
                  > reassuring things to
                  > say. You can see this as one letter of Paul succeeds
                  > another, and I submit
                  > that you can also see it as one layer of Mark is laid down
                  > over the previous
                  > ones.
                  >
                  > Ennui.
                  >
                  > I think this may help explain the excitement that was
                  > apparently felt by the
                  > believing public at any event that threatened a crisis
                  > (such as the
                  > threatened Caligula defilement of the Temple in the year
                  > 40). Not that a
                  > crisis as such was exactly welcome, but they had been
                  > waiting so long that
                  > ANYTHING, no matter how dire, would have been a relief.
                  >
                  > As Wellington is said to have said at Waterloo, "Would
                  > that night or Blücher
                  > would come."
                  >
                  > Respectfully suggested,
                  >
                  > Bruce
                  >
                  >
                  > ------------------------------------
                  >
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                • E Bruce Brooks
                  To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Gregory Leiby On: The Anger of Jesus (Healing the Leper) From: Bruce GREGORY: My understanding of Jesus and the leper (no
                  Message 8 of 11 , Dec 15, 2008
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                    To: Crosstalk
                    Cc: GPG
                    In Response To: Gregory Leiby
                    On: The Anger of Jesus (Healing the Leper)
                    From: Bruce

                    GREGORY: My understanding of Jesus and the leper (no reference to other
                    researchers) is that he wanted the miracle verified by the proper
                    authorities (which were the priests at that time).

                    BRUCE: I agree; in effect, he wanted his curative powers to be on record. I
                    would add that, apart from that certification process, Jesus in this story
                    was very concerned that the news of the healing not get out generally, hence
                    his stringent admonition to the leper. The leper's disobedience on this
                    point (we are never told about the certification part) led to Jesus being
                    inconvenience by too large crowds. All this makes sense as narrative. Mark
                    himself (or whoever) explains, in the later story, why Jesus made his
                    request so emphatically. It was to avoid the crowds. So far so good, and
                    Mark is with us all the way.

                    I think that what the adverb in question does (I would render it as
                    "stringently") is to emphasize Jesus's concern not to attract large public
                    crowds. It is not anger at the leper, or at the fact of his illness, over
                    which it seems to me the commentators have labored overlong. Does this in
                    turn make sense? Yes, as a wish to avoid official notice. This is the
                    Messianic Secret in its probable real historic sense: Jesus's plan to bring
                    God back to Israel as a realization of the Davidic promise which was
                    familiar to every Jew of the time, and which actually sparked several
                    literal revolts in the 1c. Since any such plan was not merely theological,
                    but would have immediate practical repercussions for the Romans and their
                    Quisling collaborators, the Romans may be assumed to have been on the
                    lookout for any manifestations of this sort, with a view to stamping them
                    out as soon as possible. Jesus's avoidance of the big cities (Tiberias etc),
                    where crowds would immediately attract police attention, is thus very
                    understandable. The villages were therefore his best bet: concentrations of
                    people, but small enough to escape the immediate attention of the city-based
                    Roman troops. It is just these villages that Jesus had set out for, a few
                    verses earlier in Mark. What the leper's disobedience did was to foreclose
                    even the village option, which was a strategic problem for Jesus.

                    On this reading, it seems that everything fits, and there is nothing left
                    about the story that should feel strange in our ears. Which is probably as
                    it should be. Modern literary critics love conundrums, and modern
                    scholarship has become very impressed with modern literary critics, but I
                    have to think that it was not in the interest of the Evangelists to set up
                    present conundrums for the amusement of future critics. I think they wanted
                    to be understood with the least fuss possible, by the people they were
                    addressing.

                    Bruce

                    E Bruce Brooks
                    Warring States Project
                    University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                  • E Bruce Brooks
                    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: David Cavanaugh On: The Anger of Jesus From: Bruce I had earlier suggested that it makes no narrative sense to construe
                    Message 9 of 11 , Dec 19, 2008
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                      To: Crosstalk
                      Cc: GPG
                      In Response To: David Cavanaugh
                      On: The Anger of Jesus
                      From: Bruce

                      I had earlier suggested that it makes no narrative sense to construe Jesus
                      as being angry at the leper, but that Jesus's anger at the temple vendors is
                      unmistakable. Then:

                      DAVID: I agree about the anger......but isn't Jesus' term "lestes" the same
                      term Josephus uses for brigands, and which also reappears in the crucifixion
                      accounts of the two men Jesus was crucified with?

                      BRUCE: Yes, and I think Jesus (as here reported; the early Markan Jesus)
                      regarded the vendors as polluting the Temple, which in effect meant the
                      impossibility of any return of God to that temple (as had been forecast by
                      Malachi, in a line significantly quoted at the head of the Markan
                      narrative). Jesus wanted God to return to Israel, and as he saw it, and
                      indeed acted upon it, the pollution of the temple was one of the factors
                      blocking that return.

                      DAVID: I agree about the extent and force of the anger, but it seems to me
                      that the motive is different: not abhorrence for commerce (which, as Sanders
                      points out, was a virtual necessity, and for the abuse of which we have very
                      little evidence) but the use of the Temple as a focus for nationalistic
                      hopes......

                      BRUCE: With due trepidation, I here venture to disagree with that particular
                      page of Sanders. I think that the earliest Markan Jesus indeed regarded the
                      Temple as a "focus for nationalistic hopes." Ed points out that such views
                      were not very common at the time. That might be a fatal objection, except
                      that we are told in so many words, in Mark, that Jesus's ideas were new,
                      startling, authoritative despite being unfamiliar, not the same old thing
                      over again. Ed in effect objects that Jesus's views as I see them in Mark
                      were not mainline Judaism. Mark replies, precisely, that Jesus's views were
                      indeed not mainline Judaism, and were opposed by the conventional law
                      interpreters and the certified ritual leaders of his time. If you go through
                      Mark and highlight the passages where Jesus is represented as differing with
                      standard contemporary Jewish opinion and practice, you are going to wind up
                      with a very yellow-colored text.

                      If there is "very little evidence," as David notes, for an abhorrence of
                      commerce, but if such evidence as there is nevertheless clusters strongly in
                      the Gospel of Mark, and I submit that it does (leading, among other things,
                      to a cult of poverty among at least some of the early followers of Jesus),
                      then I have to think that the picture Mark intended to give of Jesus is not
                      refuted by the fact that such ideas are uncommon outside, in run-of-the-mill
                      1c Judaism.

                      Was Jesus a failed conventional Jew? Did he try to master the thousand
                      prohibitions, and not succeed completely? That, to my eye, is not how Mark
                      invites us to read Jesus. I think he took a much higher hand with the
                      prohibitions, and the commercial defilements, and with other people's wealth
                      in general, which in his view (at least as repeatedly expressed in Mark, and
                      Mark is all I have), was keeping both the nation and individual people *in*
                      the nation from God.

                      Money and hyperritualism: these were the chief things in the way. No?

                      Bruce

                      E Bruce Brooks
                      Warring States Project
                      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                    • Loren Rosson
                      ... I certainly didn t mean to imply Jesus didn t heal the man, only that the following stern warning is probably more along the lines of a curt dismissal if
                      Message 10 of 11 , Dec 20, 2008
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                        David Cavanagh wrote:

                        > Jesus does not send the man
                        > packing ("get lost"). He heals him...

                        I certainly didn't mean to imply Jesus didn't heal the man, only that the following stern warning is probably more along the lines of a curt dismissal if Mk 1:40b was an honor-callenge.

                        Loren Rosson III
                        Nashua NH
                        http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com
                      • E Bruce Brooks
                        To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Loren Rossen On: Anger of Jesus From: Bruce Are we belaboring this Leper Healing passage too much? Quite possibly. If so,
                        Message 11 of 11 , Dec 20, 2008
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                          To: Crosstalk
                          Cc: GPG
                          In Response To: Loren Rossen
                          On: Anger of Jesus
                          From: Bruce

                          Are we belaboring this Leper Healing passage too much? Quite possibly. If
                          so, I hasten to add a word in order to bear my fair share of the possible
                          guilt:

                          LOREN: I certainly didn't mean to imply Jesus didn't heal the man, only that
                          the following stern warning is probably more along the lines of a curt
                          dismissal if Mk 1:40b was an honor-challenge.

                          BRUCE: Which I think there is room to doubt. And why? Contrast this with the
                          recently mentioned Healing of the Possessed Boy:

                          Mk 1:40 (Leper): "If you will, you can make me clean." (Jesus) "I will, be
                          clean." There is here no dare by the Leper; no doubt by the Leper of Jesus's
                          powers, rather a certainty that if he puts them forth, the leper will be
                          cleansed. Jesus supplies the missing datum, again without detectable rancor,
                          "I will." The only stringency comes later in the episode. I think it wrong
                          to retroject it back to the beginning of the episode.

                          So far, so good. Now contrast:

                          Mk 9:21 (Father): "If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us."
                          (Jesus) "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Here,
                          there is doubt, not only about Jesus's willingness to help, but about his
                          ability to help ("if you can do anything"). This is in the strongest
                          contrast with the Leper's confidence in Jesus's powers, where the healing
                          depends only on Jesus's willingness to use those powers. And Jesus's answer
                          is also in strong contrast to his response in the previous case. He is in
                          fact indignant; he repeats the father's remark verbatim, but sarcastically:
                          "If you will!" And he proceeds to challenge the father's faith as the real
                          element lacking in the cure: "all things are possible to him who believes."
                          It is the father's defective faith that is holding up the proceeding.

                          The Leper had no such defect.

                          INTERPRETATION

                          And so the question passes, not to the question of Jesus's curative powers,
                          but to the question of the believer's *degree of faith* in those powers
                          (implicit in the one case, explicitly defective in the other). I think that
                          such a contrast is real in these two passages, and that it is also visible
                          at other points in Mark. I think that this set of contrasts is significant
                          for the analysis of Mark.

                          Bruce

                          E Bruce Brooks
                          Warring States Project
                          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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