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Mark (8)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG On: Mark (8) From: Bruce As mentioned, these notes are not responses to Adela s Mark commentary, nor even responses to Rikk Watts
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 10, 2008
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      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG
      On: Mark (8)
      From: Bruce

      As mentioned, these notes are not responses to Adela's Mark commentary, nor
      even responses to Rikk Watts' *responses to* that commentary, as such (the
      only cogent thing to say about Adela's commentary is: Go out and by a copy
      from Hermeneia). They are meant as addressing issues in the study of Mark,
      as usefully raised by Rikk's very kind summary of his comments at the 22 Nov
      session, now already so long ago.

      RIKK: in terms of the commentary itself: I did not see how the mention of
      Forms actually informed her exegesis. Adela responded that they were
      evidence of Mark's oral origins (someone in the audience picked up on this I
      think) and thus explained Mark's less then even narrative.

      BRUCE: To my eye, "oral" is very nearly the most misused term in the
      currently fashionable lexicon. It is used to refer to almost opposite
      scenarios: (a) a fixed text which has been preserved in memory over more
      than one generation without being written down, and contrariwise (b)
      historical memories which have been reshaped by being informally retold,
      again by more than one person in succession, and so have acquired a shape
      given them by that process of retelling, and not retained much, or any, of
      their original point and content. The latter is more or less the Bultmann
      position, and probably the way in which Adela invokes it. Scenario (a) is
      impossible, as those who have observed oral praxis will tell you, and I
      think that this particular version of Scenario (b) is intrinsically
      unconvincing. It implies that the originally unitary knowledge of Jesus and
      his mission, as possessed by his followers and eyewitnesses, got broken up
      into separate bits, and handed down in different channels, the ethical
      maxims being preserved in one line of transmission and the historical
      recollections in another and the parables in a third (or more), only later
      to be reassembled into the historically unreliable Gospels which we know.

      This or any other "oral" notion needs to be based on more understanding of
      how oral traditions actually work, than seems to me to be the case at
      present.

      One way we might start over on the "oral" business is to ask: Does Mark
      itself bear any marks of oral delivery? Is it, whether at all points or only
      at some, plausible as a transcribed recounting? One rather attractive target
      for attention, along this line, might be Mark's habit of supplying, as
      though in a parenthesis, information that was lacking in the earlier text
      but turns out to be necessary for understanding the just spoken text. Often
      the introducer for these parenthetical catch-up explanations is GAR, as in
      the first of them (Mk 1:16, HSAN GAR ALIEIS "for they were fishermen").
      Which explains, retrospectively, why they were casting their nets (also Mk
      1:16). It is a little like hearing a 12-year-old tell a joke to another
      12-year-old: "Oh, and by the way, I should have told you, the Scotch are
      thought to be stingy." And everybody laughs. And not just the 12-year-olds;
      I admit I can hear myself doing exactly the same thing when lecturing to a
      class. You have used a term, or presumed an understanding, which you
      suddenly realize that your hearers may not share. So you fix it on the spot.

      Whether the last such suppletion in Mark (Mk 16:8, EFOBOUNTA GAR, "for they
      were afraid"), which is in a later textual layer of Mark, works exactly this
      way or a little differently is one of the subjects perhaps worth
      investigating.

      Historical presents. I recall how the none too cultured neighbor lady,
      talking to my mother over coffee at 10 of a morning, would introduce the
      climax of some bit of gossip by a phrase that was virtually formulaic for
      her: "And I says to her, I says . . ." Given the rather lowbrow associations
      of historical presents in English, it is easy to see why translators usually
      do not try to reproduce them (two points are awarded, in this parenthesis,
      to Menzies, who does it gracefully and without the slangy tone of the, ahem,
      Scholars Bible translation). But they *should" reproduce them, by way of
      calling attention to the way in which historical presents are used in Mark,
      or anyway, of making themselves liable to say *something* about the usage.
      The usual explanation is, they give liveliness to the language. So they do,
      but this does not tell us why the following narrative tends to revert to the
      past tense. But this subject is a monograph of its own, and I leave it here
      for now.

      RIKK: Even so, I couldn't see how this actually informed her exegesis once
      we got to it. But on narrative:
      given her citing of stories of the prophets as a possible precursor to Mark
      (she criticizes Burridge for ignoring them), and having taught same (i.e.
      Former Prophets), it should be noted that these involve highly sophisticated
      narrative and literary techniques. No reason why Mark cannot be similar, as
      many have argued.

      BRUCE: And no reason why Mark *must* be similar, as many others have felt.
      For me, high sophistication and rhetorical catch-up don't sort very well
      together. We are being asked, it seems to me, to conjure up an image of a
      highly erudite and allusive poet, a premeditative sort of bloke, and then to
      mix it with that of the coffee lady at 10 AM. I think that Mark is effective
      (for its purposes, and it would be good to know exactly what those were) but
      not snooty, and colloquial without being vulgar. I haven't yet seen a
      treatment of authorial Mark (or of any of the several authorial Marks, as
      the case may be) which gets that balance right. Reference however always
      welcome.

      Bruce
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