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Re: [XTalk] Historical Presents

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG; WSW, others In Response To: Stephanie Fisher On: Historical Presents From: Bruce Thanks, I think, to Stephanie for checking with Maurice
    Message 1 of 36 , Jan 9, 2009
      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG; WSW, others
      In Response To: Stephanie Fisher
      On: Historical Presents
      From: Bruce

      Thanks, I think, to Stephanie for checking with Maurice Casey on the
      delicate matter of the Greek Historical Presents in Mark. I quote his main
      point, as she transmits it, and then respond slightly to the general
      methodology issue which it raises.

      MC via SF: "No-one should work on historic presents in Mark without
      learning Aramaic themselves, and reading texts in Aramaic so they can see
      what they really say, instead of being so unlearned as to have to ask
      someone else for basic information, rather than for informed debate."

      BRUCE: That's one philosophy, and very prevalent it is, to be sure. I follow
      another. My view is: the relevant specialties are so many, and the time to
      acquire any one of them to the point where it can actually be used
      independently is so long, that the notion that everyone in NT should know
      exactly the same things (or be excluded from the club) is not practically
      possible. The same of course applies in physics: not everyone knows enough
      post-tensor calculus to do the math on the theory end, and at the same time,
      you need a good glassblower in there somewhere, along with an electrical
      engineer, so that there is some experimental data for the theory end to work
      on in the first place. All scientific work of any consequence is team work,
      and the members of the standard scientific team do not replicate each other.
      Instead, and by design, they complement each other.

      If we accept that model, whose phenomenal success in the verifiable world
      perhaps somewhat recommends it, then an NT team should ideally include, or
      at need have access to, a specialist in the Rabbinical tradition, an
      Aramaist, an expert in the secular Graeco-Roman world, a textual critic (Hi,
      Eldon), while we're at it a dedicated Paulinist would do no harm (preferably
      one who is sound on the 1/2 Thess matter, if we are going to be fussy), and
      a couple of other people whose contributions can easily be imagined.

      Maurice Casey evidently knows Aramaic. Equally evidently, on his own
      account, he is not comfortable functioning as a consultative member of a
      collaborative enterprise. Too bad, but there it is. The rest of us will just
      have to make do with our collective resources, such as they may be.


      More than one can play at this game, and I could do a "Casey" myself, if I
      were not, by nature and by Chinese conditioning, such a polite person. It
      might work something like this.

      Fact One: NT people are studying a historical time and place in which the
      wisdom of the East (including but not limited to the mystical and
      renunciative elements of Buddhism) is interfacing, in and around the trade
      centers, with stuff of more local origin. Fact Two: Our seminaries continue
      to pour out, in their hundreds, graduates who do not know, and who moreover
      are systematically impervious to, anything further east than Babylon.
      Implication: That's just fine, except that people like Hillel on the one
      side, and Matthew and Luke on the other, not to mention Demetrius and
      Seneca, were, how shall I say it, somewhat pervious to those exotic
      elements. The result is that people in our day continue to misread what they
      wrongly call the Parable of the Unjust Steward (thus Snodgrass 2008, a very
      good book by the way; see the review of it for China specialists at
      http://www.umass.edu/wsp/reviews/snodgrass.html) through not knowing its
      remote Chinese source, and continue to misconstrue the bits of lateral ethic
      which sit, some of them translated almost verbatim from the Chinese
      originals, in the supposed teachings of Jesus. Not to put too fine a point
      on it, they don't know what Jesus taught, and they can't understand why, in
      an adapted form (and the second tier Gospels are there to show the
      adaptation in detail) those teachings spread so far and so fast, beyond
      their originally envisioned confines.

      Maybe yes, maybe no. But suppose for a moment that the previous paragraph
      were even partly true. What would be the solution? Four years of immersion
      in classical Chinese for the ThD, and we haven't even mentioned Pali yet?
      Not perhaps terribly practical, either administratively or humanly. But I
      think it might be a useful amelioration, in this inevitably imperfect world,
      if one or two people who HAD gone through that regimen would sit down
      occasionally at the same table with the Biblical Greek specialists, the
      Secular Greek specialists, the general philologists, the Sumerists, the
      Mithraists, the Iranists, the ANE archaeologists, the economists, the
      rhetoricians, and yes, why not an Aramaist or two, and compare strategies
      and notes.

      Not once a year (some here present will have heard me on this theme, in real
      time, at annual SBL; it gets us exactly nowhere). Try once a week, and see
      what happens.

      To me, the interest of notional "tables" like Crosstalk (and its cousin over
      the way, Synoptic, not to mention my own much smaller discussion group) is
      the possibility of that sort of combination. I don't see where else such a
      thing is likely to arise. Does anyone?


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG (the smaller conversation) Following Up On: Mine of 1/11/09 On: Historical Presents as a Layer Marker in Mark From: Bruce Just to repeat,
      Message 36 of 36 , Jan 11, 2009
        To: Crosstalk
        Cc: GPG (the smaller conversation)
        Following Up On: Mine of 1/11/09
        On: Historical Presents as a Layer Marker in Mark
        From: Bruce

        Just to repeat, in case there was somehow a failure in delivery: I had
        earlier suggested that the following seven passages were for various
        internal reasons (not here repeated) typologically late or internally
        discordant in Mark, or both:

        (a) The Beelzebul accusation (3:22-30), interrupting other material.

        (b) The Woman With a Flow of Blood episode (5:24-34), ditto.

        (c) The Death of John the Baptist (6:17-29), ditto, plus very long.

        (d) The Rich Young Man (10:17-27). Absolute opposition to wealth.

        (e) The Parable of the Vineyard (12:1-12). Typologically unique;
        substantively late

        (f) The Eschatological Discourse (13:3-37). Long; theologically late.

        (g) The Anointing in Bethany (14:3-9). Interruptive; legendary in tone.


        Are there common traits among these seven, independent of the ones used to
        isolate them for discussion in the first place? I had previously reported
        that though there are c150 HP in all of Mark, none of these seven passages
        contains a single HP. Together, they amount to a sizeable percentage of the
        total Mark, and this absence may conceivably be statistically significant.
        If it reflects a real situation, this already puts the Maloney data in a
        different light: we may have, in Mark the detectable presence of a late
        author, one not as concerned as any earlier ones to maintain the style of
        Initial Mark.


        That is suggestive, though (as I previously noted at some length) not
        definitive. To follow up the suggestion, and see whether it holds, for all
        or part of this material, we might next ask: are there further features
        which these seven passages share?

        Answering my own question (since it is now quite a while since I asked it,
        and I have had a little time to think), I might mention the following.

        1. EUQUS. Along with initial KAI and the HP itself, this is one of the most
        conspicuous components of Mark's "breathless" style. EUQUS occurs (in that
        precise form) 51x in Mark. Only one of those occurrences is in any of these
        seven passages (5:30). We thus cannot say that the EUQUS feature of Markan
        style is absent from the seven passages, but it is surely much reduced. It
        might be objected, But these stories are not such as would readily
        accommodate EUQUS. I answer: The Death of John, for one, might easily have
        done so, but the statement does generally hold. I suggest, however, that it
        is merely another way of saying, These passages are written in a style
        different from that of the typical early Markan EUQUS passage. They are more
        dignified (even when they are sensationalistic); they don't grab the reader
        as firmly by the lapel. The tone is different, and the relative lack of
        EUQUS is one way that this different tone is signaled.

        2. Women. Adult women are notably prominent in these passages, either as
        present or as contrastively absent. (a) No women directly present, but note
        that the Beelzebul accusation interrupts, and thus distracts attention from,
        an episode in which Jesus's mother and sisters have a distinctly negative
        role, as unbelievers and indeed persecutors. (b) Jesus's only healing of an
        adult woman, and it is really her faith, and no conscious act of his, that
        produces the healing. We are way past the typical Markan healing scene,
        which is a deed of power by Jesus. (c) The Death of John contains a female
        part that any diva would kill for. (d) Nothing special here. (e) Ditto. (f)
        There is a perhaps notable sympathy, in this cataclysmic picture, with
        "those who give suck in those days." (g) Here is another starring female
        part, this one emblematic of personal devotion; her actions are pointedly
        defended by Jesus.

        If we subtract these passages from Mark, how many adult women of consequence
        are left? I omit the Women at the Tomb as a cluster rather than an
        individual. On that basis, I think just one: the Syrophoenician Woman
        (7:24-31). Any EUQUS there? Just one. Any HP there? Just one, and it
        introduces not a statement of Jesus, but the retort of the Woman. Hmmm. The
        incident itself is typologically odd: a distance healing. Hmmm.

        3. The Elect. This I find a confusing term, but I am prepared to take it in
        the sense of an appropriated Jewish identity: those to whom God has
        previously given a promise. Then the Elect are the Christians, specifically
        identified with the New Israel, at a time when the Christians see themselves
        as having replaced the Jews in that role. The term itself occurs only in
        (f), but the Transfer of the Covenant is the whole point of (e) also. This
        perception of the Christian community is late; it occurs in Paul and in
        Didache 9:4 and 10:5, in the late layer of a generally early text; it has
        become nearly conventional by 1 Peter 1:1, and is wholly so in the Johannine

        4. The World Mission. This was pointed out previously, but both (f) and (g)
        refer to the Gospel being preached in the whole world, a notion which very
        likely took time to develop in the early Movement. An actively propagated
        and specifically Gentile Christianity (see previous).


        Nothing so far makes these the product of the same moment, or of the same
        authorial hand. Text philology is not THAT easy. But I am coming to suspect
        that these passages, or most of them, may well reflect a common literary and
        theological milieu, and that milieu may itself be late in the history of the
        post-Crucifixion movement. The passages themselves may well be late within
        the formation process of Mark, most of which seems to speak out of different
        perceptions, and to address different needs and concerns. That is the basis
        which I offer for any further suggestions, either in extension or in

        In addition to these suggestions for seven (or eight?) passages, taking them
        out of the HP discussion may usefully clarify that discussion, by reducing
        the amount of work that a description of HP in Mark has to do.


        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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