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The Primitive Markan Narrative

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Various (with apologies for cross-posting) On: The Primitive Markan Narrative From: Bruce Folks, With the Groundhog already breathing down our
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 2009
    • 0 Attachment
      To: GPG
      Cc: Various (with apologies for cross-posting)
      On: The Primitive Markan Narrative
      From: Bruce


      With the Groundhog already breathing down our necks, we need to move as best
      we can. I have accordingly uploaded to the usual page a three-color version
      of what I currently take to be Layer 1 of Mark: the Primitive Markan
      Narrative. The colors are so you can find your way more easily among the
      Historical Presents and their connections: events in blue, Jesus sayings in
      red, and the sayings of others than Jesus - a distinctly motley crew,
      including disciples and also enemies such as Judas, the High Priest, and
      assorted demons - in green, bilious green.

      Given the color, the PDF's in question are humongously large. I nearly
      destroyed my scanning program on first attempting to make a single file of
      the reconstruction. That is why the reconstruction file as finally posted is
      broken down into: p1 (Preface, explaining the conventions), p2-5 (Mk 1-9),
      p6-9 (Mk 10-15), and p10 (an Appendix in which Mark's First Life of Jesus is
      outlined for convenience).


      The break in the text proper was thus necessitated by software limits, but
      it happens to make a structural point that I thought I would notice
      specifically. It is this: the Layer 1 narrative falls very naturally into
      two parts of equal length, the first located in Galilee and to the north,
      and climaxing in the so-called Confession of Peter, and the second
      comprising the trip to Jerusalem and Jesus's death there. It will I think be
      obvious that, if this is indeed the earliest version of Mark, its author has
      constructed it to have a beginning (the Isaian prophecy of 1:2, which
      defines the logic of this Messianic story); a middle (the Confession of
      Peter at 8:29, the first open recognition of Jesus's identity in this
      version of the story), and an end (the tearing of the Temple veil at 15:38,
      with which Adela Yarbro Collins and I concur in thinking that the original
      narrative concluded - though I depart from her in that I decline to
      recognize the cheerful interpretation of this event in Hebrews as cogent for

      The two halves into which these markers seem to break the story can be
      described (see the Appendix) as a movement from the Jordan (near Jerusalem)
      northward to Galilee and beyond in the first part, and a movement from
      Galilee to southward to Jerusalem in the second. This probably intentional
      formal layout may be something like a remote precursor of Luke's three-way
      scheme, in which the Journey section is expanded to take up fully a third of
      the story, and the Crucifixion section is similarly expanded to take up
      another third, yielding a structural triple, of which the middle member is
      transitional between the other two.


      So the Original Narrative, as I currently see it, had a planned artistic
      middle. A breakpoint; a turnaround. Very good. But the trouble with Mark is
      that it has TOO MANY middles. All of them are portentously significant, but
      in different terms.

      Thus the middle of the Messianic Layer 1 is the announcement that Jesus is
      in fact the Messiah. Nothing very strange here, though it is undeniably
      effective; its power persists even in the later overwritten Mark, and no
      commentator known to me fails to remark on it.

      The middle of the Layer 2 or Son of God overlay text is naturally the
      Transfiguration Scene in which God announces that Jesus is his Son, this is
      flanked by new beginnings and endings proclaiming the same thing (God at
      Jesus's baptism, and the Roman Soldier at his death). Just so no one will
      miss the point, or will be led astray by the old Isaianic beginning of the
      story at 1:2, this layer has added a superscription, 1:1, in which the
      Gospel as a whole is said to be that "of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Here
      we have a symbolic reworking of an already symbolic, but *differently*
      symbolic, previous document.

      And the third layer, the Son of Man layer, which introduces the Resurrection
      as a new and important idea, naturally has its center too: as readers of
      commentaries will know, it is usually located in the Three Predictions of Mk
      8, 9, and 10. And those too are flanked front and back in more or less
      symmetrical fashion by the Three Desert Temptations of Mk 1 and the Three
      Gethsemane Temptations of Mk 14 (I give Adela full credit for beating me to
      a form of this particular insight, on which I gratefully acknowledge her
      help), and of course backed up thematically by the appended Empty Tomb scene
      in Mk 15-16, which is now the end of Mark.


      One need not have read Aristotle to appreciate the wisdom of giving one's
      story a beginning, a middle, and an end (a little babysitting suffices), and
      one need not have lived one's life as a lutanist to recognize the power of
      the ABA songform, which is basic to so much artistic construction, both
      literary and musical. There is accordingly nothing strange about ANY ONE of
      these sets of beginning, middle, and end markers being present in Mark. What
      is against all probability is that one author, at one time, should give his
      work THREE DIFFERENT AND OVERLAPPING beginnings, middles, and ends. The
      presence of these mutually redundant and thematically conflicting formal
      signals is to me one of the strongest arguments for a stratified Mark. The
      logic of these three layers was reduced to a diagram on p3 of the Handout
      for the Nov 08 SBL special meeting on Accretional Mark. A PDF of that
      handout is still available on the NT Quest web page abovementioned. I think
      it makes its point rather efficiently, but I have ventured to restate it
      here, just in case.


      So there it is. Comments on the reconstructed Layer 1 are now very much in
      order, if anybody has the time (and I fully recognize that the crowds of
      Groundhog shoppers in the stores and on the streets very much slow down our
      already busy schedules). I don't pretend that the reconstruction as it
      stands is perfect, either in the sense of being wholly accurate, or, even IF
      accurate, of being literarily complete. It looks to me, indeed, as though
      some text has been lost through overwriting at points of special emphasis,
      chiefly the Lord's Supper, for reasons that I hardly need to spell out, and
      perhaps at a few other spots as well. The thing thus has its bumps and
      corners, but is not the less realistic for that, like the occasionally
      defaced character in the Tang Stone Classics, that lets you know you are
      looking at a rubbing and not a typesetting. Let me know if anybody spots
      trouble of this kind, or of any other kind, or indeed any points of interest
      at all.

      Best wishes of the pre-Groundhog days, and good health and weather to all.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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