Re: [XTalk] GOSPEL (OF THE KINGDOM) OF GOD
- To: Crosstalk
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Unique Mark
RON: Then our ideas of source criticism are a world apart.
BRUCE: Indeed so. I don't believe in "source criticism," or in any of the
other hyphenated Geschichte which infest current NT thinking. For one thing,
they tend to assume that everything in a text has a source outside that
text. This disallows for direct reportage on the one hand, and for pure
invention on the other. I find this a dangerous habit of mind, and prefer to
work broad-spectrum on the texts, using any tool of understanding that the
nature of the text itself seems to suggest.
RON: Most of the quoted ³sayings² are mere clauses or even phrases which
could never have stood alone either in tradition or in written form.
BRUCE: My list consisted of bits of Jesus sayings in Mark which are not
retained in the later Gospels (which at least in this conversation are
agreed to be later, and literarily indebted to, Mark). Some of them (one
whole parable, three Aramaic exclamations) will stand very nicely on their
own as sayings, though none is the worse for having its narrative context
resupplied. The idea of that list was to show how suggestive are the
details, and sometimes the whole units, which were unacceptable to both the
later Synoptists (different as those sometimes are from each other). I still
think the list is suggestive, and I commend it accordingly to anyone
interested in making the acquaintance of Mark, and perhaps eventually of
We sometimes hear of a "criterion of embarrasssment." I find it less weak
than most of the gimmicks which go under the name of Historical Jesus
methodology. Things which the earliest tradition preserves, but which were
apparently unacceptable to the later tradition, ought to be of special
interest, as showing which way the stream is flowing, giving us a chance to
track it back toward its presumptive historical beginning.
But if allowed to provide a serious working list, I would certainly fill in
the rest of the respective story units. It helps (for example) to know that
Eloi, Eloi was said not at some moment of irritation on the highway, but in
the process of undergoing death by crucifixion. I do not hold (as some seem
to do) that this Aramaic line floated down to us unattached to any event
which elicited it, and that the Crucifixion was invented to give it a home
in the narrative. I think the two together are probably an eyewitness
report. Similarly, the other two Aramaic lines are from healings; they show
Jesus as a healer, which is evidently how he was remembered by the earliest
tradition we possess, and I would put those stories into my scrapbook.
Whether or not Matthew and/or Luke found it convenient to take over parts of
And then I would linger a bit over the scrapbook. The later Evangelists, and
the latest most consistently of all, show how Jesus not only predicted his
death, but welcomed it, and felt his purpose on earth was fulfilled by it.
Well, that's their angle, and I can understand how it might appeal to them
and to others. But there is also the earlier evidence, and what Lama
Sabachthani tells me is that Jesus died feeling abandoned and even betrayed;
he felt that God had not followed through as expected. Just exactly what he
had expected God to follow through on, we can leave aside for the moment,
but that SOMETHING had gone awry, and that Jesus felt aggrieved by it, is I
think an inescapable inference.
If not that, how shall one construe it? Mark has been kind enough to
translate it for us, so there is no leeway available for arguing, from
Aramaic first principles, what he thought it meant, and after all, Mark
wrote the book. What is he telling us? What, for that matter, is God telling
us, a little later in the story?
I do not think that people have sat down quietly enough and long enough with
these indigestible bits of Mark, the details that neither Matthew or Luke
could find a place for in their idea of Jesus. Their idea of Jesus is a
historical question of great interest; so is the idea of Jesus held by
Gregory the Great. Right this moment, though, I am interested in Mark's idea
of Jesus. What was it?
RON: Isolated quotations from the Torah could only have been seen as sayings
of Jesus if set in an appropriate context, which you don¹t do.
BRUCE: I have agreed to use the full Markan stories, even if Matthew and
Luke find many of those details manageable. I still commend, and would
highlight in the scrapbook as useful pointers, those parts of the stories at
which Matthew and Luke balked and shied and turned away. To me, that
negative reaction is very revealing.
Also, the point of some of these passages is not that they are quotations
from Torah, but that they are amendments to Torah - additions and
subtractions and rewordings. Is it a fair inference from these scraps that
Jesus took a high hand with Torah, and reshaped and re-edited it for his and
our purposes? By way of confirmation, we may note that it is precisely in
that role, of a meddler with the Torah (and a harkener to the Later Prophets
as well as certain key passages in the Psalms) that Mark continually
portrays Jesus. Then Mark's sense of these passages is exactly the same as
mine, and he spends much of his narrative space in demonstrating the
consequences to Jesus, of advocating this amended Torah to large audiences.
Briefly, Mark's take on it is that this got Jesus killed. He might be wrong,
but it is quite possible that he was there (as a youth), and I think we
ought to give him a hearing, before we go down the road to listen to people
whose only access to Jesus was by reading Mark and leaving parts of it out.
I commend that approach to those interested in that subject.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- <<Ariel, D.T., A Survey of Coin Finds in Jerusalem,
Liber Annuus 32, 1982, pp 273-326.
Unless we have an old print copy in the pre-1985 stack here,
the data for denarii in Jerusalem is out of reach
just now, so, at least for the time being, I'll just shift to your
view that there weren't that many around in the city.
I'm having trouble getting hold of it as well, so I'll have to go by
memory, unfortunately. I did contact Ariel himself, but he's got nothing beyond
a single paper copy. While it's not strictly on topic, I do have H Gitler's
'A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF NUMISMATIC EVIDENCE FROM EXCAVATIONS IN JERUSALEM'
(Liber Annuus 1996), which covers bronze coinage from the city. No
imperial bronze is recorded from before the 4th Century, after the abolition of
the provincial mints, and their replacement with imperial ones.
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