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Re: [XTalk] HJ & Pesach

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  • Mark Cameron
    ... From: Mahlon H. Smith To: Sent: Friday, April 28, 2000 12:14 AM Subject: Re: [XTalk] HJ & Pesach
    Message 1 of 12 , May 2, 2000
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Mahlon H. Smith <mahlonh.smith@...>
      To: <crosstalk2@egroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, April 28, 2000 12:14 AM
      Subject: Re: [XTalk] HJ & Pesach

      > Tom Simms wrote:
      > > I have watched the List deal with the accounts of the New Testa-
      > > ment as if they were historically accurate. Your caveat above
      > > where I've broken in, would be well founded if the text your were
      > > discussing were not a piece of after the fact writing and, as you
      > > have just pointed out, polemical on its face.
      > Greetings Tom,
      > I agree with your assessment of Mark. I don't for a moment take Mark or
      > the Markan passion narrative as history but rather as a propagandistic
      > (in its most basic sense) story with very identifiable biases. When it
      > comes to the question of the circumstances of HJ's last days I have long
      > favored GJohn in those particulars where it disagrees with the synoptics
      > (crucifixion prior to Passover, no formal Jewish trial). That is partly
      > why I object to attempts homogenize John & the synoptics & to extracting
      > random details from the narratives of any gospel as if they were
      > historical facts. The details of Mark's narrative have to be interpreted
      > within the framework of the Markan story & those in John the same. As I
      > said in a previous post these narratives are mutually exclusive. Both
      > cannot be literally true but both may be laced with speculative fiction.
      > Which elements are fictitious & which not can only be determined by
      > rigorous testing. Until that is done any speculation about the
      > circumstances of HJ's last supper is just that: pure unverifiable
      > speculation.
      > Shalom!
      > Mahlon

      I don't believe that one can simply extract random details from the
      synoptics and John and then try to harmonize them into an historical
      account, and this is not what I was attempting to do. My interest in
      Jaubert's Essene Passover thesis is not motivated by a desire to harmonize
      GJohn's crucifixion on the eve of Passover with the synoptic account of the
      Last Supper as a Passover meal.

      However, neither can one consider Mark and John to be entirely indepedent
      authorial creations, as I believe that both Mark and John draw on a common
      underlying passion source. Both evangelists seem to depart from this source
      at different places in their narratives to add other traditions they have
      heard, or emphasize their own theological points, so the final narratives
      are quite different. But the seams indicating the presence of underlying
      sources are most present where the evangelists are dealing with questions of

      Let's look at four places where I think there is evidence of a common
      chronology at work, but with changes by one or other evangelist:

      1. Mark 14:1 / John 12:1 - two / six days before the feast of passover,
      followed by an account of the meal at Bethany

      2. Mark 14:12 / John 13:1-2 - a supper with the apostles which either was
      the passover seder (Mark) or connected with passover (John)

      3. Mark 15:33 / John 19:14 - Jesus on the cross from the sixth to ninth
      hour (Mark) / Pilate judges Jesus at the sixth hour (John)

      4. Mark 15:42 / John 19:42 - Jesus removed from the cross because of the
      day of preparation - preparation for the Sabbath (Mark) or Passover (John).

      These parallelisms are more than coincidences, but cannot be explained by
      Johannine dependence on Mark, as I will attempt to show. The only remaining
      hypothesis is a common source, which then raises the question of the
      chronology of the common source, which I turn to the Jaubert thesis to

      The fourth coincidence is in my view the strongest evidence for a common
      passion source. The "day of preparation" or parasceve is usually connected
      with the Passover. While one can refer to the day before sabbath as the day
      of preparation, it is an uncommon usage. Therefore it is likely that John's
      chronology follows the common source at this point, while Mark added in
      "that is the day before the sabbath" to keep his source's chronology
      consistent with his own chronology of the last supper as passover meal. And
      unless one posits Markan dependence on John, this means a common source
      older than both Gospels.

      If we accept the hypothesis of a common source, the other parallels fall
      into place.

      In the third parallel, the "sixth hour" is the only specific hour reference
      in GJohn. It is clearly linked to the slaughter of the paschal lamb in the
      Temple courtyard at the same time that Jesus' is being judged in Pilate's
      courtyard. I am inclined to think that this is not a uniquely Johannine
      but a feature of the source which connected Christ's death to the sacrifice
      of the paschal lamb (which John may have emphasized even more.)

      Mark takes this one hour reference and builds up a whole hour-by-hour
      chronology based on the Roman watches for the passion events, but he loses
      the paschal significance of Christ being sacrificed at the same time as the

      The second parallel shows that even in John, the last supper is linked to
      the passover, even though it is not portrayed as a passover meal. Mark,
      OTOH, emphasizes that the lamb was sacrificed on the day of the last supper
      (perhaps attempting to explain why he does not have the paschal sacrifice
      theme in his portrayal of the judgment and crucifixion). But I suspect that
      in the underlying source the meal was portrayed as a passover meal without
      much explanatory comment. Their obviously seemed to be a contradiction
      between the last supper and the crucifixion as being on the eve of passover,
      one which John solved by being vague about the last supper, and which Mark
      solved by clearly making the last supper the first day of unleavened bread.

      The first parallel I believe shows the original starting point of the
      passion narratives - something like "X days before the passover, Jesus came
      to Bethany." I suspect that John is correct and that it was six days
      before, but Mark changed this to two to fit his compressed chronology. I
      agree with Mahlon that Mark's Gospel implies a Thursday last supper, but I
      do not believe that this was in the underlying source.

      Unlike Mahlon, I am inclined to regard Mark's marginal comments about the
      man carrying water, the young man running away naked, etc. as minor
      traditions that Mark has worked in on the basis of personal testimonies
      which he added to the underlying source story. Since the man carrying water
      story clearly defines the last supper as a passover meal, Mark had to make
      that more explicit in his Gospel than the underlying source was,
      which may have fudged on the difference between the Essene and Temple
      calendar because of the different kinds of Jews amongst its putative
      audience - the early Jerusalem Church. John relies on the Temple calendar,
      appropriately to a Gospel in which the unnamed eyewitness disciple was
      "known to the high priest" (John 18:14).

      Some may quibble with my reconstruction here, but my most important point is
      that a reconstruction of the common underlying tradition is necessary. We
      cannot interpret all of the contradictory elements of Mark and John as their
      own narrative or theological features which they invented independently, as
      they were working from a common template. We have to discover this template
      first before we can identify particular Markan or Johannine features.

      Mark Cameron
      Ottawa, Canada
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