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Re: [XTalk] Prophecy Historicized or History Scripturized?

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  • Ken Olson
    ... had ... Mark, Thanks very much for making your paper available to us. The following response has grown from two comments into something of a monster.
    Message 1 of 8 , Dec 2 11:43 AM
      On November 26, 2001, Mark Goodacre wrote:

      > In response to requests, I have temporarily placed a draft of my
      > SBL Historical Jesus section paper "Prophecy Historicized or
      > History Scripturized? Reflections on the Origin of the Crucifixion
      > Narrative" on the web. (It's in Word format -- I'm afraid I haven't
      had
      > time to convert to HTML. Let me know if that causes problems for
      > anyone and I'll put it up in RTF or something else.) URL is:
      >
      > http://ntgateway.com/ProphHist.doc
      >
      > I'd be grateful for any comments ahead of my attempts to work up
      > for publication.

      Mark,

      Thanks very much for making your paper available to us. The following
      response has grown from two comments into something of a monster.
      Also, it may be difficult to follow for those not familiar with the
      original paper.

      Best Wishes,

      Ken

      I think you make a number of good points about the assumption that
      anything in the passion narrative that is based on a scriptural
      allusion is, _ipso facto_, fictional.
      You seem to be largely in agreement with what Joel Marcus says on this
      point: "OT texts have had an influence on the formation of the
      passion narrative, presumably from its earliest stages. On the other
      hand, the extreme position that the narrative in its entirety has been
      created out of the OT is unwarranted" (Marcus, 213). Marcus
      continues: "It is probably best, then, to adopt a nuanced position:
      the early Christians remembered certain details about Jesus' death
      because they believed them to have been prophesied in the Scriptures.
      Once having made the connection with the Scriptures, however, they
      discovered other, related OT passages that, in their view, _must_ have
      been fulfilled in his death as well--and so they created narratives in
      which they _were_ fulfilled" (Marcus, 213).

      You go beyond Marcus in arguing that in some places where there are
      scriptural allusions in the passion narrative, the evidence for
      historicity is especially strong. This is what I want to examine in
      this post.

      First, you give the example of Mark 15.40-41. Despite the fact that
      the beginning of these verses is an allusion to Ps. 38.11, Crossan
      argues that the presence of the women at the crucifixion is likely to
      be historical: "Their existence and names in 15.40-41 are pre-Markan
      tradition, but their criticism in 15.47-16.8 is Markan redaction. In
      other words, the inclusion of women observing the burial and visiting
      the tomb is no earlier than Mark, but the inclusion of women watching
      the crucifixion is received tradition. But is the latter historical
      fact? My best answer is yes, because the male disciples had fled; if
      the women had not been watching, we would not know even the brute fact
      of crucifixion (as distinct, for example, from Jesus being summarily
      speared or beheaded in prison)" (Crossan, BC, 559).

      If Crossan is correct here, then historicity and OT allusion are not
      mutually exclusive. However, one who wished to argue that they are
      mutually exclusive could save his position by being _more_ skeptical
      about the presence of the women at the crucifixion. Crossan
      introduces his opinion with: "My best answer is.", suggesting he is
      not entirely confident in his judgment here. Additionally, the reason
      he gives is weak. If Jesus was publicly crucified, then it would have
      been easy to obtain information on the "brute fact of the crucifixion"
      even if none of Jesus' own followers were present. In fact, it is
      somewhat difficult to see why someone who holds Crossan's particular
      source-critical presuppositions accepts the presence of the women at
      the crucifixion at all. In the Gospel of Peter, Mary Magdalene and
      her friends are mentioned only in the empty tomb story, not at the
      crucifixion or the burial. Crossan's reconstructed Cross Gospel
      contains no mention of the women at all (Crossan, WKJ, 223-227).

      The use of verbs of seeing in Mk. 15.40, 15.47, 16.4, and 16.5,
      suggests that the women are intended to function as witnesses for the
      death, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus. Indeed, the narrator is
      taking great care to establish that the women were witnesses to each
      of these events individually. On the other hand, the statement that
      "they said nothing to anyone" in Mk. 16.8 makes me wonder at what
      point in the transmission of the tradition the women were first used
      as witnesses. It seems to me this statement may be the narrator's way
      of explaining to the audience why they had never heard this particular
      part of the story before (much like the book that has been kept sealed
      until the end in Daniel 12.4).

      Regarding the names of the women, I sympathize with Crossan when he
      says: "I have given up trying to imagine why Mark names the women so
      differently in each case" (Crossan, WKJ, 182). I have not yet read
      Theissen's argument on why we should accept that the references were
      clear to Mark's audience, so I will not respond to it here. But
      Crossan makes the point that the invention of names is not difficult
      (Crossan, 176-77) and at least some of the evangelists, canonical or
      non-canonical, accomplished it. Also, even if the names of the women
      were shown to be historical or traditional, one could still argue that
      their presence in the passion narrative is not.

      THREE WAYS IN WHICH THE INTERACTION MODEL CAN BE SEEN TO BE MORE
      PLAUSIBLE THAN THE "PROPHECY HISTORICIZED" MODEL

      In this section, I'll look at your reasons A, B, and C. At this
      point, I'd like to draw attention to the words of Raymond Brown about
      the difficulty of providing evidence of historicity in the passion
      narrative: "With rare exceptions there is little implausibility in
      what is described, so that one may speak of general verisimilitude.
      Nevertheless what is described fits in closely with the interests of
      the evangelists; otherwise they would not have included it.
      Conformity with the theology and dramatic organization of a Gospel
      does not establish creation by the evangelist, but makes historicity
      extremely difficult to prove" (Brown, 1192).

      (A) elements that have no Scriptural precedent are juxtaposed with
      those that have;
      This is true, but the conclusion that "The fact that the earliest
      Christians were immersed in the Hebrew Bible simply means that history
      interacted with Biblical reflection" still seems to oversimplify the
      issue. There are many stages and types of mediation between the
      events and the reports of the events contained in the passion
      narratives. History (which I take here to mean something like: the
      attempt to represent "what actually happened" in words) and biblical
      reflection are by no means the only two factors at work here. I think
      it is reasonable to assume that the tradition about Jesus' crucifixion
      was retold and reinterpreted many times before Mark (or whatever we
      take to be the first written passion narrative), just as it was
      afterward, and biblical reflection influenced the tradition in many
      different stages. Crossan suggests a four-stage model for the
      development of the passion (Crossan, WKJ, 219-20). Also, biblical
      reflection is only one of several influences involved in shaping the
      tradition. Crossan believes there were apologetic, theological,
      polemical and narrative influences as well (Crossan, WKJ, 98-100).

      Liturgical needs are also likely to have been present. You raise the
      possibility, citing Goulder, that the tradition about Jesus may have
      been passed down in a liturgical setting. If this is the case, then
      liturgical requirements may have altered the tradition as much as they
      preserved it. Goulder himself draws attention to the fact that the
      events in Mark's passion narrative seem to occur at three-hour
      intervals. This seems highly artificial. Goulder contends:
      "something is at work other than a straightforward desire to
      communicate the times at which the events took place" (Goulder, 149).
      If he is correct, this casts doubt on the historicity of "the third
      hour", one of the non-scriptural elements present in Mk. 15.21-15.30.
      Outside of that particular passage, one might well wonder if other
      parts of the passion narrative, such as the sequence in which Last
      supper is followed by an all-night prayer vigil, might have been
      shaped by liturgical concerns as well.

      Further, the presence of elements not derived from scripture alongside
      elements that are derived from scripture does not logically show that
      any elements of either type are non-fictional. It would, in fact, be
      very hard to write a narrative using only scriptural elements (unless
      one was just retelling Bible stories). The evangelists might have
      included other fictional elements, or traditional, even historical,
      elements for a variety of reasons. This would not show that the
      scriptural elements were non-fictional. [I suspect I may not have not
      entirely grasped your point here].

      (B) several key criteria in Historical Jesus research are satisfied in
      relation to elements both with and without Scriptural precedents;

      I have three criticisms here:

      (B1) The first is a nit-pick. It seems to me that "against the
      grain" and "embarrassment" are different scholars' names for the same
      criterion and thus not "several" (compare Sanders, 304-05; Meier,
      168-71). Your argument about the titulus could probably be adapted to
      fit under Meier's "criterion of rejection and execution" (Meier, 177).
      It's reasonable to assume that if the Romans crucified Jesus, there
      was indeed some charge against him. That still leaves us with the
      problem of deciding whether the actual charge recorded in the gospels
      is history or verisimilitude.

      (B2) While some criteria may support the historicity of the titulus,
      the criterion of "against the grain", at least as defined by Sanders,
      is not one of them. Sanders says: "A passage or theme is shown to be
      historically reliable if it is directly against what the evangelists
      wished to be so" (Sanders, 304-5).

      I have a hard time accepting that the claim that Gentiles called
      Jesus, albeit mockingly, "King of the Jews" is against what Mark
      wished to be so. If Mark were trying to play down the charge, it
      seems inexplicable that he should have employed it five times in the
      chapter (15.2, 9, 12, 15, 26), with an additional occurrence on the
      lips of the Jews in the Jewish form "King of Israel" (15.32). Royal
      christology is a major theme of Mark's passion narrative. Morna
      Hooker observes: "Mark presents the crucifixion of Jesus almost as
      though it were an enthronement: Jesus has been hailed by the crowds
      as he entered Jerusalem (11.1-10), anointed (by a woman!--14.5-9),
      proclaimed to the people by Pilate (15.9, 12), and saluted as king by
      the soldiers (15.17-19). Now he is enthroned on the cross, with an
      inscription telling the world who he is" (Hooker, 371-72). Similarly,
      Dibelius says: "even the Roman governor himself is made to preach the
      Gospel: he has the inscription that was placed over the crossbeam
      announce that Jesus is "the King of the Jews "- the Messiah"
      (Dibelius, 425). The inscription of the charge against Jesus seems to
      be very much "with the grain" of Mark's passion narrative.

      I find Brown's counterargument lame. He claims: "That the title 'the
      King of the Jews' is completely a Christian invention is implausible,
      since it never appears as a Christian confession" (Brown, 968). He
      claims further: "The use of the designation by the magi in Matt. 2.2
      does not contradict this, for that occurs before they are enlightened
      by information from the scriptures. The magi, like Pilate, have
      recognized a certain truth about Jesus, but in 2.2 are scarcely
      depicted as Christians" (Brown, 968 n. 2). Are we to assume, then,
      that the use of the title in Mt. 2.2 is not a Christian invention
      because it is not a Christian confession? Did the magi really show up
      and ask Herod, who certainly considered himself to be King of the
      Jews, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?" and thus
      implicitly deny the legitimacy of Herod's rule to his face? I know
      there are those who accept this to be the case, but I suspect that
      they are now relatively few in the academic community.

      Brown seems to be using an inappropriate definition of "Christian
      confession" here. If Pilate and the magi are testifying to, in
      Brown's words, "a certain _truth_ [emphasis mine] about Jesus" (i.e.,
      that Jesus is the "King of the Jews", and hence the Messiah) then they
      are making Christian claims even if they are not themselves Christians
      and the claim is not expressed in typically Christian language.
      Projecting one's own beliefs onto others and making the opposition
      witnesses to their truth is a very common literary device. In this
      case, Mark gives the title in a form appropriate to the ethnicity of
      the speakers. He has the Romans calling Jesus "King of the Jews" and
      the Jews calling Jesus "King of Israel." That this is within the
      range of verisimilitude that we might expect from an early Christian
      author can be confirmed by looking at the Gospel of Peter. Peter
      assigns the mockery and the titulus to the Jews rather than to the
      Romans and changes the title used from "King of the Jews" to "King of
      Israel" in both cases.

      I do not mean to suggest that the charge against Jesus is
      _necessarily_ a Markan addition, but rather that Brown was correct
      when he said that verisimilitude coinciding with the interests of the
      evangelists makes claims of historicity very hard to prove--harder
      than Brown allows for in this case.

      (B3) In his discussion of the criterion of embarrassment, Meier
      argues that Jesus' cry of dereliction "My God, my God, why have you
      forsaken me?" (Mk. 15.34, citing Ps. 22.1) would not have been at all
      embarrassing to the early Christians. He says: "The OT psalms of
      lamentation regularly address forceful complaints to God; their
      strong--to our ears irreverent--address to God expresses neither doubt
      nor despair, but the pain of one who fully trusts that a strangely
      silent God can act to save if he so chooses. The very bitterness of
      the complaint paradoxically reaffirms the closeness the petitioner
      feels to this God he dares confront with such boldness" (Meier, 171).
      Meier concludes: "the criterion of embarrassment, taken in isolation,
      cannot establish the historicity of these words."

      On a somewhat different tack, Morna Hooker argues: "Commentators who
      insist that Jesus (or Mark) must have had the rest of the psalm (with
      its message of hope) in mind fail to grasp the significance of Mark's
      picture of Jesus as utterly desolate. Jesus now experiences the most
      bitter blow which can befall the religious man: the sense of having
      been abandoned by God. Mark reminds his readers of the horror of
      Jesus' sufferings; not for a moment does he sentimentalize the cross.
      This is true obedience to God's will (14.36)--what Paul describes as
      being 'obedient to death, even death on a cross' (Phil. 2.8)" (Hooker,
      375). Despite some apparent tension between them, I think Meier's and
      Hooker's views are not incompatible. Mark is depicting Jesus as
      obedient to God's will even to the extent of dying alone and abandoned
      (though vindicated after death).

      On the other hand, Marcus argues in favor of the Mk./Mt. form of Jesus
      last words: "It is difficult . . . to imagine that the church would
      have placed Ps 22:1 on the lips of the dying Jesus if the verse had
      not originally belonged there, since Jesus' use of this psalm verse
      created major difficulties . . . The church probably would not have
      created such problems for itself; rather, the cry of dereliction was
      simply too securely rooted in the tradition about Jesus' death to be
      dislodged" (Marcus, 213).

      I have difficulties with Marcus' position. First, Marcus' main piece
      of evidence that Jesus' cry of dereliction was indeed a problem for
      early Christians is that "another Gospel writer, Luke, found these
      words so distasteful that he changed them to something that was in his
      eyes more edifying" (Marcus, 213). This directly contradicts Marcus
      assertion that "the cry of dereliction was simply too securely rooted
      in the tradition about Jesus' death to be dislodged." Luke and John
      seem to have felt free to change it. If Mark and Matthew kept it,
      this could be because they felt more bound by the traditions they
      received than did the other two evangelists (a proposition of which I
      am not convinced, especially with regard to Mark) or because it fit
      their own aims better. If the latter, then the criterion of
      embarrassment does not apply here.

      A second and related point is that Marcus is basing his views on what
      Mark would have found embarrassing on what Luke and other later
      Christians found embarrassing. When Marcus says, "The church probably
      would not have created such problems for itself" he seems to be
      suggesting that the gospels were created by a monolithic entity called
      "the church." Redaction criticism has shown that this is not the
      case. Mark's interests are not identical with Luke's, and what
      embarrasses Luke does not necessarily embarrass Mark. Mark may,
      without knowing or without caring, have created material that others
      found embarrassing. Evidence of what embarrasses Mark himself should
      be sought within Mark's gospel. I think Meier and Hooker,
      particularly Hooker, make a good case for the cry of dereliction
      fitting with Mark's purposes. Again, this does not prove that the cry
      of dereliction was a storyteller's creation, but it does call into
      question the assertion that it was not.

      (C) the narrative is framed by the names of apparent witnesses about
      whom we know little else (Mark 15.21 and 15.40-41).

      Two comments here. First, the identification of characters by means
      of their children is not uncommon in the OT, though such usage does
      generally seem to presuppose that the children are known.

      Second, you say: "The implied reader of Mark's story finds the
      mention of Alexander and Rufus telling. Perhaps they were known to
      the readers of Mark's Gospel; perhaps they were the source of some of
      Mark's knowledge of Jesus' Passion." I'm with you on the first part
      of this statement. The unexplained mention of Alexander and Rufus
      might well imply that Mark's audience knew their names. The second
      part seems highly speculative. We have no idea what Mark's audience
      knew about Alexander and Rufus. They could have been members of
      Mark's audience who could confirm the truth of the story. They could
      equally well have been itinerant missionaries who visited, or even
      founded, Mark's community some time ago and had since moved on, or
      martyrs that died in the persecution to which Mark's gospel is
      responding, or a number of other things. Mark might have desired to
      link the first man who took up the cross and followed Jesus to any of
      these. (Yes, I know the "following Jesus" is not made explicit in
      Mark). We can not assume that Mark's audience had Alexander and Rufus
      available for comment.

      CONCLUSION

      I think you're right to argue that the passion narratives demonstrate
      an interaction of tradition and scriptural reflection where one does
      not clearly precede the other in all cases. I would add that there
      are other factors at work. It may well be mistaken to believe that
      all of the scriptural allusions in the passion narrative are fictional
      additions to the tradition. On the other hand, the evidence that any
      of the incidents in the passion narrative formed from scriptural
      allusions really are historical is not particularly strong.

      REFERENCES
      Brown, Raymond E., _The Death of the Messiah, From Gethsemane to the
      Grave: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels_ ,
      2 vols. (ABRL, New York: Doubleday, 1994).
      Crossan, _Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in
      the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus_ (San Francisco: Harper, 1995).
      Crossan, John Dominic, _The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What
      Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus_ (San
      Francisco: Harper, 1998).
      Dibelius, Martin, _Jesus_, trans. F. C. Grant & C. B. Hedrick
      (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1949); available online at:
      http://www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showchapter?chap
      ter_id=1323
      Goulder, Michael D., _Luke: A New Paradigm_ (JSNTSS 20; Sheffield:
      Sheffield Academic Press, 1989, 1994).
      Hooker, Morna D., _The Gospel According to Mark_ (BNTC; Peabody,
      Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1991).
      Marcus, Joel, "The Old Testament and the Death of Jesus: The Role of
      Scripture in the Gospel Passion Narratives," in John T. Carroll and
      Joel B. Green, _The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity_ (Peabody,
      Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1995) 205-233.
      Meier, John, _A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus_, vol.
      1 (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1991).
      Sanders, E. P. and Margaret Davies, _Studying the Synoptic Gospels_
      (Philadelphia: TPI, 1989).

      Kenneth A. Olson
      Graduate Teaching Assistant
      Department of History
      2115 Francis Scott Key Hall
      University of Maryland
      College Park, MD 20742
      kaolson@...

      I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything - T.H. Huxley


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Mark Goodacre
      In November 2002, I uploaded temporarily a draft of my SBL Historical Jesus Section paper, Prophecy Historicized or History Scripturized: Reflections on the
      Message 2 of 8 , Feb 5, 2002
        In November 2002, I uploaded temporarily a draft of my SBL Historical
        Jesus Section paper, "Prophecy Historicized or History Scripturized:
        Reflections on the Origin of the Crucifixion Narrative" (it's still
        at http://ntgateway.com/ProphHist.doc). In December Ken Olson sent
        to the list a first class critique of the paper. Unfortunately, a
        horrendous work schedule during January made it impossible for me to
        get back to this until now, for which apologies. However, since
        Xtalk has once again returned to the topic of the Passion Narrative,
        and especially Crossan's take on it, perhaps the timing of my reply
        to Ken is appropriate.

        On 2 Dec 2001 at 14:43, Ken Olson wrote:

        > I think you make a number of good points about the assumption that
        > anything in the passion narrative that is based on a scriptural
        > allusion is, _ipso facto_, fictional.

        Thank you. I would regard this as one of the primary methodological
        points that the paper is attempting to make.

        > You seem to be largely in
        > agreement with what Joel Marcus says on this point:

        [Quotation snipped.] Yes; indeed I read Marcus's article after
        having written my first draft of the paper and was happy to find that
        he touches on the same essential point, though without developing it,
        hence my footnoting of his article in support of the thesis. (Always
        nice to have scholars of Marcus's calibre on one's side!).

        > You go beyond Marcus in arguing that in some places where there are
        > scriptural allusions in the passion narrative, the evidence for
        > historicity is especially strong. This is what I want to examine in
        > this post.

        Yes, though the point of doing this was simply to illustrate the case
        for an interactive model using examples where the case for
        historicity is stronger. It is obviously easier to argue a thesis
        like mine by focusing on cases where historicity is strong.
        Moreover, I would like to repeat that I do think that "prophecy
        historicized" was indeed a key factor in the creation of the various
        Passion Narratives. What I am disputing is that it played the major,
        decisive, controlling role that Crossan thinks it played. In my
        view, a model in which tradition interacted with scripture makes
        better sense of the data.

        > First, you give the example of Mark 15.40-41. Despite the fact that
        > the beginning of these verses is an allusion to Ps. 38.11, Crossan
        > argues that the presence of the women at the crucifixion is likely to
        > be historical:

        [Quotations snipped.] Yes, I found it interesting that one of the
        few points where Crossan sees historicity in the Passion Narrative
        (though only in _Birth of Christianity_ and not in _Who Killed
        Jesus?_ or _The Cross that Spoke_ or _The Historical Jesus_ --
        perhaps he is mellowing in his old age?) is here, where the
        scriptural allusion is pretty striking. I actually agree with him
        about the historicity of this note, but what is so interesting is
        that there is clear Scriptural allusion in the same place that
        Crossan admits historicity, i.e. the process here -- retelling the
        historical event using Scriptural wording -- appears to be the
        reverse of what Crossan assumes as his overarching explanation for
        the Passion.

        > If Crossan is correct here, then historicity and OT allusion are not
        > mutually exclusive. However, one who wished to argue that they are
        > mutually exclusive could save his position by being _more_ skeptical
        > about the presence of the women at the crucifixion. Crossan
        > introduces his opinion with: "My best answer is.", suggesting he is
        > not entirely confident in his judgment here.

        Yes, one could be more sceptical than Crossan here but in the end one
        has to work on the basis of the author's stated opinion. Here I'd
        rather go with Crossan's "best answer" than his worst! However, I
        agree with you that the reasons given here by Crossan are not
        particularly strong, and I give my own reasons for finding
        historicity plausible here. But aside from that, the importance is
        to show that on Crossan's own terms, attempting to utilize what he
        finds convincing, the overarching case is problematic.

        > Additionally, the reason
        > he gives is weak. If Jesus was publicly crucified, then it would have
        > been easy to obtain information on the "brute fact of the crucifixion"
        > even if none of Jesus' own followers were present. In fact, it is
        > somewhat difficult to see why someone who holds Crossan's particular
        > source-critical presuppositions accepts the presence of the women at
        > the crucifixion at all. In the Gospel of Peter, Mary Magdalene and
        > her friends are mentioned only in the empty tomb story, not at the
        > crucifixion or the burial. Crossan's reconstructed Cross Gospel
        > contains no mention of the women at all (Crossan, WKJ, 223-227).

        See above. But, yes, I quite agree about the oddity of this note
        given his presuppositions.

        > The use of verbs of seeing in Mk. 15.40, 15.47, 16.4, and 16.5,
        > suggests that the women are intended to function as witnesses for the
        > death, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus. Indeed, the narrator is
        > taking great care to establish that the women were witnesses to each
        > of these events individually. On the other hand, the statement that
        > "they said nothing to anyone" in Mk. 16.8 makes me wonder at what
        > point in the transmission of the tradition the women were first used
        > as witnesses. It seems to me this statement may be the narrator's way
        > of explaining to the audience why they had never heard this particular
        > part of the story before (much like the book that has been kept sealed
        > until the end in Daniel 12.4).

        The latter is also Michael Goulder's explanation of Mark 16.8, as you
        may know. "I've never heard this empty tomb story before. How come
        no-one has ever told the story from the women's perspective?" "Well,
        because they didn't tell anybody, for they were afraid." It does
        indeed make one wonder if the literary function of 16.8 is to speak
        to an audience more familiar with what everyone had received as of
        first importance as in 1 Cor. 15.3-4. But thank you for the
        interesting point about the verbs of seeing and their use here. The
        genius of Mark is his weaving of those traditional materials to serve
        his literary purpose.

        > Regarding the names of the women, I sympathize with Crossan when he
        > says: "I have given up trying to imagine why Mark names the women so
        > differently in each case" (Crossan, WKJ, 182).

        Yes, I sympathise too.

        > I have not yet read
        > Theissen's argument on why we should accept that the references were
        > clear to Mark's audience, so I will not respond to it here.

        In a way, this is what is attractive about Theissen's argument, which
        builds from the obscurity of the references to argue that the target
        audience must have been familiar with the names. That's a weak
        summary of his view, though, so do have a look at the article.

        > But
        > Crossan makes the point that the invention of names is not difficult
        > (Crossan, 176-77) and at least some of the evangelists, canonical or
        > non-canonical, accomplished it. Also, even if the names of the women
        > were shown to be historical or traditional, one could still argue that
        > their presence in the passion narrative is not.

        Agreed on the latter point. This has clearly happened with other
        names in the tradition, e.g. Peter. I also agree about the invention
        of names in general. But it is weak for Crossan to appeal to the
        general case when discussing the specific case here (of Simon of
        Cyrene, if I remember correctly). What is so striking about the way
        the crucifixion narrative is framed is that both 15.20-21 at one end
        and 15.40 at the other feature names of witnesses, some of who are
        identified by means of their children's names, Alexander and Rufus /
        mother of [James the less and] Joses. This very unusualness of the
        feature -- identifying characters by means of the names of their
        children -- makes invention implausible.

        Next, Ken, you quote Raymond Brown to the effect that "Conformity
        with the theology and dramatic organization of a Gospel does not
        establish creation by the evangelist, but makes historicity extremely
        difficult to prove" (Brown, 1192). I quite agree.

        > (A) elements that have no Scriptural precedent are juxtaposed with
        > those that have; This is true, but the conclusion that "The fact that
        > the earliest Christians were immersed in the Hebrew Bible simply means
        > that history interacted with Biblical reflection" still seems to
        > oversimplify the issue.

        Agreed too, especially if one reads "simplify" for "oversimplify",
        but necessarily so. One of the things I've had to grapple with in
        putting this paper together is the difficulty that I cannot deal with
        the many important issues that need to be discussed when one is
        dealing with the Passion Narrative. And several who have heard it /
        read it have said, "But what about other elements -- it's not just
        history and Scripture, is it?" And of course I agree. I've now come
        to the conclusion that the only way to deal with all the many
        elements properly will require a book, and it is a book I'd quite
        like to write. In the paper the issue I am trying to tackle is
        simple: will "prophecy historicized" do as a category that explains
        the Passion Narrative in an overarching fashion? And my answer is
        that it will not.

        > There are many stages and types of mediation
        > between the events and the reports of the events contained in the
        > passion narratives. History (which I take here to mean something
        > like: the attempt to represent "what actually happened" in words) and
        > biblical reflection are by no means the only two factors at work here.
        > I think it is reasonable to assume that the tradition about Jesus'
        > crucifixion was retold and reinterpreted many times before Mark (or
        > whatever we take to be the first written passion narrative), just as
        > it was afterward, and biblical reflection influenced the tradition in
        > many different stages. Crossan suggests a four-stage model for the
        > development of the passion (Crossan, WKJ, 219-20). Also, biblical
        > reflection is only one of several influences involved in shaping the
        > tradition. Crossan believes there were apologetic, theological,
        > polemical and narrative influences as well (Crossan, WKJ, 98-100).

        Agreed.
        >
        > Liturgical needs are also likely to have been present. You raise the
        > possibility, citing Goulder, that the tradition about Jesus may have
        > been passed down in a liturgical setting. If this is the case, then
        > liturgical requirements may have altered the tradition as much as they
        > preserved it. Goulder himself draws attention to the fact that the
        > events in Mark's passion narrative seem to occur at three-hour
        > intervals. This seems highly artificial. Goulder contends: "something
        > is at work other than a straightforward desire to communicate the
        > times at which the events took place" (Goulder, 149). If he is
        > correct, this casts doubt on the historicity of "the third hour", one
        > of the non-scriptural elements present in Mk. 15.21-15.30. Outside of
        > that particular passage, one might well wonder if other parts of the
        > passion narrative, such as the sequence in which Last supper is
        > followed by an all-night prayer vigil, might have been shaped by
        > liturgical concerns as well.

        Also agreed. Cf. my Goulder and the Gospels, Part 3 for my
        conclusion that there is likely to have been a liturgical origin for
        the Passion Narrative. I'd add here that, as with the prophecy
        historicized, one has to be careful to see influence going in only
        one direction, from the liturgy to the Passion Narrative. I'd prefer
        to see the process as interactive. It's one of the reasons no-one
        could actually remember, by the end of the first century, whether
        Jesus had been crucified on the day of Passover or the day before --
        narrative has got so bound up with liturgy that it's no longer
        possible to remember what came first.
        >
        > Further, the presence of elements not derived from scripture alongside
        > elements that are derived from scripture does not logically show that
        > any elements of either type are non-fictional.

        Absolutely, but it does serve to show the weakness of Crossan's case
        that the narrative is driven through with "prophetic fulfilment" such
        that the removal of it leaves us only with the bare facts a la
        Josephus or Tacitus.

        > It would, in fact, be
        > very hard to write a narrative using only scriptural elements (unless
        > one was just retelling Bible stories). The evangelists might have
        > included other fictional elements, or traditional, even historical,
        > elements for a variety of reasons. This would not show that the
        > scriptural elements were non-fictional. [I suspect I may not have not
        > entirely grasped your point here].

        Agreed also. I am basically reacting to Crossan's claim that the
        narrative is made up almost entirely of prophecy historized.

        > (B) several key criteria in Historical Jesus research are satisfied in
        > relation to elements both with and without Scriptural precedents;
        >
        > I have three criticisms here:
        >
        > (B1) The first is a nit-pick. It seems to me that "against the
        > grain" and "embarrassment" are different scholars' names for the same
        > criterion and thus not "several" (compare Sanders, 304-05; Meier,
        > 168-71).

        Agreed -- you are absolutely right! Thank you. Indeed, I notice
        when I teach this that I do treat these as the same criterion. I
        have adjusted the latest version of the paper to correct this
        mistake.

        > Your argument about the titulus could probably be adapted to
        > fit under Meier's "criterion of rejection and execution" (Meier, 177).
        > It's reasonable to assume that if the Romans crucified Jesus, there
        > was indeed some charge against him. That still leaves us with the
        > problem of deciding whether the actual charge recorded in the gospels
        > is history or verisimilitude.

        Yes, agreed. We have a similar problem with the blasphemy charge
        earlier in the Passion Narrative. As Dennis Nineham -- and no doubt
        others -- point out, this charge could have been inferred by those
        framing the story.
        >
        > (B2) While some criteria may support the historicity of the titulus,
        > the criterion of "against the grain", at least as defined by Sanders,
        > is not one of them. Sanders says: "A passage or theme is shown to be
        > historically reliable if it is directly against what the evangelists
        > wished to be so" (Sanders, 304-5).

        Indeed, though I think in _Jesus and Judaism_ Sanders does support
        the historicity of the titulus; I don't recall on what grounds.

        > I have a hard time accepting that the claim that Gentiles called
        > Jesus, albeit mockingly, "King of the Jews" is against what Mark
        > wished to be so. If Mark were trying to play down the charge, it
        > seems inexplicable that he should have employed it five times in the
        > chapter (15.2, 9, 12, 15, 26), with an additional occurrence on the
        > lips of the Jews in the Jewish form "King of Israel" (15.32).

        This is an excellent point -- thank you. It shows how useful it is,
        as I tell students all the time, to keep reading the text and not to
        take the scholars' statements for granted! I've read and re-read
        Mark 15 and the more I look at it, the more convinced I become of
        your point and the less I become of the standard view. So I think
        that this section of the paper should be dropped.

        > Royal
        > christology is a major theme of Mark's passion narrative.

        [Quotations from Hooker snipped]. I quite agree. What I would say is
        that it's a good case of Mark having skilfully and creatively
        reworked traditional materials to create his wonderfully dark Passion
        Narrative with its marked sense of dramatic irony. The mocking, the
        crown of thorns, the centurion's confession and so on, these all add
        to the richness of this enthronement / coronation of "Christ
        crucified", surely the key to Mark's Christology. Though Mark's
        genius is to work these traditional materials in the service of his
        literary and theological agenda, I don't doubt that many of these
        were traditional materials. But yes, it is difficult to make a clear
        case for the historicity of "King of the Jews" on the basis of the
        "against the grain" criterion. While my guess would be that this is
        historical, it is difficult to argue strongly either way. I agree
        that Brown's counter-argument is weak.

        On the question of the cry of dereliction, you make some further
        useful points, and I am grateful for the references to Meier and
        Hooker; the Marcus one I'd already consulted. You may ultimately be
        able to convince me on this one too, but not yet. In regard to
        Marcus, I think one can have a resilient tradition witnessed in Mark
        and Matthew, a tradition that is then dropped in Luke and John
        because of "embarrassment" or whatever one wants to call it. It
        seems to me that the baptism of Jesus by John is like this --
        explicit in Mark and Matthew, at best implied by Luke and absent from
        John. That's what's happening here with the cry of dereliction, the
        ruggedly authentic tradition making it into Mark and Matthew but not
        surviving into Luke or John.

        Further, we have some help from 15.34a, "Eloi, Eloi . . ." alongside
        the Greek quotation from the Psalm. This presumably puts us into the
        pre-Markan tradition -- I don't think anyone thinks that Mark
        composed the "Eloi, Eloi . . ." While the cry has a function in
        Mark's darkly ironic Passion Narrative (cf. especially Hooker), it is
        less straightforward to imagine it functioning this way in the pre-
        Markan tradition. Moreover, the different form of the cry in Gospel
        of Peter 5.19 shows that it need not necessarily have had that
        "scripturized" Psalm 22 form for it still to be recognisably that
        same cry. It looks to me like the scriptural element is the element
        that caused the tradition to endure for as long as it did, right up
        until Matthew is writing in the 70s/80s, but not beyond that,
        certainly not in Luke or John, who compose more serene words from the
        cross. Meier's points about the lament psalms are well taken, but
        they presuppose that the cry in the pre-Markan tradition would
        necessarily have had that precise Psalm-ic wording and that the
        hearers would have effectively "heard" an allusion to the Psalm in
        its entirety.

        > (C) the narrative is framed by the names of apparent witnesses about
        > whom we know little else (Mark 15.21 and 15.40-41).
        >
        > Two comments here. First, the identification of characters by means
        > of their children is not uncommon in the OT, though such usage does
        > generally seem to presuppose that the children are known.

        That's an interesting point, but for it to be telling in this
        context, we'd need to explain why here in Mark the practice re-
        emerges.

        > Second, you say: "The implied reader of Mark's story finds the
        > mention of Alexander and Rufus telling. Perhaps they were known to
        > the readers of Mark's Gospel; perhaps they were the source of some of
        > Mark's knowledge of Jesus' Passion." I'm with you on the first part
        > of this statement. The unexplained mention of Alexander and Rufus
        > might well imply that Mark's audience knew their names. The second
        > part seems highly speculative.

        Yes, they are the "perhaps" bits. I think that where our
        alternatives are to speculate or go ignorant, informed speculation
        can be a virtue.

        > We have no idea what Mark's audience
        > knew about Alexander and Rufus. They could have been members of
        > Mark's audience who could confirm the truth of the story. They could
        > equally well have been itinerant missionaries who visited, or even
        > founded, Mark's community some time ago and had since moved on, or
        > martyrs that died in the persecution to which Mark's gospel is
        > responding, or a number of other things. Mark might have desired to
        > link the first man who took up the cross and followed Jesus to any of
        > these. (Yes, I know the "following Jesus" is not made explicit in
        > Mark). We can not assume that Mark's audience had Alexander and Rufus
        > available for comment.

        I agree with much of this, and I suppose my "perhaps"s could have
        included
        these also. My point is that we need to take seriously this element
        in Mark's
        narrative and it seems to me that your suggestions here all do that.

        > I think you're right to argue that the passion narratives demonstrate
        > an interaction of tradition and scriptural reflection where one does
        > not clearly precede the other in all cases. I would add that there
        > are other factors at work. It may well be mistaken to believe that
        > all of the scriptural allusions in the passion narrative are fictional
        > additions to the tradition. On the other hand, the evidence that any
        > of the incidents in the passion narrative formed from scriptural
        > allusions really are historical is not particularly strong.

        I agree with almost all of this conclusion. Only the last sentence
        I'd stand
        back from. The case for the historicity of several of the elements
        is strong, but I am grateful especially for your causing me to
        rethink the titulus.

        Mark
        -----------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
        Birmingham B15 2TT UK

        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
        http://NTGateway.com
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