Re: [XTalk] Hellenistic Thought in Mark?, Mark 12:35-37, the Triumphal Entry, and the Temple Incident
----- Original Message -----
From: "Daniel Grolin" <grolin@...>
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 5:41 PM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] Popular Galilean support for Jesus in Judea
> Dear Frank,
> I must say that we seem to operate from so different assumptions that it
> would be difficult to come to a common understanding.
The goal. ISTM, is find the historical Jesus. Along the way, it is only to
be expected that investigators will be working from different assumptions,
so common understandings are more likely to be the exceptions rather than
the rule. I don't recommend losing any sleep worrying over this.
> With regard to your reading of the Markan dialogue I have problems seeing
> Hellenistic thought (which is present to be sure in John) in the Markan
> tradition. Superposing a Philonic framework over the tradition seems
> unwarranted, and frankly, distorting.
I agree that, *if* the Markan tradition, as you seem to suggest, has no
Hellenistic thought in it, then it certainly would be distorting and
unwarranted to superpose a Philonic framework over it.
Further, I will grant that the bulk of the Markan tradition is Semetic
rather than Hellenistic and has an apocalyptic-messianic outlook.
However, and here we part ways, I think that there are Hellenistic thoughts
in the Markan tradition.
Further, I also think that elements of Philonic thought are present within
the Markan tradition.
Too, ISTM, although there are exceptions to this rule of thumb, it
appears that, in general, it is the elements of Philonic thought are *not*
the most highly Hellenized that are found in the Markan tradition.
For example, in Philonic thought, there is a divine intermediary between man
and God he gives the primary title of Logos. One does not find the most
highly Hellenized components of the Philonic concept of the Logos in the
Markan tradition. Even the primary title of this divine being (i.e., the
title of Logos) is not found in the Markan tradition because this title
comes from Hellenistic philosophy. Rather, what one finds in the Markan
tradition are other Philonic titles for this divine being that are more in
tune with Semetic thought--such as the titles of Lord, Christ, and Son of
In addition, the elements of Philonic thought in the Markan tradition have,
ISTM, been almost seamlessly interwoven into its predominantly Semetic (with
an apocalyptic-messianic outlook) framework. So, for example, in the Markan
tradition, the Logos becomes an Apocalyptic and Messianic figure. In
particular, the Logos becomes incarnate in the flesh as the Essenes' Branch
of David and will be returning to earth someday as the Danielic Son of Man.
So, I think, it is not easy to detect the Philonic elements in the Markan
tradition because most of them are not highly Hellenized and, furthermore,
they have been blended into a predominantly Semetic framework. Still, with
diligence, I think that they can be recognized.
Now, your comment above is a response to my post of Janaury 20, where I do
an exegesis on Mark 12:35-37. In this exegesis on Mark
12:35-37, I note that the doctrine (attributed to Jesus) that the Christ is
called Lord by David was, as far as I know,
accepted as true in only one strain of Judaism at the time of Jesus, i.e.,
in Philonic thought. The most reasonable explanation for this, ISTM, is
that Philonic thought has influenced this passage. To characterize this as
being a "superposing a Philonic framework over the tradition" seems
unwarranted and, frankly (or should I say daniely?), distorting.
Note that, if this Philonic-style exegesis is correct, then Mark 12:35-37 is
a defense of the proposition that the Christ will be the Son of
David/Branch of David. Indeed, Mark must have interpreted it to be a
defense of this proposition, for he takes Jesus to be the Son of David in
Mark 10:46-52 and, probably, in Mark 11:1-11 as well.
Note also that if, as you do in your post of December 18, one maintains that
Mark 12:35 criticises the notion that the Christ will have to be the Branch
of David/Son of David, then such a person puts him/herself in a weak,
perhaps even untenable, position.
So, the Jesus Seminar, while interpreting this passage to be a criticism of
the notion that the Christ will have to be the Branch of David, admits that,
thusly understood, it is well-nigh impossible to think of a plausible
sitz-em-leben for the creation of this saying: stating in The Five Gospels
(p. 105), "By some stretch of the imagination it could be supposed that
Jesus was carrying on a polemic against the notion of a Davidic messiah.
Yet is is unlikely that Jesus' own lineage through David would have been
introduced into the genealogies of Matthew and Luke so readily if he had
himself carried on a polemic against the idea. It is more likely, in the
view of most scholars, that it comes from a segment of the Jesus movement in
which there was some tension between the messiah as the son of Adam (a
heavenly figure) and the messiah as the son of David (a political, royal
figure). Admittedly, there is very little evidence for such tension, but
there is even less evidence for such a debate in Jesus' own time."
Thus, if this passage is interpreted the way you suggest, then your only
readily apparent defense of this position is to argue for a sitz-em-leben
for its creation that is inherently implausible because it (at best) has
only the weakest of evidence in its favor.
> With regard to its scribal nature, this may be a terminology issue. I can
> only suggest that you read Horsley and Hanson's book on popular movements.
I read Horsley and Hanson's book several years ago and have it in my
personal library. To save me the time of re-reading the whole book, could
you please cite the relevant page(s) I should read to learn how you define
> My statement that the story about Jesus entry on a donkey is developed
> from Zechariah echoes the opinion of many commentators and is illustrated
> by Matthew's modification of the story based on a misunderstanding of the
> parallelism used in Zechariah.
That Matthew elaborated Mark's account on the basis of Zechariah does not
necessitate that Mark's account is an invention based on Zechariah. Indeed,
ISTM, this is a non sequitor.
If Mark's account about Jesus' entry on a donkey is developed from
Zechariah, then why does Mark specify that this animal was a colt *upon
which no one of man has sat*? This cannot come from Zechariah!
Further, as I point out in the post of January 20, that no one of man has
sat upon the colt means that it is ritually pure. Would Mark invent a tale
in which Jesus goes to great lengths to obtain a ritually pure animal on
which to ride when, in 2:15-16 and 1:41, he stresses that Jesus
deliberately made himself ritually impure by eating with sinners and
touching a leper? To ask the question is to answer it: he would not!
My conclusion: Mark's account is not fabricated out of Zechariah but,
rather, is based on an actual incident in which Jesus, contrary to his usual
modus operandi, deliberately chose to put on an ostentatious show of
dedication to ritual purity. And, if it is not fabricated out of Zechariah
but, rather, is based on an actual incident, then he deliberately evoked
Zecharaiah and, so, made an implicit claim to be the true King of the Jews.
> Your proposal that the Essenes were supporters of Jesus seems implausible
> to me. Jesus' attitude towards (ritual) cleanliness seems to speak
> strongly against this.
This objection is too vaguely worded for me to respond to it. Please advise
what you allege to be the major difference(s) between HJ and the Essenes as
respects the ordinances of the Law regarding ritual purity.
> Regarding Jesus' "cleansing" of the Temple: that is a (probably early)
> euphemism for what is in reality a symbolic destruction of the temple. I
> refer you to Sanders treatment of the event in "Jesus and Judaism".
> (Though Neusner and Crossan seem to come to a similar conclusion.)
I haven't read Sanders' work. However, I have read John Dominic Crossan's
work. Who Killed Jesus?. In it, he argues that the incident at the temple
did involve a symbolic destruction of the temple.
For example, in it (p. 64), he states, "There is not a single hint that
anyone was doing anything financially or sacrificailly inappropriate.
Cleansing or purifying are, therefore, very misleading terms for what Jesus
was doing, namely, an attack on the Temple's very existence, a
destruction--symbolic, to be sure, but none the less dangerous for that.
His *action*, in John and Mark, is quite clear. It is like going into a
draft office during the Vietnam War and overturning drawers of file cards.
It is symbolic negation of all that office or Temple stands for. And the
*saying* is equally clear in Thomas and goes very well with that *action*.
But in Mark and John the *saying* has been glossed by different scriptural
quotes, none of which is original, and has been, especially in John, muted
considerably in its meaning. Still, Mark and John connect the event with
Passover and John, implicitly, Mark, explicitly, with the death of Jesus."
I think this line of argument is unlikely to be correct..
PROBLEM NUMBER ONE
The first problem with Crossan's argument is found in its first sentence,
"There is not a single hint that anyone was doing anything financially or
sacrificailly inappropriate." This is, ISTM, in contradiction of
the Markan account: in which Jesus declares the temple to be a den of
robbers. What can this be but an accusation that something financially
inappropriate is going on at the temple? Indeed, ISTM, this is an
accusation that some people at the temple are siphoning off money for
personal enrichment in an illegal and/or immoral fashion. In particular, I
think it is aimed at the reigning High Priest, Joseph Caiaphus, and the
members of his high priestly family, the Annasites: for they controlled the
temple and the cash that flowed into it and they undoubtedly took a "cut" of
this revenue for their personal enrichment.
So, ISTM, at least one of the purposes behind the action at the temple was
to accuse the reigning high priestly family of improperly siphoning off a
portion of the temple revenues for their own enrichment. The question
remains, of course, as to whether there were other purposes behind the
action at the temple--such as, for example, the symbolic destruction of the
PROBLEM NUMBER TWO
A second problem with Crossan's argument is found in this excerpt from it,
"His *action*, in John and Mark, is quite clear. It is like going into a
draft office during the Vietnam War and overturning drawers of file cards.
It is symbolic negation of all that office or Temple stands for."
This analogy, ISTM, supports the hypothesis that the incident at the temple
was the symbolic destruction of the temple only if the going into a draft
office during the Vietnam War and overturning drawers of file cards was the
symbolic destruction of that draft office..
However, ISTM, the overturning of the drawers of file cards would not have
been the symbolic destruction of the draft office. Rather, it would have
been a protest against what the protestors perceived to be an unjust and
immoral draft system.
Similarly, ISTM, Jesus' disruption of the sale of sacrificial animals and
his overturning of the tables of the moneychangers were *not* the symbolic
destruction of the temple. Rather, they were a protest against what he
perceived to be an unjust and immoral temple financial system that enabled
the Annasites and their high priestly cronies (the "robbers") to enrich
themselves at the expense of (1) those who used the temple, and (2) the
poverty-stricken lower classes of temple priests and Levites. Compare
1QpHab (IX), "'Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnants of
the people shall plunder you': interpreted this concerns the last Priests of
Jerusalem, who shall amass money and wealth by plundering the people."
So, I think that, once the analogy between what Jesus did at the temple and
what some draft protestors might have done during the Vietnam War is
properly understood, it does *not* support the hypothesis that Jesus
symbolically destroyed the temple. Rather, what it does support is the
hypothesis that Jesus protested against an unjust and immoral temple
PROBLEM NUMBER THREE
A third problem with Crossan's argument is this sentence, "And the
*saying* is equally clear in Thomas and goes very well with that *action*. "
The saying he refers to is GTh 71, "Jesus said, 'I shall destroy [this]
house, and no one will be able to rebuild it.'"
Certainly, if Jesus uttered this statement, or something very similar to it
in meaning, during the incident at the temple, then it is strong support for
the hypothesis that this incident involved the symbolic destruction of the
However, there is a problem with relying on GTh 71. That is, there are at
least two other apparently independent versions of this saying.
The first is found in John 2:19, "Destroy this Holy Place (naon), and in
three days I will raise it up."
The second is found in Mark14:58, "I will destroy this Holy Place (naon),
the (one) made with hands, and in three days I will build another not made
Crossan takes the Thomas version to be the most original. So, in The
Historical Jesus (p. 356), he states, "I take Gospel of Thomas 71 as the
most original version we have, and it simply states emphatically: I will
destroy this house so utterly that rebuilding will be impossible."
However, ISTM, it is doubtful that the GTh 71 version is the most
original because most scholars think that the Thomas text (at least as we
have it) is *later* than either John or Mark.
Also indicating that the GTh 71 version of the saying is late is the
sophisticated theology it has in its GTh context of immediately following
GTh 70 reads, "Jesus said, 'That which you have will save you if
you bring it forth from yourselves. That which you do not have within you
will kill you if you do not have it within you."
Here, I suggest, Jesus speaks of the Logos--who is the Judge. So, in Exodus
(Book II, 13), Philo speaks about how "of necessity was the Logos appointed
(byGod) as Judge and Mediator."
That is to say, I suggest, this statement, "That which you have will save
you if you bring it forth from yourselves. That which you do not have
within you will kill you if you do not have it within you", can be thusly
paraphrased, "If you have this Logos (Word) within you and bring him forth
from yourselves as speech uttered to others, this Logos will save you. If
you do not have this Logos within you, then he will destroy you.
In this context, the meaning of the immediately ensuing GTh 71 ("I shall
destroy [this] house and no one will be able to rebuild it") is quite clear:
It is this, "I am this Logos and such a person, who is meant to be my house,
but rejects me, so I cannot reside within him/her, will be utterly and
completely destroyed by me without any hope of eternal life."
This is a sophisticated understanding of the saying that is far removed from
its original meaning. This is an indication that it is a understanding of
the saying that is of late development. And if the interpretation of GTh 71
by the author of GTh is of late development, the likelihood, ISTM, is that
GTh 71 is, itself, a late version of the saying also found in two other
One of the important respects in which both the Markan and Johannine
versions of this saying are in disagreement with the Thomas version is that,
according to them, Jesus spoke of the "Holy Place" rather than of the
Crossan (Ibid., p. 358) thusly defends his position that Thomas' "house" is
probably more original than Mark's and John's "Holy Place", "First of all,
however, is the fact that 'house' appears in all three independent souces,
in Gospel of Thomas 71 as the total focus of interest and without any action
by Jesus, then in both Mark 11:17 (twice from Isaiah 56:7) and John 2:16
(twice from Jesus himself and once from Psalm 69:9). In both these latter
cases it is appended as immediate explanation of the *action* of Jesus. I
conclude, provisionally, that the *action* was originally--that is, at least
prior to these three sources--accompanied by some saying about 'house.'"
Certainly, judging by the Markan and Johannine accounts, Jesus did use the
term "house" in sayings he uttered during the incident at the temple.
However, it does not appear that the saying in question was uttered during
this incident. In Thomas, it is a free-standing saying without any context
whatsoever. Mark takes it to be a statement falsely attributed to Jesus and
he nowhere indicates where or when Jesus was alleged by the false accusers
to have uttered it. According to John, Jesus uttered it *after* the
incident in response to a request for him to show a sign.
Further, it is implausible that, in both the Markan and Johannine
traditions, an original word "house" would be replaced not by the expected
"hieros (temple)", which included the area where the sale of sacrificial
animals and money-changing took place, but with the unexpected "naos (Holy
Place)", which was the inner portion of the temple and was far removed from
the area where the sale of sacrificial animals and money-changing took place
and was a place into which only priests could enter.
So, as (1) it does not appear that Jesus uttered this saying during the
incident at the temple, and as (2) it is implausible that both the Markan
and Johannine traditions would substitute an original "house" with the
unexpected "Holy Place" rather than the expected "temple", I conclude that,
most likely, the original version of the saying referred to the destruction
of the Holy Place rather than to the destruction of the house (i.e.,
Another area where the Markan and Johannine traditions agree with each other
and disagree with the Thomas tradition regards the second half of the
saying. That is, while Jesus, in both the Markan and Johannine versions of
this saying, declares that he will raise or rebuild it in three days, he, in
the Thomas version of this saying, declares that no one will be able to
Crossan (Ibid., p. 156) thusly defends the hypothesis that the Thomas
version of the saying is more original here, "The rebuilding does not,
initially, reflect any spiritual substitution but is merely an emphatic way
of stating utterly, completely, totally, and forever. It is not this
version that has eased off the rebuilding, taken negatively, but the other
versions that have developed the rebuilding, taken positively."
However, ISTM, it is inherently implausible that both the Johannine and
Markan traditions would not only have deliberately substituted a negative
phrase with a positive phrase, but have also specified a rebuilding period
of 3 days. Therefore, I conclude, it is most likely that the Thomas
tradition's version of the second half of the saying is a late corruption of
an original saying in which Jesus spoke of raising or rebuilding it in three
Because these three variations on a saying attributed to Jesus appear to be
independent, I suggest that the best way to attempt to reconstuct the
original version of the saying is to hypothesise that, whenever all three
are in agreement or when two are in agreement against the third, then this
belongs to the original version of the saying.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that Thomas and Mark agree that the saying
began with Jesus declaring that he will destroy something, so I suggest that
this is original.
Both John and Mark agree that what will be destroyed is the Holy Place, so I
suggest that this is original.
Both Thomas and John agree that Jesus did not speak the phrase "made with
hands" nor the phrase "not made with hands", so I suggest that they are not
Both Mark and John agree that Jesus said that in three days I will do
something., so I suggest that this is original.
Both Thomas and Mark agree that what he will do is to raise it, so I suggest
that this is original.
So, I suggest, the original version of the saying went something like this,
"I will destroy the Holy Place and in three days I will raise it."
Thusly rendered, this saying is not consistent with the hypothesis that, in
the incident at the temple, Jesus symbolically destroyed the temple.
This is because, as already mentioned, the Holy Place is the inner portion
of the temple into which only priests were pemitted to enter.
Well, if Jesus said that he was only going to destroy the Holy Place, then
(and this is the case whether or not he uttered this statement during the
incident at the temple) the incident in the outer fringes of the temple, far
removed from the inner Holy Place, patently was not the symbolic destruction
of the entire temple.
To summarize, the argument in favor of the hypothesis that the incident at
the temple was the symbolic destruction of the temple that is given by
Crossan in Who Killed Jesus? is unlikely to be correct. First, an analogy
he thinks supports this hypothesis appears, rather, to be inconsistent with
it. Second, he apparently is incorrect in thinking that GTh 71 is the most
original of the three versions of a saying attributed to Jesus. Third, the
original saying from which these three versions evolved likely ran something
like this, "I will destroy the Holy Place and in three days I will raise
it." Fourth, it appears, the incident at the temple was, instead, a
protest against what Jesus perceived to be an unjust and immoral financial
system at the temple that enabled the Annasites and their cronies to get
rich at the expense of everybody else.
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