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Thesis: Mark Used Cross Gospel in 15:42-16:8, Pt. 1

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  • Ted Weeden
    Dear Listers, Last week, as I was working on my next post on the topic, The Galilean-NK Connection: Alive and Well, I received a post from Karel Hanhart, via
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 28, 2002
      Dear Listers,

      Last week, as I was working on my next post on the topic,"The Galilean-NK
      Connection: Alive and Well," I received a post from Karel Hanhart, via
      Synoptic-L, reminding me that I still owed him a reply to his post of May 26,
      2000, which I promised to respond to as soon as I could find some time. Well, I
      forgot about my promise, and with the receipt of his post this week, I decided I
      had better put other things aside and honor my promise. The only problem is
      that to honor the promise to critique a position he has taken on the ending of
      Mark, I could not do so, as I had intended to do, without presenting a thesis of
      mine that I had worked on several years ago, but had not completed.

      Thus, I put aside my work on the Galiliean-Northern Kingdom Connection and
      decided to finish as much work as I can on my thesis and submit it on Synoptic-L
      in response to Karel's post. Since, then, I am presenting on Synoptic-L this
      thesis, that Mark used the Cross Gospel as a source for his creation of his
      burial and empty-tomb stories, I decided I would share it, with Karel's
      awareness, on XTalk for any who might be interested in it and would be willing
      to give me feedback. Because of the length of the argument I have developed in
      defense of this "trial balloon" thesis, I am dividing it up into parts, as I
      indicate below. This post is the first part: I. Mark and the Cross Gospel:
      Prolegomena. Other parts will be shared over a period of several days.

      I would apprecite any critical engagement on this thesis.

      Ted Weeden

      Thesis: Mark Used the Cross Gospel in 15:42-16:8

      Karel Hanhart wrote on Tuesday, January 22, 2002:

      > Dear Ted,

      > Last year you offered the Synoptic-L readers a detailed description of your
      > position. It was much appreciated. It did not deal with a marginal
      > problem.
      > It is my contention that Mark's ending determines the content of his Gospel.
      > Hence my question why most commentators ignore the suggestions of C.
      > Montefiore (1927!) that the open tomb story is a midrash on LXX Gn 29,2.3,
      > Isa 22,16; 33.16. The words "tomb hewn from the rock" (Mc 15,46) match
      > the same expression in Isa LXX 22,16, a 'hapax' in the Septuagint, that is
      > the combination of 'mnemeion', 'latomeo' and 'petra' is found just once in
      > Tenak. The same conclusion is reached for the rolling stone in Gn 29,2.3
      > 'lithos', 'megas', 'apokulio'. Therefore, the notion that Mark wrote a
      > midrash, is heavily supported by the verbal agreements in these passages.
      > It is significant in this connection that in the Greek editions of the Gospel
      > the editors acknowledge that Mark cited passages in Tenak. Now why would
      > they note in footnotes Mark was citing Zach 13,7 in Mc 14,27 Ps 110,2 and
      > Dan 7,13 in Jesus' answer to the high priest (Mc 14,62) and Ps 22,7; Lam
      > 2,15 when bystanders 'shook their heads' gazing at the crucified one (15,29)
      > BUT OMIT citing Isaiah and Genesis in Mark 15,46; 16,4 when we are
      > dealing with the story of the open tomb?

      > I realize this is a difficult question, but an important one. Our exegesis of
      > the open tomb tomb story must begin with the question, what motivation
      > Mark had for citing these verses. Denying the references, it seems to me,
      > is burying ones' head in the sand. If you concur with Montefiore, where
      > do you think where I fail in my proposed solution or in what way should it
      > be corrected?

      My response:

      That Mark may have had in mind Gen. 29: 2, 3; Isaiah 22:16; 33:16, is a
      suggestion worthy of consideration. You are correct that there are some
      terminological parallels between the LXX passages you cite and Mk. 15:46. But
      I am not persuaded that Mark scoured the LXX to find terms to piece together, in
      such patch-like fashion, to shape his own narrative of the burial and empty-tomb
      stories, and in the course of doing so, alighted on Gen. 28:2-3; Isa. 22:16;

      What evidence is there that Mark searches the LXX and pieces terms found in
      various passages together in patchwork fashion? It is well known that Mark
      quotes directly from LXX passages and alludes to others. But where is there
      evidence in the Markan narrative that he draws from one passage one or two
      terms, from another passage a term or two, and so forth, linking them all
      together to serve as descriptive material for his narrative? The one passage
      that has the most coherence with what Mark needs for his burial composition is
      Isa. 22:16. That passage does address the issue of a man (Shebna)
      constructing his tomb from rock and there is similarity in terminology
      ELATOMHSAS. . . MNHNEION . . . MNHMEION . . . EN PETRA (Isa. 22:16) vis-a-vis
      MNHMEIWi . . . LELATOMHMENON EK PETRAS (Mk. 15:46). But I do not find the
      occurrence of such similar terminology in these two passages points to a
      dependence of Mark upon Isa. 22:16 for descriptive material of how a tomb is
      fashioned. For archaeological evidence indicates that creating tombs by
      hewing out rock was common in the Palestinian area of Jesus' time (see Jonathan
      Reed, _Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus_, 47, 59f., 134, and John Dominic
      Crossan and Jonathan Reed, _Excavating Jesus_, 237f., 241, 245). So Mark,
      whom I place in the village region of Caesarea Philippi (see my essay,
      "Guidelines for Locating the Markan Community," Kata Markon [2/29/00]; XTalk
      [2/29/00; Archives #3913], would have been well aware of this Palestinian
      practice for creating tombs. And, thus, he would not have had to scour the LXX
      to find terminology to fit his compositional needs. He had his own personal
      experience to draw upon.

      I find it a logical stretch to suggest that Mark had to turn to Gen. 29:2-3--- a
      passage that has nothing to do with burial--- to find a a reference to a large
      stone which he needed in his burial narrative to describe how Jesus' tomb was
      sealed. Similarly, to argue that there is an intentional, allusive link in Mk.
      15:46 to Isa. 33:16 is an even greater logical challenge. Thus, I am not
      persuaded by your argument that Mk. 15:46 is a part of a Markan midrash on the
      unrelated LXX passages of Gen. 29:2-3; Isa. 22:16 and Isa. 33:16.

      However, I think Mark did draw upon another major source which he used to mine
      terminology and motifs for his burial story, as well as his empty-tomb story.
      My thesis is that the source was a pre-Markan Gospel, a source which John
      Dominic Crossan has reconstructed from the Gospel of Peter and dubbed "the Cross
      Gospel (see Crossan's _The Cross That Spoke_; cf., also _Who Killed Jesus?_ and
      _The Birth of Christianity_, 481-511). A several years ago I began an essay in
      support of this thesis, an essay I did not complete. Your query, Karel, about
      my position of Mark and your counter proposal has spurred me on to complete that
      essay. I offer the first part, I. Mark and the Cross Gospel: Prolegomena,
      below. The part to follow this one is: II. Mark and the Cross Gospel: Markan
      Fatigue in 16:4. That part will be followed by the remaining parts: III. Mark
      and the Cross Gospel: Markan Fatigue in 16:6; III. Early Morning Visit in Mark
      and CG; IV. In the End, Silence: Mark and CG; V. Where Did That Young Man Come
      From?; VI. The Message of the Young Man in the Tomb; VI I. The Young Man in the
      Garden; VIII. The Identity of the Women Visitors; IX. The Burial Story

      I. Mark and the Cross Gospel: Prolegomena

      Now I am well aware that Crossan's reconstructed "Cross Gospel," which
      originated, according to Crossan's proposal, in the early 40's in Jerusalem
      (_Birth_, 511, and see 504-511), has not been widely embraced nor greeted with
      much enthusiasm by most scholars. Crossan, himself acknowledges that fact in
      his _Birth_ when he observes (486), "That theory [the theory of the Cross Gospel
      presented in _Spoke_] was greeted, I think it fair to say, with almost universal
      rejection." To that point, Raymond Brown has been one of the strongest
      critics of Crossan' s theory , as can be seen in his critique of it in _The
      Death of the Messiah_, 1332-1336; and see Crossan's rebuttal to Brown's critique
      in Crossan's _Who Killed_, cf., 6-8, 86-91, 137-141, 152-159; and _Birth_,
      481-511). Brown argues, contrary to Crossan, that the Gospel of Peter is a
      composite creation of an author who was familiar with the canonical Gospels and
      drew upon them from memory as he used them, along with other material, to weave
      his own unique narrative. There was no pre-Synoptic Gospel, such as the one
      Crossan imagines (_Death _ 1334-1335). Another critic of Crossan's theory of
      the Cross Gospel, Frans Neirynck (see Crossan, _Birth_, 487), argues that the
      Gospel of Peter is directly dependent upon the Gospel of Mark (see Brown,
      _Death_, 1327f.).

      Yet, despite the radically different perspectives represented by Crossan, Brown
      and Neirynck, on the relationship between the Gospel of Peter and the canonical
      Gospels, they do, surprisingly, agree on one thing. They all agree that the
      author of the Gospel of Peter had, in addition to the canonical Gospels, access
      to an independent, traditional and consecutive account, which was composed with
      careful consistency, and which depicted a centurion and his soldiers standing
      guard at Jesus' grave and witnessing a spectacular Easter event, an event which
      they subsequently reported to Pilate. That traditional story is preserved in
      the Gospel of Peter 8:28-11:49, a story which makes up fifty percent of the
      content of Crossan's Cross Gospel and "twenty-two out of the sixty verses in
      the extant Gospel of Peter" (_Birth_, 487).

      With respect to that long passage, which constitutes one-third of the Gospel of
      Peter, Brown states the following: "[T]he author of _GPet_ drew not only on
      Matt but on an independent form of the guard-at-the-sepulchre story, and in the
      _GPet_ 8:28-11:49 the basic story is still found consecutively (even if the
      details are modified by later developments). Matt, however, divided up the
      guard story to constitute [in Matthew's schema of five episodes (27:57-28:20)
      paralleling the five episode-schema of his infancy narrative] the second episode
      (27:62-66 before the resurrection) and the fourth episode (28:11-15 after the
      resurrection) in the burial-resurrection narrative" (1287; see also 13075f.).

      And then Brown observes once more, and more fully (1307): "[W]hen one compares
      the Matthean account of the guard at the sepulcher [27:62-66; 28:2-4, 11-15]
      that is some ten verses in length with the twenty-two-verse account in _GPet_
      (over one-third the length of the total _G Pet_ PN!), one notices that no other
      part of the _GPet_ passion or resurrection account has been expanded so
      extensively by comparison with a corresponding canonical scene. Therefore, on
      the presumption that the author of _GPet_ acted with some consistency, we have
      the right to suspect that here he had a source besides Matt, namely, a more
      developed account of the guard at the sepulcher. (That point is also supported
      by the consecutiveness of the story in _GPet._) The supplying of the
      centurion's name, the seven seals, the stone rolling off by itself, the account
      of the resurrection with the gigantic figures, the talking cross, the confession
      of Jesus as God's Son by the Jewish authorities, and their fear of their own
      people--- all those elements could plausibly have been in the more developed
      form of the story known to the author of _GPet_ and absent from the form known
      to Matt."

      To this Fran Neirynck, no friend of Crossan's theory, comments: "Brown ...comes
      close to Crossan's _Cross Gospel_ in his approach to the guard-at-the-sepulcher
      story [in _Gospel of Peter_ 8:28-11:49]: the author knew an independent form of
      a long story, and a less developed pre-Matthean form of the same story is
      preserved in the Gospel of Matthew" ("The Historical Jesus Reflections on an
      Inventory," _ETL_, 70:229; quoted by Crossan, _Birth_, 487).

      And, finally, Crossan observes with respect to the agreement between himself and
      Brown concerning the content of this independent narrative source, which Crossan
      contends originated with the Cross Gospel (_Birth_, 493): "My own proposal
      _Cross Gospel_ (by whatever name) involved a three-act drama: The first act is
      the Crucifixion and the Deposition in [the Gospel of Peter] 1:1-2 and 2:5b-6:22.
      The second act is the Tomb and Guards in 7:25 and 8:28-9:34. The third act is
      the Resurrection and Confession in 9:35-10:42 and 11:45-49. Brown has
      accepted the last two acts, and must presume some initial act (which I claim is
      most economically present right there in the *Gospel of Peter* itself)"
      [emphasis: Crossan; see] (see also, _Spoke_, 7).

      It is in that story --- the so-called "guard-at-the-sepulcher story," a story
      which makes up fifty percent of Crossan's reconstructed Cross Gospel
      [henceforth: CG], a story recognized by Brown and Neirynck as originating
      independently of the canonical Gospel tradition--- that I find parallels to
      material in Mark's burial and empty-tomb stories. Moreover, as a result of my
      analysis of those parallels, I have come to the conclusion that direct
      dependency exists between Mk 15:42-16:8 and the guard-at-the-sepulcher story;
      and, further, that it is Mark who is the dependent one. Because the
      guard-at-the-sepulcher story is so central to my argument, and will be drawn
      upon frequently in the exposition of my argument below, I reproduce it here in
      full, and in English translation as it appears in Crossan's CG (_ Spoke_,
      409-412; see also _Who Killed_ , 226f., _Birth_, 487f.). In doing so I
      explicitly accept Crossan's theory of CG as a working hypothesis, for reasons
      which will be cited below; and, as a result, I will cite the text of the
      guard-at-the-sepulcher story henceforth as "CG," using the versification as
      found in the Gospel of Peter in which CG is embedded. In addition, it should
      be noted that in the original CG, the text does not include two verses which are
      a part of Gospel of Peter. Those verses, GPet. 11:43-44, are considered by
      Crossan (_Spoke_, 21, 24-25, 291, 394) as redactional insertions introduced by
      the author of the Gospel of Peter into his CG source. I accept Crossan's
      judgment on this point, and I will present his reasons for making that judgment
      in detail as my argument unfolds. In the CG text which follows, I have
      reinserted the stated redactional verses (GPet. 11:43-44) in brackets for the
      benefit of the reader. And now the text of the guard-at-the-sepulcher story.

      >8:28 But the scribes and Pharisees and elders, being assembled together and
      hearing that all the people were murmuring and beating their breasts, saying,
      "If at his death these exceeding great signs have come to pass, behold how
      righteous he was!"--- 8:29 the elders were afraid and came to Pilate,
      entreating him and saying, 8:30 "Give us soldiers that we may watch his
      sepulchre for three days, lest his disciples come and steal him away and the
      people suppose that he is risen from the dead, and do us harm." 8:31 And
      Pilate gave them Petronius the centurion with soldiers to watch the sepulchre.
      8:32 And with them there came elders and scribes to the sepulchre. And all
      who were there, together with the centurion and the soldiers, rolled thither a
      great stone and laid it against the entrance to the sepulchre 8:33 and put on
      it seven seals, pitched a tent and kept watch. 9:34 Early in the morning,
      when the Sabbath dawned, there came a crowd from Jerusalem and the country round
      about to see the sepulchre that had been sealed. 9:35 Now in the night in
      which the Lord's day dawned, when the soldiers, two by two in every watch, were
      keeping guard, there rang out a loud voice in heaven, 9:36 and they saw the
      heavens opened and two men come down from there in a great brightness and draw
      nigh to the sepulchre. 9:37 That stone which had been laid against the
      entrance to the sepulchre started of itself to roll and give way to the side,
      and the sepulchre was opened, and both the young men entered in. 10:38 When
      now those soldiers saw this, they awakened the centurion and the elders --- for
      they also were there to assist at the watch. 10:39 And whilst they were
      relating what they had seen, they saw again three men come out from the
      sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other, and a cross following them,
      10:40 and the heads of the two reaching to heaven, but that of him who was led
      of them by the hand overpassing the heavens. 10:41 And they heard a voice
      out of the heavens crying, "Hast thou preached to them that sleep?" 10:42 and
      from the cross there was heard the answer,"Yea."<

      [> 11:43 Those men therefore took counsel with one another to go and report this
      to Pilate. 11:44 And whilst they were deliberating, the heavens were again
      seen to open, and a man descended and entered the sepulchre.<]

      >11:45 When those who were of the centurion's company saw this, they hastened
      by night to Pilate, abandoning the sepulchre which they were guarding, and
      reported everything they had seen, being full of disquietude and saying, "In
      truth he was the Son of God." 11 :46 Pilate answered and said, "I am clean
      from the blood of the Son of God, upon such a thing have you decided." 11:47
      Then all came to him, beseeching him and urgendy calling upon him to command the
      centurion and the soldiers to tell no one what they had seen. 11:46 "For it
      is better for us," they said, "to make ourselves guilty of the greatest sin
      before God than to fall into the hands of the people of the Jews and be stoned."
      11:49 Pilate therefore commanded the centurion and the soldiers to say

      While I am at it, I need also at this point, for the purpose of the argument
      which will follow, to cite one other passage in CG, in addition to the story
      just cited, another passage in which I find a parallel to Mk. 15:46 and 16:6.
      The CG passage I am referring to is CG 6:21f. and reads thus: > 6:21 And then
      they drew the nails from the hands of the Lord and laid him on the earth. And
      the whole earth shook and there came a great fear. 6:22 Then the sun shone
      (again), and it was found to be the ninth hour.<

      The passage comes from what Crossan calls act one (the Crucifixion and the
      Deposition) of CG. It is the act that Brown rejects in Crossan's thesis, though
      Crossan contends that Brown "must presume some initial act" (_Birth_, 493; _Who
      Killed_, 7) prior to the guard-at-the-sepulcre story." In that appraisal
      Neirynck, in his review of Crossan's _Who Killed_, appears to agree with Crossan
      against Brown. For he states, as Crossan (_Birth_, 487) quotes Neirynck from
      his review ["'Title.' Review of John Dominic Crossan, _Who Killed Jesus?_,"
      _ETL_ 70:456): "Regarding Brown's hypothesis [about that independent form of the
      guard-at-the sepulcher story], Crossan's reply [in rebuttal to Brown] makes
      sense: 'there could never have been such an independent story without some
      preceding account of condemnation and crucifixion.'"

      With respect to CG 6:21, which will be engaged in an analysis of its
      terminological relationship with 15:46 and 16:6, I find that Crossan (_Who
      Killed_, 160-176) makes a very good case for this particular G Pet. passage,
      which he assigns to CG, being the earliest Christian hermeneutic on what
      happened to Jesus' body upon his death. The hermeneutical spin in CG 6:21 is
      that Jesus' enemies, the "they" who laid his body on the earth, buried him, and
      did so before nightfall (see CG 8:39), as commanded by Deut. 21:23 ("When
      someone . . . is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not
      remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day"). The next
      take on the hermeneutical explanation for what happened to Jesus' corpse was to
      have someone who had "the power" to do so (Crossan, _Who Killed_, 172) to
      request Jesus' body from Pilate, in order to give Jesus a proper burial. Thus
      enters Joseph of Arimathea, a Jesus' sympathizer, into the lore of tradition
      (Mk. 15:42ff.). Now the act of interment shifts from an act performed by Jesus
      ' enemies, as dictated by Torah (Deut. 21:23), to a benevolent act performed by
      Jesus' "friends." Thus the hermeneutical trajectory evolved until the one who
      buries Jesus is actually one of his disciples, namely, again Joseph of Arimathea
      in a new guise (Mt. 27:57-60), who then is later joined in the interment process
      by a secret inquirer, namely, Nicodemus (Jn. 1938-42; and cf. 3:1ff).

      CG 6:21, in my judgment, certainly bears the marks of being the earliest
      Christian hermeneutic on Jesus' burial. Moreover, it strikes me that Acts
      13:29, contrary to Hans Conzlemann (_Acts of the Apostles_, 105), may yet be
      another repository of this earliest of the traditions concerning the disposition
      of Jesus' body following his death. For in the course of a kerygmatic review
      of the core tradition about Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, Luke
      presents Paul as proclaiming, "When they [Jesus' crucifiers] had carried out
      everything that was written about him, *they* took him down from the tree
      [allusion to Deut. 21:23] and laid him in a tomb."

      Finally, as I move toward the body of my thesis--- namely, that Mark used the CG
      as a source to mine for ideas for his own composition of 15:42-16:8--- I need to
      state that, however one comes down on the complex history of the source
      tradition behind the Gospel of Peter, I am convinced that Crossan's theory of
      CG, or whatever name one may want to give to the tradition set forth there, does
      identify a non-canonical tradition about Jesus' passion, death and resurrection.
      I think, furthermore, that Crossan is right in identifying this non-canonical
      tradition as a pre-Synoptic tradition that the author of the Gospel of Peter had
      access to and used extensively in the composition of his Gospel. No theory
      about the factors that led to the composition, and the character of the source
      tradition behind the Gospel of Peter, has won wide scholarly support (see
      Crossan, _Birth_,483-486). All theories, as does Crossan's, have their
      problematic dimensions, a fact Crossan acknowledges with respect to his own
      theory (_Spoke_, 404f.; _Who Killed_, 139; _Birth_, 486). But Crossan's
      theory of the CG is a working hypothesis that in my analysis of the parallels CG
      shares with Mark's Gospel, which I pursue below, seems to give an accounting for
      some of the problematic issues involving the logical consistency and the origin
      of ideas Mark entertained for his composition, which, to my knowledge, have not
      previously been considered.

      To follow: I. Mark and Cross Gospel: Markan Fatigue in16:4

      Ted Weeden
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