Re: [XTalk] Mark's sophistication
- Ed Tyler wrote on Sunday, March 31, 2002:
> In a message dated 3/31/2002 8:08:43 PM Central Standard Time,Ed, you raise some good points. Below I provide a section from Gerd Theissen's
> weedent@... writes:
> > My response (TJW):
> > I agree with you, Jan, that Mark, as a crafter of a compelling narrative,
> > is a
> > sophisticated writer. Not knowing that the Lake of Gennesaret was *not* a
> > sea
> > but only a lake in no way detracts from his sophistication as a writer.
> I'm curious as to just how set the definition of "thalassa" was. I find that
> Aristotle refers to a salt lake as "thalassa," the LXX uses the term for a
> channel, and Apollodorus and Herodotus use it for the saltwater well on the
> Acropolis. The latter is quite possibly just metonymic, but Aristotle's use
> especially makes me wonder if we are not imposing an etic distinction between
> "lake" and "sea."
Gospels in Context_, in which Theissen deals with these issues.
>Hebrew *yam* can mean both "sea" and "lake." With very few exceptions,[ftnt,108: "Exceptions are *yam* as the western (2 Chr 4:4) or 'molten sea' in the
temple 92 Chr 4:2), or 'sand of the sea' (Job 6:3)"] it is translated in the
Septuagint only with QALASSA, even where clearly an inland body of water is
meant, such as the Dead Sea (cf. Gen 14:3; 4 Kgs 14:25; Joel 2:20) or Lake
Gennesaret (Num 34:11; Josh 12:3; 13:27). In the Babylonian Talmud the "seas"
of Ps 24:2 are interpreted to mean minor lakes and the "great sea" [ftnt. 109:
Parallel passages mentioning these and some of other seas are _p. Kil._ 9.32c
and _p. Keth._ 12:35b. On the various attempts at identification, see P.
Billerbeck, _Kommenter_, 185. Even such small lakes as Semechonities or Phial
could be described s "*yam*" (sea).]: "The verse [Ps 24:2] : For he hath founded
it [ the land of Israel] upon the seas and established it upon the floods speaks
of the seven seas and four rivers which surround the land of Israel. And these
are the seven seas: The Sea of Tiberias, the Sea of Sodom, the Sea of Chelath,
the Sea of Chiltha, the Sea of Sibkay, the Sea of Aspania and the Great Sea"
(_Baba Bathra_ 74b). The New Testament QALASSA is thus to be understood against
the background of Semitic linguistic usage. Insofar as we encounter it in the
Gospels, we can see it as an indication of the fact that they were written in a
region where Semitic languages directly or indirectly contributed to the shaping
of vocabulary. This points to the eastern part of the Roman Empire: either the
Gospels were written there, or their authors came from there, or the traditions
incorporated in them were native to that region.
Our second consideration points in the same direction. The designation ofa lake
as "sea" can be taken as an indication ofa limited horizon of life. For small
farmers and fisherfolk in Galilee, Lake Gennesaret could simply be "the sea."
Two analogies can be applied. In his _Meteorologica_, Aristotle mentions
shrinking rivers that have no outlet to the sea: "In Greece this natural
phenomenon is rarely seen. But there is a lake beneath the Caucasus, which the
inhabitants call a sea: for this is fed by many great rivers, and having no
obvious outlet runs out beneath the earth in the district of the Coraxi and
comes up somewhere about the so-called deeps of Pontus, an immeasurably deep
point in the [Black] Sea " (1.13.351a).
Possibly, Aristotle means the Caspian Sea. In any case, what for him is a
LIMNH represents a QALASSA for the inhabitants themselves. A similar
distinction between the language of the inhabitants and that of an author
writing from a broader perspective can be found with regard to the Dead Sea.
For most ancient authors it was a "lake," a LIMNH or *lacus*. [ftnt. 110: "Cf.
Aristotle _Meteorologica_ 2.3.359a (_GLAJJ_l:7 [_GLAJJ_ = M. Stern, _Greek and
Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism_]); Hieronymus of Cardia (_GLAJJ_ 1:19);
DiodorusSiculus _Bibl. Hist._ 2.48.6 (_GLAJJ_ l:173); 19.98 (_GLAJJ_ l:176);
Strabo _Geogr_; 16.2.34 (_GLAJJ_ l.294); Vitruvius _De Architectura_ 8.3.8
(_GLAJJ_ l:346); Seneca _Quaest._ Nat. 3.25.5 (_GLAJJ_ 1:432); Pliny the Elder
_Nat. Hist._ 7.65 (_GLAJJ_ 1:482-83); 5.71 (_GLAJJ_ 1:469); Claudius Ptolemaeus
_Geography_ 5.15.2 (_GLAJJ_ 2:167); Alexander of Aphrodisias _In Arist. Metem_:
2.359a (_GLAJJ_ 2:336) ; Solinus _Collectanea Rerum Memorabilium_ 1.56 (_GLAJJ_
The designation "ocean " occurs only here and there, as in Pompeius Trogus (end
of the first century B.C.E.), together with the word "lake" "In ea regione latus
lacus est, qui propter magnitudinem aquae et immobilitatem Mortuum Mare dicitur"
(quoted in Justin _Epitome 3.6 = _GLAJJ_ 1.336) [ftnt. 111: "This is the oldest
occurrence of the name 'Dead Sea." Josephus possibly is already presupposing
this name when he describes the Sea of Asphalt as 'salt and barran' (AGONOS) in
_Bell._ 4.456. Hebrew *araba* also means 'sterile.']. This "dicitur"
probably conceals the inhabitants of Judea, who had always called the Dead Sea
*yam* [ftnt. 112: "Cf. V. Burr., _Nostrum mare_, 89"] as the "desert sea," or
"Sea of the Arabah" (Deut 3:17; 4:49; Josh 3:16; 2 Kgs 14:25); the "Salt Sea"
(Gen 14:3; Num 34:3, 12); or the "eastern sea" (Joel 2:20; Ezek 47:18; Zech
14:8). Since for the Jews the east was "ahead," the Dead Sea, as the "sea
ahead" (eastern sea), could be distinguished from the Mediterranean, the "sea
behind" (western sea). In one instance, "*yam*" without any other attribute
could mean the Dead Sea: "They came and toldJehoshaphat, 'A great multitude is
coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea' " (2 Chr 20:2) .Thus the
designation "sea" given to the salty desert lake in the Jordan Valley is
probably of local origin. Beginning in the second century C.E., however, this
name spread beyond Palestine and throughout the ancient world.
Thus we arrive at the following conclusion: the word "sea" is applied to an
inland lake by those in the immediate area surrounding it. From a perspective of
greater distance, it is called a "lake."
A possible objection arises: the spread of the name "Dead Sea" in the ancient
world from the beginning of our era, even outside Palestine. This "exception"
proves the rule. The ancient authors who applied the words *mare* or QALASSA to
the "Dead Sea" normally add some reservations. Pompeius Trogus calls it a
"lacus" and gives the name "Mortuum Mare" only as information he has received
(_GLAJJ_ 1.336). Tacitus calls it a "lacus," but adds: "Lacus immenso ambitu,
specie maris" (_Hist._ 5.6.2 = _GLAJJ_ 2:20) . Pausanius uses a similar
expression: he first speaks of a lake (LIMNH) and adds, in a relative clause,
that this lake is called the "Dead Sea" (QALASSA; _Desmptio Graeciae._ 5.7.4-5 =
_GLAJJ_ 2: 194) . Aelius Aristides was in Scythopolis when he heard about this
lake (LIMNH) "which some now call a sea" (_Oratio_ 36.82.88 = _GLAJJ_ 2:218-19).
Galen speaks of a lake with two names: some call it the "Dead Sea," othe ~rs
"Lake Asphaltitis." For him, it is a lake; once he even calls it the "Dead
Sea" (_De simPlicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis ac Facultatibus_ 4.20 =
_GLAJJ_ 2:316) [ftnt. 113: "At another place in the same work, Galen explains
the idea of a "dead sea" THN NEKRAN ONOMAZOMENHN QALASSA) with the words
ESTI D' AUTH LIMNH TIS (9.2.10 = _GLAJJ_ 2:324)] . Si milarly, Dio
Chrysostom, who evidently knows the name "Dead Sea," alters it to "the Dead
Water" (TO VEKRAN hUDWR; quoted in Synesius _Vita 'onis_ 2.317 = _GLAJJ_
1:539). In all these places it is clear that for ancient authors the "Dead
Sea" is really a lake. They explain the unusual expression either through the
size and sluggishness of the lake ( e.g., Pompeius Trogus) or by its sterility
( e.g., Olympi- odorus _In Aristotelis Meteora Commentaria_ = _GLAJJ_ 2:680-81)
[ftnt. 114: "Olympiodorus (sixth century C.E.) is one of the few ancient writers
to speak of the "Dead Sea" without offering clear reservations about it. Another
is Eusebius (_Onom._ 16.2). But in _Onom._ 100.4, he uses the biblical name
QALASSA hH hALUKH and adds hH KAlOUMENA NEKRA KAI ASFALTITIS."].
The salt content of its water really does make the "Dead Sea" similar to the
open ocean. But when, nevertheless, outside Palestine this relatively large
lake is still called a "sea" only with reservations, how much more is this true
of the little freshwater Lake of Galilee that we read of in the Gospels.
Thus, when the three Markan miracle stones ~as well as the rest of Mark's
Gospel) speak of the "sea" when they mean the Lake of Galilee, we can conclude
that these stories were formed in the proximity of that lake. Their tellers live
in a world in which the great sea is a faraway phenom- enon. From this we can
understand why Luke consistently changes the designation: where Mark writes of
QALASSA, Luke writes LIMNH (Lk 8:22, 23,33). He is looking at Palestine from a
greater distance. Acts shows that he knows the broader Mediterranean world.<
- From: <LeeEdgarTyler@...>
>> Jan - why is it so unlikely? Both ancient Greece and ancient Israel were
> >agricultural societies; both had sheep; both had shepherds who care for
> >their sheep. Is it impossible that both independently developed similar
> pastoral care by the appropriate divinity from such an obvious everydayHomer
> >The problem with sophistication - sometimes it obscures the simple and
> >obvious! Or does that mean I'm being unsophisticated and thick, like the
> >disciples Mark portrays...? <G>
>> Rev Tony Buglass
> >Pickering Methodist Circuit
>I meant to post this earlier, but it got lost in the midterm shuffle:
>frequently calls Agamemnon the "shepherd" (poimên) of the Greeks, andthe
>Sophocles uses the term "shepherd of the people" for several different
>leaders. Pindar and Aeschylus use it to denote a master. And of course
>term Jerome employs to translate poimên is "pastor."Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur
>So there's no doubt that the Greeks had, independently of the Hebrews,
>developed this metaphorical use of the term "shepherd." I have found no
>cases in which it is applied to a deity, however; although one of Pindar's
>odes has a preternatural connotation to it in its use of "shepherds of the
>Loves" for the sprites attending Aphrodite.
independently in any pastoral society. That is the imagery used by Homer and
other poets; it is also imagery alluded to in Plato's dialogue, The
Statesman; but there the imagery is developed in a peculiar way that goes
way beyond a simple allegory of the ruler as the shepherd of his people.
Plato indeed argues that the statesman should be the shepherd of his people,
but to justify this proposition he refers back to a myth, narrated by the
Eleatic Stranger, in which the rulers of the present age are but imperfect
stand-ins for the true shepherd who had the human flock in his charge in a
former age. In the present age the divine shepherd's role is emulated,
albeit imperfectly, by human rulers. In a future age the divine shepherd
will return to resume control over the human flock. It is this apocalyptic
myth that I had in mind when I referred to the uncanny correspondence
between the myth of the Statesman and Hebrew traditions and expectations.
In the Hebrew tradition as it developed particularly in post-Exilic times,
there was an age in which man, created out of the earth, lived in a garden,
needing no clothes, feeding on the fruit that its trees produced by
themselves. Only after being expelled from the garden did man start having
to till the soil and produce his own sustenance. He also became mortal,
began to marry and beget children.
There was also an age to come, (according to the Markan Jesus) in which a
men and women will not marry but will live like angels. They will be
nurtured directly by their divine shepherd. This expectation goes back to
Isaiah and Ezekiel ("I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed
In the Statesman the Stranger from Elea describes the once and future age of
divine control as follows: "Over every herd of living creatures throughout
all their tribes was set a heavenly daemon to be its shepherd. Each of them
was all in all ot his flock--providing for the needs of all his charges....
a god was their shepherd and had charge of them and fed them.. When God was
shepherd there were no political constitutions and no taking of wives and
begetting of children. For all men rose up anew into life our of the
earth...they had fruits without stint from trees and bushes; these needed no
cultivation but sprang up of themselves out of the ground without man's
toil. For the most part they disported themsleves in the open needing
neither clothing nor couch, for the seasons were blended evenly so as to
work them no hurt, and the grass which sprang out of the earth in abundance
made a soft bed for them."
In between the former and future age of divine control is the present age in
which the divinity has left the world to its own devices. But there will
come a day when the divine shepherd will once more take charge of his flock.
The feedings of the multitudes are premonitions of this future age. Mark
indicates this in 6:34: "... he saw this large crowd and his heart was
filled with pity for them, because they looked like sheep without a
shepherd." Jesus then proceeds to feed them, proving himself to be their
shepherd, the sustainer of humanity in the age to come. It is this that the
disciples are taken to task for failing to understand, though Peter's
testimony on the road to Caesarea Philippi shows that he has figured it out.
The ability of Jesus to feed the multitudes is the key to his true identity
as the divine shepherd of the age to come.
This idea is almost identical with the idea of the Statesman. It is the
image of the shepherd as the divine sustainer of humanity in the age to come
that is so distinctive of the Hebrew tradition and of the Statesman, and
which raises questions as to whether such concepts could have arisen
independently of one another. I am currently looking at the possibility that
both concepts go back to Zoroastrian ideas.
Prague, Czech Republic