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Re: [XTalk] Mark's sophistication

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  • LeeEdgarTyler@aol.com
    In a message dated 4/1/2002 7:22:06 AM Central Standard Time, ... snipped for brevity ... A very satisfactory explanation. But I still have to wonder about a
    Message 1 of 39 , Apr 1, 2002
      In a message dated 4/1/2002 7:22:06 AM Central Standard Time,
      weedent@... writes:

      > Ed Tyler wrote on Sunday, March 31, 2002:
      > > In a message dated 3/31/2002 8:08:43 PM Central Standard Time,
      > > 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."
      > Ed, you raise some good points. Below I provide a section from Gerd
      > Theissen's
      > _The
      > Gospels in Context_, in which Theissen deals with these issues.
      > Ted Weeden
      > Theissen (106-108):
      > >Hebrew *yam* can mean both "sea" and "lake."

      snipped for brevity

      > 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.<
      A very satisfactory explanation. But I still have to wonder about a few

      In the first place, Galilee just is not all that far from the Med. Yes, the
      Med was a "faraway phenomenon" for the peasants, no doubt; but Mark was
      literate and (as you note) sophisticated in his way. He had learned some
      cosmopolitan rhetorical and narrative techniques--somehow--and could use them
      to effect. Is it really plausible that he did not know about the Med (even
      if he perhaps had not seen it for himself)? I think that surely he knew
      something of the difference between the Med (and probably the Aegean at
      least, insofar as the two were distinguished) and the "lake" of Galilee.

      Also, if he produced his gospel in the proximity of the Lake of Galilee, he
      also produced it in the proximity of Caesarea and Sephora. Sophisticated
      places, as the milieu goes. It strikes me as even more unlikely that Mark
      could be writing with this sophistication, so near to these Hellenized
      cities, without knowing the difference between a "sea" and a "lake." There
      was a great deal of trade passing from the Med through those cities to the
      East. That compounds the unlikelihood.

      Finally: As is noted, "Sea" was probably the local term for the "lake."
      So does Mark's use of "thalassa" mean that he was "unsophisticated" and did
      not know the difference for himself, or does simply it mean that he chose to
      use the common name for the place? After all, T. S. Eliot called the "Trois
      Sauvages" the "Dry Salvages" in his "Four Quartets." Does that make him

      (I do, of course, agree that Luke has changed Mark's term because Luke is
      writing from the greater distance.)

      Ed Tyler


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jan Sammer
      From: ... ideas of ... Homer ... the ... Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur independently in any
      Message 39 of 39 , Apr 10, 2002
        From: <LeeEdgarTyler@...>

        TonyBuglass@... writes:

        >> 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
        ideas of
        > pastoral care by the appropriate divinity from such an obvious everyday
        > >picture?
        > >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>
        >> Cheers,
        >> 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" (poimĂȘn) of the Greeks, and
        >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 poimĂȘn is "pastor."

        >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.


        >Ed Tyler

        Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur
        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.



        Jan Sammer
        Prague, Czech Republic
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