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4166[John_Lit] Re: Oral Tradition

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  • Joseph Codsi
    Feb 7, 2004
      Peter Hofrichter wrote on February 5, 2004 in relation to Mark's parable of
      the sower:

      > In my view you have to differentiate between the parable and its
      > interpretation. The parable is one thing. It belonged to the traditions
      > available to Mark. The interpretation is another thing and was given by
      > Mark himself and layed into the mouth of Jesus.

      I find this reconstruction of the facts too hasty. In order to reach such a
      conclusion, I would expect the existence of two distinct versions of the
      parable. The first one would narrate the parable without its explanation,
      and the second one would be Mark's present version. In the absence of such a
      literary evidence, Peter's conclusion requires some explanation.
      If Mark has invented the explanation of the parable, then one is to conclude
      that Jesus had told the parable without its explanation. I find this
      difficult to maintain.
      To begin with, the gospel of "Mark" openly contradicts this explanation. The
      parabolic discourse concludes with the following remark:
      "With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to
      hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained
      everything in private to his disciples." (Mark 4:33-34)
      I will comment on this passage in two points.
      First point: The parables are not meant to obscure the message. On the
      contrary, their purpose is to convey the message of Jesus concerning the
      spiritual reality called the Kingdom of God. The parabolic discourse was a
      way of adapting the language to the audience, so that the people would
      understand. This is what is implied in verse 33.
      Second point: Jesus reserved the explanation of the parable to his
      disciples, as it is stated in verse 34 and as it is specifically said of the
      parable of the sower in verses 10-12.
      In both cases it is implied that the explanation goes back to Jesus himself.
      The fact of separating the parable from its explanation does not prove, in
      and of itself, that Mark is responsible of this separation. We must examine
      Mark's text more carefully.

      Mark's version does not only separate the parable from its explanation. It
      moreover conveys the notion that Jesus reserved the explanation to his
      disciples. It goes even to the point of changing the meaning of the word
      "parable" from a concrete illustration of the spiritual reality to an
      "incomprehensible charade" (cf. Mark 4:10-12). There is here a clear
      contradiction that renders the understanding of Mark very difficult. I will
      not go now into this difficult problem.
      There are two ways of reading what pertains to the parables in Mark. The
      first one is a literal reading. In this case, Jesus himself would have
      reserved the explanation of the parable to his disciples. The second reading
      stems from the fact that Jesus could not have done so and could not have
      given the explanation found in verses 11-12. In this second case, the
      problem consists in determining who is responsible of verses 11-12, the
      disciples themselves or "Mark" or someone in between.
      I think this question must be resolved before we could speak of any relation
      between "Mark" and "John". This is particularly true if it can be proven
      that Mark did not invent anything here, but transmitted faithfully and to
      the letter what he had received, in spite of the fact that what he had
      received did not make sense, especially in relation to verses 11-12.
      So long,

      Joseph Codsi
      P.O.Box 116-2088
      Beirut, Lebanon
      Telephone (961) 1 242-545
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