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[Synoptic-L] Disciple Precedence

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic-L In Response To: Rick Richmond On: Disciple Precedence (was: Something Else) From: Bruce RICK: Here [at Mk 10:35f] we encounter a pericope common
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2005
      To: Synoptic-L
      In Response To: Rick Richmond
      On: Disciple Precedence (was: Something Else)
      From: Bruce

      RICK: Here [at Mk 10:35f] we encounter a pericope common to Matthew and to
      Mark that has no parallel in Luke. At this point we cannot say that either
      writer copied Luke. Can we discern which of these accounts is prior to the
      other? I think we can.

      BRUCE: As far as the whole pericope goes, there is a parallel at Lk
      22:24-27, which gives the request in one vague sentence and has a close
      parallel to Jesus's reply, Mt 20:24-28 || Mk 10:41-45. But the previous
      portions, Mt 20:23 || Mk 10:35-40, if they were amplified from the single
      sentence in Lk 22:24 ("A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to
      be regarded as the greatest"), are at least similarly amplified, and it
      seems fair to ask if either of these similar segments had the other in mind
      while writing. Rick gives several circumstantial arguments. I would be
      content with one narratological one. The parallels are:

      Mt 20:20: Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her
      sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. (21) And he said
      to her, what do you want? . . . (22) But Jesus answered, You do not know
      what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink? (23)
      They said to him, We are able. . . .

      Mk 10:35: And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and
      said to him, Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. (36)
      And he said to them, What do you want me to do for you? (37) And they said
      to him . . . (38) But Jesus said to them, You do not know what you are
      asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with
      the baptism with which I am baptized? (39) And they said to him, We are
      able. . .

      I think the nub here is in Mt 20:22:

      "And Jesus answered, You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to
      drink the cup that I am to drink?"

      Despite the word "answered," these words, grammatically and substantively,
      are addressed to the sons. That is, they ignore the mother as interlocutor.
      Had Jesus been portrayed not as "answering the mother" but as "asking the
      sons," we could say that the narrative works; that is, Jesus realizes that
      the question really comes from them, and challenges them. But in the GMt
      version, it is the mother, not the sons, who do the asking, whereas it is
      the sons, not the mother, who will drink the cup. The focus changes between
      two sentences.

      In Mk, there is no difficulty, the question IS ASKED by the sons. Everything
      is consistent, and there are no narratological snags.

      This (as I understand it) is not quite what MarkG calls scribal fatigue, it
      is perhaps a cousin, narrative fatigue. The scenario would be this: Having
      set out to modify the Mk model story by introducing the request through the
      mother, the narrator in GMt slips into the Mk model by answering the sons;
      the mother plays no further part in the story.

      Is there a motive for the change, and can that motive be exemplified
      elsewhere in GMt? Rick has dealt with this (as have earlier commentators). I
      would agree. Putting this outrageous request through the mother softens it
      somewhat, and it is generally notorious that Matthew, as the old saying had
      it, "spares the twelve," here by not attributing the request to their own
      ambition, but to that of their mother.

      The GMt version thus has an element of inconcinnity which GMk lacks, and to
      that extent looks problematic. The inconcinnity results from the
      introduction of the mother as petitioner. There is a plausible and
      consistent motive for that introduction in GMt, in the sense that many other
      Mt/Mk contrasts display the same general tendency.

      Though everything can be stated in reverse (as is often pointed out), not
      all the resulting pairs of statements carry equal conviction. Still, without
      the inconcinnity element in this case, we would in the end have another
      practical deadlock of symmetrical but opposite interpretations. But here, in
      addition to any arguments from substance or from tendency, the shift from
      mother to sons as interlocutor in GMt counts against the GMt version being

      It would seem that Rick's example has considerable Synoptic merit.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      PS: I am reminded that not everyone has Davies/Allison handy, and perhaps
      some will be curious to know how the 20:22 problem is dealt with there.
      Answer, it is not dealt with. After the line OUK OIDATE TI AITEISTHE, D/A
      say "So Mark. Jesus turns from the mother to the sons, assuming that they
      concur with her request."

      The comment simply states the problem as the answer. It is perhaps a little
      terser than the problem warrants. At that, it is voluble in context.
      Robinson (1927), Johnson (1951), Farrer (1954) and M'Neile (1965) do not
      mention a problem. Albright/Mann (1971) have the following:

      "xx 10. the mother. Mark (x 35) represents the two disciples (James and
      John) as coming to Jesus directly, a tradition which frequently leads
      commentators to suggests either than Matthew's historical tradition was at
      fault or that he manipulated the tradition to cast the disciples in somewhat
      more favorable light. The suggestion is interesting solely as an example of
      ignorance of the ways and manners of mothers anxious for their sons."

      We have so far three slurs reflecting on the rudeness or stupidity of those
      who think so: "fault, manipulated, ignorance." Denigration is not the same
      as explication. That a change is plausible in terms of the psychology of
      mothers does not mean that it is not a change, it merely means that whoever
      made the change had a mother. This we knew. Continuing:

      "Since Jesus' replies to the request are in plural form directly to the
      brothers, it is just as likely either that Matthew knew both traditions, or
      found his oral source to be as it is here, and for all its abrupt change
      from mother to disciples, allowed it to stand."

      Multiple hypotheses, neither convincing. "Oral source" is the favorite
      escape clause of those who wish to evade the implications of a difficult
      text. Since large stretches of Mt 20:20f are verbally identical with the
      corresponding Mk 10:35f, it is somewhat gratuitous to posit an "oral source"
      which differs from Mk in just the particulars required to eliminate the
      problem. Since nobody will ever be obliged to write a commentary on the
      "oral source" in question, there will be no future accounting. I see the
      attraction of the device, but am not impressed by its weight.

      Gundry (2ed 1994) says, ap 20:22, "To Mark's O DE IHSOUS EIPEN Matthew
      characteristically prefixed APOKRITHEIS. But Mark's "to them" can hardly
      become "to her" without making nonsense of the following addresses, which
      necessarily refer to the two sons and therefore stay in the plural of the
      second person. Hence, "to them" simply vanishes."

      Perhaps a useful point, at some stage of the analysis other than the first.

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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