Re: Motivation of women in Mark 16/Mt 27-28
- At 10:22 PM 12/15/98 -0800, you wrote:
>The case of Jesus was no run-of-the-mill case, however, of which typicalThis affirmation, of course, allows you to argue almost anything. As I say,
>burial customs would be more likely to prevail. This was a special case.
your comments embody several proposals for which there is no available
evidence of which I am aware (just to take a few examples):
1. the idea that the women take on some responsibility or authority
for ensuring that the tomb is properly guarded or, as you
suggested earlier, ensuring that the soldiers do their duty.
Nothing that I know of, in text or tradition assigns these
roles to the women. Here the "special case" argument is
2. the idea that the stone is rolled against the door of the tomb
to prevent someone from stealing the body. I've excavated a
number of tombs and surveyed more than I can remember and
know that closing the entrance to a tomb is commonplace,
and that the reason is not, in any case that I know of,
primarily to prevent body snatching. There are certainly many
other reasons for closing the entrance to a tomb.
3. the idea that Mary was eavesdropping on the conversations of the
priests - and that we can even suggest what they might have
been talking about at just the moment she listened in.
4. the idea that Roman soldiers treated Jewish priests as pastoral
confidents (where does Matthew ever portray the priests in
You also dismiss elements of Matthew's narrative as "bogus," and call it a
"clumsy redaction," which is "botched up" and then take as relevant and
information about the size of the stone that Joseph rolled against the door of
the tomb, the details of the soldiers' emotional response to the resurrection,
and even Mary's recollection of the visit of the Magi. I do not see clearly
criteria by which elements of this narrative are to be accepted or rejected.
Since this is a "special case" and what we know of ordinary customs and
practices doesn't apply, then "anything goes" and I don't know how, relying on
the evidence I use from text, tradition and artifact to continue this
discussion. It still seems to me that in your argument "possible" has become
"factual" and historical probability (based on text, tradition and artifact)
has become irrelevant (because this is no run-of-the-mill case).
It seems to me that this discussion is going nowhere. As I say, once you
conclude that what we know of women's roles in mourning and funerary practices
is not relevant because this was no "run-of-the-mill" case and then start
to use such evidence as speculation about what the women might have overheard
the priests talking about at the time of the crucifixion, you are making
in the use of evidence that, quite simply, do not seem to me to be justified.
This evidence certainly does not help me to understand the literary
among the gospels. It seems more directed to some sort of historical
reconstruction - and of a unique case, where ordinary evidence does not apply,
at that. Such historical reconstruction is not really the purpose of this
On the other hand, as I have tried to show in my NTS article on Matthew 28:1
(which is now being revised for publication in an expanded form), it seems to
me reasonable to suggest that Matthew's narrative, although not without some
difficulties, is understandable in the light of Jewish funerary traditions and
practices. If Mark were using Matthew as a source, it could be argued that he
(Mark) did not understand the finer points of Jewish practice - unless one
suggests that in 16:1 Mark is aware of and makes the very subtle distinction
that the women could have anointed the body of Jesus on the Sabbath (Mishnah:
Sabbath 23:5) but would have been prevented from purchasing the necessary
material on that holy day. That would put a very different spin on what most
people think Mark expects his readers to understand about Jewish practice.
I don't think that I'm inclined to argue that Mark makes this fine distinction
in 16:1, largely because he does not seem to assume such subtle understanding
on the part of his readers elsewhere (7:1-4 being a classic case in point to
And the child said, "Look! The emperor isn't wearing any clothes."
Dr. Thomas R. W. Longstaff
Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies
Waterville, ME 04901
Office phone: 207 872-3150
FAX: 207 872-3802
- At 10:40 AM 12/16/98 -0500, Thomas R. W. Longstaff wrote:
>At 10:22 PM 12/15/98 -0800, you wrote:It's of course much more than an "affirmation." It means we have to keep
>>The case of Jesus was no run-of-the-mill case, however, of which typical
>>burial customs would be more likely to prevail. This was a special case.
>This affirmation, of course, allows you to argue almost anything. [...]
open minds to a much greater extent than if we were just debating a
historical personage who had not been witnessed to be a great healer,
"miracle" worker and prophet.
Home page: http://www.proaxis.com/~deardorj/index.htm
- Thomas R. W. Longstaff wrote Dec 16, 1998:
> On the other hand, as I have tried to show in my NTS article on Matthew 28:1Dear Thomas,
> (which is now being revised for publication in an expanded form), it seems to
> me reasonable to suggest that Matthew's narrative, although not without some
> difficulties, is understandable in the light of Jewish funerary traditions and
> practices. If Mark were using Matthew as a source, it could be argued that he
> (Mark) did not understand the finer points of Jewish practice - unless one
> suggests that in 16:1 Mark is aware of and makes the very subtle distinction
> that the women could have anointed the body of Jesus on the Sabbath (Mishnah:
> Sabbath 23:5) but would have been prevented from purchasing the necessary
> material on that holy day. That would put a very different spin on what most
> people think Mark expects his readers to understand about Jewish practice.
> I don't think that I'm inclined to argue that Mark makes this fine distinction
> in 16:1, largely because he does not seem to assume such subtle understanding
> on the part of his readers elsewhere (7:1-4 being a classic case in point to
> the contrary).
I'm sorry I am reacting late to your above contribution. I read your
article in NTS once again and looked again at Semachot 8:1," Rule 1: We
go out to the cemetery and examine the dead within three days and do not
fear [being suspect of] superstitious practices...". For as you wrote:
in Matthew it "is the third day and the (women) come, as the law
requires, for the final inspection to ensure that Jesus is really dead".
It certainly is an important argument for refuting Goulder's thesis
that Matthew's version is incoherent "the women, having set opposite the
tomb (27,61), come, weakly, to see the tomb (28,1)"
However, Goulder too offered an important argument in favor of Markan
priority. Mark' story does seem indeed coherent: the women come to
I still believe Goulder is right. I would grant you that the
possibility exists that "some of the customs in this tractate"
[Semachot] go back to the first century CE. For it is difficult to date
the origin of the oral traditions behind the written version.
However, I am inclined to take Semachot 8:1 in an apologetic sense for
the purpose to ward off christian teachings. I am INCLINED to do so, I
cannot be certain - For as J.Z. Lauterbach wrote of the early teachers
of Judaism, "we can only guess sometimes and draw conclusions from a
veiled allusion or a side remark about other questions that may have
been prompted by what they knew and thought of early christianity."
(Jesus in the Talmud) It stands to reason that counterarguments to the
resurrection story were furnished if not for the mature adults, than
certainly for the simple and the children in the synagogue who might be
subject to evangelization by christian neighbors.
I believe the first "rule" in Semachot could well reflect on the
Gospel's open tomb story.
1. It seems rather strange that a "first rule" should be formulated for
the unlikely event that someone accidentally has been buried alive. It
DOES happen, but how often? But the "rule" does make sense in giving an
alternative interpretation of the Gospel's story.
For 2. The stipulation "within three days" is odd. One would expect
something like "as soon as possible" or the very next day. If the
provision was taking the Sabbath into accopunt, one would expect "within
two days". However, "within three days" covers precisely the time span
of the Gospels inclusing Mark's "after three days"
3. "superstitious practices" is also odd. What superstitious practice
would the rabbi's think of when a person would want to make what you
call "the final inspection". Again, the rule makes perfect sense if one
considers that the rabbi's alluded to what they considered to be the
superstitious belief in the coming to life of a dead person. For to the
simple one's that seemed to be the implication.
4. I too believe that irony is involved in Mark's and Matthew's story.
But it seems to me that Matthew developed Mark's story with his own
peculiar style of irony. Matthew in 27,63 shows he is fully aware of
Mark's version of the Gospel "meta treis hemeras (8,31)" and the
traditional "tei tritei hemera"(16,21).
With Goulder I believe Mark and Matthew wrote a midrash. However, I
think Montefiore was right suggesting that Mark in his epilogue (15,46!)
referred to LXX Isa 22,16 for his midrash. Does not the exegete shoot
himself in the leg maintaining that in 13,14 Mark refers to Dan 9,27
without mentioning the author and again in 14,18 to Ps 41,9 and in 15,36
Ps 69,21 without naming his source (giving but a few examples) and then
refuse to acknowledge that in 15,46 he likewise refers to and reminds
his readers in the First Century ecclesia of the "memorial tomb hewn
from the rock" in LXX Isa 22,16 (a hapax)? Is that choice of words in
that instance simply accidental?
Caution should be excercised with such allusions but it is worth
pursuing the trail.
with greetings, Karel