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Re: Motivation of women in Mark 16/Mt 27-28

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  • Thomas R. W. Longstaff
    ... This affirmation, of course, allows you to argue almost anything. As I say, your comments embody several proposals for which there is no available evidence
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 16, 1998
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      At 10:22 PM 12/15/98 -0800, you wrote:

      >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. As I say,
      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
      critical.
      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
      such fashion?).
      ...and more.

      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
      reliable
      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
      the
      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
      leaps
      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
      relationships
      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
      list.

      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
      the contrary).

      And the child said, "Look! The emperor isn't wearing any clothes."

      Dr. Thomas R. W. Longstaff
      Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies
      Colby College
      Waterville, ME 04901
      Email: t_longst@...
      Office phone: 207 872-3150
      FAX: 207 872-3802
    • Jim Deardorff
      ... It s of course much more than an affirmation. It means we have to keep open minds to a much greater extent than if we were just debating a historical
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 16, 1998
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        At 10:40 AM 12/16/98 -0500, Thomas R. W. Longstaff wrote:
        >At 10:22 PM 12/15/98 -0800, you wrote:
        >
        >>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. [...]

        It's of course much more than an "affirmation." It means we have to keep
        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.

        Jim Deardorff
        Corvallis, Oregon
        E-mail: deardorj@...
        Home page: http://www.proaxis.com/~deardorj/index.htm
      • K. Hanhart
        ... Dear Thomas, 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
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 30, 1999
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          Thomas R. W. Longstaff wrote Dec 16, 1998:

          > On the other hand, as I have tried to show in my NTS article on Matthew 28:1
          > (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
          > the contrary).

          Dear Thomas,
          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
          anoint him.
          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
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