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Re: Ending of Mark? (Murphy)

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  • Antonio Jerez
    ... I remember the discussion we had months ago on Crosstalk with Donald Murphy about Ched Myer s book. At that time I hadn t read the work but had to rely on
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 30, 1999
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      Donald Murphy wrote:

      >There are elements of the interpretation you summarize from memory that
      >correspond to the interpretation given by Ched Myers in his Binding the Strong
      >Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis
      >Books, 1988 -- on pp. 368-69 and 397-98. Can you remember having read this
      >commentary?
      >
      >Myers's overall interpretation of Mark is the best I have found. Though it
      >surprised me often -- and continues to do so, I have come to see that the
      >seriousness of his combination of both a political and a literary (narrative
      >analysis) approach unifies my understanding of all of Mark in ways I have found
      >no one else to do.
      >
      >I discovered last spring on Crosstalk that some contributors, without carefully
      >studying what Myers does throughout his commentary, are put off by his unabashed
      >recognition of the contributions of Liberation Theologians to the understanding
      >of Mark. For my part I rejoice to see that Myers both recognizes the value of
      >much these theologican have done and carefully criticizes the lack of firm method
      >on their part -- and then goes further to provide, with solid method, conclusions
      >somewhat similar to the ones they intuitively reached.
      >
      >I prefer not to attempt to paraphrase an author with such carefully worked out
      >interpretations. If there is interest, however, I will gladly transcribe for
      >Synoptic-1 the parts of Myers's treatment of Mk 14:51f. and 16:1-8 that
      >specifically deal with the neaniskos and the sindwn in both passages -- always
      >with the caveat that these interpretations must be seen in their connections with
      >his interpretations of every other passage in Mark..


      I remember the discussion we had months ago on Crosstalk with Donald
      Murphy about Ched Myer's book. At that time I hadn't read the work but
      had to rely on the excerpts and interpretations Donald gave us. Since then
      I have given Myer's opus a thorough read, and I can't say that I am positive
      to it as D. Murphy is. I found a lot of Myer's readings of the pericopes and
      scenes in GMark extremely forced - chapter 13 and his interpretation of the
      Son of Man is a prime example. The apocalypticism outlook of Mark and
      the early Christians is obviously something that Myer's does his best to
      explain away - Origen would have been proud of him.


      Best wishes

      Antonio Jerez
    • Fr. Donald Murphy
      ... Dear Antonio, I m still waiting for you to visit Belize again so that we can meet face to face! In May we here at St. John s College lost all connection
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 2, 1999
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        Antonio Jerez wrote:

        > I remember the discussion we had months ago on Crosstalk with Donald
        > Murphy about Ched Myer's book. At that time I hadn't read the work but
        > had to rely on the excerpts and interpretations Donald gave us. Since then
        > I have given Myer's opus a thorough read, and I can't say that I am positive
        > to it as D. Murphy is. I found a lot of Myer's readings of the pericopes and
        > scenes in GMark extremely forced - chapter 13 and his interpretation of the
        > Son of Man is a prime example. The apocalypticism outlook of Mark and
        > the early Christians is obviously something that Myer's does his best to
        > explain away - Origen would have been proud of him.
        >
        > Best wishes
        >
        > Antonio Jerez

        Dear Antonio,

        I'm still waiting for you to visit Belize again so that we can meet face to face!

        In May we here at St. John's College lost all connection with our local server, and I
        was able to reestablish connection only in mid August. But my recollection of what
        had happened before that is that there was never what could truly be called a
        discussion of Myers's book on Crosstalk.

        But that's history. What really interests me is to see you and others really engage
        in discussion of specific aspects of Myers's interpretation.

        In light of your present message, however, what interests me yet more specifically is
        the way that you and others on Crosstalk ever since its beginning in 1995 reject the
        arguments especially of Crossan regarding the non apocalyptic message of the
        historical Jesus. Can you recall -- or, even better, pull up from the files -- any
        message in which you or others have confronted the careful complexities of Crossan's
        historical and literary grounding of his position on this matter?

        When I first read Crossan's interpretation, I was surprised and skeptical. But I
        have come more and more to respect the way his argument is very carefully developed
        and presented.

        Before rejecting Crossan's position, I suggest that one would have, with equal
        carefulness to that shown by Crossan, to point out invalidities or inconsistencies
        in his treatment, for example, of the following areas:
        -- the important difference in meaning between "eschatological" and "apocalyptic"
        for understanding the very different
        outlooks and attitudes of Jesus and various NT writers;
        -- the background and history of the development of "Son of Man" as a title
        specifically referring to Jesus;
        -- the evidence of the broad textual tradition that Jesus as "Son of Man" very
        seldom appears in connection with apocalypic
        outlooks of NT writers; and
        -- the considerable evidence, presupposing the priority of Mark and the
        (independent) use of Mark by both Matthew and
        Luke, showing that in case after case it is Mark who _first_ brings together
        strictly apocalyptic imagery and the title of
        "Son of Man" applied to Jesus.

        Only after such serious study of Crossan's position would it be valuable for us to
        engage in further serious study of the arguments that Myers gives for his completely
        surprising interpretations of passages such as Mark 8:38-9:1; 13:24-28; and 14:62. In
        that later discussion I think you will agree that it will be only fair to Myers always
        to keep in mind his clearly set out presentation of the theoretical and practical
        aspects of his use of "narrative analysis" throughout his commentary. In light of
        such a discussion I think we could more profitably return to discussing Myers's basis
        for interpreting the appearance of both the "young man" and the "linen cloth" in Mark
        15 and 16 -- the topic that led to this present exchange of messages.

        Isn't it amazing that, to all appearances, Crossan (1991 for his The Historical Jesus)
        and Myers (1988 for his Binding the Strong Man) did not at all know one another's work
        but reached strikingly similar interpretations -- given their very different purposes
        (Historical Jesus investigation and strictly Markan commentary, respectively) and
        methods. How much joy it would give this one student of the NT and the Historical
        Jesus to see the two of them seriously coming to know one another's work!

        That joy may not be on the horizon. But I have hopes that I will experience the joy
        of seeing you, Antonio, carefully grappling with such aspects of both authors as I
        outline above. The matters involved, I suggest, are of considerable importance for
        all of us who are interested in either the study of the Synoptic Problem or the study
        of the Historical Jesus.

        Every best wish, Antonio! And please let me know if you are still contemplating a
        return visit to Belize!

        Don

        --
      • Antonio Jerez
        ... Dear Donald, and I would very much want to meet you in Belize. These dark wintermonths here in Sweden I have been daydreaming quite a lot about the
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 3, 1999
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          Donald Murphy wrote:


          >Antonio Jerez wrote:
          >
          >> I remember the discussion we had months ago on Crosstalk with Donald
          >> Murphy about Ched Myer's book. At that time I hadn't read the work but
          >> had to rely on the excerpts and interpretations Donald gave us. Since then
          >> I have given Myer's opus a thorough read, and I can't say that I am positive
          >> to it as D. Murphy is. I found a lot of Myer's readings of the pericopes and
          >> scenes in GMark extremely forced - chapter 13 and his interpretation of the
          >> Son of Man is a prime example. The apocalypticism outlook of Mark and
          >> the early Christians is obviously something that Myer's does his best to
          >> explain away - Origen would have been proud of him.
          >>
          >> Best wishes
          >>
          >> Antonio Jerez
          >
          >Dear Antonio,
          >
          >I'm still waiting for you to visit Belize again so that we can meet face to face!


          Dear Donald,
          and I would very much want to meet you in Belize. These dark wintermonths
          here in Sweden I have been daydreaming quite a lot about the glittering
          beaches of the Yucatan and the verdant jungles of Belize and Guatemala.
          Unfortunately I don't know when I will have the opportunity to return to
          Central America. Ojala, it will soon.

          ...PART DELETED...


          >In light of your present message, however, what interests me yet more specifically is
          >the way that you and others on Crosstalk ever since its beginning in 1995 reject the
          >arguments especially of Crossan regarding the non apocalyptic message of the
          >historical Jesus. Can you recall -- or, even better, pull up from the files -- any
          >message in which you or others have confronted the careful complexities of Crossan's
          >historical and literary grounding of his position on this matter?


          I'm glad that you mention Crossan. He is never far away from our thoughts
          on Crosstalk. To judge by your comments you do not appear to have followed
          the discussion on the list the last few weeks. Actually we had a discussion about
          Crossan's methodology just a few days ago. The reason was a new book by
          Dale Allison - "Jesus, millenarian prophet - where Allison heavily criticizes all
          those who argue for a totally de-eschatologized, non-apocalyptic Jesus. Though
          I think Allison's own methodology is far too rough and imprecise I think that he
          has, despite all, given the deathknell to readings of the evidence of people
          like Crossan, Borg and N.T Wright.

          >When I first read Crossan's interpretation, I was surprised and skeptical. But I
          >have come more and more to respect the way his argument is very carefully developed
          >and presented.


          When I first read Crossan some years ago I was quite impressed by his
          detailed arguments and his stratification and his charts. But as the years
          have passed by and I have digested more viewpoints I have become
          less and less impressed by Crossan. I increasingly see his longwinded
          argumentation and all those charts as a kind of smokescreen. The man
          is not consistent in his methodology anyway. How on earth he manages to
          put singly attested parables like the prodigal Son and the good Samaritan
          on the account of the historical Jesus is beyond me. It is also increasingly
          obvious that so much of the soundness of his vision of HJ depends on him
          being right about a lot of extremely controversial theories . And often his
          arguments rest on him being right about the hypothesis of a hypothesis. A
          prime example is his assertion about a Q-document (the existence of a
          hypothetical document) and in the next step a stratification into non-apocalyptic
          and apocalyptic in this hypothetical document. This is shaky ground to build
          on to say the least. How shaky can easily be shown in Crossan's latest
          book "The birth of Christianity" where the author is at least honest enough
          to point out on almost every page that if "this particular hypothesis of mine is wrong
          my whole theory falls to the ground". And as can easlily be seen he does not
          present one controversial hypothesis, but dozens upon dozens. Quite frankly
          I stopped having much confidence in Crossan when I learnt more about his
          dating documents like Secret Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Hebrews before
          the ALL the canonical gospels. I certainly do not think a scholar who builds
          castles on a few verses from a gospel that nobody has yet seen stands for
          sound methodology.

          I'll give you an excerpt from what I wrote in the Crosstalk debate just a few
          days ago:

          <<I was very glad to see that Allison later in the book hooked on to something in Crossan's argumentation that is quite crucial to his hypothesis. In his earlier
          Jesus book Crossan put a colossal amount of weight on Q 7:28 - the unit says
          that the least in the kingdom is greater than John. Crossan reads this
          pericope as meaning that HJ criticized and abandoned John's apocalyptic
          eschatology. Allison thinks there are several problems with the conclusion;
          first the fact that many exegetes attribute the saying to the Church, secondly
          that "even if Jesus uttered Q 7:29, it scarcely disengages him from John's
          eschatology. If Jesus uttered the saying before John died, then it probably
          meant that the least in the kingdom (when it comes) will be greater than
          the greatest (John) is now. If Jesus uttered it after John died, then it probably
          meant that those now alive, who experience the precence of God's reign, are
          the most priviliged and blessed of all, even more blessed than the Baptist of
          revered memory. In either instance John's eschatological proclamation is
          not overturned."
          Personally I believe that Allison is absolutely right, and I was utterly
          dismayed to see Crossan putting forward exactly the same argument
          about the same saying in his new book "The birth of Christianity".
          Again Crossan lets almost EVERYTHING depend on the (dubious)
          reading of ONE particular saying. And so you will find Crossan again
          discarding hundreds of sayings because they do not fit his reading
          <<of this particular pericope. This is preposterous!

          SNIP.SNIP

          <<I think Jacob Knee gave a good picture of Allison's overall method
          the other day. As I see it Allison first looks at all the hundreds of pieces
          in the puzzle and asks himself if he can find something recognisable.
          He does - a lot of the pieces appear to look like coming from a kind
          of puzzle he has seen before. In this case the puzzle picture is "apocalyptic
          Judaism". So Allison starts to look at the pieces one by one to figure out
          if they are stamped with anything resemling "apocalypticism". He throws
          all the positive ones into a bag and in the end finds that there are very few
          pieces that do not fit the picture. And so he concludes that it is very, very
          probable that Jesus himself belonged to the apocalyptic wing of Judaism
          and himself proclaimed it in some form or another.
          You could almost say that Crossan's method is the reverse of Allison's
          Crossan takes a look at the hundreds of puzzle pieces, grabs one (Q 7:29)
          that he thinks doesn't fit with the others and says that this single piece is the key to
          the puzzle. The 99.9% that don't fit with this piece can be thrown away without
          much qualms.
          I think that for all the apparent sophistication of Crossan's method,much of
          it is really just a smokescreen. Crossan is often not consistent anyway - a lot
          depends on subjective guesses. And often it is not even good guesses or good
          readings, like in the case of Q 7:29. His building is a stack of cards that blows
          down on the merest whisper of a wind.
          So I agree with Allison's overall conclusion (that Jesus was some kind of
          millenarian), though I think that we should do more than just put all the
          apocalyptic puzzle pieces in a bag without scrutinizing them further. I
          do after all believe that there was a development in the apocalyptic picture
          from Jesus to the time of his later followers (like Mark, Matthew, Luke...).
          And here is where we should try to use tools like tradition-criticism, redaction -
          criticism etc, but always keeping in mind that these are highly imperfect
          <<tools.

          >Before rejecting Crossan's position, I suggest that one would have, with equal
          >carefulness to that shown by Crossan, to point out invalidities or inconsistencies
          >in his treatment, for example, of the following areas:

          I agree with your suggestion that "before rejecting Crossan's position...". This
          is precisely what I have done. I have read and digested all his books carefully.

          > -- the important difference in meaning between "eschatological" and "apocalyptic"
          >for understanding the very different

          I think I understand his distinction. But I still find too much in the
          material we have pointing clearly in one direction - that HJ and
          the early church shared an apocalyptic outlook.

          > outlooks and attitudes of Jesus and various NT writers;
          > -- the background and history of the development of "Son of Man" as a title
          >specifically referring to Jesus;

          Crossan and I are in no disagreement that the use of the Son of
          Man as a title (with apocalyptic associations) does NOT go back
          to HJ. And my own studies have convinced me that there is a trajectory
          in the development of the Son of Man concept in the NT. My own reading
          is from a present/future Kingdom of God that HJ preached to a Son of
          Man/Parousia/Kingdom concept in GMark to a more developed Son
          of Man/Kingdom of God-Christ/Parousia concept in Matthew and Luke.


          > -- the evidence of the broad textual tradition that Jesus as "Son of Man" very
          >seldom appears in connection with apocalypic
          > outlooks of NT writers; and

          Agree. That is one of the reasons I believe that the title Son of Man
          does not go back to HJ. The Son of Man concept is mostly a synoptic
          phenomenon. The future Kingdom of God concept goes like a thread
          through all NT texts. That is a clear indication that it originates with HJ.

          > -- the considerable evidence, presupposing the priority of Mark and the
          >(independent) use of Mark by both Matthew and
          > Luke, showing that in case after case it is Mark who _first_ brings together
          >strictly apocalyptic imagery and the title of
          > "Son of Man" applied to Jesus.
          >
          >Only after such serious study of Crossan's position would it be valuable for us to
          >engage in further serious study of the arguments that Myers gives for his completely
          >surprising interpretations of passages such as Mark 8:38-9:1; 13:24-28; and 14:62. In
          >that later discussion I think you will agree that it will be only fair to Myers always
          >to keep in mind his clearly set out presentation of the theoretical and practical
          >aspects of his use of "narrative analysis" throughout his commentary. In light of
          >such a discussion I think we could more profitably return to discussing Myers's basis
          >for interpreting the appearance of both the "young man" and the "linen cloth" in Mark
          >15 and 16 -- the topic that led to this present exchange of messages.
          >
          >Isn't it amazing that, to all appearances, Crossan (1991 for his The Historical Jesus)
          >and Myers (1988 for his Binding the Strong Man) did not at all know one another's work
          >but reached strikingly similar interpretations -- given their very different purposes
          >(Historical Jesus investigation and strictly Markan commentary, respectively) and
          >methods. How much joy it would give this one student of the NT and the Historical
          >Jesus to see the two of them seriously coming to know one another's work!


          I don't find it amazing at all. Both Crossan and Myer, although coming at it
          from different angles, are doing their best to present the world with a Jesus
          who still has some meaning - a liberal, anti-establishment Jesus that is
          all the liberation-theologians of the 90ies could ask for. Crossan gets to his
          goal through contorted readings of pericopes and parables and building
          one dubious hypothesis upon unother, while Myer does it through all kinds
          of Origenist readings.

          >That joy may not be on the horizon. But I have hopes that I will experience the joy
          >of seeing you, Antonio, carefully grappling with such aspects of both authors as I
          >outline above. The matters involved, I suggest, are of considerable importance for
          >all of us who are interested in either the study of the Synoptic Problem or the study
          >of the Historical Jesus.


          I'm open for any further, deeper discussion. I have after all already tried
          to grapple with Crossan and Myer. Some more grappling surely won't
          hurt.

          >Every best wish, Antonio! And please let me know if you are still contemplating a
          >return visit to Belize!


          I sure am. If I pass by again I promise to give you a call.


          Best wishes

          Antonio
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