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