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[Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark

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  • Brian E. Wilson
    Shawn Kelley wrote - ... Shawn, If you read the correspondence we have had previously on this List, you will find that my over-riding concern has been to solve
    Message 1 of 18 , Jun 29, 1999
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      Shawn Kelley wrote -
      >
      >You have often rejected, in rather sweeping terms, the literary
      >critical studies of the last thirty years. You argue that the Gospels
      >have no structure, that they do not systematically employ metaphors or
      >themes, that they do not employ particular rhetorical strategies (i.e.
      >framing), that the individual stories are strung together in no
      >particular order, and that there is nothing to be gained by an immanent
      >reading any of the Gospels. In other words, you spend a lot of time
      >talking about the issues raised by literary critics. Unlike many of
      >the items in Hooker's bibliography, which no doubt deal with issues
      >like textual criticism and the historical Jesus, your argument seems to
      >require confrontation with the work of literary critics.
      >
      Shawn,
      If you read the correspondence we have had previously on this
      List, you will find that my over-riding concern has been to solve the
      Synoptic Problem - that is to find a hypothesis of the documentary
      relation between the synoptic gospels, and show that this is consistent
      with the patterns observable in a synopsis. For instance I wrote, as a
      summary of a posting in a reply to what you had written on Synoptic-L in
      October last year -
      >
      >So I do not see literary criticism of the kind described above as the
      >key to solving the Synoptic Problem.
      >
      You had written previously (to someone else) -
      >
      >The critics I mentioned above assume the 2 source hypothesis and the
      >priority of Mark (see especially the final chapter of Fowler)- but
      >primarily read Mark on its own terms. They assume Markan priority, but
      >it is not essential to their reading (except maybe in Fowler's case).
      >
      I have no problem at all with literary-criticism which explicitly states
      that it is based on a particular synoptic hypothesis - such as the Two
      Document Hypothesis. If we assume a solution to the Synoptic Problem,
      then we positively should apply this to the synoptic gospels and
      determine its implications concerning their meaning. I would have
      thought this is precisely what W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison have
      done in their mammoth three volume commentary on Matthew which I think
      is a great work.

      What I reject is the assumption that it is possible to solve the
      Synoptic Problem by "internal" study of the individual synoptic gospel
      ("immanent reading") alone. The apparent structure of the Gospel of
      Mark (the perception of which varies widely from scholar to scholar) may
      not have been supplied by the WRITER of the Gospel of Mark himself. The
      apparent theology of the Gospel of Mark may provide no indication
      whatsoever of how we would recognize the theology of the WRITER of the
      Gospel of Mark. The apparent style of the Gospel of Mark may give no
      clear indication of the style of the WRITER of the Gospel of Mark. Any
      apparent symbolism in the apparent structure of the Gospel of Mark may
      give no clear indication of the mind of the WRITER of the Gospel of Mark
      having created this.

      You may ask why this should matter. My answer is that if we knew from
      the study of the Gospel of Mark by itself what is the distinctive
      theology and style and use of symbolism of the writer Mark, then, by
      comparing the Gospel of Mark with Matthew and Luke we would have an
      INSTANT solution to the Synoptic Problem. We would immediately be able
      to see whether Matthew did, or did not, use Mark, and so on.

      For to know the individual theology and style and deliberate use of
      symbolism of the writer of Mark we would have to be able to identify
      words and constructions which he himself supplied. And these words and
      constructions would then either be conspicuous by their absence from
      Matthew (if Matthew did not use Mark) or would be very much in evidence
      in Matthew (if Matthew did use Mark, or if both used a common
      documentary source), and so on.

      So it does matter, at least if we are serious about trying to solve the
      Synoptic Problem. If we really knew "Mark's reasons" for a particular
      supposed structure of the Gospel of Mark, the Synoptic Problem would be
      solved, if by "Mark" we mean the writer of the Gospel of Mark.

      If we are going to talk of "Mark's reasons" or "Mark's style" where Mark
      does NOT mean the writer of the Gospel of Mark, then what on earth are
      we talking about? Such a "Mark" would not have been the flesh-and-blood
      author of the Gospel of Mark, but a hypothetical non-historical
      construct of zany "scholarship" which can give no indication of what
      actually happened in the writing of the Gospel of Mark, or its
      documentary relationship to the other synoptic gospels.

      I would want to make clear that I do not consider "that there is nothing
      to be gained by an immanent reading (of) any of the Gospels." What I do
      maintain is that immanent reading of any synoptic gospel does not by
      itself solve the Synoptic Problem.

      I would also maintain that once we assume a solution to the Synoptic
      Problem, immanent reading could be an odd pursuit. It could amount to
      closing our eyes to the implications of the synoptic hypothesis we
      adopt. For if we supposed, for instance, that Matthew was prior to
      Luke, and Luke to Mark, then an immanent reading of Luke would entail
      ignoring the implications of Luke having used Matthew. We can hardly
      describe (ed) A. J. McNicol with D. L.Dungan and D. B. Peabody, "Beyond
      the Q Impasse - Luke's Use of Matthew" (Valley Forge, 1996) as being an
      immanent reading of Luke. Whether we agree with the Griesbach Hypothesis
      or not, at least the writers are making use of their assumed solution to
      the Synoptic Problem, and have not closed their eyes to its implications
      concerning the meaning of Luke.

      Re your allusion to M. D. Hooker, "The Gospel according to St Mark"
      (London, 1991), you might like to note that Hooker explicitly discusses
      the form-critical, redaction-critical and literary-critical approaches,
      and shows that she has read some literary-critical works (some of which
      I have actually read too!)

      You write also -
      >
      >I hope, in the next few weeks, to throw out a few ideas on Mark's
      >structure - as soon as my schedule allows.
      >
      I look forward to this. I hope you will give some indication of how you
      see this relating to solving the Synoptic Problem.

      Best wishes,
      BRIAN WILSON

      E-MAIL: brian@... HOMEPAGE
      SNAILMAIL: Rev B. E. Wilson,
      10 York Close, Godmanchester, http://www.twonh.demon.co.uk
      Huntingdon, Cambs, PE18 8EB, UK
    • Stephen C. Carlson
      ... I understand and would tend to agree with your remarks here, especially as a called for caution. I m having some difficulty, however, in understanding
      Message 2 of 18 , Jun 30, 1999
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        At 08:32 AM 6/29/99 +0100, Brian E. Wilson wrote:
        >What I reject is the assumption that it is possible to solve the
        >Synoptic Problem by "internal" study of the individual synoptic gospel
        >("immanent reading") alone. The apparent structure of the Gospel of
        >Mark (the perception of which varies widely from scholar to scholar) may
        >not have been supplied by the WRITER of the Gospel of Mark himself.

        I understand and would tend to agree with your remarks here, especially as
        a called for caution. I'm having some difficulty, however, in understanding
        your previous remarks that Mark and the others lack a clear outline and
        dismissing literary criticism, which tends to contradict your asserting by
        showing that there is a outline to the gospels.

        Just because literary criticism may not be useful in distinguishing
        whether an outline comes from source or redaction does not mean that
        literary criticism is unhelpful in identifying any outline in the
        first place. Those are two separate issues, and your current comments
        about literary criticism do not address how literary criticism was
        invoked as a rebuttal to your previous remarks.

        Stephen Carlson
        --
        Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
        Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
        "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
      • Brian E. Wilson
        Brian Wilson wrote - ... Stephen Carlson commented - ... Stephen, My point was really that I think it is not possible for immanent reading alone to tell us
        Message 3 of 18 , Jun 30, 1999
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          Brian Wilson wrote -
          >
          >What I reject is the assumption that it is possible to solve the
          >Synoptic Problem by "internal" study of the individual synoptic gospel
          >("immanent reading") alone. The apparent structure of the Gospel of
          >Mark (the perception of which varies widely from scholar to scholar)
          >may not have been supplied by the WRITER of the Gospel of Mark himself.
          >
          Stephen Carlson commented -
          >
          >I understand and would tend to agree with your remarks here, especially
          >as a call for caution. I'm having some difficulty, however, in
          >understanding your previous remarks...
          >...Just because literary criticism may not be useful in distinguishing
          >whether an outline comes from source or redaction does not mean that
          >literary criticism is unhelpful in identifying any outline in the
          >first place...
          >
          Stephen,
          My point was really that I think it is not possible for
          "immanent reading" alone to tell us the outline (if any) intended by the
          writer of a synoptic gospel. What was not intended by the actual flesh-
          and-blood writer as an outline of his gospel would not, in my view, be
          an "outline" of that synoptic gospel in any meaningful way.

          Positively, I think the Synoptic Problem is to put forward a hypothesis
          of the documentary relationship between the synoptic gospels and show
          that this hypothesis fits well all the observed patterns of similarities
          and differences of wording and order of material in the synoptic
          gospels. If we have put forward a synoptic hypothesis and tested it
          against the data observable in the columns of a synopsis of Matthew,
          Mark and Luke, and found that the hypothesis fits all the facts, then we
          can apply this solution to the synoptic gospels and begin to infer
          validly the mind of each synoptist, distinguishing this from the mind of
          the writer of any documentary material used by any synoptist. But, in my
          view, solving the Synoptic Problem comes first, and applying its
          solution to the synoptic gospels comes second.

          Best wishes,
          BRIAN WILSON

          E-MAIL: brian@... HOMEPAGE
          SNAILMAIL: Rev B. E. Wilson,
          10 York Close, Godmanchester, http://www.twonh.demon.co.uk
          Huntingdon, Cambs, PE18 8EB, UK
        • Shawn Kelley
          ... How can we discern the intention of the flesh and blood author? Leaving aside any theoretical reflection on intention (which might be worth pursuing on
          Message 4 of 18 , Jun 30, 1999
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            Brian E. Wilson wrote:

            > My point was really that I think it is not possible for
            > "immanent reading" alone to tell us the outline (if any) intended by the
            > writer of a synoptic gospel. What was not intended by the actual flesh-
            > and-blood writer as an outline of his gospel would not, in my view, be
            > an "outline" of that synoptic gospel in any meaningful way.

            How can we discern the intention of the flesh and blood author? Leaving
            aside any theoretical reflection on intention (which might be worth pursuing
            on another occasion), we don't even know who the author was. We know quite
            literally nothing about the writer of Mark (including his or her name)
            except for that which can be inferred from the text. We can, however,
            determine the structure of the Gospel of Mark the same way we would
            determine the structure of any other text that has ever been written: by
            reading it. What else can give us insight into Mark's intention other than
            that which can be gleaned from the text?

            As for the rest of your response to me, please forgive me if I do not reply
            until next week. It is a long weekend here in the States.

            Shawn Kelley
            Daemen College
          • Jeff Peterson
            ... The interesting exchange among Brian and Shawn and Stephen has me thinking that it might be helpful to observe that the Synoptic problem is really a
            Message 5 of 18 , Jun 30, 1999
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              At 9:18 PM +0100 6/30/99, Brian E. Wilson wrote:
              >[I]n my view, solving the Synoptic Problem comes first, and applying its
              >solution to the synoptic gospels comes second.

              The interesting exchange among Brian and Shawn and Stephen has me thinking
              that it might be helpful to observe that the Synoptic problem is really a
              secondary question in research, the primary inquiry being into the exegesis
              of the Synoptic gospels. An extant gospel, like any surviving artifact of
              antiquity, prompts historians to ask, "What was this for? What did it do?
              What did people do with it? What did it signify to its users, or to those
              among whom it was used?" Historians propose answers to these questions in
              regard to all sorts of artifacts evidencing no clear relation to other
              artifacts, including texts that stand in no demonstrable documentary
              relation to other texts (e.g., Philemon). Historians address such questions
              in essentially the way that Shawn has suggested: i.e., they read the texts.
              (Historians characteristically correlate their readings of single texts
              with readings of other texts, and with "readings" of other relevant data,
              e.g., material culture. Literary critics, in contrast, tend to limit
              themselves to reading one text at a time. Both may have something to learn
              from one another.)

              What's distinctive about the Synoptics (but not entirely unique) is the
              documentary relationship evidently obtaining among these three textual
              artifacts; and an accurate reconstruction of this relationship would
              doubtless aid in the reading of the texts. But I do not understand why
              anything that one Synoptist derived from another should be denied any value
              whatsoever in discerning the signifance of the derivative Synoptic
              narrative. Marcan theology (e.g.) incorporates what AMark had learned from
              Paul or his letters (if anything); it will not due to declare the
              cross/resurrection Pauline and subtract it from the convictions and
              dispositions expressed in the Marcan narrative (which such a procedure
              would obscure beyond recognition). Why should not the principle not hold
              true with a prior Synoptist in relation to his successors and dependents?

              Jeff

              ------------------------------------
              Jeffrey Peterson
              Institute for Christian Studies
              Austin, Texas, USA
              ------------------------------------
            • Mark Matson
              In response to the discussion between Shawn Kelly and Brian Wilson, I ... Mark: As much as I am interested in resolving the Synoptic Problem, I do not think it
              Message 6 of 18 , Jul 1, 1999
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                In response to the discussion between Shawn Kelly and Brian Wilson, I
                couldn't help but jump in with a comment as well:

                > Shawn Kelly replied -
                > >
                > >How can we discern the intention of the flesh and blood author?
                > >
                to which Brian Wilson responded:

                > Shawn,
                > I would suggest that rather depends on your solution to the
                > Synoptic Problem. [snip] .... The intention of the
                > author of Mark could be inferred from his choosing to **omit** some
                > material from Matthew and/or Luke (for instance the Sermon on the Mount
                > or the Sermon on the Plain) and from his choosing to **include** other
                > material, in some cases almost verbatim. Furthermore, the intention of
                > the author of Mark could be inferred from the way in which, on such a
                > solution to the Synoptic Problem, he **edited** the wording of the
                > source material he did choose to include, so revealing his own **style**
                > of writing and his own **theology**. ... [and further] But this interpretation would be contingent on an
                > acceptance of the synoptic hypothesis adopted, so that if the synoptic
                > hypothesis is ruled out, then so also is the interpretation of the
                > Gospel of Mark on which it depends.

                Mark:

                As much as I am interested in resolving the Synoptic Problem, I do
                not think it is a necessary precondition for understanding the
                "intention of Mark" or perceiving the narrative structure of Mark, or
                any of the gospels. That is asking too much, and frankly we might
                never get there. Solutions to the Synoptic Problem may give us some
                additional clarity in understanding issues, may point up some
                emphases as more or less important, but surely we are in a position
                to understand the primary thrust of Mark (or Matthew, or Luke). No?

                Whether Mark drew on a) a previous gospel, or b) collected notes, or
                c) oral tradition, or d) some combination of the above, AMk pulled
                these together into a coherent whole which narrates a story about
                Jesus -- a story which has a rhetorical thrust. And it seems to me
                that precisely this understanding of the central narrative emphases,
                the theology of the writer if you please, must be accommodated in
                the understanding of the synoptic relationship. If we subsequently
                can discern the shape of one or more of these sources behind a
                writer, we can clarify the importance of the various issues reflected
                in the use (or misuse, or modification) of them. But we still have
                an whole narrative that makes sense without that.

                The study of an author, say Shakespeare, is aided by the recognition
                of allusions to mythology or historical reminiscence. But is
                tracking down the exact source of the myth, or the historical
                reference used, a requirement to understand Shakespeare's emphasis?

                What I would suggest is that the Synoptic Problem is but a special
                case of what is ubiquitous in literature: we all rely on previous
                sources for our ideas (either literarily, intertextually, or by
                memory or allusion). But we don't generally require full knowledge
                of sources, of influences, of backgrounds, to understand a piece of
                literature (surely you don't really need to know all of my
                background reading that informed by dissertation to understand it.
                It may be unreadable, but I doubt it is because you don't know all
                the influences it is steeped in). Now the close relationship of the
                Synoptics is more obvious, more insistent. But is it inherently
                different??? I would say no. We begin with understanding an
                author's production on its own terms, then seek to clarify that
                perhaps with understanding the background and influences, but always
                checking that against the "immanent reading."

                And, indeed, if we can perceive a narrative shape and central thrust
                in Mark, and compare that with Matthew and Luke, perhaps we can
                discern evidence of modification, use, or misuse of another. So
                understanding the narrative itself seems to me to be a first order
                business, upon which an understanding of the relationship between the
                gospels is dependent, not prior.

                Mark Matson
                Mark A. Matson, Ph.D.
                Asst. Director, Sanford Institute of Public Policy
                Adjunct Professor of New Testament
                Duke University
                Durham, NC 27713
                (919) 613-7310
              • Brian E. Wilson
                ... Shawn Kelly replied - ... Shawn, I would suggest that rather depends on your solution to the Synoptic Problem. If you accept the Augustinian Hypothesis,
                Message 7 of 18 , Jul 1, 1999
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                  Brian E. Wilson wrote:
                  >
                  >I think it is not possible for "immanent reading" alone to tell us the
                  >outline (if any) intended by the writer of a synoptic gospel. What was
                  >not intended by the actual flesh-and-blood writer as an outline of his
                  >gospel would not, in my view, be an "outline" of that synoptic gospel
                  >in any meaningful way.
                  >
                  Shawn Kelly replied -
                  >
                  >How can we discern the intention of the flesh and blood author?
                  >
                  Shawn,
                  I would suggest that rather depends on your solution to the
                  Synoptic Problem. If you accept the Augustinian Hypothesis, or the
                  Griesbach Hypothesis, or the Jerusalem School Hypothesis, or the
                  Boismard Hypothesis, or any synoptic hypothesis in which the Gospel of
                  Mark is not a documentary ancestor of Matthew or Luke, you can apply
                  such a solution to the Synoptic Problem and discern how the author of
                  Mark treated his documentary source material. The intention of the
                  author of Mark could be inferred from his choosing to **omit** some
                  material from Matthew and/or Luke (for instance the Sermon on the Mount
                  or the Sermon on the Plain) and from his choosing to **include** other
                  material, in some cases almost verbatim. Furthermore, the intention of
                  the author of Mark could be inferred from the way in which, on such a
                  solution to the Synoptic Problem, he **edited** the wording of the
                  source material he did choose to include, so revealing his own **style**
                  of writing and his own **theology**.

                  Of course, if you adopt the Two Document Hypothesis, the Farrer
                  Hypothesis, the Three Source Hypothesis, the Lagrange Hypothesis, or any
                  synoptic hypothesis which holds that the Gospel of Mark was the
                  documentary ancestor of both Matthew and Luke, then it is possible to
                  affirm that much of the Gospel of Mark expresses the intention of the
                  author of the Gospel of Mark in some way. If a commentator on Mark
                  explicitly affirms acceptance of a synoptic hypothesis of this kind,
                  then I have no problem at all with that commentator interpreting the
                  whole of the Gospel of Mark as the creation of its author, and therefore
                  indicating the style of writing, and theology, and so on, of the author
                  of the Gospel of Mark. But this interpretation would be contingent on an
                  acceptance of the synoptic hypothesis adopted, so that if the synoptic
                  hypothesis is ruled out, then so also is the interpretation of the
                  Gospel of Mark on which it depends.
                  >
                  >Leaving aside any theoretical reflection on intention (which might be
                  >worth pursuing on another occasion),
                  >
                  I am not sure whether you do leave it aside in what you have written in
                  this posting. The "structure" of the Gospel of Mark means, if it means
                  anything at all, something intended by the author of the Gospel of Mark.
                  >
                  >we don't even know who the author was. We know quite literally nothing
                  >about the writer of Mark including his or her name) except for that
                  >which can be inferred from the text.
                  >
                  We know that the author of Mark wrote a book which was either the
                  documentary ancestor of the Gospels of Matthew and/or Luke or was a
                  documentary descendant of Matthew and/or Luke or of a common documentary
                  source. This does not mean that we have to resort to an "immanent
                  reading" of the Gospel of Mark in despair at ever finding the mind of
                  the flesh-and-blood author of the Gospel of Mark himself. It means
                  rather that if we take the trouble to solve the Synoptic Problem, then
                  we have a real prospect of discovering his approach and his ideas, by
                  applying the synoptic solution to the synoptic gospels.
                  >
                  >We can, however, determine the structure of the Gospel of Mark the same
                  >way we would determine the structure of any other text that has ever
                  >been written: by reading it.
                  >
                  Reading the Gospel of Mark is clearly essential for determining any
                  structure it may have. It is a necessary condition. But is it a
                  sufficient one? An "immanent reading" of the Gospel of Mark by itself
                  would tell us nothing of the flesh-and-blood author of the Gospel of
                  Mark, and therefore tells us nothing of any "structure" which he may
                  have intended. Any apparent "structure" produced by an immanent reading
                  of the Gospel of Mark may not even have been constructed by the author
                  of the Gospel of Mark himself, but taken over from his source material.
                  The writer of the Gospel of Mark himself may not even have noticed a
                  "structure" which today's immanent reader "sees". And to settle that
                  issue we need at least to solve the Synoptic Problem.
                  >
                  >What else can give us insight into Mark's intention other than that
                  >which can be gleaned from the text?
                  >
                  I think the phrase "Mark's intention" here is ambiguous. It can mean
                  either the intention of the flesh-and-blood author of the Gospel of Mark
                  or the intention of a ghostly "assumed author" of an "immanent reading"
                  of the Gospel of Mark. I would suggest that the distinction between
                  these is crucial, and will not go away. An "immanent reading" of the
                  Gospel of Mark does not give us the intention of the author of the
                  Gospel of Mark himself, but only of its "assumed author".

                  I think the whole question of the structure of the Gospel of Mark is in
                  the melting-pot pending a satisfactory solution to the Synoptic Problem.
                  What we see the author of the Gospel of Mark to have constructed depends
                  on what we see actually happened to make Matthew, Mark and Luke synoptic
                  gospels. I would suggest that it is basically a historical question. The
                  sceptic is the person who despairs of finding an answer to this
                  historical question. I believe it will be answered.

                  Best wishes,
                  BRIAN WILSON

                  E-MAIL: brian@... HOMEPAGE
                  SNAILMAIL: Rev B. E. Wilson,
                  10 York Close, Godmanchester, http://www.twonh.demon.co.uk
                  Huntingdon, Cambs, PE18 8EB, UK
                • Shawn Kelley
                  I know I promised a response to Brian s response to my response, but Jeff Peterson and Mark Matson already gave very nice defenses of the literary position-
                  Message 8 of 18 , Jul 7, 1999
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                    I know I promised a response to Brian's response to my response, but
                    Jeff Peterson and Mark Matson already gave very nice defenses of the
                    literary
                    position- probably better than anything I could have come up with on my
                    own. For now let me put out a few ideas on Mark's narrative structure.

                    Let me begin by saying that I fully agree with Mark Matson's suggestion
                    that we
                    turn from unproductive terms like authorial (implied/flesh and blood)
                    intention to the more productive terms like the rhetorical thrust of
                    Mark's text. I think that Mark's text does provide several clues on how
                    it wants to be read. Some of these clues deal directly with the
                    question
                    of structure.

                    Most of what follows is stolen from Mary Ann Tolbert's "Sowing the
                    Gospel"
                    (Appendix A: The Rhetorical Structure of Mark).

                    i) Mark has a general prologue (1:1-13) and can be divided into two
                    large sections (1:14-10:52; 11:1-16:8). That is, there is a rather
                    sudden and dramatic shift in tone, themes, style of writing, once
                    Jesus enters Jerusalem. The story rather naturally divides itself in
                    half.

                    ii) Mark is fond of the technique of "framing" (I think people on the
                    list call it something else: sandwiching?). Here are some examples:
                    a) Section one is framed by the call of disciples (1:16-20;
                    10:46-52)
                    b) The second subdivision of section 2 is framed by women anointing
                    Jesus for burial (14:1-11; 16:1-8)
                    c) The final subdivision of section 1 is framed by the healing of a
                    blind man (8:22-26; 10:46-52).
                    In each instance (and there are many more) this technique helps
                    group large amounts of material together and helps establish the theme
                    for that section of the Gospel: the calling of disciples, the death of
                    Jesus, the blindness of the disciples.

                    iii) The first part of the Gospel is rather loosely structured, but
                    there are geographical markers designed to indicate forward movement of
                    the story and designed to group material together. The most important
                    one is the Sea of Galilee. Note that each time Jesus either approaches
                    or crosses the Sea (1:16; 2:13; 3:7; 4:1; 4:35) new kinds of material
                    are introduced (healings, controversies, new kinship, parables).

                    iv) Mark has a number of metaphors that are woven throughout the story.
                    The most important ones are: seeing/blindness, fear, journeying (towards
                    abandonment for Jesus and towards failure for the disciples). These
                    metaphors help evaluate the behavior of the characters as they respond
                    to Jesus. This too is essential to the movement of the plot, in that
                    the failure of certain characters is essential to the overall story.

                    v) There are a number of scenes that are grouped in threes: the boat
                    trips, the passion predictions, the sleeping in the Garden of
                    Gethsemene, Peter's denial. These scenes are designed to comment on
                    each other. As a whole they highlight the consistent failure of the
                    disciples to listen to Jesus or to understand him.

                    vi) There are a number of times that Jesus calls aside Peter, James and
                    John for some private moment. The raising of Jairus' daughter
                    (6:35ff), the transfiguration (9:2ff), the three Passion Predictions
                    {one involving Peter (8:31ff) and one James and John (10:35ff)}, the
                    apocalyptic discourse (13:3ff, which also includes Andrew), and the
                    Garden of Gethsemene (14: 32).
                    We should also recall that they were the first ones called. This has
                    the effect of identifying them as leaders and of highlighting their
                    increasing inability to understand the themes of death and resurrection
                    (which are implicit in almost all of the above scenes). It also helps
                    to
                    underline the role that their failure plays in increasing the suffering
                    of Jesus.

                    vii) Some parts of Mark are not tightly plotted (which is not the same
                    thing as unplotted), while others are tightly plotted. I would suggest
                    in particular that 8:22-10:46 and 14:1-16:8 are especially well
                    plotted.
                    That is, both sections of the Gospel culminate in a rather dramatic
                    sections of narrative that are rather obviously forward moving.

                    viii) Most of the important themes are identified in the parable
                    chapter, especially in the parable of the Sower and its interpretation.
                    Notice how the language and imagery of 4:6, 16-17 reappears in the
                    Passion story (see 14:27). The disciples (led by Peter, the rock)
                    reflect the behavior of the rocky soil of the parable- the very parable
                    that Jesus identifies as the most important off all the parables (4:13).
                    The plot and the teaching material are closely intertwined.

                    There is enough here to suggest to me that Mark is indeed structured,
                    that it does have a plot and themes, and that it is trying to guide the
                    way that we receive and read the story. The Gospel hopes to produce
                    certain effects upon those who read it. Is that so surprising?

                    Shawn Kelley
                    Daemen College
                  • Mark Matson
                    ... I would agree that Mark s gospel falls into a simple two part construction, though I tend to see the break a bit differently. It has always struck me that
                    Message 9 of 18 , Jul 8, 1999
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                      Shawn Kelley <skelley@...> wrote:

                      > i) Mark has a general prologue (1:1-13) and can be divided into two
                      > large sections (1:14-10:52; 11:1-16:8). That is, there is a rather
                      > sudden and dramatic shift in tone, themes, style of writing, once
                      > Jesus enters Jerusalem. The story rather naturally divides itself in
                      > half.
                      >
                      I would agree that Mark's gospel falls into a simple two part
                      construction, though I tend to see the break a bit differently. It
                      has always struck me that the first part of the gospel focuses on
                      whether people, especially the disciples, will understand who Jesus
                      was. This section, marked especially by the secrecy motif, ends at
                      8:30, following Peter's (finally) confession that Jesus was the
                      Christ.

                      The second half then deals with the passion, and begins in 8:31 with
                      the first prediction of the passion.

                      As Tolbert noted, these two halves are interpreted by two
                      meta-parables: the parable of the sower for the first movement (that
                      of believing/following), and the parable of the vineyard for the
                      second. It is significant, I think, that these are the only large
                      well developed allegory type parables in the gospel.

                      Of course the themes of the first half continue in the second -- the
                      obtuseness or obduracy of the disciples continues, notwithstanding
                      Peter's confession and notwithstanding God's announcement at the
                      mount of transfiguration -- and will reemerge as the dominant issue
                      following Jesus' death (will the disciples believe that Jesus is
                      risen from the dead?).

                      At any rate, I agree with Shawn's basic dileneation of the structure,
                      only seeing a shift to the second half more clearly at 8:30.

                      > viii) Most of the important themes are identified in the parable
                      > chapter, especially in the parable of the Sower and its interpretation.
                      > Notice how the language and imagery of 4:6, 16-17 reappears in the
                      > Passion story (see 14:27). The disciples (led by Peter, the rock)
                      > reflect the behavior of the rocky soil of the parable- the very parable
                      > that Jesus identifies as the most important off all the parables (4:13).
                      > The plot and the teaching material are closely intertwined.
                      >
                      > There is enough here to suggest to me that Mark is indeed structured,
                      > that it does have a plot and themes, and that it is trying to guide the
                      > way that we receive and read the story. The Gospel hopes to produce
                      > certain effects upon those who read it. Is that so surprising?

                      Yes. Indeed this seems to me to be the overriding theme. Put
                      simply, the gospel is as much about the disciples' response to Jesus
                      as it is about Jesus himself. How will the disciples respond to
                      Jesus? as rocky soil, or as good soil?? The ending of the gospel,
                      of course, suggests the former response (rocky soil / lack of faith),
                      but the abrupt ending leaves the question open, so there is the
                      possibility (implied by the very fact that the gospel is told!) that
                      some at least became "good soil". And in this overriding question
                      about the disciples' response to Jesus, it is existential in that it
                      asks the same question indirectly of the reader. In this regard, it
                      is very rhetorical and very deftly constructed.

                      Mark Matson


                      Mark A. Matson, Ph.D.
                      Asst. Director, Sanford Institute of Public Policy
                      Adjunct Professor of New Testament
                      Duke University
                      Durham, NC 27713
                      (919) 613-7310
                    • Mark Goodacre
                      Thanks for the interesting contributions on this thread. One more thought on narrative structure. An element that is not often seen is that there is a clear
                      Message 10 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                        Thanks for the interesting contributions on this thread. One more
                        thought on narrative structure. An element that is not often seen is that
                        there is a clear correspondence between the Caesarea Philippi
                        episode in 8 and the Anointing in 14.3-9, as follows:
                        
                        - Peter confesses Jesus as Anointed
                        - Woman enacts Jesus as Anointed

                        - Peter fails to connect Anointing with Suffering / Death
                        - Woman connects Anointing with Suffering / Death (i.e. anoints him
                        for his burial).

                        - Peter is rebuked in the harshest possible terms for failing to connect
                        Anointing with Suffering
                        - Woman is commended in the strongest possible terms for
                        connecting Anointing with Suffering.

                        The impression one gets from 14.3-9 is "bingo!" or "By George, she's
                        got it!", strikingly contrasted with Chapter 8. Each section occurs at a
                        key moment in the narrative, 8.27-33 as the mid-point, the moment
                        when one turns from the miracle-working ministry of Chapters 1-8
                        and begins to look towards the Way leading to Suffering, Death,
                        Jerusalem; 14.3-9 is the first incident in the Passion Narrative proper
                        and an overture to that section of the Gospel as well as an epitome of
                        the whole Gospel's Christology.

                        About two years ago I was going to write this up and half-way
                        through my research on it found much the same thing in Schuessler
                        Fiorenza, _In Memory of Her_ so abandoned the plan. What she
                        had also seen was the other element I had hoped to work out, the
                        fascinating contrast between the disciples called at the beginning of the
                        Gospel and the women following at the end. Named male disciples at
                        the beginning are called to follow and later to serve and then fail to do
                        both. Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
                        in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.

                        Mark
                        --------------------------------------
                        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                        Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                        New Testament Web Resources
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                      • Mike Parsons
                        Reply to: Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark Mark wrote: Named male disciples at the beginning are called to follow and later to serve and then
                        Message 11 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                                   Reply to:   Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark
                          
                          
                          Mark wrote:
                          Named male disciples at
                          >the beginning are called to follow and later to serve and then fail to do
                          >both. Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
                          >in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.
                          >
                          . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers," that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.

                          Mikeal Parsons
                        • Stevan Davies
                          ... Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But you can t have both. If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J must be
                          Message 12 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                            > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                            >

                            > - Woman is commended in the strongest possible terms for
                            > connecting Anointing with Suffering.
                            >
                            > Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
                            > in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.

                            Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But
                            you can't have both.

                            If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J
                            must be anointed beforehand, good for her. But then the
                            women coming to anoint Jesus after he's dead don't get it
                            and hence haven't "followed" or whatever in the right way.

                            If they, on the other hand, have done the right thing in
                            coming to the tomb in blissful ignorance of the problems
                            that resurrections cause for anointers, the Anointing woman
                            hasn't really done anything special.

                            Steve
                          • Mark Goodacre
                            ... I agree that this is a toughie. I wish I knew why Mark spoils it all by the women failing at the end, when they have done so well in Chapter 15, where
                            Message 13 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                              On 9 Jul 99, at 10:02, Stevan Davies wrote:

                              > > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                              > >
                              > > - Woman is commended in the strongest possible terms for
                              > > connecting Anointing with Suffering.
                              > >
                              > > Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
                              > > in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.
                              >
                              > Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But
                              > you can't have both.
                              >
                              > If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J
                              > must be anointed beforehand, good for her. But then the
                              > women coming to anoint Jesus after he's dead don't get it
                              > and hence haven't "followed" or whatever in the right way.

                              I agree that this is a toughie. I wish I knew why Mark spoils it all by
                              the women failing at the end, when they have done so well in Chapter
                              15, where Mark seems to make such a point of following + serving. I
                              seem to remember that Shuessler Fiorenza fudges it and doesn't really
                              come to terms (to my mind) with the failure at the end of the Gospel.
                              >
                              > If they, on the other hand, have done the right thing in
                              > coming to the tomb in blissful ignorance of the problems
                              > that resurrections cause for anointers, the Anointing woman
                              > hasn't really done anything special.

                              Yes -- I see what you mean. And yet Mark does appear to project a
                              future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                              (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                              thing right.

                              Perhaps too we should say that it is implied that the women of
                              Chapters 15+16 did ultimately do the right thing in that the readers
                              know of the news of the resurrection? But that answer never seems
                              that satisfactory, and rather lessens the impact of 16.8. As Mike
                              Parsons writes:

                              > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                              > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                              > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                              > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.

                              I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.

                              Mark
                              --------------------------------------
                              Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                              Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                              University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                              Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                              http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                              New Testament Web Resources
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                            • Mark Goodacre
                              I meant to refer also to this new, on-line article in my previous message. I came across it earlier this week: Marie Sabin, Women Transformed: The Ending of
                              Message 14 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                                I meant to refer also to this new, on-line article in my previous message. I came
                                across it earlier this week:

                                Marie Sabin, "Women Transformed: The Ending of Mark is the Beginning of
                                Wisdom", _Cross Currents_, Summer 1998, Vol. 48 Issue 2

                                http://www.crosscurrents.org/sabin.htm

                                It makes as good a case as can be made that 16.8 does represent an up-beat,
                                optimistic ending / new beginning, e.g. she translates "they were filled with awe"
                                (reverence) rather than "for they were afraid. But she still cannot get away from
                                "they said nothing to anyone" in direct contradiction to the command in 16.7.

                                Mark
                                --------------------------------------
                                Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                                Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                                University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                                Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                                http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                                New Testament Web Resources
                                Mark Without Q
                                Aseneth Home Page
                              • Mike Parsons
                                Reply to: Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark but wait a minute, mark. is the annointing woman the exception or but one of a number who get it
                                Message 15 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                                           Reply to:   Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark
                                  
                                  
                                  but wait a minute, mark. is the annointing woman
                                  the exception" or but one of a number who get "it right" (depending on what 'it' is). the friends of the paralytic, the widow with her mite, etc., that is, all those minor characters who display some positive traits and who are commended explicitly or implicitly by Jesus and/or the narrator (the reps of the 'good soil,' so Tolbert, Rhoads/Michie). this of course assumes some gap-filling on the interpreter's part. after all, these characters disappear after their 'fifteen lines of fame" and are very different from those more developed (disciples, women, religious authorities, political authorities)--all of whom do, as malbon points out, seem ultimately to fail. do these minor characters actually undermine malbon's point or rather serve to highlight it? in other words, given what we know about the developed characters in Mark, are we to assume that contrary to them, these minor characters did continue to 'get it' or are we to assume they did not (that is failed in some way)? this is a case of gap-filling, of course, and seems very complex to me. while i understand that to 'project' these characters beyond the text is a treacherous thing to do, it seems to me the positive reading of the annointing woman (and others) depends on this very act. to be sure, the Markan Jesus encourages us to go beyond the text in his claim that this deed will be remembered everytime the gospel is proclaimed, but it is, after all, this particular deed and not the woman herself (or her subsequent actions, about which we know nothing) which will be remembered.
                                  mikeal
                                  Mark Goodacre wrote:
                                  Mark Goodacre wrote:

                                  >On 9 Jul 99, at 10:44, Stevan Davies wrote:
                                  >
                                  >> > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                                  >>
                                  >> > Mark does appear to project a
                                  >> > future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                                  >> > (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                                  >> > thing right.
                                  >> >
                                  >> > > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                                  >> > > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                                  >> > > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                                  >> > > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.
                                  >> >
                                  >> > I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.
                                  >>
                                  >> No you aren't. See above.
                                  >
                                  >Sorry -- thanks for pointing out my lack of clear thinking. I suppose I
                                  >meant that I am in sympathy with the idea that the women in Chapter
                                  >16 have failed too. But the woman in 14.3-9 is the exception -- she
                                  >has to be: "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world . . ."
                                  >and that has not yet happened. So she stands out. Not everyone fails.
                                  >
                                  >Mark
                                  >--------------------------------------
                                  >Dr Mark Goodacre
                                  mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                                  > Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                                  > University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                                  > Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom
                                  >
                                  >
                                  http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
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                                  >From: Mark Goodacre <
                                  M.S.GOODACRE@...>
                                  >Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark
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                                • Stevan Davies
                                  ... No you aren t. See above. Steve
                                  Message 16 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                                    > From: "Mark Goodacre"

                                    > Mark does appear to project a
                                    > future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                                    > (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                                    > thing right.
                                    >
                                    > > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                                    > > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                                    > > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                                    > > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.
                                    >
                                    > I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.

                                    No you aren't. See above.

                                    Steve
                                  • Mark Goodacre
                                    ... Sorry -- thanks for pointing out my lack of clear thinking. I suppose I meant that I am in sympathy with the idea that the women in Chapter 16 have failed
                                    Message 17 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                                      On 9 Jul 99, at 10:44, Stevan Davies wrote:

                                      > > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                                      >
                                      > > Mark does appear to project a
                                      > > future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                                      > > (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                                      > > thing right.
                                      > >
                                      > > > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                                      > > > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                                      > > > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                                      > > > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.
                                      > >
                                      > > I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.
                                      >
                                      > No you aren't. See above.

                                      Sorry -- thanks for pointing out my lack of clear thinking. I suppose I
                                      meant that I am in sympathy with the idea that the women in Chapter
                                      16 have failed too. But the woman in 14.3-9 is the exception -- she
                                      has to be: "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world . . ."
                                      and that has not yet happened. So she stands out. Not everyone fails.

                                      Mark
                                      --------------------------------------
                                      Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                                      Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                                      University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                                      Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

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                                    • Maluflen@aol.com
                                      In a message dated 7/9/1999 10:08:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time, miser17@epix.net writes:
                                      Message 18 of 18 , Jul 13, 1999
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                                        In a message dated 7/9/1999 10:08:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
                                        miser17@... writes:

                                        <<
                                        Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But
                                        you can't have both.

                                        If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J
                                        must be anointed beforehand, good for her. But then the
                                        women coming to anoint Jesus after he's dead don't get it
                                        and hence haven't "followed" or whatever in the right way.

                                        If they, on the other hand, have done the right thing in
                                        coming to the tomb in blissful ignorance of the problems
                                        that resurrections cause for anointers, the Anointing woman
                                        hasn't really done anything special.
                                        >>

                                        Steve, you do know the real explanation for the above:

                                        (1) In Matt, the first Gospel written, the woman in Chapter 26 does the
                                        anointing for Jesus' burial, and the women at the tomb come merely to look,
                                        not to anoint.

                                        (2) Luke, writing second, has transformed the story in Matt 26 into the story
                                        of a sinful woman in Lk 7, who washes Jesus' feet with her tears. Thus, Jesus
                                        has not been anointed for his burial in Luke, so the women have to bring
                                        spices and ointments to the tomb for this purpose.

                                        (3) Mark, writing third, has followed Matt in his account of the woman who
                                        anoints Jesus for his death in Mk 14, but he then follows Luke more closely
                                        for his account of the women at the tomb, without noting the resulting
                                        inconcinnity.

                                        Leonard Maluf
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