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[Synoptic-L] Mark and CG: Methodological Presuppositions

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  • Ted Weeden
    Dear Listers, As a result of presenting two parts of my thesis that Mark used the Cross Gospel as a source in composing his burial and empty-tomb stories,
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 6, 2002
      Dear Listers,

      As a result of presenting two parts of my thesis that Mark used the Cross Gospel
      as a source in composing his burial and empty-tomb stories, probing issues of
      historicity and historic (and psychological?) realism have been raised by
      several respondents. These issues have been raised (1) at the point at which I
      have argued that Mk. 16:6 vis-a-vis 15:46 represents a compositional error on
      Mark's part and (2) by my acceptance of John Dominic Crossan's declaration (_The
      Cross That Spoke_, 111) that all Jesus' disciples knew about what happened to
      Jesus was that "he had been crucified through some collaboration of sacerdotal
      aristocracy and imperial power but [they] knew almost nothing about the details
      of his death." (Note: a typo in my January 31, 2002 post to Karel Hanhart, "Re:
      [XTalk] Re: [Synoptic-L] Thesis: Mark Used Cross Gospel . . .," mistakenly cited
      the page reference for the Crossan quote as p. 11. The quote is found in
      _Spoke_ on p. 111, as cited above.)

      I am in hopes of returning soon to the next part of my essay, which has been set
      aside momentarily to answer the many responses--- for which I am grateful--- to
      my initial offering of the first two parts of my thesis. But before I present
      another part of my thesis, I think it is important that I set forth my own
      methodological presuppositions, along with the rationale for them, the
      methodological presuppositions which inform my approach to the Markan passages
      (the empty-tomb story [16:1-8], primarily, and the burial story [15:42-47],
      secondarily) and CG passages (the full-blown burial account and the resurrection
      story that follows it [8:28-10:42, 45-49], along with the depiction of the
      removal of Jesus' body from the cross [6:21]). I need to do so in order for it
      to be understood "where I am coming."

      Aside from the fact that I hold to the primacy of Mark and that Matthew, Luke
      and John were all, in different ways, dependent upon Mark, I submit now the
      other methodological presuppositions which I work with as they have bearing upon
      the passion narrative, and the burial and empty-tomb stories in particular.
      Let me state, before I list these presuppositions, that I do so in some haste,
      but not without some considered thought. It may well be that upon further
      reflection and respondents' helpful critiques that I will modify these in the
      future. But for now here are my methodological presuppositions along with the
      rationale that has caused me to adopt them.

      Methodological Presuppositions and Their Rationale

      1. Gospel Texts/Traditions: Kerygma, Not History

      I maintain that the canonical Gospels, and the traditions, oral and/or written,
      that preceded them and served as their sources, are not about history, the way
      things actually happened. The four *evangelists* are not interested in
      reporting Jesus-events as a reasonably impartial observer might have reported
      them. The Gospel writers, and the developers of the Jesus-traditions before
      them, were not interested in history per se. They were evangelists and *not*
      historians. Their focus and only focus was by nature and purpose a
      kerymatic-evangelistic one, a focus upon and explication of why Jesus of
      Nazareth is God's anointed one, God's son, or whatever christological and
      particularistic interpretation they chose individually to use.

      Thus these evangelists' primary purpose was to proclaim that faith in response
      to situations which evoked or provoked the need to do so via textuality,
      textuality that took the form of apologia, polemic, or both. The Gospels, like
      the letters of Paul, were written as occasional pieces to address matters of
      faith, and especially faith matters related directly to christology.

      Since my attention in my thesis is directed primarily on Mark, among the
      canonical evangelists, let me use him as an example of what I have just stated.
      In creating his Gospel drama, Mark assumed the role of an all-seeing,
      all-knowing narrator in the narrative world he created, and through that
      narrative world informed and guided his hearers/readers in their interpretation
      of Jesus' teachings and acts with the ultimate purpose of persuading his
      hearer/readers to accept his own convictions on christology, eschatology and
      other matters of the faith. In composing his drama, Mark gives to his drama
      the appearance of being a historical account of Jesus' ministry, his passion,
      death and resurrection. But Mark's Gospel is really a drama in the guise of
      history, in which Mark, through the shaping of characters and creative
      fashioning of events, according to as preconceived plot, espouse his own
      christological/theological agenda.

      What Mark was doing in propagating his own christological/theological drama
      through the appearance of being actual history is nothing unique or, if one
      wish, dishonest. He was doing only what Hellenistic historians of his time did
      as a common practice to push their own socio-political, moralistic agenda. As
      early as the fourth century BCE, Greek historians had begun to forsake the
      principles of historiography followed by Herodotus and Thucydides. They wrote
      history not so much in the interest of accuracy of information as in an interest
      to guide readers to a moralistic interpretation. They did so with the purpose
      of inspiring readers to emulate the lives of the virtuous and to disdain the
      lives of the corrupt. With this intention in mind, the model for writing
      history during the Hellenistic period became the Greek drama and the vehicle for
      eliciting such moralistic judgments from the reader became characterization (cf.
      P. G. Walsh, _Livy: His Historical Aims and Methods, 21-26) .

      Perhaps no one is a better illustration of such an interpretation and use of
      history to espouse his own ideology than is the Roman historian Livy (59
      B.C. -17 A.D.). Consider Livy's remarks he addressed to his reader in the
      preface to his _Ab Urbe Condita_ ("The History of Rome"), 5-7: "Here are the
      questions to which I would have every reader give his close attention--- what
      life and morals were like; through what men and by what policies, in peace and
      war, empire was established and enlarged; then let him note how . . . morals
      first gave way . . . sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge
      which has brought us to the present time . . . . What chiefly makes *the study
      of history* wholesome and profitable is this, that you behold the lessons of
      every kind of experience set forth as on a conspicuous monument; from these you
      may choose for yourself and for your own state what to imitate, from these mark
      for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result"
      [emphasis: mine].

      Often, as Walsh points out (cf. 82-109), the effect which Livy wished to create
      for the reader's judgment required that he take serious liberties with
      historical personages, reshaping, redirecting, in effect, rewriting their lives
      to meet his own needs. The result is a caricature of his personages, at times
      almost complete distortion. The concern for historical accuracy is set aside.
      Livy's heroes are idealized; his villains are denigrated. For Livy this was
      not a misrepresentation of history, but, as Walsh informs us, its proper

      What Livy and other historians of Mark's time did in fashioning historical
      events and characters for their own ideological purposes, I am submitting, as I
      did in my _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_ (11-19; see particularly, 14-16), Mark
      did as well, but, of course, not at the level of stylistic artistry that Livy
      did it.

      So, when I read Mark, or any of the canonical Gospels, for that matter, I do so
      not with the view that what is being reported is history, what actually
      happened. I read Mark with the view that what is being shared is faith
      expressed in the form of story, a drama posing as history, a drama carefully
      constructed to win the conviction of hearers/readers to its faith perspective
      (Note the original ending of John's Gospel [20:31f.], an ending borrowed from
      the Signs Source or Gospel, where that purpose is explicitly declared).

      Whatever history lies behind the story world of Mark and the other Gospels, and
      I hold that there is at least a minimal core, must be dug for, much the way in
      which one conducts an archaeological dig to uncover evidence which may serve as
      clues for the reconstruction of the socio-history of the ancient past. I find
      a helpful methodology to guide such a dig to recover the historical core behind
      the narrative world of the Gospel dramas is that which has been developed in the
      quest for the historical Jesus, methodology (using criteria such as, multiple
      attestation, dissimilarity/discontinuity, embarrassment, coherence, etc.).

      2. In the Beginning: Scriptural Exegesis

      I maintain with Crossan, that prior to the textuality of the Gospels, the
      development of early Christian reflection upon Jesus' crucifixion, burial and
      resurrection began with exegesis of Hebrew Bible texts and the LXX that could be
      applied to Jesus and provide explanation, understanding and meaning for the
      tragic end of Jesus' life. I think Crossan has documented this process well
      (_The Historical Jesus_, 367-391; _The Birth of Christianity_, 519-522,
      527-573). I would also submit that behind the very early creed of I Cor.
      15:3-5 is such an exegetical "proof" of the divine purpose and plan for Jesus'
      passion, death and resurrection according to scripture. I submit, further,
      that exegesis led to story, and that story was not begun with the purpose of
      establishing the historical record and vouching for it in scripture, but rather
      story took the form of, as Crossan has expressed it, prophecy historicized
      (_Birth_, 519-522). The motivation was apologetic, as well as polemical in
      some cases, to win others to faith in Jesus of Nazareth as God's Son and

      3. Narrative Creativity

      With that exegesis-to-story model in mind, I operate with the presupposition
      that Mark, as well as the other evangelists, created his own narrative world,
      which may or not mirror the history of the real world or reality itself. Such
      correspondence is not the focal interest of Mark or the other Gospel writers.
      What is of interest is the constructing of a story that will be both credible
      and persuasive to Mark's hearers/readers. Thus, Mark as Gospel writer creates
      a narrative world that operates according to the conventions of narrative logic
      and rules of "world" order and reality, which Mark ordains for it. While there
      may and often appears to be a coherence with the world of empirical reality, our
      own space-time continuum of daily existence, often there is no coherence. In
      fact, what is presented in the Markan narrative is often a radically different
      order than our own, though not necessarily different in the perception of
      first-century people.

      For example, in Mark's narrative world, persons (e.g., Jesus) can walk on water
      (6:45-52). Five thousand (6:30-42) and four thousand people (8:1-9) can be fed
      with a few loaves and fishes and when all have been fed what is left over is
      almost as much as what was begun with. In that narrative world God speaks with
      an audible voice from heaven (1:11; 9:7) in the vernacular of God's hearers.
      Revered persons from the past reappear (Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration
      scene: 9:4). Angels exist and minister to those in need (1:13). Demons
      exist, in habit people, carry on conversations with others (e.g., 1:21-26;
      5:1-11), and can be driven out, at their request into pigs who, as a result,
      plunge off steep banks and are drowned in the sea ( 5:11-13). Sick young girls
      who have died can be brought back to life (5:21-23, 35-42).

      In that narrative world prayers can be uttered and heard by the hearers/readers
      of a story, through the agency of the narrator, prayers which historically could
      never have been known to have been prayed in the real world. I have in mind
      Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane (14:32-41) which could not have been heard by
      historically real persons in that particular scene. For according to the
      narrative logic of that Gethsemane episode, Jesus prays alone. Three disciples
      nearby are asleep as Jesus prays. The other disciples are at a remote
      distance, out of earshot. No one else is in the garden at that time who could
      have heard Jesus' prayer, and there are no mikes or TV cameras to catch that
      moment of prayer.

      In Mark's narrative world, events unfold according to the past predictions of
      scriptural prophecy. Everything has been predetermined beforehand (DEI ["It is
      necessary"] 8:31). Humans have little freedom. All events are driven by divine
      determination and necessity.

      4. Credibility of Story

      Thus, in the story world of Mark, the issue of credibility is based upon
      narrative coherence and the rules of logical consistency established by Mark and
      made plausible by him within his self-created world. Stories from oral or
      written tradition, reflecting a different narrative world, are edited by Mark to
      conform to his world of story. Therefore credibility of a story or the Markan
      narrative as a whole is evoked by the way in which the story or the Gospel
      conforms to the rules and conventions of that world.

      Now it is true that for a story to have meaning for hearers/readers it must
      sufficiently approximate their own real world to have any credibility. And
      Mark satisfies that requirement for persons in his own world by causing enough
      of his descriptive narrative to cohere with their own worldview. People in the
      ancient world were used to gods intervening and unusual, extraordinary events
      occurring, all of which in the "Einsteinian" orientation of our time we would
      dismiss as preposterous. Consequently, our hermeneutical stance for ferreting
      out meaning in the Markan drama must begin with his narrative world, and not our
      world, nor at the outset the world of his hearers/readers. The initial
      critical hermeneutical question with respect to narrative credulity is the
      question of whether or not stories in the Gospel unfold and actions take place
      with a consistency and coherence reflective of the conventions and narrative
      causation set forth. Thus, my guess is that in that narrative world, few
      people in Marks' time would question whether a person could walk on water.
      Given the unusual feats performed by Jesus within the Markan drama, walking on
      water is not inconsistent with his character and nature established by Mark in
      the narrative world. And such was not beyond the imagination of Mark's

      But in our world of empirical science many would raise serious questions as to
      whether that story could really be true. We would raise a rational challenge
      to the possibility that anyone could walk on water given the laws of physics,
      namely, an upright human body cannot stand or walk on the surface of water. In
      search for a way to make the story consistent with the principle of physics
      someone, in our time might make recourse to a form of an old joke and read into
      the story what is not there. He or she might suggest that the boat the
      disciples were in was in the shallow part of the lake, and there were many rocks
      just beneath the surface. Jesus, so the rational explanation proceeds, in an
      attempt to join the disciples in the boat from the shore actually walked out on
      those rocks to the boat. It was night anyway and the disciples could not see
      the rocks just beneath the surface of the water. It certainly appeared to
      the disciples that Jesus was actually walking on water, etc., etc., etc.

      Likewise a person in Jesus' time might not question, as we likely would in our
      time, whether God speaks audibly in the vernacular of the people, such that
      anyone can hear God speak; or that Jesus actually prayed the Gethsemane prayer.
      I submit, therefore, as long as there is inner narrative coherency and the
      narrative follows along with a consistency established by the inherent
      conventions or order and character of the narrative, issues of historicity or
      realism would not likely be raised by Mark's hearers/ readers, as long as the
      narrative world of the Gospel had some recognizable correspondence to their own
      "real" world.

      5. Historicity of the Empty Tomb

      I maintain that the story of the empty tomb has no basis either in historical
      fact or reality. That is that Jesus never walked out of a tomb in which he was
      buried, fully restored to life in his physical entity and biological integrity
      as he knew himself and others experienced him before his death. The event
      never happened. The story is a creation of the fertile and resourceful
      imagination of some early Christian(s).

      I became convinced that this was the case years go by the analysis of the
      empty-tomb story by
      Hans Grass' _Ostergeschehen und Osterberichte_, 139-84. Grass marshals his
      argument against the historicity of the empty-grave story by first noting the
      traditional arguments that the empty-tomb story is grounded in historical fact
      and is a report of an actual historical event. Traditionally claims for the
      historicity of the empty-grave story have rested on the following factors: (1)
      Paul's resurrection preaching, including the creed of I Corinthians 15:3-8, and
      Paul's discussion of the nature of the resurrected body and other references to
      the resurrection (1 Cor. 15: 35-54), (2) the contention of some scholars that
      Acts 2:29-36 offers an important clue to the fact that the grave of Jesus was
      known in the early community, (3) the story of the burial of Jesus found in Mark
      15:42-47 and parallels, and (4) clues to the existence of the grave in
      extra-biblical materials and archaeological finds.

      Grass deftly turns aside the contentions that these factors serve as substantial
      evidence for the historicity of the empty-grave story. After an extensive
      investigation of Paul's thought, Grass concludes that Paul shows no knowledge of
      an empty grave. Paul makes no allusion to an awareness of the empty grave in
      the Jerusalem community, nor does he once infer that he may have seen the grave
      on a visit to Jerusalem. Paul never tries to authenticate any aspect of the
      resurrection faith through recourse to such a phenomenon as an "empty grave."
      The term ETAFH ("he was buried"), which appears in the kerygmatic creed of I
      Corinthians 15:3-5 is not an allusion to the empty tomb. It is employed only
      to give confirmation of the death of Jesus. Grass also contests the reasoning
      that the place of Jesus' grave would have been marked because the reference to
      David's grave in Acts 2:29-32 establishes the fact that it was a policy in
      Palestine to mark the resting places of the venerated. The point of Acts
      2:29-32 is not, according to Grass, to hint that Jesus' grave was known as were
      the graves of religious heroes but rather to draw a comparison between the dead
      David and the living Christ. Luke makes no allusion, independent of Mark, to
      the existence of such a grave.

      Grass concedes that the story of Joseph of Arimathea' s burial of Jesus may have
      some basis in fact, though this probability is certainly clouded by the
      suggestion in Acts 13 :29 that Jesus was buried by his enemies. The story of
      the burial, however, does not in itself validate the story of an empty grave.
      Nor is the extra-biblical evidence, the Nazareth Rescript and the claim of the
      rediscovery of the grave at the time of Constantine, serves as support for
      establishing the historicity of the story. Grass finds arguments based upon
      the archaeological findings and non-canonical traditions to be inconclusive .

      As I noted in my _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_ (102f.), the results of Grass'
      study pinpoint an amazing fact. Suddenly in the Gospel of Mark there appears a
      resurrection story which has no confirmed kinship with any early kerygmatic
      statement. Nowhere is there found unequivocal proof prior to Mark that the
      Easter faith of Jesus' earliest followers included the belief in an empty grave.
      But this is not the extent of the enigmatic emergence of the narrative in the
      Markan gospel. One digs further and more curious factors are unearthed.
      When Mark's use of the empty-grave story is considered over against the
      normative and traditional method of attesting the resurrection, an even more
      puzzling phenomenon is disclosed. From Paul to John the customary proof for
      the resurrection was the Christ epiphanies experienced by the Twelve or other
      followers. Mark's proof, by contrast, consists of an angel epiphany before
      three women, hardly the convincing attestation of an actual Christ epiphany
      before the disciples.

      The weak and ineffectual character of Mark's empty-grave story as a
      justification for the Easter faith is graphically evidenced by the reaction of
      Matthew and Luke to Mk. 16:1-8. Both of them found the grave story to be
      insufficient and even problematic as credible verification of the Easter event .
      Strikingly, although neither one agrees with the other as far as specific
      content is concerned after they each incorporate their Markan source, they do
      agree on one important point. Neither felt that what Mark recorded was
      adequate. Each recognized that convincing proof of the resurrection
      necessitated Christ epiphanies to the disciples (Mt. 28:16-20; Lk. 24:13-53).
      Matthew apparently was sensitive to at least two problems. In the first place
      he foresaw the possibility that critics of the faith, upon hearing the story of
      the empty grave, might retort that such a phenomenon could be easily explained
      by an admirer's theft of the corpse . To guard against this attack Matthew
      inserted a story which suggests that any such rumor was fabricated by the chief
      priests and elders who bribed the soldiers not to reveal the truth (Mt.
      28:11-15) . Furthermore, apart from the fact that Matthew felt the Markan
      resurrection story required Christ epiphanies before the disciples to be
      convincing, he apparently looked with skepticism upon how impressive or
      significant the message of Easter was upon the lips of an angel (28:6,7) .
      For he felt compelled to narrate an appearance of Jesus to the women
      whose sole purpose is to repeat and confirm in a more convincing manner
      the angel's announcement and command (28:9-10) .

      While Luke also reproduces the Markan story, he, too, recognized its weakness
      and ineffectual nature . This is pointedly stated in Lk. 24:11, 22-24. The
      women's report to the disciples is looked upon as nonsense (LHROS: "an idle
      tale). Authentic proof of the resurrection in Luke's eyes lies not in angel
      appearances to women but in Christ appearances to the disciples and other
      followers (Lk. 24:13-49; Acts 1:3) .

      In many respects John shares the same attitude toward an empty-tomb story. In
      presenting a story similar to the Markan narrative John has tried to make it
      more credible by having Peter and the beloved disciple confirm the reality and
      meaning of the empty tomb (Jn 20: l-8f.) In this way he circumvents the
      problem of relying solely on an angel epiphany to women. Moreover, John,
      whether consciously or not, in a somewhat similar way as Matthew, has Jesus
      announce the Easter message to Mary and avoids, thereby, the use of an angel as
      the herald. Likewise, he, in the same way as Matthew and Luke, felt that proof
      of the resurrection required more than the attestation of an empty grave, and
      for this reason he, too, appends narratives of Christ appearances (John
      20:l9ff.) to the grave story.

      Thus, if the story of an empty grave is not historically true, then either Mark
      (so Crossan, "The Empty Tomb and Absent Lord," in _The Passion in Mark_, ed.,
      Werner Kelber, 135-152) or someone before him must have created it.
      Furthermore, it is unlikely that the empty-tomb story was created as a separate
      story apart from a narrative account of Jesus' death and burial, in order words
      a narrative account that fleshed out in story form, if you will, the creed of I
      Cor. 15:3-5, which had already been formulated through exegetical reflection on

      The key question is: what was the content of that passion and what evidence is
      there that such a narrative actually existed at one time? Now many have
      proposed such a pre-Markan passion narrative, but so far none has surfaced.
      And no consensus has emerged as to what constituted the text of that presumed
      pre-Markan narrative, even though many scholars have tried their hand at
      reconstructing such a text (cf. Marion Soards' essay, "The Question of a
      PreMarcan Passion Narrative," in Raymond Brown's _The Death of a Messiah_,
      1492-1524, which cites the widely diverse opinions of thirty-four scholars
      regarding what such a text would look like if it were ever found). There is
      far less agreement as to what constituted a pre-Markan passion narrative among
      scholars than there is by those scholars who hold to the existence of Q and have
      arrived at a general consensus as to what Q would look like if it were ever

      6. Empty-Tomb Story Necessitated Burial Story

      The creation of the empty-tomb story necessitated the burial story. Moreover,
      the burial story would not have been created if the empty-tomb story had not
      been created first or, at least, envisioned first. How can I make such a

      I have maintained above, as a presupposition, that the empty-tomb story is not a
      narrative about an actual historical event. Such an event never occurred.
      The earliest witness to and confirmation of the resurrection for the disciples
      of Jesus and other early Christians (see Paul's list in I Cor, 15:5-8) were
      epiphanies of the resurrected Jesus. Those epiphanies apparently occurred,
      according to Paul's implicit chronology, over a span of at least a couple of
      years. For Paul avows that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him just as he had
      to Peter and the disciples, to over five hundred others, and to James and the
      apostles (I Cor. 15:5-8). Most chronologies that date Paul's conversion
      experience--- which I submit, as does Luke (e.g., Acts 9:1-9), must have been
      his experience of a Christ resurrection epiphany--- occurred at the earliest
      around 32, and may have been years later. If Jesus was crucified in 29 or 30
      CE--- only a plausible conjecture--- then Christ epiphanies were experienced for
      at least two years, and likely much longer, by certain early Christians.

      Or to put the chronological frame a bit differently: when enough time is allowed
      for Jesus' disciples to have time after their own Christ epiphanies to organize
      themselves into a mission of sufficient impact such as to draw the attention of
      Paul, and, thus, cause him to persecute the fledgling Jesus movement before he
      had his own conversion via a Christ epiphany, it does appear that Christ
      resurrection epiphanies were experienced over a significant span of time, from
      the first such epiphany to the disciples to Paul's own, and perhaps others after
      Paul. One thing is clear. These epiphanies did not stop with Easter morn,
      three days after Jesus death, or a few days afterwards. And, moreover, they
      may not have first occurred three days after his death either. Why do I think
      that the epiphanies may not have been experienced immediately, by three days
      after Jesus' death.

      First of all such a chronology for the onset of Christ epiphanies is largely a
      creation of Christian liturgy which celebrates an empty-tomb event, purported to
      have taken place on the third day following Jesus' crucifixion in the course of
      (John) or immediately following (Matthew) the women's visit to Jesus' tomb.
      But that empty-tomb event never happened. Thus the liturgically established
      chronology for the initial Christ epiphany as happening in three days has no
      basis in historical fact. And in my judgment the creed of I Cor. 15:3-5 and
      its declaration that Jesus "was raised on the third" cannot be argued to be a
      reference to early Christian calendering of when the first Christ epiphanies
      took place. The creed does not link the first of the resurrection appearances
      of Jesus with the third day. The reference to the third day is only an
      exegetical effort to draw upon scripture (likely, Hos. 6:2) to support the
      actuality of the resurrection. The "third day" has nothing to do with the
      beginning of Christ epiphanies. My contention is that the Christ epiphanies
      were probably not an immediate phenomenon experienced by the disciples of Jesus.
      In fact they may not have occurred until some time had elapsed after Jesus'
      death. For once it is recognized that the empty-tomb story is not historical
      but a creation of early Christian(s) and that the empty-tomb story has no basis
      in fact, then the fixed point it provides for the onset of Christian epiphanies
      no longer has historical validation, and we are left without knowing when such
      Christ epiphanies actually began, soon or late.

      If that be the case, and I think it is a strong case, namely, that we do not
      know when someone (I Cor. 15:5 suggests that it was Peter), among those who were
      followers of Jesus had an experience that convinced him or her that Jesus was
      not dead but "alive," it has significant implications for any argument which
      presumes that Jesus' disciples would have calendared when Jesus died, as well as
      any argument which presumes that his disciples where fully aware of what
      happened in Jesus' crucifixion and knew exactly where he was buried following
      his death. I will address these arguments in a future post.

      So far I have suggested that once the empty-grave story is recognized as
      non-historical, we lose a fixed date for the moment when the first Christ
      epiphany was experienced. Likewise, when we recognize that the empty-tomb is
      non-historical, then no longer can it be argued that the first message of
      Easter, the confirmation that Jesus was resurrected, was experienced in a
      defined location, namely the empty-tomb. For the empty-tomb-story verification
      of Jesus' resurrection alone requires a specifically identified place from which
      it is empirically clear that the resurrection occurred, namely, the tomb, the
      tomb in which Jesus and Jesus alone was buried.

      I submit that until the creation of the empty-tomb story there was no interest
      by early Christians in the place of Jesus' burial. And, furthermore, as I
      shall elaborate below, no one knew where he was buried anyway. Before the
      creation of the empty-tomb the actual experience and meaning of Easter was *not*
      related to and not limited to a specific geographical location as a proof of its
      actuality. Christ epiphanies do not need any particular geographical setting
      to be experienced or manifested. They can occur anywhere and at any time.
      They are individual and perhaps communal (the five hundred Paul refers to in I
      Cor. 15:6) experiences which do not need a specific location in which the
      message of Easter is manifested in some concrete historical reality. The
      ontological phenomenology of Easter represented in Christ epiphanies does not
      require a specifically identifiable and designated space to be manifested.

      Not so in the case of the metaphysical phenomenology of Easter represented by an
      empty grave. The metaphysical phenomenology of Easter depicted in
      empty-grave experiences (young man, angels, two men appearing to women at
      Jesus' tomb, or the risen, but not quite so [see Jn. 20:17], to a woman
      [Jn. 20:11-18] must have a defined space, a designated, specifically
      tomb, a tomb that Jesus and Jesus alone was buried in.

      Moreover, and this is a key point, for the metaphysical phenomenology of Easter
      depicted by an empty-grave story to have validity it must have a burial story to
      precede it, a burial story in which it is unmistakably clear that Jesus was
      buried in a specific place and at a specific time. Furthermore, the burial
      itself must have had at least one witness who observed the completed burial,
      and, thus, knows where the tomb is located in order for that witness, or others
      accurately informed by that witness, to find the tomb in a visit to it in which
      the disclosure of the meaning of its emptiness and the witness of the Easter
      message itself can be experienced via a heavenly being. Without the knowledge
      of where the tomb was located and how to find it, there could be no verified
      Easter from the perspective of the metaphysical phenomenology of an empty tomb.

      My conclusion is that burial story was a creation of some early Christian(s) who
      needed it to make their empty-tomb phenomenology "work." There was no burial
      tomb story prior to its creation to serve that need. Again, the ontological
      phenomenology of Easter experienced in Christ epiphanies do *not* need tombs.

      Thus, it is my presupposition that the burial story and the identity of the tomb
      in which Jesus was buried was necessary only when the empty-tomb story was
      created as another demonstration or verification of the resurrection of Jesus.
      The burial story was created for one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to
      serve the metaphysical phenomenology of an Easter story depicted by Jesus having
      risen from an empty grave. Furthermore, I am convinced that the earliest
      tradition about Jesus burial was that he was buried by his enemies. Later that
      was changed to an ideological sympathizer (seeker of the kingdom: Mark, Luke) or
      friend (disciple: Matthew and John). Logically it is easier to account for the
      story of a burial story which featured Jesus as buried by a friend serving as a
      replacement for a story of burial by enemies, than it is the other way around.
      I cannot imagine how a story about Jesus' burial by his enemies would be created
      to replace a burial story in which Jesus was buried by friends.

      I, furthermore, suggest that the earliest assumption or at least hope on the
      part of the early followers was that Jesus was buried (so I Cor. 15:4) and that
      assumption was made because it was assumed, according to Deut. 21:22f., that
      the Jewish leaders would have made sure that Jesus was taken down from the cross
      before nightfall and was buried as Torah dictated. That assumption or hope
      served, I contend and will subsequently articulate in detail, as the basis of
      the creation of the CG burial story by Jesus enemies. It served, then, as the
      foil over against which could be narrated an empty-grave story, with a Christ
      epiphany as a spectacular divine vindication of Jesus before his enemies (see
      Crossan, _Who Killed Jesus?_, 189-199).

      I posed this question earlier: if Mark is presumed to have been dependent upon a
      passion narrative in his possession, as is argued by many scholars, what
      evidence do we have now that such a narrative actually existed at one time?
      And my answer is that the pre-Markan passion narrative upon which Mark drew to
      compose his own empty-tomb story and its indispensable corollary story, the
      story of the burial of Jesus, is CG. Mark, it must be underscored and I will
      subsequently show, did not appropriate CG's burial and empty-tomb epiphany whole
      cloth. He was opposed to CG's christology and the particular view of
      eschatology represented by CG. Nevertheless, with excision of some elements
      and appropriate appropriation of others, CG served him well for the structure
      and ideational requirements of his own accounts of the burial and resurrection
      of Jesus.

      Ted Weeden

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    • Brian E. Wilson
      Ted Weeden wrote -- ... Ted, I am not clear whether the above is a conclusion resulting from the application of your methodology to Mark, and therefore not
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 7, 2002
        Ted Weeden wrote --
        >So, when I read Mark, or any of the canonical Gospels, for that matter,
        >I do so not with the view that what is being reported is history, what
        >actually happened. I read Mark with the view that what is being shared
        >is faith expressed in the form of story, a drama posing as history, a
        >drama carefully constructed to win the conviction of hearers/readers to
        >its faith perspective ...
        I am not clear whether the above is a conclusion resulting from the
        application of your methodology to Mark, and therefore not part of your

        Or is the above an assumption of your methodology, and therefore part of

        If it is the latter, do you not need a methodology to justify your

        Best wishes,

        >HOMEPAGE http://www.twonh.demon.co.uk/

        Rev B.E.Wilson,10 York Close,Godmanchester,Huntingdon,Cambs,PE29 2EB,UK
        > "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot
        > speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus".

        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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      • Ted Weeden
        Brian Wilson wrote on Thursday, February 07, 2002: 4:29 AM Subject: [Synoptic-L] Mark and CG: Methodological Presuppositions ... Brian, what I am saying is
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 10, 2002
          Brian Wilson wrote on Thursday, February 07, 2002: 4:29 AM
          Subject: [Synoptic-L] Mark and CG: Methodological Presuppositions

          > Ted Weeden wrote --
          > >
          > >So, when I read Mark, or any of the canonical Gospels, for that matter,
          > >I do so not with the view that what is being reported is history, what
          > >actually happened. I read Mark with the view that what is being shared
          > >is faith expressed in the form of story, a drama posing as history, a
          > >drama carefully constructed to win the conviction of hearers/readers to
          > >its faith perspective ...
          > >
          > Ted,
          > I am not clear whether the above is a conclusion resulting from the
          > application of your methodology to Mark, and therefore not part of your
          > methodology.
          > Or is the above an assumption of your methodology, and therefore part of
          > it?
          > If it is the latter, do you not need a methodology to justify your
          > methodology?

          Brian, what I am saying is that by virtue of my understanding of Hellenistic
          historians' approach to history as drama, in which one is less interested in
          providing a record of historical actuality and more interested in shaping
          history and personages to score certain moral points, I, thus, look at Mark not
          as a historian telling us the way it really was but as an evangelist, telling us
          the way he wants us to believe.

          Thanks for your question.


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