[Synoptic-L] Mark and CG: Methodological Presuppositions
- 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
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"
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
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
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
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
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- 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
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> "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot_
> speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus".
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- Brian Wilson wrote on Thursday, February 07, 2002: 4:29 AM
Subject: [Synoptic-L] Mark and CG: Methodological Presuppositions
> Ted Weeden wrote --Brian, what I am saying is that by virtue of my understanding of Hellenistic
> >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
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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