Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

[Synoptic-L] Thesis: Mark Used CG for 15:42-16:8, Pt. 3.B

Expand Messages
  • Ted Weeden
    Dear Listers, What follows below is Part 3.B of my thesis that Mark Used the Cross Gospel for 15:42-16:8. Earlier I sent Part 3.A. As I indicated in that
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 18, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      Dear Listers,

      What follows below is Part 3.B of my thesis that Mark Used the Cross Gospel for
      15:42-16:8. Earlier I sent Part 3.A. As I indicated in that post, due to the
      length of Part 3, I am sending Part 3 in three segments, namely, 3.A.; 3.B; 3.C.

      Part 3:B below is divided into the following sections: III.B.1. Biblical
      Gapping and the Whole Truth: Sternberg's Insights; III.B.2. Biblical Gapping,
      Whole Truth and Mk. 15:42-16:8; III.B.3 Discerning Markan Whole Truth:
      Separating Wheat from Chaff; III.B.4. Caveat: Markan Gaps, Gaffes, or Blanks?;
      III.B.5. The Women's Question: Blank, Gaffe or Gap?; III.B.6. The Stone's
      Size: Gap, Gaffe, or Blank?; III.B.7. The Stone's Removal: Gap, Gaffe, or Blank;
      III.B.8 The Best Hypothesis?

      I look forward to any critical feedback on Part 3.B any of you may wish to
      offer.

      Ted Weeden

      III. B. 1. Biblical Gapping and Whole Truth: Sternberg's Insights

      Why did Mark not take the opportunity to depict how and when the stone was
      removed from the grave (16:4)? Why does he raise the expectations of his
      hearers/readers to expect some scene depicting the removal of the stone by
      introducing the women's concern over who would remove it for them (16:3)? Why
      does he draw attention to the size of the stone if neither the size nor the
      removal of the stone serves any dramatic import for him (16:4)? Is Mark's
      failure to produce a dramatic removal of the stone, or even his failure to
      provide a simple explanation for how it was removed, one more instance of a
      Markan rhetorical gaffe? Or could his failure either to depict the removal of
      the stone or to explain how it was removed, as well as his failure to provide
      any narrative import and meaning to his notation of the size of the stone,
      actually be his employment of narrative gaps to lure his first hearers/readers
      deep into his narrative world in search for the "whole truth" of his narrative's
      meaning?

      What do I mean by this question? What do I mean by the terms "narrative gap"
      and "whole truth"? I return to the enlightening insights of Meir Sternberg
      with regard to the character and purpose of biblical narratives. In his
      exhaustive and detailed study of numerous biblical narratives, Sternberg notes
      that it is typical for the biblical narrator to narrate in a laconic style, with
      a reticence to say more than is absolutely necessary to maintain the progression
      and coherence of his narration. As Sternberg puts it (191), "Biblical
      narratives are notorious for their sparsity of detail." The biblical narrator,
      as a general principle, avoids superfluity and the use of repetition. He
      invariably errors on the side of "undertreatment" of his subject matter rather
      than "overtreatment" (365).

      Not only does the biblical narrator not tell all that a reader would like to
      know about characters, events, motives, etc., he often intentionally does not
      tell enough. The biblical narrator is even known for suppressing narrative
      essentials which can "create an extreme ironic discordance between [a] tale's
      mode of presentation and the action itself, as reconstructed and evaluated by
      the reader" (191). In this rhetorical game of hide and seek (my metaphor)
      which a narrator plays with his readers, he, according to Sternberg, "abstains
      from (1) sharing with the reader all the plot information accessible to him; (2)
      elucidating structure and significance; (3) passing judgment by way of
      commentary" (184). "[E]ven in commentary the narrator remains less than
      forthright. He may supply exposition but not the exposition, sketch
      character but often leave the essentials out, formulate motive but only in bare
      outline...." (122)--- all with the intention of pursuing "the strategic
      principle of maneuvering between truth [minimum truth, explicit in a biblical
      narrative] and whole truth [the biblical narrator's truth, implicitly present
      but hidden beneath the narrative's surface (cf. 50-55, 235, 321)]," in order to
      produce "the play of ambiguity and the processing of meaning" (184f.). This
      rhetorical technique of sometimes revealing but many other times concealing is
      the means by which the narrator seeks to draw the reader into the role of being
      both a spectator and participant (98).

      If one reads a biblical narrative closely, Sternberg observes, it soon becomes
      apparent how little the narrator actually tells his reader, how few answers to
      questions generated in the reader's mind are explicitly given to the reader.
      It is the reader who must provide the answers to his/her questions as best
      he/she can from whatever leads the narrator chooses to give. "The world of
      situations and dramas constructed by the reader --- causal sequence and all-
      is," Sternberg finds, "far from identical with what he[/she] encounters in the
      form of overt statement. From the viewpoint of what is directly given in the
      language, the literary work consists of bits and fragments to be linked and
      pieced together in the process of reading: it establishes a system of gaps that
      must be filled in" (186).

      What does Sternberg mean by "gaps." "A gap," he clarifies (235), "is a lack of
      information about the world --- an event, motive, causal link, character trait,
      plot structure law of probability--- contrived by temporal displacement. . . .
      What happened (or existed) at a certain temporal point in the world may be
      communicated in the discourse at a point earlier or later, or, for that matter,
      not at all". Gapping, Sternberg contends (365), is the dominant logic of
      biblical story telling. Gapping is a biblical story-telling technique to hook
      the reader and entice him/her into being actively engaged in the search for
      understanding and, finally, meaning within a narrative. It is a technique used
      to enable the reader to move from the basic minimal truth of the story line of a
      narrative, as the narrator has created it, to the whole truth, that "rounded
      understanding that will bring one as close to the narrator's [own understanding,
      his intended meaning] as is humanly possible" (235). Gaps "result from a
      chronological twisting whereby the order of presentation does not conform to the
      order of occurrence. The sequence devised for the reader thus becomes
      discontinuous. . . and gap-filling consists exactly in restoring the continuity
      that the narrator broke" (235f.). "Arising from lack in the telling, gaps give
      rise to a fullness in the reading; the Bible presses this universal of literary
      communications" Sternberg posits, "to extremes undreamt of before modernism"
      (230).

      It is left to the reader, Sternberg notes, to fill gaps by "forming and revising
      and if possible deciding between alternative closures as he[/she] goes along,
      till the end either resolves or fixes the play of ambiguity" (239). Often the
      narrator, by withholding information, will intentionally create gaps to produce
      discontinuity to breed ambiguity (236). The "play of ambiguity" then induces
      the reader to formulate hypotheses to fill in the gaps in order to bring about
      the satisfaction of closure. "This gap-filling ranges from simple linkages of
      elements, which the reader performs automatically, to intricate networks that
      are figured out consciously, laboriously, hesitantly, and with constant
      modifications in the light of additional information disclosed in later stages
      of the reading" (186).

      Gaps, Sternberg states, are often strategically "left open precisely at key
      points, central to the discourse as a dramatic progression as well as a
      structure of meaning and value. Hence [the readers' gap] filling ... is not
      automatic but requires considerable attention to the nuances of the text, both
      at the level of the represented events and at the level of language; far from a
      luxury or option, closure becomes a necessity for any reader trying to
      understand the story even in the simplest terms of what happens and why"
      (191f.).

      Sometimes the biblical narrator never supplies information to the reader to
      close the gaps. Those gaps remain at the close of a narrative as permanent gaps
      (237-240). Consequently, the reader is left on his/her own to decide upon the
      best hypothesis to resolve any ambiguity, fill the gaps and arrive at closure.
      Yet, "[f]or all [the] attempts at restoration, . . . the breaches remain
      ambiguous-and hypotheses multiple- as long as the narrator has not
      authoritatively closed them" (236).

      "As regards sophistication [in the use of gapping]", Sternberg declares, "the
      Bible is second to none . . . . The opening and timing of gaps, the processing
      of information and response, the interlinkage of the different levels, the play
      of hypotheses with sanctions against premature closure, the clues and models
      that guide interpretive procedure, the roles fulfilled by ambiguity: all these
      show a rare mastery of the narrative medium" (230). In extolling the Bible's
      mastery of the narrative medium, Sternberg compares, and very favorably so, the
      Bible to Homeric epics: "Even a cursory comparison of biblical narrative with
      Homeric epic . . . will reveal an unmistakable similarity in the management of
      sequence. It includes deformation of chronology, playing on resultant gaps,
      baited traps and false impressions, rise and fall and yoking together of
      hypotheses, use of uncertainty for effects stretching from plot interest to
      intricate characterization. . . . The Bible's art is on the whole richer and
      craftier, it surface incomparably less formulaic, its play more serious, and its
      view of meaning and experience as a process built rather than incorporated into
      composition." (232).

      III. B. 2. Biblical Gapping, Whole Truth and Mk. 15:42-16:8

      Several connections between the Markan burial and empy-tomb texts and Sternberg'
      s insights on biblical "gap-filling" appear obvious to me. I list them as
      follows:

      (1) Mark's stories of the burial and empty tomb exemplify Sternberg's
      observation that biblical narratives offer the readers ( I would add hearers)
      only sparse detail. Mark does not tell us all that we would like to know; and
      if Sternberg is correct, I would surmise that Mark, intentionally, did not tell
      his first hearers/readers all that they would like to have known.

      (2) If, as Sternberg contends, gapping is the dominant logic of biblical
      storytelling, a rhetorical technique to lure readers into the search of greater
      understanding and deeper meaning, then there is good reason to think that Mark
      at times may have, himself, engaged in gapping. For, as a biblical narrative,
      and a narrative that is modeled on other biblical stories (e.g., Mark's use of
      the story of Ahithophel's betrayal of David as a model for Judas' betrayal of
      David: see my essay posts,"Judas and Jesus," Kata Markon, 2/22/01 and "Judas'
      Kiss and Methodology," Kata Markon, 3/26/00), we should not be surprised to
      detect in Mark's burial and empty-tomb stories narrative ambiguities, logical
      and narrative inconsistencies which need resolving, and narrative gaps which
      need filling in order to derive the whole truth, namely, the meaning
      behind/beneath these stories which Mark, as narrator, prompts us, via those
      ambiguities and gaps, into discovering.

      (3) If, as Sternberg insists, biblical narrators' use of gapping is to entice us
      into developing hypotheses to bring closure to narrative gaps for the purpose of
      discerning understanding and arriving at meaning, thus bringing an end to
      ambiguity created by gapping, then that enticement by definition legitimizes, I
      submit, arguments from silence derived from *within the narrative world*. For
      are not arguments from silence often hypotheses provoked by gaps in a text,
      hypotheses which serve as ways of filling in gaps with information the narrator,
      for whatever reason, has not supplied, in order to resolve ambiguity and achieve
      clarity in meaning?

      (4) Given (3), not only can we not avoid developing hypotheses to resolve Markan
      narrative ambiguities and fill in Mark's narrative gaps, but such hypothetical
      formulations are indispensable if we are to discover the full meaning of the
      burial and empty-tomb stories, along with Mark's purpose in composing them.

      (5) If (4) is correct, and Mark, as narrator, does invite us to fill in
      narrative gaps with hypotheses--- thereby causing us to engage in arguments from
      silence derived from the content and context of the narrative world--- then a
      hermeneutical pandora's box is open. And what is loosed from that box is a
      hermeneutical nightmare, a hermeneutical nightmare in which all sorts of
      hypotheses can plausibly be posed to fill in Markan narrative gaps in order to
      bring closure, resolve ambiguity and thus discern fuller understanding and more
      complete meaning. In such a hermeneutical scenario many radically different
      hypotheses could be entertained as plausibe explanations of what the Mark the
      narrator intended. How can that hermeneutical nightmare be avoided and a
      hemeneutical path be found that will lead to determining which hypothesis, among
      a host of hypotheses, best reveals the Markan whole truth in, as well as his
      creative purpose for, the burial and empty-tomb stories?

      III. B. 3. Discerning Markan Whole Truth: Separating Wheat from Chaff

      Sternberg is well aware of this hermeneutical nightmare. He addresses it
      forthrightly. "Of course," Sternberg acknowledges (188f.)," gap-filling may
      nevertheless be performed in a wild or misguided or tendentious fashion, and
      there is no lack of evidence for this in criticism ancient and modern . . . .
      Illegitimate gap-filling is one launched and sustained by the reader's
      subjective concerns ( or dictated by more general preconceptions) rather than by
      the text's own norms and directives. A case in point is the readings to which
      the rabbis subject biblical stories. The hypotheses they frame are often based
      on assumptions that have no relevance to the world of the Bible . . . , receive
      no support whatever from the textual details, or even fill in what the narrative
      itself rules out. Where there's a will, the midrash will always find a way."

      Sternberg offers a methodological procedure by which such hermeneutical
      arbitrariness can be avoided and needed controls preserved in the exercise of
      formulating logically and narratively appropriate hypotheses to fill in
      narrative gaps. I quote him again (189): "Far from arbitrary, then, the
      process of hypothetical reconstruction is variously directed and circumscribed
      by such factors as:

      a. the different materials--- actional, thematic, normative,
      structuring---explicitly communicated by the text;
      b. the work's language and poetics;
      c. the perceptual set established by the work's generic features;
      d. the special nature and laws and regularities of the world it
      projects, as impressed on the reader starting from the first page;
      e. basic assumptions or general canons of probability derived
      from 'everyday life' and prevalent cultural conventions."

      "It is," Sternberg continues, "'natural' or 'probable' we reason by appeal to
      ( e ), that such and such a person should act in such and such a way. The reader
      tends to 'adjust' the narrated world, as far as possible, to such premises and
      models, since the hypothesis that is most conventional in terms of his own
      culture also yields the simplest and certainly the least demanding answers and
      linkages. But the reader will often abandon (e) [everyday-life assumptions] in
      favor of (d) [the special nature, laws, regularities which govern the narrative
      world], and the like, under the pressure of criteria other than simplicity. The
      most obvious is the historical sense and context or, negatively speaking, the
      deterrent of anachronism. Another, also mentioned, lies in the appeal of the
      hypothesis that organizes the maximum of elements in the most cohesive patterns.
      And there is always the attraction of the gap-filling that presents things in
      the most interesting light. So whenever the work fails to provide an explicit
      answer to the reader's questions---that is, to the questions it itself
      raises---these struggle to form the mimetic basis for the adoption or rejection
      of hypotheses." One also needs to recognize, Sternberg submits (endnote 4, p.
      525), that "the linkages or gap-fillings to which the world of literature
      invites the reader are bound to differ from those normally performed either in
      real life or within the simulacrum of real life inhabited by the characters.
      The question is only how, where, and to what end they differ."

      From my perspective Sternberg's five factors listed above are important for
      determining (1) how hypotheses should be formulated regarding Mark's intent in
      narrating his burial and empty-tomb stories and for (2) how we should decide on
      the hypotheses that "correctly" fill in the narrative gaps, which Mark has left
      his first hearers/readers, and now we today who seek to find understanding and
      meaning in those Markan stories. In my essay, "Mark and CG: Methodological
      Presuppositions," ( XTalk, Synoptic-L, Kata Markan, 2/6/02), I indicated the
      importance both implicitly and explicitly of Sternberg's factors (a) through
      (d), as I seek to read, engage and understand the Markan narrative. I spoke in
      that essay about what I find Sternberg sets forth here as the first order of
      business in interpreting the Markan text. That is, in order to follow the
      hermeneutical path Mark intends us to follow to discover the "whole" truth he
      encapsulates in the minimum truth of thestory-line, we must begin with the
      Markan narrative world, its character, structure, order, and laws governing its
      conceptuality, before we consider what correspondence, if any, that narrative
      world has to the real world (i.e., Sternberg's [d]) of Mark's first century
      hearers/readers, much less to our own.

      Furthermore, when we seek to make sense of the Markan narrative world in the
      context of the world of his first hearers/readers, we must be careful that we
      not move too quickly, in Sternberg's words, " to 'adjust' the narrated world"
      (see his [d] above]), to fit the perceived world of the first hearers/readers,
      (see his [e] above), lest for reasons of our assumptions about their culture, or
      the imposition of requisites of our own, we misread the meaning of a text or
      story (e.g., the Markan burial story, empty-tomb story) Mark intended, in our
      interest to facilitate coherence between the narrative world and the real world.

      Further still, I think we must be careful that we are not attracted to seeking
      and accepting immediately hypotheses that (to slightly paraphrase Sternberg, see
      below are the most conventional, in terms of our perception of first-century
      culture, and that yield the simplest and certainly the least demanding answers
      and linkages. For Sternberg observes (189): "It is 'natural' or 'probable,'
      we reason by appeal to (e [basic assumptions or general canons of probability
      derived from 'everyday life' and prevalent cultural conventions]), that such and
      such a person should act in such and such a way. The reader tends to 'adjust'
      the narrated world, as far as possible, to such premises and models, since the
      hypothesis that is most conventional in terms of his own culture also yields the
      simplest and certainly the least demanding answers and linkages."

      III. B.4. Caveat: Markan Gaps, Gaffes, or Blanks?

      Before pursuing methodologically Sternberg's insights on biblical narrative
      gapping, as they might prove fruitful in determining whether Mark's scripting of
      the women's question in 16:3, his citing of the size of the stone, and his
      failure to indicate how the stone was removed in 16:4, were gaps or just
      rhetorical gaffes, there is yet a caveat that needs to be registered. The
      ambiguities I have noted in Mark's citation of the question of the women, the
      size of the stone and the removal of the stone could be neither evidence of
      Markan gaps nor gaffes. Those apparent ambiguities could be nothing more than
      narrative blanks. What do I mean?

      Sternberg warns us that often what appears to be a narrative gap in a biblical
      story may only be a narrative blank. He defines (236) a blank as an omission
      in the narrative which was not included because it had no relevance or
      significance, as far as the narrator was concerned. A gap, by distinction, is
      an intentional omission that has direct relevance to the narrator's interest in
      luring the reader into a quest for greater understanding of the narrative in
      order for the reader to discern the meaning the narrator seeks to unveil through
      his narrative. But it is not always easy to tell the difference between the
      two within in a text. For, while a gap and blank have distinctively different
      rhetorical origins, they "show," Sternberg observes, "identical characteristics
      in all that regards temporal structure. ". . . [A]ny informational lacuna
      may in principle give rise to either, one reader's gap may prove to be another's
      blank."

      How is it then that we can determine the difference between a gap and a blank in
      a narrative when it appears that the narrator has left something out that, if we
      knew, would contribute to greater understanding of the narrative and thus the
      discovery of the fullest meaning of the narrative. Sternberg suggests four
      ways in which a narrator gives us clues to alerts us to the fact that what we
      have spotted in the narrative is a gap and not a blank. Those clues are found
      in four rhetorical techniques the biblical narrator uses to draw attention to
      his narrative gaps. The techniques, as Sternberg labels them, are (1) "echoing
      interrogative," (2) "opposition in juxtaposition," (3) "coherence threatened and
      fortified," and (4) "norms and their violations."

      By "echoing interrogative" Sternberg (241) has in mind a biblical narrator's
      technique of avoiding direct commentary on his narrative and, instead, alerting
      the reader to his intentional narrative gap by delegating [via the
      question-answer exchange] the voicing of the . . . implicit gap to agents and
      observers within the drama itself. . . . [T]he question-and-answer enactment
      doubly highlights [a gaps] relevance: the question always echoes and the answer
      either dispels or perpetuates our sense of mystery, incongruity, discontinuity.
      By "opposition in juxtaposition" Sternberg (243) has in mind a biblical narrator
      's technique of juxtaposing "two pieces of reality that bear on the same context
      but fail to harmonize either as variants of a situation or as phases in an
      action." Such irreconcilable juxtaposition "pinpoints the incongruity and
      launches the quest for harmony by gap-filling."

      By "coherence threatened and fortified" Sternberg means the "threats" to
      narrative coherence experienced by the reader when he/she finds the natural
      sequencing of chronological order is narratively out of order, or finds
      incoherence in characters or the "reality-model" upon which the narrative is
      based, or finds other narrative non-sequiturs. By "norms and their violations"
      Sternberg (249) has reference to points in a narrative in which a narrator
      introduces something that violates established norms. Since the sense of a
      narrative "hinges on the postulation of constancies--- laws, rules,
      regularities, continuities, or in short, norms--- if for no other purpose than
      to make divergence perceptible and meaningful," the reader is alerted to the
      presence of a narrative gap when narrative events or features run counter to
      those established norms.

      III. B. 5. The Women's Question: Blank, Gaffe or Gap?

      Guided by Sternberg's methodological criteria for identifying a narrator's
      employment of gapping his narrative, I return to the issue of whether Mark has
      in fact employed narrative gaps in 16:3-4 or whether what I have identified as
      gaps are no more than narrative blanks at best or Markan rhetorical gaffes at
      worse. As it turns out, all three of the textual oddities identified are
      interrelated. They are interrelated because each deals with some narrative
      aspect of the stone which was used to seal Jesus' tomb as recounted in 15:46.
      The three textual oddities, to recapitulate, are (1) the women's concern over
      who will remove the stone so they can anoint the body of Jesus, (2) the size of
      the stone, and (3) the removal of the stone. Each of these facets of the
      story in their context create narrative ambiguity. But, again, is that
      ambiguity in each case falsely perceived on my part or is it real? And, if it
      is real, is the ambiguity an indication of a narrative gap, gaffe or blank?
      For I am reminded of Sternberg's declaration (236): "one reader's gap may prove
      to be another's blank."

      Let us return to the women's question about the stone's removal to see if we can
      determine whether its ambiguity, the logical and narrative inconsistency it
      creates, is a Markan narrative gap, blank or a Markan rhetorical gaffe. The
      ambiguity created in the narrative by the women's question has, as I perceive
      it, contextually has several backward-looking dimensions. By backward-looking
      dimension I mean, first of all, what I have articulated earlier. If 15:46 is
      intended by Mark to be the burial of Jesus by one man, Joseph of Arimathea, the
      one who places the stone over the entrance to Jesus' grave, then the concern of
      the women regarding the need for someone to remove the stone for them leaves me
      a bit mystified. Why could not three women muster the physical strength to
      remove the stone that was required of one man to place it over the entrance of
      the tomb? Again, why do I persist in holding that Mk. 15:46 must be literally
      interpreted to mean that Joseph of Arimathea alone buried Jesus, rather than
      recognizing, as so many commentators have pointed out, that Joseph likely had
      servants or others to assist in the burial?

      I submit that the argument that Mark's first hearers/readers would have
      understood that Joseph rolled the stone in place with the help of others is
      based on the cultural norm that the burial of the deceased in the first century
      CE was a communal affair, or something to that effect. But to conclude that
      from a reading of the text, when the text itself does not state or infer that
      Joseph had assistance in burying Jesus, is, as I suggested earlier, reading
      into the text the conventional norms of the real world and imposing those
      real-world norms upon the narrative world. We must not forget Sternberg's
      methodological principle, one I have also similarly articulated in my essay on
      methodological presuppositions. Proper understanding of a biblical narrative
      must begin with the narrative's world, "the special nature and laws and
      regularities of the world it projects, as impressed on the reader starting from
      the first page" (189).

      In Mark's narrative world, the issue concerning whether Jesus experienced a
      communal burial or not according to Mark, vis-a-vis 15:46, must be decided upon
      the information Mark the narrator gives us, even if that information contradicts
      the conventional norms of the real world. And here is the information Mark
      gives us. By 15:42, to rehearse again the "facts" of Mark's narrative world,
      there was no one left of Jesus' family or community to assume the responsibility
      for burying Jesus, much less make it a communal affair. By the time Jesus dies
      on the cross, his family has rejected him, his hometown has rejected him, his
      close friends and associates have either betrayed, denied or rejected him, the
      religious leaders have condemned him and turned him over to the Romans to be put
      to death, and God has forsaken him (15:34). There is no one left to bury Jesus
      in the Markan narrative world, except one solitary figure, Joseph of Arimathea.
      Here, then, to repeat, is an instance of what Sternberg identifies as a
      violation of norms. The cultural norm of the real world of the time is for the
      deceased to be given a communal interment. But, contra to the norms of the real
      world, in the Markan narrative world Jesus is interred by just *one* person.

      Added to the ambiguity surrounding the burial of Jesus by Joseph is, further
      still, the ambiguity, I submit, with which Mark casts Joseph in his burial
      narrative. I draw again attention to this Markan casting of Joseph. On the
      one hand Joseph of Arimathea is identified by Mark as respected member of the
      Judean council which condemned Jesus to death (15:43). That would suggest that
      Joseph shared in the decision to have Jesus executed. The fact that he was a
      respected member of the council narratively suggests to me also that Joseph was
      recognized by other members of the council as being an observant Judean and
      faithful observer of Torah, such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the
      Markan narrative world. But on the other hand, Mark depicts Joseph as a
      kingdom-seeker, which suggests that Joseph was, in radical contrast to the other
      members of the council, a person of somewhat kindred spirit with Jesus, the
      "kingdom proclaimer" (1:15, passim).

      I cannot escape the impression that Mark *created* Joseph of Arimathea to serve
      as that the singular person who buried Jesus and, further, that Mark has painted
      Joseph in deep hues of irreconcilable "opposition in juxtaposition" --- to use
      Sternberg's term for one of the techniques a narrator uses to create a narrative
      gap--- in much the same way as the biblical narrative paints David, for example.
      On the one hand, the biblical narrative portrays David as an adulterer and
      murderer, and on the other hand , the biblical narrative also depicts David as
      venerated king and inspired, cultic psalmist (see Sternberg, 188; cf., 242-247).

      It is clear to me that Luke recognized this Markan narrative gap exposed by Mark
      's casting of Joseph of Arimathea in opposition in juxtaposition. Luke sought
      to harmonize the two opposing characterizations Mark had given Joseph by
      inserting a bridging commentary into his appropriation of the Markan text.
      This is the way Luke recasts the Markan Joseph of Arimatheas (Lk.23:50f.): "He
      was a member of the council, *a good and righteous man, who had NOT consented to
      their purpose and deed*, and he was looking for the kingdom of God." So in
      Luke's gap-filling of the Markan portrait of Joseph, distance is created in the
      profile of Joseph between Joseph and the other council members. Joseph did
      not, according to Luke, agree to their decision to condemn Jesus to death.
      Moreover, in painting Joseph as a "good and righteous man" Luke moves to align
      Joseph with Luke's good and righteous Jesus. That is how Luke chose to bring
      some harmony to Mark's sharply conflicting facets of Joseph's persona. Of
      course, Matthew and John do away completely with the Markan "opposition in
      juxtaposition" of Joseph's character in their rewrite of the Markan text. Both
      Matthew (27:57) and John (21:38) make Joseph of Arimathea into a disciple of
      Jesus (in John, Joseph is a secret disciple), and no mention is made by either
      Matthew or John of any affiliation Joseph had with the Judean council that
      condemned Jesus to death.

      Thus, I submit, that already in the Markan burial story Mark seems to have
      created two narrative gaps. One gap represented by the clash of norms, the norm
      of the narrative world (burial by a single individual) and the norm of the real
      world of Mark's hearers/readers (corporate burial). The other gap is
      represented in the bifurcated character of Joseph of Arimathea (an opposition in
      juxtaposition), which, like the clash of burial norms produces an unresolved
      ambiguity. Unless Mark is a terribly incompetent writer, I do not think that
      these two instances of ambiguity in the Markan burial narrative are either
      rhetorical gaffes on Mark's part or Markan narrative blanks resulting from
      aspects of the narrative for which Mark had no interest. Based upon the
      narrative world as Mark has created it, in contrast to the customs and
      conventions of the real world, with respect specifically to the burial of Jesus,
      in Mark's narrative world Joseph of Arimathea alone buried Jesus.

      I return to the women visitors to the tomb to draw attention to one other
      ambiguous dimension related to their need to have the stone removed from the
      tomb. That ambiguous dimension lies their stated mission itself, the anointing
      of Jesus' body. It is not clear narratively why it was that they thought that
      Jesus' body had not been already anointed. If one follows the storyline of
      Mark's narrative world, there is no indication that Joseph did not complete the
      burial, or, in particularly, that he was so rushed that he did not have time to
      anoint Jesus' body. The fact that, according to Mark's narrative world, Joseph
      had time to buy the linen shroud (15:43)--- a narrative element missing in the
      Matthean (27:59), Lukan (23:53) and Johannine (19:40) accounts--- in which to
      bury Jesus leaves the first hearers/readers no reason to think at this point in
      the Markan narrative that Joseph did complete all the necessary burial
      procedures to give Jesus a respectful burial. *Nothing* in the burial
      narrative would suggest that Joseph completed the burial in haste or not in
      respectable and good order. John, in his version of the story, leaves no room
      for doubt about that. He provides a more detailed description of the burial
      process, which includes Nicodemus supplying "a mixture of myrrh and aloes" and,
      with Joseph, wrapping the body "in linen cloths with the spices, as," John
      notes, "is the burial custom of the Jews" (19:39-40).

      However, in Mark's Gospel, as I noted earlier, the revelation that Joseph had
      not anointed the body is strangely introduced for the very first time in the
      Mark's empty-tomb narrative. Why? If it is such a significant issue, why
      did not Mark indicate that Joseph failed to anoint Jesus' body when Joseph
      placed the body in the tomb?

      As I shall elaborate in more detail in a subsequent part of my thesis, I think
      Mark invented the anointing mission of the women as a narrative reason for the
      women's motivation to go to the tomb three days after Jesus' burial. For the
      purpose of Mark's plot-line, the women's motivation for such a visit had to be
      something that required the women not just to go to the tomb but also to get
      *inside* the tomb so that Mark could stage their encounter with the young man
      who would then proclaim to them, and narratively to Mark's first
      hearers/readers, the Easter message (16:5f.). Mark could not use, as the women
      's motivation for returning to the tomb, the customary reason to visit the tomb
      of a deceased person after three days, namely, for mourning and traditional
      lamenting, a practice women were known to perform in antiquity (see Kathleen
      Corley, "Women and the Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus," _Forum_, 1, 1: 181-225;
      John Dominic Crossan, _The Birth of Christianity_, 527-573).

      But I submit, contrary to Corley and Crossan, that Mark could not use mourning
      and traditional lamenting as a motivation for the women's visit to the tomb.
      Lamenting does not require that one get inside a tomb. Mourning and lamenting
      are performed outside the tomb. And even if the lamenting women had found the
      stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, it is doubtful that they would
      have entered the tomb to see what happened. It is more likely that, having
      discovered the tomb open, they would have rushed in great alarm to tell someone,
      as Mary Magdalene does when, in the Johannine version of the empty-tomb story,
      she finds the tomb open (20:1-2). However, if the women's purpose for going to
      the tomb is to anoint Jesus' body, then the only way they can do that is to get
      inside the tomb to where the body was placed. Thus, anointing narratively
      places the women in the tomb. And there they cannot miss the presence of the
      young man inside who has a message to deliver to them. That, I submit, was why
      Mark contrived that particular motivation for the women's visit to the tomb.

      But that contrivance only complicated further the incoherence of Mark's
      storyline at this point. To imply that Jesus' body was not anointed ,
      necessitating the women to do so, does not narratively square with what Mark
      already dramatically presented days before Jesus' death. I have in mind the
      anointing of Jesus by the woman with the flask of ointment, an act which leads
      the Markan Jesus to declare that she *has anointed* his body (14:3-8). If
      that narratively be the case, then what is the point of the three women going to
      the tomb days after his death to anoint a body that was already anointed prior
      to death? Once again the ambiguity shouts out loud. This ambiguity created
      by the opposition in juxtaposition between a completed act of anointing Jesus'
      body before his death and the women's need to perform an act of anointing his
      body after his death, cannot be a result of a mere Markan rhetorical gaffe or
      narrative blank. It is an ambiguity created by Mark for his own narrative
      purpose of getting the women inside the tomb for their encounter with the young
      man.

      III. B. 6. The Stone's Size: Gap, Gaffe, or Blank?

      Mark's belated mention of the size of the stone is shrouded in similar
      ambiguity. I have already given attention to what appears to be an ill-timed
      and ill-placed citing of the stone' size, and noted the response of one of Mark'
      s early readers, namely, Matthew who tried to resolve the ambiguity by
      repositioning the citation of the stone's size back into the burial story. But
      at that point I also noted that Matthew's repositioning of the citation of the
      stone's size to the burial story creates its own ambiguous character. For the
      size no longer seems to have any relevance for either the burial story or the
      empty-tomb story as narratively cast by Matthew. The size of the stone does
      not appear to present any particular physical challenge to Joseph. The stone's
      size is clearly a non-issue in Matthew's empty-tomb story. Nor is it an issue
      for the Matthean women who come to the tomb on Easter morning. And certainly
      the size of the stone is not an issue, no matter how large it is, for the
      supernatural power of the angel, who in Matthew's account of Easter morning,
      rolls the stone away and sits on it (Mt. 28:2). The size of stone is an
      extraneous item in both the Markan and Matthean narratives. I noted earlier
      that Luke and John give no attention to the stone's size.

      The strikingly odd placement of the stone's size, its narrative irrelevance, and
      the resulting incoherence that it produces in the narrative order, a factor to
      which Sternberg has drawn our attention as an indication of narrative gapping,
      suggests in my mind that the stone's size, for whatever reason Mark introduced
      it into his narrative at this point --- and I think there was a reason--- was
      done so not as a narrative blank. Whether it is an example of Markan gapping
      or "gaffing" we will have to delay judgment on until later in the third segment
      (III. C) of Part 3 of my thesis .

      III. B. 6. The Stone's Removal: Gap, Gaffe, or Blank?

      I turn my attention now to the ambiguity surrounding Mark's failure to either
      dramatize the removal of the stone, tell his hearers/readers who did it, or
      tells them/us how it was done. As I noted earlier, Mark's first hearers/readers
      would likely have expected answers to these questions, since they were
      dramatically "set up" for answers to these questions by the women's own concern
      about who would remove the stone for them. As I suggested earlier, I think it
      plausible to surmise that Mark's hearers/readers would have expected some
      dramatic, staged moment depicting the removal of the stone. But not only do
      Mark's hearers/readers not get their expected dramatic, choreographed moment
      when the stone was removed from the tomb, but they also never learn the answer
      to the women's question. They are never told "who" it was that moved the stone
      nor how it was done. All the hearers/readers get is a cryptic, laconic
      statement indicating that the stone had already been moved before the women's
      arrival at the tomb. Of all the dimensions of narrative ambiguity related to
      the stone, this dimension is the strangest and begs most for some hypothetical
      resolution, some filling in of this Markan narrative gap. Thus, I do not
      think that Mark's failure to dramatize the removal of the stone and his failure
      to indicate by whom and how it was removed is either an indication of a Markan
      narrative blank of disinterest, or an indication of a Markan rhetorical gaffe.
      I cannot escape the impression that the failure to dramatize the removal of the
      tomb and the narrative withholding of information regarding who removed the
      stone is anything else but an intentional Markan narrative gap.

      Support for this conclusion is present in the narrative via one of the criterion
      that Sternberg suggests betrays a biblical narrator's crafting an intentional
      narrative gap. The narrative technique I refer to is the rhetorical
      question-and-answer technique. Only in this instance the question is raised
      (by the women), but no answer is given (by Mark), thereby creating a permanent
      gap and unresolved ambiguity. It is noteworthy to point out in this regard
      that only twice in the Markan saga of the burial and empty-tomb story does Mark
      move from indirect discourse to direct discourse. Those two occasions are the
      women's questioning among themselves and the young man's Easter message from
      within the empty-tomb. Mark could have but did not use direct discourse when
      he reported that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus body.
      We are told that Joseph asked for the body and that Pilate inquired of the
      centurion whether Jesus was dead. But none of that is scripted by Mark in
      direct discourse.

      Yet, the women's question is scripted by Mark in direct discourse. In raising
      the women's question to the level of direct discourse, Mark seems to signal to
      his hearers/readers the very special narrative treatment he has chosen to give
      that question, special narrative treatment reserved for only one other occasion
      in Mark's burial and empty-grave stories, namely, the moment in the empty tomb
      when Mark scripts the young man's Easter message in direct discourse. When the
      women's question, presented in direct discourse, is seen in that light, it
      certainly does set the women's question, along with the young man's Easter
      proclamation, apart from the rest of the narrative and gives it prime narrative
      attention. Moreover, that prime narrative attention given to the question
      regarding who will remove the stone from the tomb only further accentuates the
      narrative oddity of not only failing to answer the question but also treating
      the removal of the stone as a non-narrative event, in the sense that the removal
      happens behind the drawn stage curtain and prior to the curtain being raised for
      the dramatic in-tomb event of Easter morning. Similarly, Matthew, Luke and
      John's inattention to the women's question about the removal of the stone in
      their own Easter stories of the empty tomb--- the women's concern over the stone
      's removal does not even get a marginal, indirect reference among Mark'
      successors--- only accentuates further the stark ambiguity of its role in the
      Markan narrative.

      Why did Mark not give any narrative attention to the stone's removal, when its
      removal is given such prime attention as he moves his narrative along to the
      climax of his story, the scene in the empty grave? How should this Markan
      permanent narrative gap be filled to flesh out fuller disclosure and meaning for
      the narrative. What gap-filling hypotheses can be offered?

      III.B.8. The Best Hypothesis?

      All kinds of hypotheses might be proposed? The simplest one might well be
      that the stone's removal, despite the prime attention Mark gives to it through
      the women's question, was not something Mark wanted to focus on. He, so the
      hypothesis might be formulated, was primarily invested in making sure his
      hearers/readers got the Easter message. Thus he did not want at that point in
      his Gospel to have his hearers/readers distracted by non-essentials. Besides,
      the hypothesis might continue, Mark would have probably assumed that
      hearers/readers would infer, contra Sternberg, that the stone was removed
      through some supernatural act. And, of course, one of his readers, Matthew,
      filled in Mark's narrative gap by dramatizing, as we have seen, that
      supernatural event in his own Gospel, in which a angel descends, rolls back the
      stone from the entrance to the tomb and sits upon it (28:2).

      But that hypothesis, as simple and attractive as it might appear on the surface,
      does not account for the other ambiguous, narrative inconsistencies in Mark's
      narration of his burial and empty-tomb stories. I think the hypothesis that can
      best account for Mark's narrative gapping is a hypothesis which (1) "organizes,
      to draw upon Sternberg, "the maximum elements" of the Markan burial and
      empty-tomb stories "in the most cohesive patterns" and (2)answers best what led
      Mark to narrate those stories in the way he did. Such a hypothesis, I
      suggest, is inherent in my thesis that Mark used the Cross Gospel narrative of
      the guard at the sepulcher (CG/GPet 8:28-10:42; 11:45-49), along with CG 6:21,
      as the structural and ideational source for his empty-tomb story, in particular.
      That hypothesis, I hope now to show, provides a good explanation for the
      narrative gaps we find in Mk. 15:42-16:8. It is to the evidentiary support for
      that hypothesis that I now turn in the third segment (III. C) of Part 3 of my
      thesis.


      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.