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[Synoptic-L] Sources of the “Storm at Sea” Narrative

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  • John Lupia
    Sources of the “Storm at Sea” Narrative (Mt 8:23-27; Mk 4:35-40; Lk 8:22-25) As we read the narrative of the Storm at Sea we cannot help but see a direct
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7, 2003
      Sources of the �Storm at Sea� Narrative (Mt 8:23-27;
      Mk 4:35-40; Lk 8:22-25)

      As we read the narrative of the Storm at Sea we cannot
      help but see a direct relationship to another: the
      Walking on Water. In this study the links that tie
      them together will be analyzed to see not only the
      structure but also the import of meaning and sources
      that may have been drawn from in order for the
      Evangelists to make their compositions. This study
      will shed light that will be helpful to understand how
      and why each account varies while providing insights
      into chronology to assist readers in comprehending the
      essential nature of the Synoptic Problem and offer
      suggestions for a solution.

      Secular Greek and Roman literature about ships and
      boats was plentiful. Catullus, iv, for example, is
      his celebrated phaselus-poem wrote about his yacht. A
      story about a ship or boat involving Jesus and his
      disciples would have been natural and expected in the
      world of the Evangelists. To communicate and express
      truths about Jesus using such a genre would have
      facilitated the Evangelist's purpose. As we examine
      the Synoptic texts we can see similarities and
      differences according to their style and method of
      adapting the story to their Gospel text, and assists
      us in ascertaining the correct order of chronology

      The method used in this investigation considers that
      pre-Gospel texts fall into eleven Type documents.
      These pre-Gospel texts emerged during the very first
      years shortly after the death and resurrection of
      Jesus from AD 33-37. It shall be shown that Luke
      created the twelfth Type document that became the
      literary model later on adapted by Matthew and Mark,
      but can also be seen to be reflected to some extent as
      well in John. The eleven Type documents that preceded
      the Gospel model did not necessarily develop in an
      essentially ordered and chronological manner, but may
      have developed alongside one another in the first few
      years of the Church. The eleven Type documents
      briefly are: Type 1: epos, (versified oral tradition),
      non-versified oral tradition, euchologions, i. e.,
      collections of written epos hymns; Type 2: orthodox
      short or brief written records of historic events, and
      unorthodox cacographic short or brief written records
      of historic events; Type 3: shorthand records written
      by stenographers recording speeches and events; Type
      4: pesher or Peripatetic endoxa inscribed as postillae
      that follow Doeve�s theory of recording narratives in
      the margins of OT texts but differs from him in that
      they included commentary; Type 5: pesher that used
      Jewish literature; Type 6: pesher (endoxa) that used
      Hellenistic literature; Type 7: apologues or moralized
      parables; Type 8: translations and scholia that
      provided rich vocabulary from which a distinctive
      Christian vocabulary grew and was used in the
      canonical Gospels; Type 9: compilations, collections
      or catenae of Types 1-8 in a disorganized manner; Type
      10: organized compilations made for various purposes
      and having specific utilitarian functions for liturgy
      and catecheses; Type 11: cacography, i.e., apocryphal
      gospels that reflected unorthodox views identical to
      the Gospel of Thomas, an Epicurean propagandistic
      ribald hilarotragoedia jibe that betrays Sadducaic and
      Herodian origins, alluded to in Luke�s Prologue; that
      caused his Gospel to be produced to refute them. Here
      we shall only discuss those Type documents that will
      help us comprehend what may have been the backdrop
      behind the canonical texts we have today.

      The narrative of the Storm at Sea is actually an
      apologue, i.e., a parable, which is a Type 7 document.
      The seventh Type document in writing commentaries
      would link the narrative to that of the OT by
      selecting important keywords that signaled the link so
      that an expanded sense or fuller signification in all
      of it�s intertextuality could be ascertained by the
      reader following this method. The apologue is one,
      perhaps, built on Types 4 and 6 documents that drew
      from the OT and Hellenistic literature. First we shall
      look at one of the layers focusing on the Type 6
      document, which appears to suggest that it was in
      response to Plato's parable of the ship in Republic
      6.488-489. The sailors in Plato's parable vied to be
      the pilots and drugged or inebriated the captain
      putting him asleep to gain control of the ship. The
      apostles, in the Gospel parable, waken Jesus and wish
      only him to pilot the ship. The apostles are seen as
      good rulers like Plato's guardians who imitate the
      philosopher-king unlike the foolish sailors that
      represent the unwise and corrupt rulers. With this
      new understanding the parable in the Gospels instructs
      all the faithful, particularly the
      apostolic-guardians, never to doubt the power, wisdom
      and goodness of Jesus our philosopher-king. Rather,
      they are to be enlightened and empowered by perfect
      faith in Jesus. Since the audience was already
      familiar with Plato�s Republic, a work that circulated
      throughout the Hellenized world four centuries
      previous, the Evangelists may have taken his themes as
      they may have done also from other popular secular
      culture literature and adapted them to show the truths
      of their faith.

      With this in mind, the ship may have been used not
      only as a metaphor for the Church but also as a symbol
      of our own individual soul. The evils of the corrupt
      social world and fallen physical nature can bring many
      stressors, trials, and tribulations to bear both on
      the Church at large in general and each individual in
      their particular daily life. These stressors are the
      metaphor of the storm. Our weak and inconstant faith,
      hope and charity causes us to become angry with Jesus
      whom we rebuke saying: "Do you not care? We are

      Luke 8:22-25

      One day, he got into a boat with his disciples and
      said to them, �Let us cross over to the other side of
      the lake�. So they put to sea, and as they sailed he
      fell asleep. When a squall came down on the lake the
      boat started taking in water and they found themselves
      in danger. So they went to rouse him saying, �Master!
      Master! We are going down!� Then he woke up and
      rebuked the wind and the rough water; and they
      subsided and it was calm again. He said to them,
      �Where is your faith?� They were awestruck and
      astonished and said to one another, �Who can this be,
      that gives orders even to the winds and waves and they
      obey him?�

      Matthew 8:23-27

      Then he got into the boat followed by his disciples.
      Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so
      violent that the waves were breaking right over the
      boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and
      woke him saying, �Save us, Lord, we are going down!�
      And he said to them, �Why are you so frightened, you
      men of little faith?� And with that he stood up and
      rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again.
      The men were astounded and said, �Whatever kind of
      man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.�

      Mark 4:35-40

      With the coming of evening that same day, he said to
      them, �Let us cross over to the other side�. And
      leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he
      was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him.
      Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were
      breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped,
      But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion,
      asleep. They woke him and said to him, �Master do you
      not care? We are going down!� And he woke up and
      rebuked the wind and said to the sea, �Quiet now! Be
      calm!� And the wind dropped, and all was calm again.
      Then he said to them, �Why are you so frightened? How
      is it that you have no faith?� They were filled with
      awe and said to one another, �Who can this be? Even
      the wind and the sea obey him.�

      As we examine the Synoptic texts we can see seven
      elements contained in each: (1) Jesus and the
      disciples board a boat; (2) a storm breaks out filling
      the boat with water; (3) Jesus is asleep; (4) the
      apostles panic and rouse Jesus; (5) Jesus calms the
      storm; (6) Jesus asks them about their faith; and (7)
      the apostles are amazed at the power Jesus possess
      over nature.

      Considering various ancient secular sources we can
      learn how the early Church developed its method of
      adaptation of actual historic records for narrative
      invention. J. W. Doeve�s theory of the order or
      sequence of synoptic material, envisioned the early
      Christians writing their narratives about Jesus in the
      margins of the OT scrolls. An early �Type Document�,
      which I call Type 4, may have grown out of this
      practice since the earliest scribes were converts from
      Judaism, including the apostles themselves. Type 4
      documents would have been copies of the first three
      Types, the various versions of original material about
      Jesus recorded in an unorganized and individual manner
      by eyewitnesses. Type 4 Documents were copies of
      these with full citations drawn from the LXX and MT,
      which were seen as having a similarity, a parallel
      character, or a type of pesher or commentary
      potential. These Type 4 documents would have served
      the preachers of the first few years (AD 33-37) of the
      infant Church to demonstrate that Jesus was the
      intended Messiah, and relate the meaning of Jesus and
      his teaching to the Jewish community in terms they
      already understood. Alongside this Type 4 document,
      Type 5 & 6 documents emerged simultaneously from the
      scribes who made copies but included commentaries from
      Jewish literature (Type 5), and from Hellenistic
      literature (Type 6).

      Let us look closer at Type 4 documents to see how the
      Evangelists used the OT. The sources for the Storm at
      Sea Narrative are found in Psalms and the Book of
      Jonah. Psalm 65:7 �you calm the clamor of the ocean,
      the clamor of its waves�. However this point is made
      more dramatically in Psalm 107:25-30, which contains
      the basis of the narrative, which the early Church

      He spoke and raised a gale,
      lashing up towering waves.
      Flung to the sky, then plunged to the depths,
      they lost their nerve in the ordeal,
      staggering and reeling like drunkards
      with all their seamanship adrift.

      Then they called to Yahweh in their trouble
      and he rescued them from their sufferings,
      reducing the storm to a whisper
      until the waves grew quiet,
      bringing them, glad at the calm,
      safe to the port they were bound for.

      The adaptation of this Psalm fit the needs intended
      by its author. Obvious Christological teachings are
      evident. Jesus is seen as Lord over the created
      universe having supreme command over the elements.
      The point made about faith is also very clear. The
      Church exists in a fallen world subject to violence,
      turbulence, and seeming catastrophes. Nothing should
      shake its faith.

      The style of the adaptation is rich with various
      symbols. Jesus and the apostles board a boat that
      signifies the Church. The boat (Church or individual)
      sails (passes through time) the sea or lake (world).
      The storm (evil within the world) threatens the boat
      and crew (Church or person). Regarding the symbolism
      of the Church this narrative is reminiscent of the
      teaching in Matthew 16:18 �and the gates of hell shall
      not prevail against it,� or Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke
      6:48 which likens the Church to a house built on rock
      that the waves of a flood could not overcome. This
      appears to clearly utilize an idea found in Proverbs

      nothing shakes the roots of virtuous men . . .the
      house of the virtuous men stands firm

      However, Matthew adds that gales blew and hurled
      themselves against it linking it to the Storm at Sea
      Narrative. Matthew, therefore, repeats the message of
      the unconquerable power of the Church three times in
      his Gospel (Mt 8:23-27, 7:24-27; 16:18).

      In antiquity the storm was understood to produce very
      large waves called fluctus decumanus, where the tenth
      or decuman wave was greater and more dangerous than
      the others. So that the last wave was seen as the
      most powerful or sweeping. In this narrative,
      therefore, Jesus calms the storm preventing the
      decuman wave from coming.

      Perhaps the most important OT source for the Storm at
      Sea Narrative is the story of the prophet Jonah. The
      story usually relates to Jesus' burial in the tomb for
      three days and resurrection to Jonah's being swallowed
      by a cetaceous fish, just as in Greek mythology
      Andromeda was swallowed by the sea-monster Pistris,
      and then being vomited out. However the story's
      preliminary relates very closely to the Storm at Sea
      Narrative. Jonah did not want to preach to the
      Ninevites and so he fled away from God boarding a ship
      sailing to Tarshish. Jonah 1:4-6 relates:

      �But the Lord sent a gale onto the sea; and a great
      tempest was raised putting the ship in danger to be
      broken. The sailors were afraid, and they cried out
      to their gods; and they cast their cargo overboard to
      lighten the ship. Jonah went below into the hold, and
      fell into a deep sleep. The shipmaster came to him,
      and said: Why are you sleeping, don�t you care? Wake
      up and call upon your God . . .�

      One of the keywords that signals a source is the
      Greek word for sleep. Luke uses a hapax legomena
      AFUPNWSEN, which has a direct link with hexaplaric
      versions of the LXX precisely at Gen. 28:11. This
      link opens up a whole world of parallel between Jesus
      and Jacob. Jacob had left home fleeing Esau�s wrath
      and encounters God during sleep in a dream at a place
      he calls Bethel �House of God�. In this particular
      dream Jacob ascends a ladder encountering God who
      reveals that he will be given the inheritance of many
      nations. Luke linking these narratives ties together
      the idea of Bethel �House of God� with its inheritance
      of many nations to Jesus and the ship symbolizing the
      Church �House of God� and the inheritance of many
      nations which will result from the missionary activity
      of the apostolic community throughout the world.

      Luke�s linkage is geared toward a Jewish audience of
      educated men who would have been able to grasp such a
      link of a keyword signaling this deliberate allusion
      to Genesis and the tissue of texts merge with an
      abundant and fuller sense of the meaning of the Lukan
      narrative. This Jewish method of textual reading
      clearly shows the primitive nature of the Lukan
      narrative and suggests its priority in this respect.

      Whereas, Matthew and Mark have used a different Greek
      word here, substituting it with KAQEUDW, which links
      their narratives to Jonah 1:5. Both have likened
      Jesus to Jonah, but with a twist. Jonah was not doing
      what God wanted; he was prone to evagation, that is,
      wandering off course. This disobedient prophet made
      every effort to evade God and his mission by sailing
      away in the opposite direction, west to Tarshish.
      Therefore, being a just man the only remedy he could
      offer was to have himself thrown overboard, like the
      cargo, since the storm was the wrath of God against
      him. Jesus, on the other hand was on the right
      course. He was �going about his father�s business�
      (Luke 2:49). Jesus, therefore, had the power to
      admonish the storm. Just as Jonah had fallen asleep
      so was Jesus described with his head upon a cervical
      or pulvinus (a pillow). Jesus' sleep had a clear
      symbolic meaning established by Cicero. Cicero had
      written in De Divinatione, "Perfugium videtur omnium
      laborum et sollicitudinum esse somnus." meaning "Sleep
      is regarded as a refuge from every toil and care."
      Jesus was detached from all earthly cares, worries,
      fears and vexation that fallen humanity was subject
      to. The lesson was that doing God�s will empowers
      Christians over nature and all obstacles. The sailing
      ship became a metaphor to seeking the will of God,
      sailing a strait course. Also Cicero used the phrase
      ire ad quietem, meaning to go to sleep. Virgil uses
      the same term in the phrase dura quies, to mean the
      sleep of death. It is possible that Jesus' sleeping
      was an allusion to his death. Moreover, Tacitus,
      Annales, 6, 50 relates how the emperor Tiberius was
      assassinated by being smothered with a pillow. The
      inclusion of the pillow in the narrative may have been
      to keep the imperial or royal imagery actively
      associated while reinforcing the funerary motif. The
      boat full of apostles tossed about by the porcella or
      storm, therefore, symbolized the post-resurrection
      Church being tossed about by the tempest of trials,
      persecutions, hardships, betrayals, and every other
      form of challenge and difficulty it was facing. Luke
      was, through the imagery of the story, teaching the
      Church that although we do not see the physical or
      historical Jesus who seems to us to be sleeping, that
      is, ignorant of our difficulties, he is in our midst.

      Matthew�s use of EKAQEUDEN is also found in 1 Samuel
      26:5 a passage which links Jesus in the ship to David
      at the camp where Saul was sleeping in his tent; an
      event that revealed that God had given David power
      over his enemies. As jesus is able to quell the storm
      he does so from the same position David had, power
      over his enemies. In this way Matthew�s narrative
      takes on a very strong message and meaning that Jesus
      has supreme power over the enemies of the Church
      symbolized by the ship and the apostles aboard. This
      same word is also found in 2 Samuel 4:5. This passage
      has the same theme coupled with the graphic account of
      David receiving the head of his enemy; a sort of
      reversal of roles regarding Herod�s decapitation of
      John. This word also occurs in 1 Samuel 3:2. This
      narrative links Jesus to Samuel�s revelation from God
      that the all who curse the name of God shall be
      avenged. This establishes another intertext within
      Matthew 27:19, Pilate�s dream. Pilate wished to
      release Jesus but the crowds shouted: �His blood be on
      us and on our children!� tying together this very
      theme and the very phrase taken from 2 Samuel 1:16;
      3:29. Consequently, Matthew�s text is precise about
      the diastasis between the Jewish Temple and the
      ecclesia, dating it to sometime post AD 49 after the
      Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:5ff). Additionally, the
      episode of Paul correcting the baptismal formula used
      by John the Baptizer�s disciples at Ephesus in AD 57
      (Acts 19:6), that they should use the Trinitarian
      formula as it is found in Matthew 28:19, indicates it
      was written sometime shortly thereafter.

      Mark 4:38 uses the Greek KAQEUDWN found in
      Aristophanes, Nub. 27, o'neiropolei kai kaqeudwn
      ippikhn. So Claudian, De vi. Cons. Hon. 1, sq. This
      same word is also found in Ephesians 5:14 egeire o
      kaqeudwn, not using Aristophanes' -iambic tetrameter
      catalectic rhyme, but still a form of rhythm without
      the sing-song element used in early Church epos as in
      Type 1 documents. This hymn-like aspect to this
      passage in Ephesians has already been well
      established. (See F. Foulkes, Ephesians, 155). It is
      this primitive element with which the epistle is
      imbued that has generated confusion among researchers
      who did not have the paradigm of understanding the
      layers of Type documents that would have indicated
      this euchologions-like aspect incorporated by Paul who
      wrote it sometime after AD 57. Further, this suggests
      that Mark was written sometime later than the Pauline
      epistle since the Gospels certainly post-date this
      earlier written form; and Mark must date no earlier
      the AD 60�s.

      Jesus asleep on the ship implies he was dreaming.
      The association of dreams in Hellenistic culture may
      have been drawn from in Type 6 documents. An
      interesting point must be made here regarding the book
      of dreams compiled and written by Artemidorus of
      Daldis (fl A.D. 138-179) in Lydia entitled
      Onirocritica. Artemidorus collected into this book
      all the recorded symbolisms that occur in dreams with
      their meanings from records written many years before
      his time, probably those in the temple at Cos. He
      tells us that mariners prior to sailing are want to
      sleep in the temple of Poseidon endeavoring to have a
      prophetic dream to learn if theirs will be a safe
      voyage. Jesus' sleeping may reference this practice
      that was widely known to the Gentiles. In this sense,
      Jesus' sleep signified that he already knew they would
      be safe and that there was no need to worry. However,
      Artemidorus explains what type of dream this could be,
      He says that if a mariner dreams he is crucified it
      indicates a safe voyage since this is a good omen. It
      is good since both the cross and ship are made of wood
      and nails, and because the misery of the cross is like
      seasickness. Jesus' sleep on the ship, therefore, was
      the Evangelist's method to tell us that Jesus was
      dreaming of his crucifixion. Having this dream he
      knew it to be a good omen meaning they would be safe
      and behaved accordingly.

      There are two other levels of Christological meaning
      to be discerned here. First, that Jesus' dream of his
      crucifixion signified that the ship symbolizing the
      Church would be safe. It was through Jesus' death on
      the cross that the safety and salvation of the Church
      was secured. Second, that Jesus' always had the
      vision of his death on the cross fixed before him.
      Another feature to the story that relates to Jesus'
      puzzlement over the apostle's fear is taken from
      Florus, Works, when during the Civil War Caesar asked
      his ship's captain "Quid times? Caesarem vehis!"
      meaning "Why are you afraid? You have Caesar aboard!"

      For part II see

      with best regards,

      John N. Lupia, III
      31 Norwich Drive
      Toms River, New Jersey 08757 USA
      Phone: (732) 341-8689
      Email: jlupia2@...
      Editor, Roman Catholic News

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