Re: [Synoptic-L] Trusting the text
- On August 31, David B. Peabody wrote in response to Bob MacDonald:
>>I think your reading of the difficulty at Mk 7:17 is astute and I do notbelieve that appeal to Mk 7:15 as an answer to this diffficulty is
I wonder if you could expand upon your reasoning here. In both Mark and
Matthew, a disciple or more asks Jesus about his "parable" (Mt. 15.15/Mk.
7.17) and Jesus responds by explaining his saying about what goes in and
what comes out (Mt. 15.11, Mk. 7.15). Doesn't it appear that both Matthew
and Mark take that saying to be the parable about which Jesus was asked?
We could instead take the reference to Jesus' parable in Mt. 15.15 to be
referring to Mt. 15.13-14. This is what I took Bob to be suggesting in his
first post. If we do this, however, we have to wonder why Jesus ignores
Peter's request that he explain his parable in Mt. 15.13-14 and instead
explains the saying about what goes in and what comes out from Mt. 15.11.
Doesn't this interpretation create a bigger problem than the one it was
intended to solve?
Further, I think Bob's problem with Mk. 7.15 and yours are mutually
exclusive. Here's your exposition of the relevant passage:
>>Mk. 7.15. Mark omits "into _the mouth_" and "out of _the mouth_" fromboth parts of the saying in Mt. 15.11. This can hardly be considered an
example of Mark's radical primitiveness. By omitting references to the
"mouth," Mark not only disengages the comment from the Isaiah text upon
which it is a comment, but renders the saying physiologically absurd. A
Jewish audience might be prepared to give credence to a claim that what
enters the mouth is not what defiles, but it would have been bewildered by a
claim that everything that comes out of a man defiles him. Taken literally,
for example, this saying would mean that one could not even exhale without
defilement. The into and out of the mouth saying is difficult enough to
envision in a strongly Jewish setting, but in the Matthean context of the
Isaiah reference it is understandable. The removal of "mouth" from the
saying does not represent radical authenticity, but unintelligibility.
Those reading the Markan parallel must presuppose Matthew's exegesis of
Isaiah here, although Mark's text does not contain all the elements required
to support such a reading. The question and corban counterquestion may be
primitive, but the use of the Isaiah reference as a mid-point proof text is
characteristic of Matthew. Mark has blurred Matthew's precision regarding
the technical use of scripture and Jewish attention to detail in matters of
ritual cleanliness and purity<< [David B. Peabody, with Lamar Cope and Allan
J. McNicol, eds., _One Gospel from Two: Mark's Use of Matthew and Luke
(Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2002) 174].
Bob MacDonald said, "no one at our study saw that phrase [Mk. 7.15] as a
parable. It seems non metaphoric if any language can be said to be so."
You, on the other hand, find Mk. 7.15 physiologically absurd, bewildering to
the audience, and unintelligible if taken literally. It seems to me that
the two of you are saying very different things here. He objects to calling
Mk. 7.15 a parable because it's perfectly straightforward and
non-metaphorical while you object to it as unintelligible if taken
Many Markan commentators explain the use of "parable" in Mk. 7.17 as a
not-entirely-satisfactory translation of the Hebrew _mashal_ or "dark
saying," meaning a saying that is difficult to interpret. Many also see the
disciples' question and Jesus' response as part of Mark's motif of the
incomprehension of the disciples. I think this addresses both Bob's point
and yours adequately. You find the saying absurd, bewildering, and
unintelligible if taken literally. Of course, in Mark's text, Jesus
introduces the saying in 7.15 by saying, "Hear me, all of you, and
understand." The command to "understand" would seem to indicate that the
saying which follows is difficult to interpret and not to be taken
literally. Mark also has Jesus give an explanation of the saying which
precludes it being taken in the sense you suggest.
If Mark is indeed dependent on Matthew, as you and Bob propose he is, it
seems to me that he has tightened and clarified the pericope. He has
clarified the relationship between the question about the parable and the
parable to which it refers by removing the material that Matthew had placed
between them in vv.15.12-14. He has also removed Matthew's references to
the mouth in 15.11, 17 and 18. Matthew's saying that what comes out of the
mouth defiles a person would appear to refer only to speech that defiles,
but Matthew's expansion on the saying in vv. 15.18-19 shows that in fact
Matthew means to include actions as well. Mark has clarified the
relationship between what comes out of a person (both evil words and evil
deeds) and that person's heart by removing Matthew's superfluous reference
to the mouth.
Kenneth A. Olson
University of Maryland
Department of History
2115 Francis Scott Key Hall
College Park, MD 20742-7315
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