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[Synoptic-L] Markan minor characters/Narrative Analogy

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  • Tim Lewis
    I tried looking for evidence of Markan priority in the narrative analogy of Mk’s minor characters. In January I read Joel F. Williams, Other Followers of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 22, 2004

      I tried looking for evidence of Markan priority in the "narrative analogy" of Mk’s minor characters. In January I read Joel F. Williams, Other Followers of Jesus: Minor Characters as Major Figures in Mark’s Gospel (JSNOT SS 102; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994). William’s thesis of course does not tackle the synoptic problem but simply demonstrates how important the minor characters are in Mk’s gospel for "narrative analogy" (see pp. 49, 172-178).

      But I expected to find more of Mk’s narrative analogies (created for his important minor characters) in Mt’s and Lk’s versions than is the case based on the two-source theory. Interestingly, however, most of the same minor characters also feature in Mt and Lk in the same order of occurrence – but Mk simply has stronger "narrative analogy" in the episodes with minor characters (but Mt probably also created his own narrative analogies).

      Instead the evangelists have confidently obscured their sources by relaying things in their own ways as though they were already familiar with the stories enough not to have to resort to close copying. This suggests that Mt and Lk may already had their own way of telling the stories independent of (and prior to) what we find in Mk.

      Mk’s passage on ‘scribes and widows’ is a useful example (for looking for Markan features reappearing in Mt and Lk from Mk 12:28-12:44). The connection between scribes and widows in Mk is obviously one of contrast (of prestige, status and wealth). Mk has Jesus’ third (and conclusive) temple debate as a favourable response to a perceptive minor character (a GRAMMATEUS) who asks "which commandment is first of all." Mk follows this with three teaching sections where Jesus himself takes the initiative for teaching those in the temple. The third teaching passage concerns a lesson drawn from another minor character (a XHPA) and sandwiched appropriately between the exceptionally perceptive scribe and the generous widow is the saying about scribes eating way the finances of (poor) widows (note Mk’s next minor character ‘lavishes’ expensive perfume on Jesus which might have gone to the poor).

      Mk is very likely responsible for this arrangement of the material. But I’m not sure Lk’s and Mt’s dependency on Mk’s gospel in this section is clear. If Mk’s gospel here is the source of Mt and Lk then wouldn’t we expect to find some trace of something verbally Markan, say, for example Mk’s preferred way of introducing a minor character with ‘EIS rather than TIS (Mk 5:22; 9:17; 12:28; 14:47) which Mt 22:35 does seem to share in this case but Mt’s ‘EIS appears to be virtually acting as an indefinite article "a scribe". The only ‘Markan remains’ would be reference to Mk’s "first/best" (PRWTOS) commandment which ties in with the scribes desire for the best seats (PRWTOKAQEDRIA) and first place of reclining (PRWTOKLISIA), but again Mt and Lk do not share Mk’s initial PRWTOS commandment.

      In looking for remains of Mk’s arrangement in Mt and Lk we see Mt shares virtually the same arrangement of material but lacks the generous widow and lacks Mk’s key words about scribes devouring widows while both Lk and Mt lack Mk’s identification of ‘EIS TWN GRAMMATEWN (Lk has a NOMIKOS TIS). Is it more likely that Mk has simply strengthened the link between this material or that what tied them together was lost in the later Mk-dependent versions? Isn’t it safer to avoid both literary options of direct dependence at this point?

      But there are striking verbal agreements about devouring widows houses (Lk 20:46-47 and Mk 12:38-40) immediately following. These verbal agreements between Lk and Mk in the condemnation of the scribes do seem likely due to direct dependence. Mt’s version lacks reference to devouring widows and is evidently relying on independent (oral) sources here. We might have simply said that the passages are found together here in Mk/Lk/Mt due to the catchwords GRAMMATEUS and XHRA except that Mt lacks both key words and Mt’s other (oral?) sources take over (on condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees and Temple) leaving Mt no chance to include a poor widow’s offering (hence no reason for the catchwords). Only Lk’s closeness to Mk is perhaps enough to postulate Lukan dependence on Mk.

      If Lk’s version of the Temple debates has been ‘made his own’ (i.e. linked/tied to other minor characters by different "narrative analogy") then perhaps the narrative ties that bind together minor characters here in Mk’s gospel are completely useless for determining the direction of dependence?

      This example (scribes and widows) is thus weak on demonstrating the direction of dependence. In fact every example of Mk’s "narrative analogous" minor characters which also features in Mt and Lk has not enough evidence of an original Markan flavour to suggest Mk as the source (except perhaps for some intercalation/Markan sandwiches e.g. the paralytic and the man with the withered hand/arm). So just how far can we say that Mk could be a source for the stories of minor characters – perhaps minor characters were already too famous in Christian circles to ever be entirely Markan?

      Tim Lewis.

      Timothy M. Lewis
      Cranbourne, VIC 3977
      Currently enrolled in Master of Theology at Whitley College,
      Melbourne College of Divinity, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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