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Re: [Synoptic-L] Hardness of Heart (Mark 6:52 and 8:17)

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  • J. Ted Blakley
    J. Ted Blakley Wrote: In particular, I have been looking at the issue of the disciples hardness of heart (blindness, deafness, etc.) which crops up in 6:52
    Message 1 of 13 , Apr 8, 2004
      J. Ted Blakley Wrote:
      In particular, I have been looking at the issue of the disciples' hardness of heart (blindness, deafness, etc.) which crops up in 6:52 and 8:17, and pursuing a couple of theses about how their hardness of heart relates to the hardness of heart of the Pharisees (3:5, 10:5) and to Jesus' mission to Gentiles which the disciples seem to be having a hard time with (Note the first, failed trip to Bethsaida in 6:45-52 and the disciples refusal to take 'extra loaves' with them on the second, successful trip to Bethsaida 8:14-21

      Rev. Charles Schwartz Responds:
      I don't usually post,  I'm using this site to keep abreast of current thought on the Synoptics. But I am a bit confused about the premises cited here. In the first instance you refer to Mark 6,45-52 as a 'failed trip'. I have checked several translations, and the Greek text and can not see how you have determined that it was a failed trip. In the second instnace, Mark 8,14-21, you characterize the disciples as "refusing" to take extra loaves with them. Every translation and the Greek text says they 'forgot'. How did you jump from forgetting to refusing -- two very different ideas?

      J. Ted Blakley Responds:
      Jeffery has already responded to your question about 8:14-21 and the issue of the disciples' "forgetting/neglecting", which is appropriate since I was simply stating his thesis from his 1986 article (Jeffrey B. Gibson, "The Rebuke of the Disciples in Mark 8.14–21," JSNT 27 (1986): 31-47). It is an article I highly recommend because it challenges the prevailing assumption that the disciples in Mark are simply dull, just generally ignorant. When one sees that the disciples have purposefully neglected to bring bread, then the severity of Jesus' rebuke makes better sense. Moreover, this idea of purposeful neglect fits better with the question about their hardness of heart, an idiom that does not suggest mere ignorance or mere inability to believe or understand something but a willing refusal to believe, understand, or act in a certain way.

      I will respond to your question about the "failed" trip. You are right to ask because I didn't really say much about it. You will notice in 6:45 that Jesus "compels/forces" the disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida (which is on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and in Mark is in Gentile territory). But notice that in 6:53 they do not make it to Bethsaida but land at Gennesaret, a plain on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and therefore Jewish territory. This has been one of those problematic issues in Mark and has lead many scholars to conclude that either Mark was not much interested in geography, or more likely didn't know is geography, or in this case had made a mistake in his redaction. That is, you will notice that the healing of the blind man in 8:22-26 takes place in Bethsaida, so they do eventually get there by boat. What has happened is that in the sources Mark used and redacted the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida followed on the heels of the feeding of the 5000. What Mark has done is rarranged some material and introduced some material so that quite a bit now happens between the feeding of the 5000 and the healing of the blind man (see Paul J. Achtemeier, "Toward the Isolation of Pre-Markan Miracle Catenae," JBL 89 (1970): 265-91). For some scholars then, Mark has forgotten (not purposefully neglected) to remove the Bethsaida in 6:45 (Note that Bethsaida is not present in Matthew's account and so there is no discrepancy. By the way, if Leonard reads this I will be interested in hearing how one might defend Matthean priority at this point.). My argument, which I haven't presented fully here, is that this is not a mistake on Mark's part but quite the opposite. Mark wants the listener/reader to see that the intended destination was not reached. This I think is fairly easy to defend. And note that one does not have to dismiss the argument that in Mark's original sources the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida immediately followed the feeding of the 5000. Mark has introduced intervening material between these two episodes, one of which is a failed sea crossing.
          One of the issues I am working on is the nature of the failure. What is the cause of the failure? I won't go into all of the details right now, but will if someone wants to hear them, but I think the failure is the disciples refusal (narrated in terms of their difficulty in rowing) to go ahead of Jesus into Gentile territory and engage in some sort of Gentile mission, perhaps similar to the mission they were on in Galilee immediately prior to the feeding of the 5000. The twelve were called by Jesus to be with him and to be sent out, that is their vocation as apostles (Mark 3:13-15). They show both a willingness and a great success at being able to proclaim the kingdom, heal, and exorcise demons in their own Jewish land of Galilee, but when it comes to doing the same thing on the other side of the Sea, they are resistant. Not only must Jesus "force" them to get into the boat and go to the other side to Bethsaida (note the strength of the word HNAGKASEN) but they can't even make it across the sea (and at least a third of them are fisherman). Basically, the failure is the disciples refusal/inability to make it to the other side and Jesus cannot ultimately force them to do so. In Mark, Jesus has absolute authority over nonhuman elements (unclean spirits, demons, the sea, sickness, death) but does not have absolute authority over human agents. He can't force the Pharisees and scribes to understand/accept his vision of God's kingdom and his vision of those to whom God is offering salvation, he can't even get people whom he has healed to not talk about it, and neither can he get his disciples to engage in a Gentile mission if they are refusing to go. This explains why when Jesus gets into the boat and the wind dies down that they don't actually continue on to Bethsaida but land at Gennesaret. That they were blown off course does not make sense because Jesus has just calmed the sea. The disciples have failed to go ahead of Jesus to Bethsaida and so Jesus will have to lead them there. So after his debate with the Pharisees on what makes on ritually impure (the food issue that is one of the barriers between Jews associating with Gentiles), Jesus goes on a Gentile mission (7:24-8:26), leading the disciples. They may not be ready to be sent out but at least they are with him. I think a lot of this fits well with and confirms Jeffery's reading of 8:14-21, why Jesus' rebuke is so harsh and what is it that the disciples are not "understanding."
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