The Davidic Saga and Mark’s Passion Narrative?

Writing on the scriptural resonances in Mark’s Passion Narrative, I was reminded of the review article by Theodore J. Weeden Sr, “Polemics as a Case for Dissent: A Response to Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the EyewitnessesJSHJ 6 (2008): 211-22 (further discussion at XTalk: Historical Jesus & Christian Origins).  His case against Bauckham covers a lot of ground (defending Loveday Alexander on the prologues of Luke-Acts, Joseph Tyson on the late dating of canonical Luke-Acts after Marcion, his own polemical interpretation of Mark, his new thesis that Mark imitated Josephus’ story of Jesus son of Ananias in War 6.300-309), but I want to focus particularly on the argument that Mark composed the narrative in Gethsemane on the outline of the Davidic saga (pp 221-23).  Dr. Weeden lists the following correspondences:

(a) Conspiracy against David (2 Sam.15:1-12)=conspiracy against Jesus (14:1, 10-11); (b) Ahithophel’s betrayal of David (2 Sam.15:31;16:20-17:3)=Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Mk.14:10f.); (c) Ittai’s vow of loyality to David (2 Sam.15:21)=Peter’s vow of loyalty to Jesus (Mk. 14:29); (d) David’s flight to the Mt. of Olives (2 Sam.15:30)=Jesus’ move to Mt. of Olives (Mk. 14:26); (e) Three commanders accompany David ( 2 Sam.15:19-24)=Jesus “takes” three confidants (14:33); (f) David’s distress (2 Sam. 15:30b)=Jesus’ distress (Mk. 14:33-35a); (g) David’s resigning to God’s will (2 Sam.15:25f.)=Jesus’ prayer resigning to God’s will (Mk.14:36); (h) Plan for army to attack David (2 Sam.17:1-3)=crowd with swords/clubs arrest Jesus (14:43); (i) Joab’s deceitful kiss of Amasa (2 Sam. 20:1-10)=Judas’ betrayal kiss of Jesus (Mk. 14:44f.).

He further sees the altered citation of LXX Zech 13:7 in Mk 14:27 to conform more closely to Ahithophel’s hope in his attack of David (2 Sam 17:2) that “all the people with him [David] will flee” and “I will strike the king” and shepherd and sheep can be a metaphor for ruler and people.

I have no problem with the idea that, as son of David (Mk 10:47-48; 11:10, but does Mark contest or redefine Davidic sonship in 12:35-37?), Mark views David as a type or forerunner of Jesus.  Further support may be that 1st century Jews believed David wrote many of the lament Psalms which form a script for Jesus and there must be some literary creation (who heard Jesus’ prayer while the disciples slept?).  However, might some of this be a case of parallelomania?  The setting on the Mount of Olives is suggestive, but did David and Jesus alone find themselves victims of conspiracy, suffer grief or get hunted down by enemies?  Some details make plausible historical sense like the flight of the disciples (the men hid away so as not to suffer the same fate while some women were allowed to watch at a distance as witnesses in Mk 15:47) or that Jesus’ was betrayed by a member of his circle that tipped the authorities off about his message and whereabouts (creating issues for the “Q” saying that the Twelve would sit on 12 thrones).  Other elements of the narrative world may be sufficiently explained as underscoring the utter failure of the disciples (the Twelve fail to keep their word to die with Jesus, the inner circle of Peter/James/John fall asleep, Judas’ kiss heightens the personal betrayal, the chief spokesperson Peter denies Jesus, not sure where Weeden fits the flight of the naked youth in the OT narrative [?]) in contrast to Jesus resolve to do the divine will and drink the cup (a metaphor used throughout the OT).  What do others think?

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4 Responses to The Davidic Saga and Mark’s Passion Narrative?

  1. Brian S. says:

    I largely agree with you. I find it rather strange that some scholars such as the one mentioned above, seem to suffer from parallelomania. Many elements in the Gethsemene scene do make a lot of historical sense such as the disciples fleeing and etc. And I don’t really think too much of some of the parallels he outlined. Since I tend to regaurd many of them as typical literary conventions used back in the day. However, I did find his article fascinating perhaps I should go check it out. Though I’m curious Mike, on what grounds do some scholars think that Luke-Acts is associated with Marcion? To me the work makes much sense as a first century document, the Christology is perhaps the lowest in the entire NT and it fits well in the late first century overall.

    • Mike K. says:

      I agree that literary conventions and scriptural/Greco-Roman influences does not mean no history in the narrative. About the trend of a minority of scholars to move Luke-Acts to the 2nd century, see Joseph Tyson’s article at http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/actapo358006.shtml. Tyson’s own thesis is that there was a proto-Luke, then Marcion’s gospel (similar to proto-Luke) and finally around 120 CE the canonical redaction of Luke and Acts as a response to Marcion (e.g. Acts claiming the Twelve and Paul were perfectly unified against Marcion’s co-opting of Paul), but I think his thesis might be a little too speculative. However, Richard Pervo (Dating Acts [http://www.amazon.com/Dating-Acts-Richard-I-Pervo/dp/0944344739] or his Hermeneia Commentary) has some good reasons for an early 2nd century date (ca 110 CE) by arguing Luke-Acts was influenced by a corpus of Pauline letters, Josephus’ Antiquities and has some interesting parallels in vocabulary or church order with the Pastorals and Apostolic Fathers. I get what you say about Christology though Pervo points out high Christology was as early as Paul while “adoptionist” christology survived well into the 2nd and later centuries. That this may be starting to have an impact is that SBL dedicated a 3 year panel on 2nd century dating (I was on the panel at San Francisco where I tested the idea of Papias influencing Luke-Acts, though I think the similarities could also be based on shared traditions) and another forthcoming volume (http://www.equinoxpub.com/equinox/books/showbook.asp?bkid=364)

      • Nicolas Ciccone says:

        I don’t see any evidence for the Josephus connection. I’m an amateur, but Richard Carrier’s summary of the arguments didn’t seem very convincing. It just seems to be saying that if they mention similar events in a somewhat-similar sequence, one is based off the other.

  2. Brian S. says:

    Thanks for the explaination, Mike! Though I myself tend to date Luke-Acts at two different time periods depending on what solution to synoptic problem I find most persuasive at the moment. If the Two-source theory is correct than a date from 80-100 is reasonable. If the Farrer hypothesis is correct than I can reasonably see a date ranging anywhere from 90-110/115.
    I understand your point [or Pervo] that adoptionist Christology was still in wide circulation in and around the second century but if Tyson is correct that the Canonical Luke that we now have was costructed as an “Orthodox” response to Marcionite Christianity, than I’m at odds to see why the Orthodox Jesus [and apostles] they sought to secure doesn’t seem to support the Chrstology that was was either emerging or dominant at the time. To me this is perplexing because Luke’s Christology seems rather indifferent to battles being waged in the second century and beyond. Instead Luke’s christology seems most relevant to his narrative, which is in turn connected to the perdicament in which Luke and his community found themselves in. A more probable explaination is that as a sectarian community, Luke needed the support of his ancestor”s in faith, this type of “historical [or communal memory] manupulation” is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in Paul, both of which were indifferent to the problems of the Second Century. Luke as an outcast from the synagogue needed to secure the claims of Christianity by showing that the Judaism in which it grew out of contained the seeds of its own transformation and thus the claims of his community were legitamate [Think of Jame Mcgrath's book, John's Apolegetic Christology]

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