In the last post and the good discussion in the comments I noted I lean towards the view that the early 2nd century bishop Papias of Hierapolis was referring to some version of canonical Mark and Matthew. Since I have no reason to assume that Papias was not telling the truth when he writes that he received the tradition from followers of John the Elder, I think that his tradition is important in helping to determine the date of these two gospels and their early reception if these ideas were being entertained by the elders at the turn of the century. But whether they are necessarily historically accurate is another question. As it happens Robert Myles, a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland who I met at an SBL meeting, has written a post tackling what seems to be a pendulum shift in terms of accepting the historical reliability of the traditional authorship of Matthew. He also brings up the interesting question of ideological context that sees the rise of highly traditional views in some quarters of scholarship and one could cite the rise of popular mythicism online at the far end of the spectrum on the other side as part of this same cultural matrix. But what do you think: does the evidence (the unanimity of the patristic tradition and titles, the gospel as engaged in an internal Jewish debate, the name change from Levi the tax collector to “Matthew” in Matt 9:9) support Matthean authorship or is there too many historical issues with the Papian tradition (e.g., Greek Matthew is dependent on Greek Mark) to speculate beyond the anonymity of the Gospel?
Every year there is a student conference hosted by the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester or Durham. I have really enjoyed participating the last 2 years as it is a chance to meet a variety of scholars and students and each institution has its own strengths and research interests so it makes for great discussion. At it on Monday I presented on “Papias and the Four Canonical Gospels” where I looked at the question of whether Papias’s traditions on the evangelists Mark and Matthew (as quoted in Eusebius, H.E. 3.39.15-16) were meant in reference to canonical “Mark” or “Matthew” and whether there is evidence that Papias also knew the Gospels of Luke and John even though there is no explicit tradition on the latter in the surviving citations of Papias (unless Charles E. Hill is right on a New Papian Fragment). In my view, I think it is more probable than not that Papias was intending to refer to some version of our “Gospels according to Mark/Matthew,” despite issues with the (mistaken?) tradition that Matthew originally wrote in a Hebrew (Aramaic?) dialect, but that the evidence put forward by some scholars for knowledge of Luke and John is inconclusive at best. I received some great questions afterwards and most rewarding of all got the chance to discuss some of my ideas on Papias with Dr. Francis Watson who has recently worked on the fourfold Gospel canon.
A number of other papers caught my attention. One student looked at how to interpret Johannine language that suggests believers will be incorporated into the “divine identity” (borrowed from Richard Bauckham). Another looked at the parable of the tenants in the Gospel of Matthew and Thomas and, avoiding the archaelogical question of the independence or dependence of Thomas, instead addressed the meaning of the parable in the literary context of each and how this impacts on its meaning whether as a christological allegory or a critique of the desire for wealth. Other papers looked at the feminine imagery of Babylon in the book of Revelation in light of other sapiental texts, the historical Jesus’ threats of eternal judgment on the rich as a very unpalatable figure for scholarship in a modern capitalist context, at the possible authenticity of Lk 22:43-44 where Jesus sweats drops of blood against a text critic such as Bart Ehrman who finds it a later interpolation, at an ecclesiological reading of “all Israel” in Romans 11, on the interaction of Greek and Roman culture in Corinth and so on. Whether I agreed or disagreed with any of the papers, there was much food for thought.
Judy Redman has kindly responded to my question on whether Thomas is dependent on the Synoptics and argues Thomas received sayings independently from the rich oral tradition. There are a number of things that I can say appreciatively about the many scholars studying oral transmission or social memory. First, I agree with Judy on many points: Jesus may have repeated the same teachings in different ways in all sorts of settings and various eyewitnesses in the first generation continued to retell their stories as they remembered, both of which could account for some similarities (even some verbatim ones) and variations in the Synoptics or Thomas. Second, against those attacking Bart Ehrman (who now has a blog) and the infinitely patient James McGrath, there was likely many oral and written souces floating around because Luke tells us so in the prologue (Lk 1:1-4, this is an odd way of saying just Mark & Q, or Mark & Matthew), it was an oral culture with low literacy, it accounts for some differences of John from the Synoptics even if John is literary dependent (ditto Matt/Luke, it is difficult to explain every difference as intentional redactional change), the early 2nd century bishop Papias prefers the “living voice” to the written word and it explains some variations of Jesus’ sayings or deeds in the Apostolic Fathers (Helmut Koester’s Überlieferung bei den Apostolischen Vätern  and subsequent works demonstrates they often draw on oral tradition rather than written gospels) or some extra-canonical gospels. Third, as also from her review, there is much to be gained from social memory capturing the gist (Jesus was a sage, an apocalyptic seer, social reformer, messianic figure) while acknowledging human memory is also selective, flawed and sometimes constructs what is needed for the contemporary situation, echoing form critical debates of how much goes back to Jesus or the Sitz im Leben of the church. Fourth, I appreciate these studies are interdisciplinary and offer methodologically sound replacements for outdated form critical laws about “pure forms” or impersonal “laws of tradition” for how traditions grow.
However, I am not ready to throw out all the labours of the classic German scholarship on source, form and redaction criticism. I continue to accept sayings/deeds apart from the Passion circulated individually in forms to aid memory (e.g., chreiai -pronouncement stories), served various practical functions as they were handed down (instruction in ethics, magnifying Jesus when retold in worship, aiding in legal debates with fellow Jews, useful for evangelizing outsiders, etc) before incorporated in written Gospels. Eyewitnesses are subject to both the limitations of memory and limited to not being everywhere at once, so as stories were told and retold widely there was room for creative new things. Once included in a written source (Mark, perhaps Q source[s]?), the later evangelists (Matthew, Luke, John, Thomas, etc) did not just pull everything from oral tradition but copied each other and did some deliberate updating of the material to meet the theological needs of their readers. An example where I see literary dependence and redaction is Mk 13:14/Matt 24:15/Lk 21:20 – “let the reader understand” seems to me a Markan addition hinting to the readers that they had been instructed about the “abomination of desolation”, Matthew repeats Mark’s aside verbatim while Luke reinterprets the enigmatic sign for non-Jewish readers in a post-70 context as the siege of Jerusalem. That is a minor change, but would not a major change either during the continuing oral tradition or at the redactional level be to explain how Mark and Thomas can reach such opposite views on apocalyptic? An example I would want to look at would be the ”thief in the night” (Thomas 21, Matt 24:43/Lk 12:39; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 3:3; 16:15; Did 16:1) – on the one hand I could accept Judy’s view on Thomas complete independence here and getting this from the oral tradition as it is abundantly attested, but it does lead one to ask whether something Jesus had said about a thief in the night was remembered by different eyewitnesses or tradents in two dramatically different ways and put in very different contexts (be on guard against the world, be ready for the second coming of Jesus), if it was dramatically altered in the oral tradition received by either Matt/Luke (Q?) or Thomas, if either Matthew (or Q?) or Thomas made the redactional change to the saying or gave it a new context or if Thomas is dependent and changed Matt/Luke?
Thus, in my opinion the gist of how Jesus was remembered in the first generation was preserved and aphorisms/parables/short anecdotes and so on survived orally for centuries, but also the image of Jesus was theologically developed in oral tradition and redactionally at the hands of the Synoptic evangelists and (even more so) in John, Thomas, etc. For a bibliography on memory and oral tradition:
- Alison, Dale. Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
- Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: the Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
- Dunn, James. Jesus Remembered. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2003.
- Le Donne, Anthony. The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology and the Son of David. Baylor University Press, 2009.
- Le Donne, Anthony. The Historical Jesus: What can we know and how can we know it? Eerdmans, 2011.
- Redman, Judy. ”How Accurate Are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research.” Journal of Biblical Literature 129, no. 1 (2010): 177-97.
- Rodriguez, Rafael. Structuring Early Christian Memory. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2010. His blog has lots of discussion on memory.
Judy Redman critically reviews Simon Gathercole’s book on Thomas here, here, here, here, here and here. So what do you think: is Thomas mostly independent of the Synoptic tradition so that their similarities derive from shared oral (or written) traditions or is Thomas literary dependent on the Synoptics to some degree?
Joel Watts discusses the date of Mark with reference to Irenaeus. Papias only mentions Mark was Peter’s interpreter, but Irenaeus and the so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologue are explicit that Peter had already “departed” while Clement of Alexandria has Peter still alive.
Mark Goodacre highlights the new movie “The Gospel of Us.” I saw this at Rotten Tomatoes and am fascinated by Jesus films, but I can’t see one playing in Sheffield so maybe it’s just select UK theatres
James Tabor and Ben Witherington disagree on spiritual resurrection. I grant Jewish views of post-mortem existence were diverse, but does a text like 2 Macc 7 literally envision this body raised (the martyrs receive back their hands/tongue)? Second, there are exegetical issues with 1 Cor 15 (what is meant by soma psuchikos vrs soma pneumatikos or flesh [sarx] and blood will not inherit the kingdom?) and Christ’s burial may be noted because it was dishonorable to not be (cf. Tobit is righteous for burying others), but does the seed metaphor imply the very body put into the ground is raised? Finally, I am unsure we can just say post-70 Gospels misunderstood the meaning of resurrection since a) Mark may be pre-70, b) Mark/John may rely of a prior Passion Narrative or c) I am not sure Mark/Matt lost all connection with the Jerusalem church, so my question to those of you who see the empty tomb as an invention is what motivated it if the earliest Christ followers were content with visions - do you see it based on Jewish/Greco-Roman stories of translation to heaven (doesn’t 14:28/16:7 put Jesus in Galilee and can this localized reference refer to the parousia), to deny the disciples visions of the risen Jesus (does 16:8 cancels out the promise at 14:28/16:7) or to be anti-docetist (this may be a concern for Luke/John but not Mark/Matt)?
Tommy Wasserman notes an article by Suzanne Watts Henderson on the Longer Ending of Mark. Since I already hinted above at the difficulties with Mark’s ending on the women’s silence at 16:8, which caused ancient readers as much difficulty as modern ones, the longer ending was one attempt to fill in the gap (see also James Kelhoffer’s Miracle and Mission).
Joel Willitts lets us know about Daniel Boyarin’s latest book The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ. James Crossley has been a major advocate for the view of Mark as entirely a Jewish Law-observant text (and he sees all the Synoptics but NOT John representing Jesus as Torah-observant) and some scholars have assented to Crossley’s take on Mark 7 in asides/footnotes (as James notes here) but Daniel Boyarin would be a high-profile scholar (see his past works on Paul or Border Lines) to have since reached the same conclusion independently.
These were some of the things I noticed, but if you wrote a post relating to Mark or the Synoptic Gospels that I missed just write me a comment and I would be happy to add the link to the above. Otherwise, let me know what you think about any of the posts and comments listed above.
A number of bloggers have mentioned plans to chair or present at a session at the international or annual SBL meetings (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). I made a proposal for the session on the Synoptic Gospels looking at Lukan redaction of Mark (as well as another proposal for the AAR session) but my plans for where I will be next Fall semester are up in the air at the moment so I had to withdraw the proposals and pass on SBL Chicago this time. However, I will be participating in the conference organized at Sheffield on The Bible, Zionism and Palestine for May 24-26 and registration is available online (HT Sheffield Biblical Studies blog). A preliminary program and list of presenters (I just picked whatever Facebook photo I could find ) is also available. My paper “Who is the True Israel? Ethnocentrism in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew” will look at the importance of “ethnic reasoning” (cf. Buell, Hodge, Lieu, etc) and the Land to Justin’s construction of a Christian identity that continues to influence Christian supersessionism and seeks to challenge the unfair contrast drawn between the alleged ”ethnocentrism” of Judaism with the “universalism” of Christianity in some modern scholarship. I also want to look at what this means for contemporary ecumenical dialogue as religious Jews and Christians (and Muslims) have identified themselves as the people of God with connections to the land and scriptures of Israel and how to value the identity of one’s own group while respecting the rights of the Other.
Happy Good Friday and Easter!
“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Mark 10:45
After going back and forth on this issue over the last bunch of weeks, here would be my preliminary conclusions about the alleged existence of a pre-Markan passion narrative (of course there is still so much I have not read and so this could all be subject to change).
I accept the existence of at least some sort of oral if not written basic Passion Story Prior to Mark
- Whatever one makes of the possible existence of Jesus groups that privileged sayings over the death/resurrection kerygma (proclamation) theorized by Koester, Robinson, Mack or some other scholars working on “Q” or Thomas, as soon as the Jerusalem Pillars (Cephas, James, the Twelve) began proclaiming Jesus as the risen Christos (annointed one), it practically necessitated that they had some scriptural justification for why this Christ was shamefully executed in the first place in contrast to any known Jewish messianic expectations. 1 Cor 15:3-5 suggests this was narrated “according to the Scriptures” from the beginning so there is no need to imagine that shaping the story according to the suffering righteous of the Psalms or other Jewish martyrdom traditions was a late addition.
- At least some episodes originated in eyewitness testimony however much they became elaborated in later retellings. This includes those involving the disciples before they fled, Simon of Cyrene and sons Alexander & Rufus and the women at Mk 15:47/16:1. I heard a talk at SBL where a scholar argued Simon of Cyrene was a literary device (he takes up the cross unlike Simon Peter, his foreign named sons show they are outsiders who Mark makes insiders) but Simon was a common name and I find more convincing the superfluous naming of the sons indicates they were known to Mark’s audience. Deane Galbraith following Casey has a strong counterargument against the historicity of Mark’s story of the women at the tomb (i.e. the standard apologetic that women’s testimony was inadmissable in a lawcourt is irrelevant because the evangelists were preaching to fellow believers, women like Deborah or Jael had prominent roles in Scripture, the narrative demands women since the male disciples fled), but as a reply I wonder if naming the women (Mary Magdalene in all four, Mary in the Synoptics [mother of James & Jose in Mk, mother of James in Lk]) rather than just a non-specific group suggests Mark has a tradition of named women (Deane allows there may have been a tradition originating in visions of women) and there is evidence of authors reflecting bias against women outside the setting of a law court (in addition to Deane’s examples of Celsus and Emmaeus story I might add Acts 12 where the church is reluctant to believe the tall tales of a servant named Rhoda that Peter was at the door or perhaps she saw of vision of his angel until they saw for themselves). I grant that Mark’s narrative the men had all fled, but it is easy to imagine another scenario where Mark had the risen Jesus appear to Peter and the Twelve and telling them the tomb was empty, avoiding mentioning the women discovering the tomb altogether, though in favour of Mark narrating about women is that the evangelist likes to reverse traditional expectations as the disciples are often blind and outsiders insiders.
- The basic agreements between Paul and the Synoptics (the last supper institution on the night Jesus was handed over, the Passover setting, Jesus’ willingness to die, the crucifixion due to both Roman imperial power and Judaean leadership, burial, appearances) may reflect a shared outline. Granted Paul could have indirectly influenced the Synoptics (e.g., the noun euangelion or gospel in Mark) but there is enough differences to see them as relatively independent. There may be further evidence in the summaries in Acts, placed on the lips of Peter and Paul in their various sermons, though these might also be based on the narrative outline of Mark used by Luke.
- It looks to me that there is enough evidence that John was at least familiar with Mark (e.g., evidence of Markan redaction in John), but the author may have also had some of his own sources at his disposal. Not all of John’s differences can be adequately explained as making redactional changes to Mark, such as John’s narrative of the Jewish trial where the priest just questions Jesus about his ministry seems less theologically developed than Mark’s where Jesus discloses the secret of his christological identity and is condemned for blasphemy. There are also a suprising number of differences in Luke’s passion narrative when read side by side in a synopsis which suggest that Luke may possibly have other sources in addition to Mark or just made some major redactional changes. Furthermore, if Mark was the literary genius behind this smoothly flowing, inter-connected account with clear place and time indications, one wonders why the author couldn’t have integrated the rest of the sources in the earlier part of the gospel.
I am not as confident that we can reconstruct the extent and the content of the pre-Markan Passion Narrative
- I have not gone through every last book attempting to finely sift between tradition and redaction to reconstruct a coherent passion narrative, but ever since reading C. Clifton Black’s skepticism about redaction criticism I am less confident about how much we can know about Mark’s sources. It is not the same as dealing with Matthean and Lukan redaction because at least we actually have their source (Mark), so any attempts to reconstruct Mark’s sources are provisional at best.
- Whatever the source looked like prior to Mark, it has become quite integrated into Mark’s larger themes and purposes. Thus Mark emphasizes the way of the cross as a balance to a christology of glory in the first half and a model for would-be disciples of Jesus to follow (follow Jesus on the way of suffering, with future vindication when he returns in glory as triumphant Son of Man), the disclosure of the messianic secret (the Christ, Son of God. Son of Man), the failure of the disciples (misunderstanding, sleeping, denying, betraying, abandoning) as a foil for Jesus’ own character (willingness to drink the cup, offer to be reconciled with the wayward disciples even in 16:7), judgment on the Jerusalem priestly leadership and the Temple, the positive value of Galilee where the mission continues, etc.
- If Matthew and Luke likely depend on Mark’s account and John was at least familiar with Mark (and Gospel of Peter familiar with the Synoptics?), there are no real controls or ways to measure how much of John’s narrative is just indebted to Mark’s narrative and framework, how much of his differences are purposeful redactional changes for his own theological reasons and how many of the differences are based on the author utilizing different sources or the same shared source in a different way than Mark (this is different than when scholars try to reconstruct “Q” by assuming Luke and Matthew are completely independent so their shared non-Markan material can be attributed to a source, but some scholars on the Synoptic Problem are even starting to question the confident reconstructions of a single Q source or the independence of Luke from Matthew).
So that would be my conclusion: there was some sort of source from early on, but it is difficult to know exactly what it looked like. This is important for historical reasons to understand Christian origins, but for the person in the pews at Easter services it may be more important to ask what theological reasons does Mark, Matthew, Luke or John narrate the Passion story in such or such a way rather than try to preach from a hypothetical earlier Passion Narrative differently reconstruction by any one scholar. What do you think?
Before I wrap up this series on the Passion, I have to call attention to this excellent podcast by Brant Pitre (author of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist) and Michael Barber (HT Brian LePort). There is a well-known seeming discrepancy between John and the Synoptics about the date of Jesus’ death and thus whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal, so if there was a Passion Narrative prior to Mark it can be asked whether Mark or John is more faithful to the chronology of the source. Now, coming into the podcast I had no problem with the idea that John purposely changed the chronology to the day before when the lambs were being sacrificed to make a theological point as the evangelist explicitly calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29, 36; cf. 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19; Rev 5-7, etc) and there is a parallel to how John handles the temple incident (placing it at the start of Jesus’ ministry in Jn 2 and has Jesus himself become the replacement of the Temple in the interpretation of the saying about Destroy and Rebuild the Temple in 3 days). However, Dr. Pitre makes an impressive case to harmonize the Synoptic and Johannine chronologies and I highly recommend listening to it and letting me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.
Thus far, I have followed those who argue the evangelist took over a pre-existing Passion Story, the exact contents and extent of which are widely debated. However, it is time to look at the other side of the argument that sees the Passion Narrative as largely the literary creation of the evangelist.
In contrast to painstaking German scholarship precisely separating tradition from Markan/Johannine redaction in the Passion, a distinctly North American contribution in Werner H. Kelber’s edited volume The Passion in Mark: Studies on Mark 14-16 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976). Donahue’s opening chapter surveys the quest for the pre-Markan Passion Narrative and the competing reconstructions. He makes a number of pertinent points such as the verbal agreement between Mark and John (the ointment of pure nard [Mk 14:3; Jn 12:3]; 300 denarii [Mk 14:5; Jn 12:5], Peter warming [thermainomenos] himself [Mk 14:54, 67; Jn 18:18, 25], Peter going “into” the courtyard [Mk 14:54; Jn 19:15], “crucify him” in the imperative [Mk 15:14; Jn 19:2; 5]; purple robe [Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2 5], the preparation day [Mk 15:42; Jn 19:31], intercalculating the Jewish trial w/ Peter’s denials) suggests John’s dependence on Mark while his divergences are for theological reasons (e.g., foreknowledge of the arrest in Jn 18:4-9; heighten guilt of Jewish officials in Jn 18:14; dramatizes Pilate trial and krisis [judgement] in Jn 18:28-19:16) (9-10). Elements of Mark’s Passion fit key characteristics of the narrative as a whole (proclamation of kingdom, meaning of discipleship, relation to Jerusalem and Temple, christological identity, suffering, orientation towards Galilee, gospel) (14). There is a growing concern to see Mark as author and theologian in his own right; “redaction criticism” is not just how an author edits her sources but about the composition of the narrative with plot and protagonist (cf. Perrin, Weeden, Kelber) and he touches on structuralist or “semiotic” criticism (16-19) (to avoid confusion iI would relable this literary/narrative criticism). After this introductory essay different scholars tackle parts of the Passion such as the Last Meal (Vernon Robbins), Gethsemane (Werner Kelber), the Sanhedrin (John Donahue, S.J.), Jesus before the High Priest (Norman Perrin), Peter’s denials (Kim Dewey), the Crucifixion (Theodore Weeden, Sr.) or the empty tomb (John Dominic Crossan). Kelber summaries that 1) virtually all major (and many minor) Markan themes converge in Mk 14-16, 2) Mk 14-16 is a theologically inseparable and homogeneous part of the Gospel and 3) this questions the classical form critical thesis of an independent and coherent passion narrative prior to Mark (156-57). Mk 14-16 as no different from the rest in editing and unifying individual traditions or creating new material with no single tradition exercising an authoritative influence and Mark’s achievement is to compose a literary whole (Gospel) out of disparate traditions (157-58). There is a tension in the essays between scholars who allow for sources and complicated history of development even if the Passion “owes its final form and coherent structure and meaning to Mk” (Donahue, 20) (e.g., Donahue and Weeden on a pre-Markan trial scene though Weeden sees it deriving from the aberrant divine man christology opponents, or Dewey on a pre-Markan denial story) vrs those who see more free literary creativity (Crossan sees Mk 16:1-8 as entirely redactional).
Burton Mack takes an even stronger line in A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988). Earlier Mack detects a variety of Jesus groups such as the itinerants in Galilee (Kloppenborg’s Q1), the Jerusalem Pillars, the Family of Jesus, the Congregation of Israel (Achtemeier’s miracle chains w/ Jesus as a Moses/Elijah figure) and the Synagogue Reformers (Jesus as a lawyer who gets the last word in a Pronouncement Story) (84-96). In contrast, the Christ Congregations taught Jesus’ death atoned for the “sins” of their non-Torah observant mixed communities (100-120). Mark recasts these memories in light of the destruction of the Temple and invented a new “myth of origins” that combined traditions from Palestine & southern Syria of Jesus as a founding-teacher and the Christ cult in nothern Syria, Asia Minor & Greece (9-11). Some may see Mack taking form criticism to its logical conclusion or alternatively one of the critical weaknesses of the form critical model in imagining that each distinct form of tradition had only a single Sitz im Leben (rather than a more fluid situation where Pronouncement stories, miracle stories, logia, parables, etc., all freely circulated between different groups though open to competing interpretations in different social contexts). In Part III Narratives of the Passion (247-312) Mack begins by observing that resistance to critical analysis of the Passion may be because it is the primary myth-ritual text of Christianity and appears as a coherent historical narrative that seems less mythic than the rest of the Gospel (249-51). He challenges the form critics that the passion narrative grew in stages (whether Dibelius, Bultmann, Jeremias or Taylor’s reconstruction) from the kerygma (e.g., 1 Cor 15:3-5) to basic historical narrative and later embellishments (251-55). He points to a pre-existing profile of the suffering righteous one taken from the Psalms and argues that these passages were not just tacked on to a historical report to apologize for a scandal but to create it (the crucifixion is not a scandal until joined to belief in Jesus’ as Christ) (255-58). He takes issue with the German reconstructions of a pre-Markan Passion Narrative (though highlights Eta Linneman on each individual episode having a consistent theological view which he attibutes [against her view] to a definite circle of Christians who made the storyline and D. Dormeyer’s documentation of motifs of martyrological literature in comparison/contrast to suffering righteous one though Mack disents from Dormeyer’s effort to get back to bare declarative statements) (258-62). Mack looks at the fictional themes building on Kelber, Donahue, Juel (on the connection of Christology and Temple) and Nickelsburg (the Wisdom story, Righteous One). In Ch 10 the Narrative Design (269-87), Mack starts by looking at the literary design of the narrative and then argues that Mark took the significance of Christ’s death from the ritual meal in 1 Cor 11:23-26 and rewrote the Christ myth by historicizing it (predictions of the crucifixion/resurrection of the Son of Man or the ransom saying, human agents and geo-political events leading to the Son of Man’s death) and in the depiction of Jesus as a popular messianic figure who ironically rejects the Temple and is rejected by his own people though he will return in glory. In Ch 11 The compositional process (288-312) Mack continues to dissect the Passion Story piece by piece from the Temple act, the meal (seeing the Pauline version as primary), the arrest, the Sanhedrin trial, the trial before Pilate, the mythic scheme of the crucifixion and also looks at ”counterpoint stories” that are usually argued as earlier sources such as the story of Gethsemane or of the annointing (Mack argues Mark rewrote an earlier chreia and included it here to apologize for Mark’s lack of a proper burial) to show that they are fully integreted in Mark’s narrative too (306-312). Thus, Mark sees the Passion as a fiction largely on the model of the persecuted Righteous One (Psalms), Wisdom’s son and martyr accounts (cf. charts on pp. 256, 267, 270). He summarizes the Markan message: “A brilliant appearance of the man of power, destroyed by those in league against God, pointed nonetheless to a final victory when those who knew the secret of his kingdom would finally be vindicated for accepting his authority” (323).
William Arnal’s “The Gospel of Mark as Reflection on Exile and Identity” in Introducing Religion: Essays in Honor of Jonathan Z. Smith (ed. Willi Braun and Russell McCutcheon; London; Oakville: Equinox, 2008), 57-67 offers a fascinating thesis that the evangelist used the Jesus traditions to reimagine the identity of the group and ethnic identity in response to the experience of social dislocation and double exile in the Fallout of the Jewish War (he resists defining an exact provenance for the Gospel, but he sees its author writing in the post-70 period when exiled northward in Syria-Galilee). His contribution on the subject of the Passion is that he sees the sources in the pre-70 period outside Paul’s epistles as largely sayings material – Q, an earlier edition of Thomas, parables and controversy stories (even Paul’s references to sayings are in the chreia format – 1 Thess 4:15; 1 Cor 7:10-11; 11:24-25) – while Mark the first to write a Jesus biography (58). Thus he believes we lack genuine biographical information on Jesus the teacher except for isolated anecdotes about his ministry or his miracles that preceded Mark (58). In terms of the Passion Narrative, Arnal believes that Mark elaborated alot of the sayings into narratives with help from the LXX. So sayings about carrying ones cross (Gos Thom 55) or about unproductive fruit trees (Gos Thom 45) have been transformed into narratives (Mk 15:21; 11:13-14, 20-21) or the LXX itself was historicized (e.g. Psalm 22) (58-59).
Again, lest I missed anything in these short summaries it is useful to check out the works themselves. Do you find the argument that Mark is the creator of the Passion Narrative Convincing or do you still find what may be the majority opinion of some sort of pre-Markan Passion Source to be more convincing? I will wrap up some of my thoughts in the conclusion in the next post.
It has been quiet here on the blogging front, but this last week I got the chance to leave the internet and University-related work behind to have fun travelling in Rome with a group from the Department (perhaps I will post pictures on this post as soon as I can tag them on Facebook or at least the one where I got to rub the foot of the statue of St. Peter for good luck ). I will return to the Passion Narrative in the posts leading up to Good Friday & Easter, but there were a couple of things that struck me from this trip that I thought worth posting. First, in light of all the controversy over the so-called latest Jesus Discovery, I found it fascinating to explore some of the catacombs and see the depiction in Christian art of Jonah and the sea monster as it is described by Prof. Robin Jensen. Second, we got to see the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica where Peter is allegedly buried and hear the evidence put forward for the claim. In discussions about the authorship and provenance of the Gospel I have been a bit more skeptical about the patristic tradition on Mark as the interpreter of Peter for his hearers in Rome (e.g., explicitly Clement of Alexandria, in Eusebius, H.E. 6.14.5-7). However, there is the larger debate about the historical reliability of the tradition of Peter’s ministry and martyrdom in the capital of the Empire. Regardless of which side one falls on the historical question, there is no doubt that the tradition performs a powerful legitimating function for those who claim their descent from a stable line of apostolic succession. Let me know what you think about whether Peter went to Rome? For a short bibliography:
- Bauckham, Richard. “The Martyrdom of Peter in Early Christian Literature.” in ANRW 2.26.1 (1992).
- Bockmuehl, Markus. “Peter’s Death in Rome? Back to Front and Upside Down.” Scottish Journal of Theology 60 (2007): 1-23; The Remembered Peter: In Ancient Reception and Modern Debate. Mohr/Siebeck, 2010.
- Cullman, Oscar. Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr. SCM Press, 1953.
- Goulder, Michael. ’Did Peter Ever Go to Rome?’ Scottish Journal of Theology 57 (2004): 377–96.
- Lapham, Fred. Peter: The Myth, the Man and the Writings. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2004.
- Perkins, Pheme. Peter: Apostle For the Whole Church. Fortress, 2000.
- Zwierlein, Otto. Petrus in Rom: die literarischen Zeugnisse. Mit einer kritischen Edition der Martyrien des Petrus und Paulus auf neuer handschriftlicher Grundlage. Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte, Bd. 96. Walter de Gruyter, 2009. (RBL review, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
- Interesting article online here