Thursday, April 10, 2008

Travel Diary: Synoptic Problem Conference IV

Thursday, Heathrow Airport, 15.34: Checked out of Lincoln College this morning, after a nice breakfast which featured two slices of British back bacon. Last time I will get any of that until August. I was disappointed to have to miss the last couple of sessions, the first of which featured Christoph Heil on Reconstructing Q, Stephen Patterson on Thomas and Eric Eve on the Synoptic Problem without Q. Heil's paper was not online before the conference, so it was a particular shame to miss his. Eve's was so full of good sense that I doubt I would have had any comments of my own to throw in. Patterson's was one of the papers I would have particularly liked to have discussed -- the subject is one of great interest to me in my current research. There was also a plenary scheduled for people to reflect on future directions. But I was already on the coach to Heathrow, listening to the Russell Brand podcast and reading the latest Doctor Who Magazine. I met up with the family, who had come down from Peterborough, and we are about to fly. There is no wireless here, so I will upload this post when I get back to Raleigh. It will be pretty late because we are flying into DC and driving down from there.

This conference has been excellent. It was very well organized and ran very smoothly; congratulations to Andrew Gregory, Paul Foster, John Kloppenborg and Joseph Verheyden for a job very well done. The catering at Lincoln College was excellent, and the location ideal -- bang in the centre of Oxford (and right next to my old college). In spite of the number of papers, the programme did not feel crammed, and I appreciated the free time on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and the free time again after 9pm or so. The number present, forty or so, was about right to ensure good discussion after each paper and set of papers. Any more, and it would have become unwieldy. By the end of the conference, one had the feeling of having got to know almost everyone.

Each session worked very well, with a general theme and three or so presentations followed by discussion. The only one that did not quite work, in my opinion, was the session that paired David Peabody with Kathleen Corley -- these were such very different papers that the discussion was less focused than it was for the other sessions where things were more naturally related.

The academic quality of the papers and the discussion was very high. I have to admit that I was initially a bit sceptical about the decision not to invite "position papers", or to have individuals arguing in favour of given theories, but it turned out that this was a brilliant decision. The encouragement to all presenters to be as balanced and fair as possible, and the invitations to read papers on specific themes, led to pretty helpful discussions with a marked lack of polemic; there was more light than heat, to use the cliché.

All in all, an excellent conference and a very enjoyable few days away. Congratulations to all involved!

[Actual time of upload, Friday, 15.25, back in Raleigh, North Carolina.]


Geoff Hudson said...

With regard to his Ancient Compositional Practices (2.1), I have to smile at Darrenbacker's heading (5): "Multi-faceted nature of the adaptation of source material". He refers to five authors who were involved in the "subtraction, addition or alteration" of their source material. In modern restrained parlance, one might say they were economical with the truth. I could think of stronger language. On page 35 of his book on Suetonius' Vespasian, Brian W jones wrote: "Once again, the Flavian historians on whom Suetonius relied strained the truth to and beyond its its limits in disguising the slavish adulation lavished by Vespasian on the emperor of the day." Of course the contemporary Suetonius was too scared to tell the truth about these lying Flavian historians especially with Domitian around. This of course highlights the glaring ommission of Darrenbeker's paper with regard to the psychological pressures imposed by the rulers of the day on the creators of the extant NT documents. In terms of its political importance to the Meditteranean world, the NT was to become the equivalent of the ubiquitous Microsoft Windows Operating System. Like a software program, you can bet that a team was involved in the writing of each module (gospel). The scribe was probably simply a printing machine following the instructions of his team of experts, with some of those Flavian historians breathing down their necks at the behest of Caesar.

Geoff Hudson said...

Which is the most original, and why?

1.Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son(Mk.6:3).

2.Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary? (Mt.13:55).

steph said...

Perhaps a bit more heat would have shed a bit more light:)

Geoff Hudson said...

Is no-one going to take up my question?

Geoff Hudson said...

If you were a betting person would you bet that 1 (from Mk.6:3) was earlier than 2 from Mt.13:55)? And would you think that the description of the prophet as a carpenter (or whatever the menial occupation it is in Greek) was the first thought that came off the top of the editor's head to substitute for the true occupation, namely prophet. Secondly, in Jewish terms, the prophet had to be the son of a father. So instead of "Mary's son", I suggest Mark's source text read "Xxxxxxxxx's son", where Xxxxxxxxx was a well known father that once existed in the community. Significantly, the questions asked in Mk.6:2 are: Where did this 'man' get 'these things'? What's this wisdom 'that has been given him'? The phrase 'that has been given him' is not in Mat.13:54. This is the kind of language associated with spirits. It suggests that Mark is more original in retaining it, and that the real questions asked were: "Where did this Prophet (not the non-descript 'man') get this spirit? What's this spirit that has been given him?" In Jewish terms, sons could be thought to have their spirits given to them by their fathers. Thus it was a case of like father, like son. The son had the same spirit as his father who was also a prophet.

Matthew is aware of Mark's prophetic source and he is aware of Mark's interpretation of it. So Matthew changed Mark's "Isn't this the carpenter?" to "Isn't this the carpenter's son'? Matthew knew that the expression in Mark was closer to Mark's source which asked, "Isn't this the prophet?"

Similarly, Matthew knew that Mark's "Isn't this Mary's son?" was also closer to Mark's source which asked:"Isn't this Xxxxxxxx's son?" So Matthew changed Mark's question to: "Isn't his mother's name Mary?"

Geoff Hudson said...

Is the general aim of Matthew's elaboration or simplification of Mark to create a document more remote from Mark's source? It would be interesting to see if there are other examples.

Anonymous said...

We can speculate all we like about unknown sources (oral or written), but I like the simpler solution that it's just part of Mark's own Jesus story and Matthew is just doing his usual editing of him. The idea of a lively Jesus tradition prior to Mark is an illusion (Paul's letters give a good impression of what pre-markan interest in Jesus was all about and that is not very encouraging to those who wish to fantasize about a 'historical Jesus')

Geoff Hudson said...

I'm sorry Anonymous, but I can't help thinking there was a historical somebody or other and that the whole thing was NOT simply a work of fiction. The Gospel of Mark does seem to have a primitive source. And the Pauline documents also seem to have had their primitive sources that complimented the primitive source of Mark. The extanct texts cannot be completely explained on the basis of myths, legends or other ancient stories.

Anonymous said...

Geoff, You may well be right that Mark had sources, but I don't think this can be either proven or refuted. So I do not find this thinking to be all that helpful. Perhaps he knew some Pauline traditions (maybe even some of the extant letters) and perhaps he had a collection of sayings (no, not Q :) ), that perhaps had already been attributed to Jesus. Who knows? I suppose we should assume he also had some rudimentary historical knowledge (Pilate, John the Baptist, although he might not even have known who the High Priest would have been). Maybe there are some other pieces of 'tradition', but I don't think we should underestimate his creativity (a dirty word in NT scholarship, I know). In fact, I think there are a lot of signs of creativity in his Gospel.

Paul indeed does appear to have traditions, but (unless I am mistaken) they primarily deal with the significance of his death and resurrection. What else does Paul know about the life of Jesus or his words? I don't see anything against the idea that at some point the early Christians felt there was a vacuum with regards to the life of Jesus. Who was this person who died for us? What did he do? What did he say? Maybe the filling of this vacuum started prior to Mark and Mark was inspired by this (and his limited 'traditions') to compose his Gospel, maybe the origin of this vacuum-filling originated by Mark.

Geoff Hudson said...

Anonymous has jinked around the issue of Mark using a primitive source. He claims Mark was creative in isolation and believes Matthew amended Mark, but he gives no example of what he considers to be Mark’s creativity or of Matthew’s subsequent amendment.

My second example of Mark’s creativity in using his source (and of Matthew’s additions knowing how Mark had edited his source) concerns Mk.1:14-20. Mk.1;14 has: “Jesus went ‘into’ Galilee”. This is hardly a Markan obscurity, but a plain statement. However, the language could be used for going ‘into’ a building such as the temple - I suggest this is exactly how it was used in Mark’s source. The prophet went into the temple. Matthew is aware of this. Thus he makes sure that his readers understand that ‘Jesus returned TO Galilee’ (Mat.4:12), removing any idea of Jesus going INTO anything.

In Mark 1:14, the prophet is ‘proclaiming’. In Mat. 4:17, the prophet ‘began to preach.’ I suggest that ‘proclaiming’ was in Mark’s source and that this had the prophet proclaiming the Spirit of God, not the good news of God as in the extant text of Mark. The proclamation was the announcement of the coming of the Spirit of God to Israel. Thus Mark’s source had the Spirit of God is near, not the kingdom ‘of God’ is near (Mk.1:15). Matthew moved his text further from Mark’s text and Mark’s source. He had Jesus preaching a message, about the kingdom of heaven being near. He knew that the form of words ‘of God’ in Mark could be associated with the Spirit of God.

I have often wondered what the casting language in relation to a net really meant (Mk.1:16). For a long time I have rejected any notion that the prophet’s first disciples were fishermen from Galilee. Were they potters? Did they cast pots on potter’s wheels? Were they metalworkers? Did they cast metal in moulds? No, they were priests who cast animal sacrifices on the altar in the temple. They subsequently became prophets who obeyed the Spirit and rejected the idea that animal sacrifices could cleanse from sin.

Herod’s altar was about 15 cubits or 23ft or 7m high. Presumably the altar fire was approached by a ramp or steps. To get a whole animal sacrifice, weighing around 100lbs or 50kg say, up the slope to the burning altar would have taken two men. Because of the heat and the weight of the animal they could not simply place the animal on the large altar surface. They would have cast the animal together, one man holding the forelegs and one the hind legs, ‘leg-and-a-wing’ fashion’, onto the altar to the selected unused place in the large area of the fire.

Most translations of Mk.1:16 and Mat.4:18 have Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee. The ‘walking by’ language could be used for walking past something that was on a much smaller scale than the Sea of Galilee - one could hardly take a stroll past a Sea. I suggest that in Mark’s source, the prophet was not walking by the sea of Galilee, but by or past the altar for burning animal sacrifices.

In Mk.1:16-20, we have two pairs of brothers. The first pair is Simon and Andrew (Mk.1:16). The second pair is James and John (Mk.1:19). The latter pair apparently had a named father who they apparently ‘left’ with the ‘hired men’. (Mk.1:20). Thus we are to understand that the first pair of brothers were not related to the second pair. Why does Mark wish to create a separation between these two pairs of brothers? – Jesus ‘had gone a little farther’ before he met James and John (Mk.1:19). Were the first men (Simon and James) in each pair the true brothers? And were the second men (Andrew and John) fictitious creations to conceal the fact that Simon and James were brothers? If Mark concealed the fact that Simon and James were brothers, did Mark also conceal the name of their father? Was the mysterious ‘Zebedee’ their father? Did they leave their father or join him ‘with the hired men’? Mark would then have reversed the ‘disciples’ actions and concealed who ‘the hired men’ were.

So in Mark’s source, I see Simon and James as brothers and sons of the prophet. The young men were priests working in the temple doing manual work at the altar for burning animal sacrifices. Their work involved casting whole killed animals on the altar fire. The prophet went into the temple to call his sons to obey the Spirit because he “will make you” clean, (not Mark’s fishers of men). The two brother priests immediately joined their father with the prophets (the so-called ‘hired men’) and obeyed the Spirit their father proclaimed. In the writings attributed to Josephus, two men Simon and James, are described as being the sons of a revolutionary character.

Enter Matthew. He was fully aware that Mark attempted to conceal the fact that Simon and James were brothers in Mark’s source. So Matthew applied braces to Mark’s belt to confirm what Mark already says quite clearly (i.e. that Simon had a brother Andrew, Mk.1:16, and James had a brother John, Mk.1:19). Matthew feared that some might know the truth about the brothers, so he wrote: “he saw TWO BROTHERS, Simon called Peter and his BROTHER Andrew “ (Mt.4:18), and “he saw TWO OTHER BROTHERS, James son of Zebedee and his BROTHER John”.

Geoff Hudson said...

So what does one make of Mk.1:21-28? This was supposedly a passage about Jesus driving out an evil spirit from a man while in the synagogue in Capernaum, Galilee. But was Mark creating some reversals of what he had in his source? Was the synagogue in fact the temple in Jerusalem? Was the non-descript ‘man’ a priest? Was the priest receiving or being filled with the Spirit of God, rather than having an evil spirit cast out of him? And were the ‘people’ the priests who had come into the temple to hear the Spirit of God proclaimed by the prophet? Were the priests being drawn away from the temple cult of sacrificing animals for cleansing from sin and obeying the cleansing Spirit of God instead?

The situation would then have been little different from that in Acts 2 where in Acts 2:11, I suggest the Jews of the diaspora believed they heard God in the Spirit (not “them declaring the wonders of God in their own tongue). They too were ‘amazed’ (Acts 2:12), as the ‘people’ were ‘amazed’ in Mk.1:27. In Acts 2:8, I suggest the real question asked by the diaspora Jews in the house (Acts 2:2) was: “How is it that each of us hears God speaking in the Spirit?” Similarly, in Mark’s source I suggest the ‘people’ of Mk.1:27 asked, “What Spirit is this speaking as God?” Thus some of the language in Acts 2 is strikingly similar to that in Mk.1:21-28.

So I see Mk.1:21-28 would have been something like the following in Mark’s source. The prophet went into the temple, not “the synagogue”. There he began to proclaim the Spirit, not “teach”. The priests were amazed at the Spirit speaking through the prophet, not because “he taught them as one who had authority”, but because the Spirit spoke to them as God – something normally reserved for the High Priest. I suggest one of the priests cried out: “What do you want with us Spirit of God? Have you come to cleanse us?” “Be still!”, said the prophet. Then the Spirit came into (not “out of”) the priest (Mk.1:26) presumably with joy, not “a shriek”. The other priests present were all filled with the Spirit (not “amazed”).

Matthew knew what was in Mark’s source so he made every attempt to cover-up the real local events in the temple at Jerusalem (Mt.4:23-25) – thus “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues” (4:23); “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across Jordan followed him.” (4:25). There is no mention of a man with ‘an evil spirit.