Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

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MrMacSon
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:33 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

To summarize, I think that the author of the gospel of Mark was writing for readers who already knew at least certain parts of the story ...

.. readers are expected to know (i) both that [John the baptist] was imprisoned and that he had disciples ... (ii) Jesus was betrayed; (iii) who Pilate is [Mk 15]; 9iv) who Alexander and Rufus are [in Mark 15.21], and (v) at least something about the women at the cross ...

This analysis says nothing about whether what Mark's first readers knew came from historical facts, from legendary tales, or from previous gospel texts.

Another possibility is knowledge of these components of the story via another community, or via another [sub-] group in Mark's community. Perhaps communities or groups with different but similar gospels (that they are discussing among themselves)?

Note mention of both Pilate and Alexander and Rufus are in Mark chapter 15.



Mark 1.16 seems to presume that readers will already know who Simon [Peter] is. Unlike most characters in the gospel, Simon is given no introduction by nickname, patronymic, or any of the usual manners; and his brother, Andrew, is identified by his relationship to Simon.

... he may simply have been known as a famous Christian apostle.

Perhaps a reflection of a composite figure throughout the NT books? Perhaps recently reified as one character? (+/- the father of Alexander & Rufus)


3. The son of man.

The gospel of Mark uses the title "son of man" in a way which seems to expect its readers already to know what it means. Mark 2.10 and 2.28 may be using the phrase "son of man" to mean "human," which is one of its main functions as a Semitic idiom. But in Mark 8.31 it means something more, and this "something more," as a title for Jesus, is never really explained, leaving modern scholars to write entire monographs on the topic.

The title "son of man" may not be a story element at all, but rather an element of early Christian theology.

I wonder if readers might have been expected to know if 'the Son of Man' was an exegesis or midrash of Jewish Hebrew use of 'a son of man' (?)

All these mentions in Mark are in places of authority -

Mk 2:10a:
"But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins ...”

Mk 2:27,28:
27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Mk 8:34-38 (NKVJ) contrasts a man with the Son of Man -
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit 'a man' if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will 'a man' give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Mk 8:38 is a passage that shames and contrasts 'a man' who may lose or exchange his soul with 'the Son of Man' who will "come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels".

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:33 am

Great thread. A few times Mark are careful to explain something to his readers, and therefore it seems very much in place to ask this question here of what doesn't he explain and why. Now, what about 'theological' knowledge? Apparantly Mark presumes that his readers know some things about Scripture, for example Isaiah (1:2). And he seems to presume that his readers know that demons and unclean spirits are the same thing and indeed that they exist and abound invisibly all around us. Also the Satan figure needs no introduction. And the introduction of the Sadducees is a little different from the other groups, they seem abit more foreign to the readers.



The 'son of man' case is very interesting, but also different from the other instances, I think. Because being part of Jesus' sayings I think we need to treat this differently, because Jesus' sayings consist of cryptic, divine prophetic speech, just like the speech of the other prophets, including JtB at 1:7-8. And as such, everything that the Jesus character says is in its own category of information, different from the category of information comprised by the narrator's speech.

But in the case of Mark 8:31 and 9:9 the expression "the son of man" is in fact used by the narrator, when he is paraphrasing Jesus' teaching, something which is hardly ever treated by commentators. But I think it is best understood as the narrator preserving Jesus' cryptic expression, "the son of man", in this paraphrasing, so that it is still Jesus' special expression here. And not the narrator's own expression, the knowledge of which he would then share with the narratees (the readers). But if we do understand "the son of man" here, in 8:31 and 9:9, as the narrator's own expression, then we can perhaps legitimately ask whether this expression is presumed knowledge of the readers.

If I'm not mistaken I think that Mark 8:31 and 9:9 are the only two occurrences in the entire NT where this expression, the definite "the son of man", is found outside of the mouth of the Jesus character (edit: Acts 7:55 would be the exception, but here it is also used by a character within the story while having a visionary experience and also presumably speaking 'in the spirit'). In the parallels, Matthew rephrases the paraphrasing of Mark 8:31 so that the expression doesn't occur in Matt 16:21 and changes the paraphrasing of Mark 9:9 into direct speech in Matt 17:9, and Luke changes the paraphrasing of Mark 8:31 into direct speech in Luke 9:22 and omits the scene of the descent from the mountain entirely.

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:37 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:12 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:02 pm
Giuseppe wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:51 pm
If Pilate said that the people called Jesus as the Christ ("king of the Jews"), why does "Mark" insist that the same people called Jesus as John or Elijiah redivivus?

A real problem for the supporters of the Markan priority.
Ah, but the people also thought that Jesus had a mother and a brother, and that Jesus either was or was not a prophet. So... you do the math.
It's a strange math one seen only by you, since Pilate is explicit: all the people call Jesus as ''king of Jews'' (construct that, pace Bernard, means ''Christ'' and is converted in ''Christ'' by the equivalent passage in Matthew). If ALL the people call Jesus as Christ per Pilate's words, then ''Mark'' cannot say that the same people can have different views about Jesus.
Pilate would have known that King Herod was really only a tetrarch when he asked, "τί οὗν θέλετε ποιήσω ὃν λέγετε τὸν βασιλέα τῶν Ἰουδαίων?"
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Giuseppe » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:42 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:37 am
Pilate would have known that King Herod was really only a tetrarch when he asked, "τί οὗν θέλετε ποιήσω ὃν λέγετε τὸν βασιλέα τῶν Ἰουδαίων?"
I don't know, but surely Pilate would have known that Jesus, for Herod, was John redivivus: even so, he is aware only that the people call him ''Christ''/''King of Jews''.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:01 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:42 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:37 am
Pilate would have known that King Herod was really only a tetrarch when he asked, "τί οὗν θέλετε ποιήσω ὃν λέγετε τὸν βασιλέα τῶν Ἰουδαίων?"
I don't know, but surely Pilate would have known that Jesus, for Herod, was John redivivus: even so, he is aware only that the people call him ''Christ''/''King of Jews''.
John did not preach a resurrection; but he did promise a future baptism in the Holy Spirit.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:54 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:33 am
Great thread.
Thanks. :)
A few times Mark are careful to explain something to his readers, and therefore it seems very much in place to ask this question here of what doesn't he explain and why. Now, what about 'theological' knowledge? Apparently Mark presumes that his readers know some things about Scripture, for example Isaiah (1:2).
Agreed. Good point. I do have many figures (including Isaiah) from the Hebrew scriptures listed here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2551, on the "need no introduction" list, but I did not think to include knowledge of the LXX in the OP. It does belong. (Anticipating another point you make a bit further on, yes, Satan makes the "needs no introduction" list, as well.)
And he seems to presume that his readers know that demons and unclean spirits are the same thing and indeed that they exist and abound invisibly all around us.

There are probably a lot of other cultural assumptions being made, as well.
And the introduction of the Sadducees is a little different from the other groups, they seem a bit more foreign to the readers.
Good one:

Mark 12.18: 18 And some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Him, and began questioning Him, saying....

The 'son of man' case is very interesting, but also different from the other instances, I think. Because being part of Jesus' sayings I think we need to treat this differently, because Jesus' sayings consist of cryptic, divine prophetic speech, just like the speech of the other prophets, including JtB at 1:7-8. And as such, everything that the Jesus character says is in its own category of information, different from the category of information comprised by the narrator's speech.

But in the case of Mark 8:31 and 9:9 the expression "the son of man" is in fact used by the narrator, when he is paraphrasing Jesus' teaching, something which is hardly ever treated by commentators. But I think it is best understood as the narrator preserving Jesus' cryptic expression, "the son of man", in this paraphrasing, so that it is still Jesus' special expression here. And not the narrator's own expression, the knowledge of which he would then share with the narratees (the readers). But if we do understand "the son of man" here, in 8:31 and 9:9, as the narrator's own expression, then we can perhaps legitimately ask whether this expression is presumed knowledge of the readers.

If I'm not mistaken I think that Mark 8:31 and 9:9 are the only two occurrences in the entire NT where this expression, the definite "the son of man", is found outside of the mouth of the Jesus character (edit: Acts 7:55 would be the exception, but here it is also used by a character within the story while having a visionary experience and also presumably speaking 'in the spirit'). In the parallels, Matthew rephrases the paraphrasing of Mark 8:31 so that the expression doesn't occur in Matt 16:21 and changes the paraphrasing of Mark 9:9 into direct speech in Matt 17:9, and Luke changes the paraphrasing of Mark 8:31 into direct speech in Luke 9:22 and omits the scene of the descent from the mountain entirely.
Still digesting this. The "son of man" issue can be very difficult to disentangle.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by pavurcn » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:41 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm
To summarize, I think that the author of the gospel of Mark was writing for readers who already knew at least certain parts of the story.
Yes, plausibly. And possibly Mark was a very conservative redactor, putting down and maybe restructuring the pieces that he got, mostly as he got them, without so much thought of the readers and what they already knew as desire to be faithful to his sources. Does even Mark have an idea of the identity (or "meaning") of the young man who flees the garden naked?

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:51 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:54 am
I do have many figures (including Isaiah) from the Hebrew scriptures listed here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2551,
Haha, of course you do! Excellent.
The "son of man" issue can be very difficult to disentangle.
I think it's N.T. Wright that has an anecdote from a seminar he was attending where a colleague sitting next to him muttered: "The son of man? The son of man!? That way lies madness." No need to go further into the son of man in this thread.

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:59 pm

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:51 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:54 am
I do have many figures (including Isaiah) from the Hebrew scriptures listed here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2551,
Haha, of course you do! Excellent.
The "son of man" issue can be very difficult to disentangle.
I think it's N.T. Wright that has an anecdote from a seminar he was attending where a colleague sitting next to him muttered: "The son of man? The son of man!? That way lies madness." No need to go further into the son of man in this thread.
Heh, yes, that was Wright, who politely demurred from telling the reader who this colleague was, saying he was "better left unnamed."

I took a crack at the development of the "son of man" concept here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2580. Step 2, however, may be unnecessary and thus skippable.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Bernard Muller » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:54 pm

Bernard, means ''Christ'' and is converted in ''Christ'' by the equivalent passage in Matthew
About what Pilate says, I was referring to gMark only.

Cordially, Bernard
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