Let the reader understand... Again

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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gmx
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by gmx » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:14 am

Ken Olson wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:22 pm
gmx asked:
Can someone explain to me what the reader is supposed to do with their understanding in Mark 13:14-17? If it refers to the first Jewish war, then isn't it too late to be issuing warnings to flee? It sounds like the author knows what happened. The nod & wink to the reader doesn't seem to make sense in this context. I'm sure there is a simple explanation.
I’ll suggest an answer to that question based on the interpretation of the passage offered by Ernst Haenchen in Der Weg Jesu, (German, 1968) 443-447. The explanation itself is simple, but getting there is a bit complex. You can skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

So the simple explanation is this: Mark is not concerned with what the people of Judea ought to do during the Roman siege, which has already occurred. He is very concerned with what Christians ought to do in the face of persecution in his own time. The “abomination of desolation” is not in the temple (though Matt 24.15 takes it to be), it’s a statue of Caesar set up in whatever city Christians might be put on trial by the Roman authorities, and “those in Judea” are the Christians of that city, who might well choose to flee from it rather than be martyred. This reading, is, of course, contestable at many points, but it does make sense of the date in terms of Mark’s concerns.
Ken, thanks for that reply. It is very well thought out, but as you mention, contestable at many points.

Mark has often been assumed to be addressing a Roman, Alexandrian, or even Syrian audience. One of his tendencies is to use Aramaic words (sometimes of uncertain pedigree), while also translating them for his reader. If he is addressing Judeans, does that tendency make sense?

In previous discussion on this topic with Ben (C Smith), he advanced a theory that Mk 13:20 is an editorial gloss of some kind, on account of the change in verb tense that occurs in this verse. I was wondering what your view on that point is?
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Ken Olson
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ken Olson » Thu Feb 15, 2018 8:12 am

gmx asked:
Mark has often been assumed to be addressing a Roman, Alexandrian, or even Syrian audience. One of his tendencies is to use Aramaic words (sometimes of uncertain pedigree), while also translating them for his reader. If he is addressing Judeans, does that tendency make sense?
I may be misunderstanding the question, but let me clarify that I'm arguing that "those in Judea" is being used figuratively for any Christians, not just Judean Christians. I assume Mark is writing for a primarily non-Judean (both in the sense of outside Judea and not Jewish) audience which might also include some Judeans.
In previous discussion on this topic with Ben (C Smith), he advanced a theory that Mk 13:20 is an editorial gloss of some kind, on account of the change in verb tense that occurs in this verse. I was wondering what your view on that point is?
I haven't given Ben's case the attention it deserves, and haven't really spent much time on it, but I would want to account for the shift in tense between Mark 13.19 & 20 differently. I hope I have Ben's position right in what follows. Verse 19 is a predictive prophecy of the future. But then verse 20 seems to be an accomplished fact in the past.
Mark 13.19-20: 19 "For those days will be [ἔσονται, future indicative] a time of tribulation such as has not occurred [γέγονεν, perfect indicative] since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never should [καὶ οὐ μὴ γένηται, aorist subjunctive]. 20 And if the Lord had not shortened [ἐκολόβωσεν, aorist indicative] those days, all flesh would not have been saved [οὐκ ἂν ἐσώθη, aorist indicative]; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened [ἐκολόβωσεν, aorist indicative] the days."
We seem to be shifting from a predictive prophecy in v. 19, to an accomplished fact in v. 20. So it sounds like v. 20 might be a later addition by someone who had seen the tribulation and it turned out not to be as bad a described in v. 19. My problem with this interpretation is that we're dealing with God and prophecy here. God can give a prophetic timeline and then alter the prophetic timeline. This happens in 2 Kings 20.1-6.
In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’" 2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3 "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 And it came about before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 5 "Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. 6 "And I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake
Returning to Mark, verse 20 may just mean that, for the sake of the elect, God has shortened the period of tribulation that had originally been foretold. It doesn't necessarily mean the period of tribulation has already happened; it's merely being foretold to be shorter. This is, in a way, the same thing as Ben is suggesting, except that the human author need not have lived through the event to know that God shortened it.

I can foresee two objections here (though I expect there are many more). In the 1 Kings passage, the prayer of Hezekiah intervenes in between the prophecy he would die and the prophecy he would live, whereas in Mark nothing intervenes, it's just stated that God did it "for the elect." There I would argue that this may be Mark's way of communicating how much god loves the elect or he may be aware of an earlier prophecy (like Daniel) which he needs to reinterpret to make the arrival of the eschaton more immanent. One might counter-argue that both of these can actually be incorporated into Ben's position, but are not strong enough to stand by themselves, and therefore Ben's explanation gives a stronger account of the data.

Second, it isn't just that the days that have been shortened, but that all flesh would not have been saved, which implies some flesh has been saved. But then we're talking about the notorious already/not yet problem in regard to salvation in the New Testament. Are Christians saved already or will they be saved at the judgment? The answer seems to be both, which is why NT scholars love to use the word "proleptic' (the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished).

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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ken Olson » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:58 am

Neil Godfrey asked:
But (and hoping I just haven't missed the answer to this in other comments) when were Christians first challenged to prove their loyalty by sacrificing to the emperor? What questions does that interpretation of the abomination of desolation raise about the date of Mark?
Pliny's letter to Trajan c. 110 is the earliest source I know of that specifically describes the procedure. There are more details in later Christian literature, such as the Martyrdom of Polycarp, but then we're into the later half of the second century.

I would date Mark some years after the destruction of the temple and before Matthew, who used Mark, and Matthew before the Ignatian Epsitles, c. 110, that show knowledge of Matthew. So I concede I'm using a later source (Pliny) to interpret what is going on in an earlier one (Mark), and that i take Pliny's letter and the Ignatian Epistles to be authentic. I think 1 Peter 4.12-19 and Rev. 2.13 reflect a similar situation of Roman persecution to Mark, but I have to use Pliny to interpret them too and their dates can't be established any more exactly that Mark's can. I don't recall anything that would forbid dating either of them as late as 110, though my preferred date would be about twenty years earlier. Also, I don't think the procedure described by Pliny was in use in Paul's time (i.e., the time the seven generally accepted Pauline's were written).

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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:00 am

Ignatian Epistles to be authentic
I don't understand how the Ignatian letters could be 'authentic' when they come in three different lengths. We should use the term 'pristine' instead. Are you really suggesting you are confident that Ignatius dictated this (medium length) ludicrous letter from a prison cell to someone? Absurd.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by neilgodfrey » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:10 pm

If I am making anything close to correct sense of my machine translations of the Haenschen reference given us by Ken, it seems that H would argue that our author of Mark (let me call him Mark, please) is speaking directly to his audience (bypassing his narrative to do so) more often than in the obvious "asides" such as his advice: "Let the reader understand" (or, "In that way he declared all foods clean" -- Mk 7).

H is saying, I think, that Mark is addressing his audience directly, just as did Paul, telling his readers that their generation will not pass (Mk 13:30), and again that "some standing here will not see death till the coming of the kingdom of God" (my paraphrase of Mk 9:1). H would suggest, I think, that we err when we read such passages strictly historically. Mark is not interested in given encouragement or warnings to disciples in Palestine who are not reading his gospel. He is speaking directly to his readers in the gentile environment.

(I am attracted to H's interpretation here because so much of Mark's "historical" or "literal" narrative makes no sense at all. So often it only makes sense if read as a parable or something similar -- and Matthew and Luke do try to re-work sections of Mark's gospel so it does make more literaral or "historical" sense.)

Hence, as Ken has pointed out, Mark is addressing in code his audience in the gentile world. Revelation and 1 Peter et al show us that early Christians wrote in code when referring negatively to Rome (e.g. Babylon) and Mark is doing the same thing with his 13th chapter. The events in Judea are a type of coded message for his Christian readers who fear being called upon to offer sacrifice to the emperor.

His readers are in a constant state of fear and Mark advises them to be ready to flee for their lives, without second thoughts or turning back, when the authorities come to town to demand sacrifice to the emperor. Any one of their community could single them out as a despised Christian and have them betray their faith or be killed.

This is the tribulation that is being experienced by Mark's readers, if I interpret H correctly.

His readers are living in the tribulation "now".

Otherwise, argues H, we have a bizarre text: Jesus warns disciples to flee AFTER they see the abomination of desolation -- yet by that time, read literally in the light of Daniel, the enemy has already conquered and based in Jerusalem. That's a bit late to flee, is it not? And besides, how could Jesus' disciples 'see' the abomination of desolation if they were in the countryside?

Such confusion is removed if, as Ken has explained, we read the abomination of desolation as a coded reference to the many times and places that people in various times and places were required to join in community sacrifice to the image of the emperor.

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DCHindley
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by DCHindley » Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:36 am

I do not think we can treat this "little apocalypse" (Mark 13) as virgin words of Jesus. There is all sorts of evidence that suggests that the accounts were developed from earlier sources that in turn also exhibit signs dating them to after Jesus' death. We are already a generation or more form Jesus' supposed time.

Mark 13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down." Informed by Josephus' War
3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?"
5 And Jesus began to say to them, "Take heed that no one leads you astray. This seems to assume that Jesus planned all along to die and return in resurrected form. I would think this more likely represents a rationalization that took place after Jesus' death.
6 Many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. "My name?" What is that supposed to mean? As a messiah or anointed ruler, perhaps, as this did occur in the war of 66-73 (e.g., Menahem, John of Gischala, and Simon bar Giora was probably a deliberate corruption for his real secret identity, Simon son of Ger = "a (hu)man being").
7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet. The coming of the SoM will not be achieved through warfare.
8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. Wars are just antecedents to the coming of the SoM.
9 "But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. This seems more to do with the period when the early gentile-Christians were separating themselves from Judaism, so would have to follow Jesus' own time, unless Jesus actually was precient.
10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. This surely was an attempt to explain away why the end did not occur as quickly as assumed.
11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. See 9
12 And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 12-13 Continuation of 7-8
13 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
14 "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; "This aside" is meant to warn readers that Josephus was wrong to say that the messiah who would come to rule the world, predicted in the book of Daniel, was Vespasian (or Titus). The detail is, IMHO, clearly based on Titus' subjection of Jerusalem. The "mountains" = Masada.
15 let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; Full retreat after Titus captures the capital of Judea
16 and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle.
17 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! The woman who ate her own child on account of famine in the city under seige, as told in War.
18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. It happened in Summer (9 Ab in 70 CE would probably July-Sept, depending on intercalations)
19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. Well, I'm sure there have been many horrific events, like the holocaust or other attempts at regional ethnic cleansing and total war, that match the Judean war of 66-73 CE.
20 And if the Lord had not shortened the days (Joel 2:11), no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. Joel 2:11 "... the day of the Lord is great, very glorious, and who shall be able to resist it?" "Human being" is probably a reference to Simon bar Ger, see 6 above. As it was, Simon came out of hiding in royal apparel as the carnage was raging around after the city fell, and was captured by the Romans for later execution at the triumphal celebration in Rome.
21 And then if any one says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. Explaining it all away
22 False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. Vespasian and/or Titus were thus "false christs."
23 But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand. A later gloss that assumes Jesus knew all about what would happen 66-73 CE
24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, (Joel 3:15) 24-25 All comes from book of Joel
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven (Joel 2:10 & 3:15), and the powers in the heavens will be shaken (Joel 2:10).
26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 26-27 I cannot be sure whether Jesus is being made to refer to himself, an anacrhonism of sorts, as I would think this doctrine was developed after Jesus' death, or of Jesus was using "Son of Man" talk, although I doubt it. The reference to a "son of man" is from the book of Daniel, but the coming on the clouds is a later adaptation.
27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 28-31 This is all Christian lore about how Jesus knew well what would happen 66-73 CE.
29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. "If you were fooled by Josephus into thinking that Vespasian or Titus were the predicted ruler, then you are wrooooong!"
33 Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come.

DCH

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:26 am

DCHindley wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:36 am
I do not think we can treat this "little apocalypse" (Mark 13) as virgin words of Jesus.
I disagree with much of what you posted in the second column of your table, but with this opening statement I agree wholeheartedly.
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DCHindley
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by DCHindley » Sat Feb 17, 2018 11:19 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:26 am
DCHindley wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:36 am
I do not think we can treat this "little apocalypse" (Mark 13) as virgin words of Jesus.
I disagree with much of what you posted in the second column of your table, but with this opening statement I agree wholeheartedly.
The Simon bar Giora/Ger stuff? You've got that right (to disagree), although I am fairly sure that popular propaganda put out by Simon, could reasonably explain the "son of man" (he was championing himself as a "everyday human being" who God would exalt for reversing injustices) dogma of the Gospels, the Similitudes of Enoch, and even many of the details in Hegesippus' story about the death of James the Just.

Some of it (like what got shaped into the Similitudes of Enoch) probably preceded his control of the city. But how other stuff got out of Jerusalem (a supposed transcript of the staged show trial of former Idumean general James the son of Sosa before Simon bar G.), of course, would have to be considered, but there was likely mounds of literature strewn about after the city was sacked, or discarded as excess baggage by those rounded up to be sold as slaves, that war profiteers could scoop up and sell as curios to a naïve traveler like Heggy, who could perhaps read some Aramaic and loved nothing better than add spice to familiar stories.

But the main point was the number of aporia (the beloved technical term for "WTF" clues in texts) that look like later modifications of previous literature. Recycling ... the world's second oldest profession.

However, there may be traction in supposing that the author of (or whover added) the aside was trying to steer people away from thinking that Vespasian was the predicted world ruler who was elected while in the Judean inhabited region around 68 CE.

Giving a few years for the gentile Christian response to this Imperial disseminated propaganda to develop, this would put the composition of Mark after about 80 CE. Or are you an "early dater?"

DCH

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Feb 17, 2018 12:17 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 11:19 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:26 am
DCHindley wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:36 am
I do not think we can treat this "little apocalypse" (Mark 13) as virgin words of Jesus.
I disagree with much of what you posted in the second column of your table, but with this opening statement I agree wholeheartedly.
The Simon bar Giora/Ger stuff?
No, mainly the stuff that equates, especially with the benefit of hindsight, the abomination of desolation with the destruction of Jerusalem.
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DCHindley
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by DCHindley » Sat Feb 17, 2018 1:11 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 12:17 pm
DCHindley wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 11:19 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:26 am
DCHindley wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:36 am
I do not think we can treat this "little apocalypse" (Mark 13) as virgin words of Jesus.
I disagree with much of what you posted in the second column of your table, but with this opening statement I agree wholeheartedly.
The Simon bar Giora/Ger stuff?
No, mainly the stuff that equates, especially with the benefit of hindsight, the abomination of desolation with the destruction of Jerusalem.
Not sure why you think so. Most people, I'd think, would see this as an anachronism, or Prophecy ex eventu like what Daniel was written to "predict." The main difference is that Daniel "predicts" the re-establishment of an "independent" nation (a happy thing) while Mark 13 was explaining away a failed expectation.

Still, I am rather interested in what function the original sources served before being re-purposed. Was this really early christian dogma or was it popular expectation being debunked.

DCH <a floor mop calls to me>

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