gMark is intended to be history writing

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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:44 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:41 pm
The use of prophecy was a stock tool for driving the plot of both fiction and history.

Herodotus, the "father of history", narrated many instances of prophetic utterances of the Delphic oracle and it has been argued that Herodotus's Histories was as theological in function as the Hebrew Bible's history books -- meant to teach the power of Apollo and need to submit to his will.

Homer's epics are driven by prophetic announcements, too -- and Homer was considered to be a "historian" in ancient times.

Then there are the clearly fictional novellas (or "historical novels") whose plots are primarily driven by prophecies. E.g. Xenophon of Ephesus and his Ephesian Tale. After a few paragraphs setting the scene the author begins the story proper with a prophecy that no-one can understand but is only made clear after it is fulfilled. Sound familiar? Perhaps the author was inspired by the Gospel of Mark to write a similar fiction?
The temple of Apollo in Colophon is not far away; it is ten miles’ sail from Ephesus. There the messengers from both parties asked the god for a true oracle. They had come with the same question, and the god gave the same oracle in verse to both. It went like this.
Why do you long to learn the end of a malady, and its beginning?
One disease has both in its grasp, and from that the remedy must be accomplished.
But for them I see terrible sufferings and toils that are endless;
Both will flee over the sea pursued by madness;
They will suffer chains at the hands of men who mingle with the waters;
And a tomb shall be the burial chamber for both, and fire the destroyer; And beside the waters of the river Nile, to Holy Isis The savior you will afterwards offer rich gifts;
But still after their sufferings a better fate is in store.2
When this oracle was brought to Ephesus, their fathers were at once at a loss and had no idea at all what the danger was, and they could not understand the god’s utterance. They did not know what he meant by their illness, the flight, the chains, the tomb, the river, or the help from the goddess. . . . .
Achilles Tatius wrote Leucippe and Clitophon, another fiction, with a similar motif, though the opening prophecy came in the form of a dream. But other more direct prophecies pop up in the course of the narrative and again the hearers are as bewildered as Mark's disciples about they mean.
. . . . the Byzantines received an oracle that said
Both island and city, people named for a plant,
Isthmus and channel, joined to the mainland,
Hephaistos embraces grey-eyed Athena,
Send there an offering to Herakles.
They were all puzzling over the meaning of the prophecy when . . . .
What follows is an attempt to decipher the "parable" by finding what each detail represented in code. At the end of the story the hero bewails that fact that it seems the god prophesied only something negative, loss and failure ... but he is to be proven wrong. It's a similar motif as we find in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus prophecies his death. Peter protests, but he is over-ruled and eventually learns that it's all good.

Other "novellas" follow the same pattern. Another is The Ethiopian Story by Heliodorus.

There is a "historical novel", a fictional narrative, about Alexander the Great (said to be by a "pseudo-Callisthenes") that is also prophecy driven.

One might even say that the motif of a prophecy-driven plot is a characteristic of fiction, or even fictionalized history.

When historians wanted to be taken most seriously they cited their sources or told readers why and how they judged some source more reliable than another. They were not even beyond making up fictional sources -- e.g. Herodotus. Or beyond rewriting scenes from plays and presenting them as an eyewitness narrative -- e.g. Thucydides. Hence Seneca's cynicism towards historians as quoted in my earlier comment.
Good input, Neil Godfrey. The border between history writing and fiction was blurred, which can help to explain why Mark apparantly felt free to 'invent' history in the manner he obviously did. And his three successors likewise. I'm not familiar with Friedmann's and Mandell's book, but I think that there are certain unique aspects of Jewish scriptures which makes it hard if not impossible to compare them with anything else at the time. First of all the way that these scriptures were understood and interpreted by all kinds of Jewish groupings in a harmonzing manner so as to abstract from them one perfect, unified world history which runs from beginning to end. And this was a century old tradition through generations. The very concept of even being a "Jew" can reasonably be said to have been constituted by this very interpretation activity in itself (and still is today maybe). A "Jew" was de facto somebody who interpreted these specific prophetic writings in a certain manner. And the scriptures were prophetic all of them, even the history books of the OT were themselves generally considered prophetic revelations authored by God himself, not by historians that conveyed these prophecies of old.


The observation about how the other three evangelists read gMark (I agree that John too read it) is very relevant indeed, because as you say they apparantly had no problem in changing the words and deeds of Jesus as they pleased. They treated Jesus as a historical character and at the same time a fictional character (or what we would charaterize as fictional). Notice also how Luke formulates his introduction, that many have "endeavored/undertaken/attempted/put their hands upon (επεχειρησαν)" to set down an orderly account of the events (Luke 1:1). I.e. 'tried'. So now Luke feels he needs to set things right, which in some way has to mean presenting the historical truth of the events, "as handed over from those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning" (1:2).

I think it's clear that both Matthew, John and Luke intended their work to be the only version of the truth, to supplant the others. But of course all four of these conflicting accounts ended up becoming the one 'truth', all at the same time! And so began a 2000 year tradition of harmonzation.

It's amusing that John Chrysostom in the fourth century writes that the element of disagreement between the gospel accounts "which seems to exist in little matters" actually testify to their truth, because if they all agreed perfectly then "our enemies" could claim that the four evangelists had met and conspired and so produce an account "by some human compact"!
Nay, this very thing [the discrepancies between the gospel accounts] is a very great evidence of their truth. For if they had agreed in all things exactly even to time, and place, and to the very words, none of our enemies would have believed but that they had met together, and had written what they wrote by some human compact; because such entire agreement as this comes not of simplicity. But now even that discordance which seems to exist in little matters delivers them from all suspicion, and speaks clearly in behalf of the character of the writers.
(Matthew homilies, 1.6)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200101.htm

Origines states that if one wants to take everything in the accounts as historically true, then one has to accept that God can do two different things at the same time:
He, then, who takes the writings of these men for history, or for a representation of real things by a historical image, and who supposes God to be within certain limits in space, and to be unable to present to several persons in different places several visions of Himself at the same time, or to be making several speeches at the same moment, he will deem it impossible that our four writers are all speaking truth. To him it is impossible that God, who is in certain limits in space, could at the same set time be saying one thing to one man and another to another, and that He should be doing a thing and the opposite thing as well, and, to put it bluntly, that He should be both sitting and standing, should one of the writers represent Him as standing at the time, and making a certain speech in such a place to such a man, while a second writer speaks of Him as sitting.
(Commentary on John, X, 3)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/101510.htm
Or else he has a better solution to the internal discrepancies in the gospel accounts with his allegorical method, as he simply allows historical falsification by the gospel writers: The evangelists sometimes consciously produced false history! I.e. they chose the "spritual" truth over the "material" truth:
I do not condemn them [the gospel writers] if they even sometimes dealt freely with things which to the eye of history happened differently, and changed them so as to subserve the mystical aims they had in view; so as to speak of a thing which happened in a certain place, as if it had happened in another, or of what took place at a certain time, as if it had taken place at another time, and to introduce into what was spoken in a certain way some changes of their own. They proposed to speak the truth where it was possible both materially and spiritually, and where this was not possible it was their intention to prefer the spiritual to the material. The spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in the material falsehood.
(Commentary on John, X, 4)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/101510.htm
This is very close to how I view it also! Except, maybe, that I do condemn the gospel writers for their 'pious falsification' of history :D

Stefan Kristensen
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Oct 10, 2018 1:16 am

When Luke writes that "many" have "tried" to write accounts of the events, the third evangelist is perhaps actually stating that his three other co-evangelists did not succeed. If we take it, of course, that Luke actually refers to the other three gospels (perhaps among others), which I do.

If so, then it is ironic that Origenes understands it the other way around, when he says that Luke here accuses those other (false) gospel writers precisely apart from Matthew, Mark and John, because the reason that they only "attempted" to write a gospel and didn't succeed was because didn't have the holy spirit!
The words "have tried" [Luke 1:1] imply an accusation against those who rushed into writing gospels without the grace of the holy spirit. Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke did not "try" to write; they wrote their Gospels when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Hence, "many have tried to compose an account of the events that are clearly known among us."
(Homilies to Luke 1)
https://books.google.dk/books?id=sUCQS0 ... &q&f=false
"Matthew, Mark, John ... did not "try" to write;" Well, that's exactly what Luke is saying, n'est-ce pas.

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:52 am

I don't know if we should take for granted the common translations of Luke's prologue. There is another interpretation that I have not seen addressed yet: https://vridar.org/category/literary-an ... -prologue/

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:57 am

Nor am I certain that we should think the evangelists subsequent to Mark thought that their versions should "settle the narrative" or be the final version. It seems very clear that at least in the Gospel of John we have multiple editings of the work, changing and adding to it over time; ditto for Mark's gospel, for that matter. All this is consistent with Jewish practice of continually expanding the "words of revelation" -- they were not as a rule confined to a limited and final edition of any book: https://vridar.org/2017/02/08/divine-re ... ble-canon/ The author of the Book of Revelation, on the other hand, appears to have changed and added to the words of an earlier document and then pronounced a curse on anyone who did the same to his revision. But exceptions like that seem to evidence that prove the rule, up to a certain point when canons did become "sealed".

Stefan Kristensen
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:14 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:52 am
I don't know if we should take for granted the common translations of Luke's prologue. There is another interpretation that I have not seen addressed yet: https://vridar.org/category/literary-an ... -prologue/
I don't take any translations for granted, I simply understand the Greek text in the 'traditional' way, I think it makes very good sense. I don't think the arguments in these seven points are so convincing, neither in themselves nor as a whole. The whole argument hinges on Collins' reading of Luke 1:2, as you summarize it in point 1, which I strongly disagree with:
The grammatical construction in verse 2 combines the “eyewitnesses” and “ministers/servants” as one and the same from the outset. That is, they eyewitnesses did not eventually go on to become servants of the word; whoever is spoken of here were both "eyewitnesses and servants of the word” from the outset.
Indeed, the position of the temporal marker, "from the beginning" ("απ' αρχης"), seems to refer to their having become both "eyewitnesses" and "servants of the word" (or whatever way we understand these terms) at the same time. But what is this 'time' exactly, "the beginning"? This "beginning" can very naturally and unproblematically be understood simply as the founding period of Jesus' ministry. Where the disciples exactly became (γινομαι, Luke 1:2) "eyewitnesses" and "servants of the word".

Luke is simply describing the time period of Jesus' earthly ministry as "the beginning", the time when the disciples became eyewitnesses to the deeds of Jesus and became apostles, "servants of the word". All this happened at the "beginning", a word which in fact two of these "orderly accounts" play upon, Mark 1:1 and John 1:1.

And consider the beginning of Acts where Luke describes his own "orderly account of the deeds ...":
I made the first work, o Theophilus, concerning all the things which Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up, after having given commandments through the holy spirit to the apostles, whom he had chosen.

For me, this seals the deal: These are "those who from the beginning became eyewitnesses and servants of the word", at the time when Jesus "began" his "the deeds that have been fulfilled among us". The Gospel of Luke, according to himself, contains "all the things Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up". And so, all of Jesus' deeds and teachings, then, were "the beginning" for Luke. I admit, I havn't read your detailed post nor Collins' own article, perhaps that would change my mind, of course.

Stefan Kristensen
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:22 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:57 am
Nor am I certain that we should think the evangelists subsequent to Mark thought that their versions should "settle the narrative" or be the final version. It seems very clear that at least in the Gospel of John we have multiple editings of the work, changing and adding to it over time; ditto for Mark's gospel, for that matter. All this is consistent with Jewish practice of continually expanding the "words of revelation" -- they were not as a rule confined to a limited and final edition of any book: https://vridar.org/2017/02/08/divine-re ... ble-canon/ The author of the Book of Revelation, on the other hand, appears to have changed and added to the words of an earlier document and then pronounced a curse on anyone who did the same to his revision. But exceptions like that seem to evidence that prove the rule, up to a certain point when canons did become "sealed".
I see what you mean, but I think that the theology in gMatt indicates that the reason he chose to entirely rewrite gMark instead of making changes or additions was because he disagreed with various theological issues. And if that's the case, then Matthew would not have liked to see the teachings of gMark spread. And in my reading of Luke 1:1-4, Luke also sets out to establish the truth over against those who have 'tried'.

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:42 pm

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:14 am
Indeed, the position of the temporal marker, "from the beginning" ("απ' αρχης"), seems to refer to their having become both "eyewitnesses" and "servants of the word" (or whatever way we understand these terms) at the same time. But what is this 'time' exactly, "the beginning"? This "beginning" can very naturally and unproblematically be understood simply as the founding period of Jesus' ministry. Where the disciples exactly became (γινομαι, Luke 1:2) "eyewitnesses" and "servants of the word".
One can understand being an eyewitness from the founding period of Jesus' ministry, but "servants of the word" from that same beginning?

However, the word for "eyewitness" has a special application when speaking of an "eyewitness of the word".
autoptai as guarantors of the tradition
And what have ‘the autoptai [“eyewitnesses”] of the logos’ contributed to this process?

These people have continued to perform the function complementary to – although prior to – their function as hypēretai [“servants’]. They have responsibility for the library of the community, receiving and authenticating documents of the tradition. They are highly literate and have received their appointments from the community. They fill precisely the role Bauckham selected for his ‘specially authorised guarantors of the traditions’. What is more, they have done this ‘from the beginning’ of the community’s life as Christian disciples.
The difference here from Bauckham’s view, of course, is that that tradition was literary, not oral.
https://vridar.org/2012/12/09/what-did- ... esses-see/

hakeem
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by hakeem » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:06 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:56 am
hakeem wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:54 am
It appears to me that the author of gMark knew he was writing fiction but wanted his readers or audience to believe that he was writing history. The author masked his fiction by claiming or implying his invented story was a product of supposed prophecies in Hebrew Scripture and that his Jesus was the Son of the Jewish God.
That's the thing though isn't it? Whatever the intention of the authors, the Gospels appear to have been presented to the public as some kind of actual history or biography, and accepted as such.
Presenting known fiction as history is deception. People who unknowingly accept fiction as history have been deceived. The authors of the NT, except perhaps the author of Revelation, attempted to hide the fact that they wrote after the Fall of the Jewish Temple c 70 CE.

A thorough examination of the Jesus story of gMark will show that it was not intended to be "Good News" [Gospel] of Salvation and had nothing at all to do with starting a new religion. The anonymous author of the Jesus story in gMark knew that the Jewish Temple had already fallen since c 70 CE and invented Jewish character livings in Galilee during the time of Plilate c 27-37 CE.

Mark 13 1-2
as he went forth out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Teacher, behold, what manner of stones and what manner of buildings! 2 And Jesus said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down.


The Jewish Temple had already fallen when the author of gMark fabricated those words for his Jesus.

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GakuseiDon
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by GakuseiDon » Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:07 pm

hakeem wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:06 pm
GakuseiDon wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:56 am
hakeem wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:54 am
It appears to me that the author of gMark knew he was writing fiction but wanted his readers or audience to believe that he was writing history. The author masked his fiction by claiming or implying his invented story was a product of supposed prophecies in Hebrew Scripture and that his Jesus was the Son of the Jewish God.
That's the thing though isn't it? Whatever the intention of the authors, the Gospels appear to have been presented to the public as some kind of actual history or biography, and accepted as such.
Presenting known fiction as history is deception.
Sure, but that's not my point. Whatever we today regard the genre of the Gospels to have been, they were presented as some kind of actual history, and accepted as such. If they were some kind of allegory suggesting fiction, then no-one took them that way, including educated pagans like Julian. That's not to invalidate that the author of Mark was knowingly writing fiction as deceptive fact, but it does go against Mark writing fiction as accepted fiction.
hakeem wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:06 pm
The authors of the NT, except perhaps the author of Revelation, attempted to hide the fact that they wrote after the Fall of the Jewish Temple c 70 CE.
I'm unaware of that argument, if you mean internal to the works. If the Gospel authors were attempting to hide the fact that they wrote after c70 CE, when were they actually attempting to place the timing of their writings?
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Oct 10, 2018 11:37 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:07 pm
Whatever we today regard the genre of the Gospels to have been, they were presented as some kind of actual history,
Certainly they were presented as such at least from the mid to late second century. But how do we know that's how they were originally presented?

Of course the narratives are patently in a historical setting, but it does not follow they were "presented as history".
GakuseiDon wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:07 pm
and accepted as such.
How do we know? By the late second century it appears that one school of Christians accepted them as history, but originally?

GakuseiDon wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:07 pm
If they were some kind of allegory suggesting fiction, then no-one took them that way, including educated pagans like Julian.
How do we know this was the case with their original readership?

Is it fair, btw, to lump Mark with the others as if they all had one purpose, acceptance, etc?

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