neilgodfrey wrote: ↑
Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:10 pm
For better or worse, I tend to rely upon The Complete Gospels
(Robert Miller, editor) translation for assessing stylistic characteristics of the gospels and have in mind the "slap-dash" or "rough and ready" features that are evident in Mark there.
Can you give an example of one or two of these features (using that translation)? I am not sure what kinds of things you are referring to.
As for your final point, I have to confess that I routinely hear alarm bells when I see rhetorical questions functioning as arguments. The questions we ask and the interpretations we elicit are guided by the models that frame our approach to the gospels and their origins.
My approach to the gospels, and I will focus on Mark here, is simply that I do not know in advance
, beyond the scriptures (LXX), what sources (if any) Mark used. For any given passage, pericope, phrase, or particle, I am open to arguments that he drew upon other texts, that he turned oral tradition into text, that he made it up on the spot, that he was encoding esoteric information in an exoteric form, or that an interfering scribe has been at the text since he put down his plume. I am honestly not sure how else to approach a text like this in which the author never introduces himself, never discusses sources (or the lack thereof), only once even addresses the reader directly (and in a very enigmatic way at that), never openly ruminates on his authorial process, and so on.
You responded to spin at one point:
Later you mention Occam. Would not Occam be on the side of suggesting that the similarities and differences in the two stories are more simply explained by an author playing with a theme than suggesting that other authors or tradents produced texts that our Marcan author has struggled to incorporate?
Here you seem to default
to one approach, in advance, unless I am misreading you. You seem to be privileging the idea that the two feeding stories in Mark are the result of a single author playing with a theme rather than that the author encountered (whether in a text or in a tradition) two versions of the same story and incorporated both. A single author seems to be the assumption that other arguments would have to topple in order to be accepted. But why is that the default? I would understand that as a default for a text by Plutarch or by Josephus or by Tacitus or by Philostratus, since those authors introduce themselves and lay out a plan of composition and openly evaluate their sources, at least a lot
more than any of the evangelists do. But Mark? He does none of those things, so why ought we to treat his text in the same way that we treat, say, Suetonius' texts? Since the author does not (or the authors do not) give us any clues on how the gospel was composed, why should there be a default at all for Mark? Is it possible, a priori
, that he composed his entire work simply from his own imagination and the LXX (and possibly Paul, though the argument has to be made here, and not just assumed)? Sure. Is it possible that he manipulated sources, just as (again, on Marcan priority) Matthew and Luke and John and Thomas and Peter and the Gnostic and Jewish-Christian gospels did? Sure. So why is a single creative author the default position? (Again, unless I am misunderstanding you.)
I'd like to find some sort of "control text" by which to compare the different explanations of specific features in the Gospel of Mark.
That is why I am searching for these sorts of things, and why I gave examples of Matthew and Luke using Mark (generally assuming Marcan priority) and coming up with similarly strained syntax. I also search from time to time through Josephus for how he used the Hebrew scriptures; unfortunately, he changed the wording of his source materials so very much most of the time (much, much more than the synoptic gospels) that it is hard to catch individual instances of syntactic strain that can be ascribed to the specific use of a source; the closer one follows a source, obviously, the easier it is for us to tell what comes from the manipulation of that source and what does not. (This observation alone, that authors like Josephus changed the wording of their source materials more than the gospels do, hints that we are looking at two different kinds or genres of literature, I think.)
To return to the point, yes, I am all in favor of using control texts. It is a slow process, and one not often done, lamentably. For a completely different purpose (to wit, discerning how ancient authors might have tended to manipulate blocks of source material, rather than finding syntactic clues), a while ago I started laying out Josephus with his source texts in the Jewish Texts & History forum: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2244
. This exercise has already led me to a couple of insights which I have yet to fully explore and test. Using control texts is a matter of moving from the known (that Josephus used the Hebrew scriptures as sources) to the unknown (who used whom, and how, among the synoptic gospels?). Hopefully the same sort of thing can be done for these syntactic breaks, as well.