Thursday, July 21, 2011

John Dominic Crossan on Canonical Mark and Secret Mark

I haven't cited the work of Crossan very much at my blog. This should not be an indication that I do not admire and respect very deeply the work of this wonderful scholar. The truth is that we agree on much with respect to the relationship of canonical Mark and Secret Mark. The only reason I haven't mentioned his views before is because I see the germ of Crossan's arguments being already present in Morton Smith's 1973 book. Nevertheless it is worth bringing forward Crossan's arguments at the present moment because they are so often cited by detractors of the authenticity of the discovery (most of whom don't recognize again that it was Smith who first floated many of these ideas).

The real question comes down to how do we reconcile the traditional linking of baptism with the Passion narrative when in fact 'Secret Mark' seems to place the death and resurrection of the paradigmatic individual originally associated with the water immersion rite at least a week before Holy Week? Crossan's analysis is a first step towards making sense of this 'difficulty' when he writes:

My theory, then, is that canonical Mark dismembered Secret Mark's story of the young man's resurrection and initiation so that only Mark 14:51–52 residually evidenced the initiation and Mark 16:1–8 residually evidenced the resurrection. Thus, for example, the “tomb” in Mark 16:2, 3, 5, 8 comes from the “tomb” in Secret Mark 1v26; 2rl, 2, 6; “who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb” in Mark 16:3 comes from “rolled away the stone from the door of of the tomb” in Secret Mark 2r1–2; and, especially, the “young man” in the tomb in Mark 16:5 comes from the “young man” in the tomb in Secret Mark 2r3,4,6. But that raises a question I did not realize earlier (1976; 1988a:283–284). When you remove those elements, what is actually left for a conclusion to Secret Mark? How did Secret Mark, the first version of Mark's Gospel, actually end? If the young man in the tomb was created by canonical Mark, what was there before that creation? Did Secret Mark conclude with any story about finding the empty tomb?

The obvious answer is that of course it did. There are still the women. But now I notice a curious coincidence that I missed before. There are three women identified in Secret Mark 2r14–16 as “the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome. There are also three women mentioned in Mark 15:40 as “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome,” in 15:47 as “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses,” and in 16:1 as “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses," and in 16:1 as “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome.” Is that too much coincidence?

There are, obviously, far more names given in canonical Mark, but it and Secret Mark agree, respectively, on a triad involving, first, a named or unnamed woman, second, a named or unnamed mother, and, third, Salome. I think that, once again, canonical Mark has simply relocated the textual debris of a censored incident from Secret Mark. So do even the three women, inaugurally and therapeutically enveloped among many other women in 15:40–41, come from the creativity of canonical Mark? The three women were not, any more than the young man in the tomb, part of the conclusion to Secret Mark. The question presses, then, how did it end?

My proposal is that the original version of Mark's Gospel ended with the centurion's confession in 15:39. What comes afterward, from 15:40 through 16:8, was not in Secret Mark but stems from canonical Mark. I realize, of course, that such a claim lacks any external or manuscript evidence unless one retrojects the fact that redoing the ending of Mark became a small industry in the early church. The evidence for it is internal and circumstantial, tentative, hypothetical, and clearly controversial. But it fits very well with a Markan theology in which faith and hope despite persecution and death is much more important than visions, apparitions and even revelations. [John Dominic Crossan The Historical Life of Jesus p. 415 - 416]

I commend Crossan for attempting to tackle a very difficult question with respect to 'Secret Mark.' Nevertheless I think he overlooks an obvious clue as to the conclusion of this text in the testimony of Irenaeus, recognized by F F Bruce and others to likely be connected with Secret Mark. We read the Roman Church Father make reference to:

Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. [AH 3.11.7]

The language with respect to Christ's 'impassability' is clearly Alexandrian and fits within the milieu of Clement's writing. The reference to a variant Gospel of Mark which concludes with a confirmation that Jesus was in fact someone or something other than the Christ is extraordinarily significant. I would argue that Irenaeus's emphasis of the authenticity of the longer ending and the enthronement of Jesus in particular is directed against those who use Secret Mark and their understanding that the youth who died, was resurrected into the mysteries of divine kingship eventually was enthroned in the conclusion to the narrative.

While I certainly agree with Crossan's assessment that Mark 16:1 - 8 is developed as a pastiche from the 'Secret Mark' pericope referenced in the Letter to Theodore. It is difficult to argue that there wasn't a scene where three women didn't find an empty tomb. Metzger notes that neither Clement nor Origen or any early Alexandrian writer has any knowledge of the longer ending of Mark. It is noteworthy that no early writer has any knowledge of Mark 14:51 and related text.

Indeed if we take a quick glance at all the allusions in the writings of Clement to recognized post-crucifixion narratives there is a surprising agreement with what we might expect to find in the Marcionite gospel. While Clement does not reference the empty tomb he knows of Christ's appearance to the disciples in the house "with the doors locked" (which the Coptic tradition strangely connects with Mark's witness):

Such is the meaning of the phrase, “Peace to thee.” [Instructor 2.7]
This narrative appeared in the Manichaean gospel and undoubtedly featured 'Christ' (perhaps not Jesus) being recognized by the disciples in another person:

stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

The emphasis is clearly on the showing of the stigmata for the recognition of Christ's resurrection (something very similar to the argument made by the apostle at the end of the Letter to the Galatians). Jesus has clearly appeared in another form, confirming against Irenaeus's testimony with respect to 'the other gospel of Mark' (i.e. that Christ was someone other than Jesus or that Jesus transmigrated from the Cross into another person). Clement cites more of the narrative in another place:

Faith, then, is not established by demonstration. “Blessed therefore those who, not having seen, yet have believed.” [John 20. 29]. The Siren’s songs, exhibiting a power above human, fascinated those that came near, conciliating them, almost against their will, to the reception of what was said. [Instructor 1.5]

This seems to indicate another falling away of the disciples in Clement's gospel but such an argument is too distracting for our present discussion.

The next narrative could well be argued to be some sort of mixture between the post-crucifixion fishing accounts of Luke and John. First we read Clement note:

Accordingly, in the Gospel, “the Lord, standing on the shore, says to the disciples”—they happened to be fishing—“and called aloud, Children, have ye any meat?” [John 21. 4, 5] —addressing those that were already in the position of disciples as children [Instructor 1.5]

and again:

For is there not within a temperate simplicity a wholesome variety of eatables? Bulbs, olives, certain herbs, milk, cheese, fruits, all kinds of cooked food without sauces; and if flesh is wanted, let roast rather than boiled be set down. Have you anything to eat here? said the Lord [Luke 24. 41–44] to the disciples after the resurrection; and they, as taught by Him to practice frugality, “gave Him a piece of broiled fish;” and having eaten before them, says Luke, He spoke to them what He spoke. And in addition to these, it is not to be overlooked that those who feed according to the Word are not debarred from dainties in the shape of honey-combs. For of articles of food, those are the most suitable which are fit for immediate use without fire, since they are readiest; and second to these are those which are simplest, as we said before. [Instructor 2.1]

Since these are the only remaining allusions to things which happened after the crucifixion it is difficult to believe that the two fish narratives were understood by Clement to have been unrelated. The explicit allusion to Luke is no matter here. It might well have come from the scribe transcribing the original text or - perhaps more likely - follows a pattern in Clement of going out of his way to distinguish his gospel from the Marcionite text (cf. Stromata Book Five for a parallel example of an obviously heretical passage).

My guess is that the original Alexandrian gospel had the Transfiguration at the very end of the narrative (as we see with the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter). This was the enthronement narrative Irenaeus was reacting against in Against Heresies - i.e. where someone other than Jesus is depicted enthronement on the mountain likely at the Festival of Booths. I have discussed this at length elsewhere and don't want to distract from the present post by bringing up those arguments again other than to remind readers that the Diatessaron makes clear reference to a placement of the Transfiguration after the Passion. Baarda has actually written an article on this discovery of mine and credited me in the article.

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