Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 15:32:42 -0500
To: "Mahlon H. Smith" 
Subject: Re: the meaning of the ending of Mk

On Wed, 31 Dec 1997, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:

> Greetings Yuri, Thanks for the citations from Loisy.

You're welcome, Mahlon.

> Let me reciprocate with one from Crossan (Who Killed Jesus? /181-2. CAPS
> are mine), since you've invoked him as agreeing with Loisy: 

But Mahlon, I only pointed out his agreement with Loisy on one specific
point, viz. the ending of Mk. See Crossan, THE HISTORICAL JESUS, p. 415:

"My proposal is that the orginal version of Mark's Gospel ended with the
centurion's confession in 15:39."

As far as everything else in this area is concerned, I don't think Crossan
agrees with Loisy generally. BTW, he also disagrees with Koester, who is
much closer to Loisy on this. My own position is close to that of Loisy.

Thanks for your following quotes from Crossan, but I would't like to argue
against Crossan in this case (even if I could actually figure out what his
views on this are). His position on the Cross Gospel is rather offbeat and
found few followers so far. Koester argues against it rather adequately in
his ANCIENT CHRISTIAN GOSPELS (p. 218ff). Myself, I think Crossan is
pretty weak here.

The argument between Crossan and Koester in this area is very compex, and
will take a lot of space to get into, but I side with Koester, generally.
The main thing in dispute between them, it seems, was that while Koester
does accept that the source of the Gospel of Peter contained an important
early tradition about the passion narrative, Koester doesn't think this
source was nearly as extensive as Crossan believes. Their disagreement is
mainly about what the source of GPet (what Crossan describes as the Cross
Gospel) did or did not include. 

>    "...guards at the tomb and women at the tomb represent quite separate
> and somewhat contradictory traditions. The former narrative goes only
> from the *original stratum* (Cross Gospel) in Peter into Matthew. The
> latter goes from MARK into everyone else, Matthew, Luke, John and the
> final or *canonical* stratum of Peter... The intention of the *three*
> women in Mark 16:1-8 is to anoint Jesus' body... So, if MARK himself
> created this story about the women at the tomb, he created one with
> obvious difficulties built into it. Why was anointing so important for
> MARK? You will recall that Mark is severely and consistently critical of
> the three main named disciples, Peter, James & John... So now AT THE END
> OF THE PASSION, we have another failure but from three named women, Mary
> of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, Mary the mother of James the Younger
> and Joses, and Salome. MARK has closed a series of compositional frames
> with the empty tomb story in 16:1-8."

This seems to contradict the Crossan quote I gave above. My, this stuff is
not so easy to figure out... 

> You are correct in claiming Crossan argued that the "original" passion
> story did not contain an empty tomb.

Well, I didn't really claim this. I only brought Crossan into this
discussion because he supported the ending at Mt 15:39. But perhaps he
already changed his mind about this? 

> But Crossan does NOT think that
> Mark's passion account is the origin of the whole passion trajectory (as
> I recall Jan also argued). That place Crossan gives to his reconstructed
> source of GPeter. The quote above Crossan's 1995 book should make it
> clear that he believes that whoever composed the ORIGINAL text of MARK
> created the empty tomb story & deliberately ended his gospel at 16:8 to
> discredit the female followers of Jesus as he had earlier discredited
> the male disciples.

I give up. Perhaps someone who understands can clarify what Dom Crossan
_really_ thinks about the ending of Mk?

> Crossan had no need for an optimistic ending to MARK
> because, to quote WKJ again (p. 184-5):
>     "Male and female followers of Jesus are important for Mark, and the
> inner three of each group are especially important for him.  But they
> are important as models of failure, not hopeless failure, but failure
> nonetheless... All that literary composition and theological density 
> explain why the anointing women are so important for Mark and why his
> empty tomb story is so peculiarly his own. I know of no evidence of that
> story outside Markan I conclude that it is a Markan
> creation, ending his gospel as he wanted it to end, in the ambiguity,
> for named male and female disciples, of hopeful failure. The hope is in
> the unnamed woman [of the Markan anointing story] and the unnamed
> centurion and especially in the gospel whose author is likewise
> unnamed."

I understand this much. This is Dom's theory, fine. As good as lots of
other theories, I suppose. I just hope he doesn't reconstruct the ending
of Mk primarily because he has this theory. The proper methodology should
be the other way round, of course... 

> When Crossan argued his case in detail at the 1996 sessions of the Jesus
> Seminar dealing with the execution & resurrection tradition, it became
> evident why he thought Mark had it in for the NAMED followers of Jesus &
> why Mark included no resurrection appearances in his gospel. From Paul's
> account of resurrection appearances (1 Cor 15) it is clear that named
> individuals (Kephas, James, Paul) who claimed such visions also could
> claim authority above those who had not "seen" Jesus exalted. Paul
> mentions no female visions. But this was probably a deliberate omission
> in writing to Corinth, since Paul did not need to give Corinthian women
> who claimed teaching authority (1 Cor 11) any basis for them to reject
> his arguments for deferring to male leadership. Crossan agreed with the
> majority of the JS in concluding that the priority of Mary of Magdala
> (of Galilee) in the Jerusalem resurrection accounts is evidence that she
> was probably the source of the whole vision tradition.

This is not something that Loisy would support. He was sure that Peter's
vision was first, as per 1 Cor 15, and that Peter was the one who rallied
the despondent disciples in Jerusalem post-Easter. Who knows, he may be
wrong on this. But this is a separate matter. 

> Once THIS woman
> claimed it, Kephas had to do likewise, ditto James, etc. since the
> visionary automatically became THE source for both contact with
> resurrected Jesus & further instruction. Mark, however, was clearly
> convinced that the historical Jesus did not authorize this type of
> spiritual elitism

But Mk includes the confession of Peter in 8:27.

> (witness the transposed transfiguration account & the 
> sons of Zebedee pericope). He knew that Jesus' teaching gave
> priority to "little ones" whose names were not of repute: poor,
> children, etc. Thus, Mark's MAIN purpose in composing his gospel was to
> discredit the cult of personality that had emerged in Christian circles.
> So, in Crossan's view, the Markan polemic against named disciples &
> women is central to his reasons for writing in the first place. 

Fine with me. Not a bad theory as theories go. But will our
resconstruction of the text support this, I wonder? I'm not sure.

> The JS accepted Crossan's contention that the passion narrative can
> ultimately be traced to a single source.  But we did not agree on what
> that source was.

And, as I said, Koester also doesn't agree as to how extensive that source

> Some argued that Mark created the whole thing, while
> others (including myself) championed the priority of the Johannine signs
> gospel.  Unlike Crossan I do not think that Mark created the empty tomb
> story. That honor goes to the unnamed "disciple" who composed the
> narrative core of GJohn.

Perhaps so. In any case, I, with Loisy, don't believe the tomb was part of
the earliest tradition.

In what you write later, the massive confusions and contradictions of the
many tomb stories, and the "1.5 or 2 or 3 days in the tomb" stories are
self-evident. One way to cut this Gordian knot is to suppose that the
whole thing was made up later. Generally in that early period,
interpretation of the Jewish Scripture provided the nucleus for the
formation of emerging narrative traditions, it seems. The early
exegetes/gospel writers were looking very hard for scriptural backing for
the emerging passion and resurrection narratives, and these were then
transformed into "recently remembered" eyewitness memoirs. This process
has been adequately described in recent scholarship, including also by

Best wishes,

And Happy New Year!


> As for the third day, the origin of that tradition is in the pre-Pauline
> Jewish Christian kerygma designed to convince non-Christian Jews that
> Jesus fulfilled sacred scripture: "that he was raised ON the third day
> in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor 15:4). The scripture in
> question is Hos 6:2 "AFTER two days he will revive us; ON the third day
> he will raise us up, that we may live before him." Mark typically
> conflates his citations of scripture so that he represents Jesus as
> predicting 3 times that the Son of Man will be raised "AFTER three days"
> (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34).
> The clearest sign that Mark (or some later editor) did NOT invent the
> empty tomb story is that Mark 16:2 does NOT fulfill the Markan threefold
> chronological prediction. Instead of being raised AFTER 72 hours, the
> women find the tomb empty (by Mark's own chronological calculations)
> less than 40 hours after Jesus breathes his last. If Mark (or a Markan
> editor) were the creator of this tradition he probably would have set
> the discovery of the empty tomb shortly before sundown on Easter Monday
> to avoid the embarrassment of Jesus making the same erroneous prediction
> three times.
> Shalom,
> Mahlon

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