An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Chp. 8

As noted in the Introduction, two texts of the relevant chapter in the Gospel of Mark are presented here. The first is a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of an UrMark reconstructed according to the criteria below.

At the bottom of this post is the entire Chapter 8 in the RSV English translation. Both the short and the longer forms of the chapter are color coded. In order to separate out later Catholic accretions from the earlier Jewish Christian “core,” I have employed the following criteria:

The criteria used for color coding are discussed here. The resultant color coding is as follows:

[Contained in the Hebrew Gospel / UrMark]

Green: Possible/probable, or amended in UrMark.

STAGE 1: Gnostic. To c. 50 CE. “Jesus” is the saving gnosis.
                           Black: May contain historical elements going back to Yeshu ha-Notsri.
                           [Blue] Logia/parables of Yeshu.

STAGE 2a: Jewish Christian. [Brown] C. 50–c. 150 CE. “Jesus” is a divine spiritual entity sent from Yahweh indwelling any worthy human through the grace of God/obedience to God. But the first in whom the Jesus dwelled (the prophet Yeshu ha-Notsri by my reckoning) was known as “the first-begotten Son” of God, the “Christ” (Messiah; NTA I:177.2). This messiah was only a model for emulation, not the unattainable figure of later Christianity. Possessing the Jesus (which we can all do, and should do) enables repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The spirit Jesus is divine, but the humans in whom the Jesus dwells are not.

[Not in the Hebrew Gospel / UrMark]

STAGE 2b: Pauline/Marcionite. [Purple] C. 50–c. 150 CE. “Jesus” is a divine spiritual entity sent from the immaterial God (not the God of creation) indwelling any worthy human through the grace of God/obedience to God. The death on the cross of a prophet (“Jesus Christ”) in the distant past was a cosmic event of human redemption. Jesus is divine, but the human(s) in whom it dwells are not. Belief is required.

STAGE 3: Catholic Christianity. [Red] C. 150+. “Jesus of Nazareth” is the savior of the world. Gnosis, repentance, and forgiveness of sins have been superseded. “Jesus Christ” was both divine and human. Belief is required.      (Red underlined: Catholic and anti-Marcionite.)

The comprehensive UrMark, cumulatively updated after each installment, is found here.
The cumulative (color coded) Gospel of Mark, also updated after each installment, is found here.


The Hebrew Gospel / UrMark: Chp. 8

[10] And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
[11] The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him.
[12] And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”
[13] And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.

[34] And he said to them,
[35] “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s [sake] will save it.
[36] For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
[37] For what can a man give in return for his life?”


The Gospel of Mark: Chp. 8
(Revised Standard Version)

[1] In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them,
[2] “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat;
[3] and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way.”
[4] And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?”
[5] And he asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven.”
[6] And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.
[7] And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set before them.
[8] And they ate, and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
[9] And there were about four thousand people.

[10] And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
[11] The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him.
[12] And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”
[13] And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.

[14] Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
[15] And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
[16] And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.”
[17] And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
[18] Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?
[19] When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
[20] “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”
[21] And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

[22] And they came to Beth-saida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him.
[23] And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”
[24] And he looked up and said, “I see men; but they look like trees, walking.”
[25] Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly.
[26] And he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

[27] And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”
[28] And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.”
[29] And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
[30] And he charged them to tell no one about him.

[31] And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
[32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
[33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

[34] And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
[35] For
whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s [sake] will save it.
[36] For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
[37] For what can a man give in return for his life?

[38] For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 Chapter 7          Chapter 9 


Comments

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Chp. 8 — 2 Comments

  1. The second miracle of feeding is the climax of the excursion to the Syro-Phoenician region. It contains the link to the Book of Joshua (coming from afar, staying for three days); therefore, its presence reveals the purpose of the entire itinerary: the reluctant admission of gentile christianity. However, the allusions to the Book of Joshua can be seen as interpolations within the pericope, by which it is possible to trace the pericope back before the miracle of five loaves.

    The little fish are not the two marine creatures of the miracle of the five loaves but point to Numbers 16. Having eaten manna for some time, the Jews complain about the absence of the little fish which they had used to consume in Egypt. Moses and the Lord sent them a substitute (quails). The protagonist of the miracle is thus a new prophet in the likeness of Moses, not the messiah of the miracle of five loaves. The arrival of such a prophet was expected already in Deuteronomy 18.

    John was never seen as a messiah but as an important prophet even by those who revered him much more than the Christians do, e.g. the Mandeans/Nazarenes. This might be the link to the tradition of John. If the name Jonathan (“Ya + natan,” i.e. “Yahweh gives”) is understood as Tetragrammaton + a semitic word for generosity, this miracle makes a lot of sense because the hero demonstrates god’s generosity towards the starving people of Israel.

    Removing the allusion to the Israelite years in the desert, we arrive at an even earlier and utopian layer, one that does not contain the little fish and has the bread alone. Here there is a close connection with the basic scheme of the Catholic mass. Like the Catholic priest, the protagonist of the miracle takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and distributes it. Jesus lectures the masses before the feeding, just as the Catholic priests do before the eucharist proper. Until 2nd Vatican, the eucharist was almost only served in morning celebrations, that is, after extended fasting — just as the mob had been hungry until the feeding. Moribund believers are served the eucharist as waybread to heaven, just as Jesus feared that the followers might pass away on their way home. Finally, the priest sends away the believers after the eucharist, inspiring the final words of the classic Roman Catholic mass: Ite, missa est.

    In that oldest layer, all specifically Jewish elements are gone. Still, the seven loaves can be seen by Judaizers as an allusion to the seven days of creation, equating the creator with Adonai Sabaoth. Note that the miracle of seven loaves does not force Jesus to look to heavens. That is, the protagonist is already a divine power in the oldest stratum.

    Another allusion could be the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit derived from Isaiah 11, though the number seven was important in most religions of the Roman empire and even beyond.

  2. The pericope containing Peter’s confession is paralleled in GThomas 13. Jesus then said three words secretly to Thomas, and the latter refused to reveal them to the other disciples for fear of being stoned.

    The refusal is understandable if Jesus identifies himself with the Jewish God. Recall Ex. 3:14 where God in the burning bush refers to himself as “I am” and John 8:58 where, after a long dispute with the Pharisees, Jesus declares “Before Abraham was, I am.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *