2010-11-18

John the Baptist’s head: a eucharist for the Herods

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Herodias' Revenge Museum Mayer van den Bergh, ...
Image via Wikipedia

Mark narrates in 6:14-29 the incident about Herod and John the Baptist in a way that makes the reader see it as endowed with a symbolic meaning. What we get is a perverted counter-eucharist: a deipnon among the Jewish political leaders which is dominated by the passions of the body (sexual desires) and in which the head of John the Baptist is served on a plate. (Fortunately, I am not the only one to read the story like this; cf. . . . . van Iersel B.M.F 1998: Mark. A Reader-Response Commentary, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 164, Sheffield).

This is from Henrik Tronier, Philonic Allegory in Mark [link downloads a 264 KB PDF file. Source:
http://www.pitts.emory.edu/hmpec/docs/TronierPhilonicAllegoryMark.pdf]. I feel incomplete not having read van Iersel, and feeling financially boa constricted when I see that the price of even a second hand copy is well in excess of $100!

Until I read this in Tronier’s article, almost the only literary criticism of this John the Baptist beheading passage that I had ever encountered was commentary on its rambling and irrelevant character, standing out as a curious out-of-place anomaly in the otherwise consistently terse pre-Passion narratives in Mark’s Gospel. The only exception to this pattern that I can recall at the moment is Dennis MacDonald’s linking it with popular stories of the murder of King Agamemnon (on his return from the Trojan War) by his wife Clytemnestra.

So in the absence of $130 to spare on Iersel, here are a few initial observations that might give reason to see this detailed anecdote as more meaningful than rambling after all:

  1. John the Baptist’s death is signalled by Jesus as a forerunner of his own death. What “they did to John” they will do to Jesus, too.
  2. It was not Herod’s will to kill John the Baptist, since he knew he was a good man, but he was pressured by his wife; Pilate is arguably reluctant to kill Jesus, knowing him to be innocent, but is pressured by the priests.
  3. Herodias wants John dead because he condemns her sin; Jesus is hated by the priests for exposing their hypocrisy.
  4. Both the deaths of John and Jesus are associated with ensuing resurrections. Herod believes Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead.
  5. John the Baptist’s followers reverentially bury him; not the disciples, but a few women followers and Joseph of Arimathea, bury Jesus.
  6. Herod promised his girl whatever she asked, up to half his kingdom; disciples of Jesus (James and John) asked Jesus to grant their desire — to sit on either side of him over the entire kingdom. But Jesus said such a request was not in his power to grant.
  7. Herod’s special feast and Jesus’ last supper both take place on momentous days: Herod’s birthday and Passover. A secular and a holy memorial juxtaposed.
  8. At both feasts there was a betrayal and entrapment.
  9. Both Herod and Jesus suffer grief, sorrow, when realizing what they had to follow through — Herod because of is promise, Jesus because of his piety. (John the Baptist probably suffered a twinge of grief, too, at least for a moment.)
  10. The most vivid detail is that the head is served on a dinner dish. Herod had thought Jesus was John the Baptist. Jesus had instructed his disciples to “eat his flesh”.  (MacDonald points to the possibility that Mark here was also drawing on a scene in Book 10 of the Odyssey in which cannibalism also features.)

The parallels are multiple. What is the simplest explanation for the tale in Mark, unique in this Gospel for its rambling and gruesome character?

  1. That Mark had a literary relapse and waxed ramblingly out of character?
  2. That Mark’s source here (in Aramaic or other) was unique in being written on a much longer or wider piece of papyrus or parchment?
  3. That Mark was filling out the story to draw as many links with the death of Jesus as he could?
The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)



If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!


34 thoughts on “John the Baptist’s head: a eucharist for the Herods”

  1. I like mark, and if books are measured by their impact, well Mark is one of top books in the world. Here i think he couldn’t let this good yarn slip by, so it gets thrown in. of course the fore shadowing of Jthe B’s death, I think is very important for the progress of the story. It could be argued, for those who have scratched their heads over the chronology, that J the B died after Jesus, but in linking the careers of two unrelated people, Mark places J the B’s death first, because well, he isn’t going to have Jesus fore shadow J the B’s death is he? I wonder who would win in a fight between Tronier and MacDonald, allegory vs. allusion?

  2. Er, I thought it was pretty well established that the JtheB party scene was a rewrite by the author of “Mark” of the Jewish works in I Kings 18 [Elijah stuff] and Esther 5.1ff

    Esther is the story of a woman dancing for the king etc who gets what she wants, namely the death of her enemy.

    Author “Mark” pinches this theme, I’m not sure why. Maybe cos its a cute story.

    He even uses, near verbatim, the words of the Esther writer and in the process makes a historical error in that by copying Esther he makes Herod a king, which he was not, being only a tetrarch.

    [Later ‘Markan’ redactors correct this error, sort of.
    “Matthew” 14.1 changes “Mark’s” 6.14 “King Herod ….to: “At that time Herod the tetrarch…..” but then buggers it up in 14.9 with “And the king…..”
    Sloppy.].

    One of the following below is from Esther, the other from “Mark”.
    [a] “What is your request? It shall be given to you even to the half of my kingdom”.
    [b] “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will grant it……even half of my kingdom”.

    Seems pretty obvious to me where a large chunk of the source for “Mark’s” story came from.
    Am I missing something here?

  3. I don’t mean to suggest that Mark drew the inspiration for the details of his death of JB story from the Passion of Jesus. No doubt he drew on his knowledge of other literature, Esther included, but the details were selected because of what they contributed to his major theme and filling out the rhetorical structures he wanted.

    I see a difference between literary influences and literary structure and function. There may be a number of influences that feed certain phrasings and images and even the story idea, but the function the particular scene plays within the larger narrative is what guides the author’s decisions in selecting this or that expression, and rejecting other possibilities available.

    John the Baptist, for example, is drawn from Elijah, but the function of the Baptist leads us into questions of the author’s interest in placing him in a particular relation to Jesus, and placing the scene at the beginning of the Gospel, and in its echoes in the final scenes of the Gospel (reference to dress, place of desolation, prophecy of the messiah). These take us beyond the Elijah influences per se. It is the new meanings that these Elijah allusions bring that is the more interesting observation. There may be multiple literary influences, but the common theme will be the idea of a superior submitting to a lesser before replacing him; and this submission-replacement theme has a deeper signficance again at the end of the Gospel.

    Many have noted the relevance of the death of John story to the death of Jesus theme. The details pulled from Esther and elsewhere in the author’s mind were selected because of what they contributed to the theme of foreshadowing Jesus’ death.

    The last half of Mark contains very many allusions to Daniel and Psalms. The specific phrases were selected because of what they contributed to the larger themes.

  4. Interesting… while I think Mark is anti-disciple first and foremost, also, I should note, though, that Herod doesn’t have the whole picture – he mistakes Jesus as JoB come to life rather than later recognize Jesus as Jesus come back to life. Faith in generic “I thought beheading would have done the trick – now he’s back!” resurrection isn’t quite the same as faith in Jesus’s resurrection or Christian resurrection. The language is the same, though…

  5. The disciples are led by “Peter” and are analogous to the “Rocky” soil in the parable of the sower, starting out well but soon withering and falling by the wayside when persecution came. There are three other types of responses in that parable that Mark also addresses (Tolbert).

    The twelve disciples did not become an institution, it appears, till after Mark was written when Matthew took them from Mark and converted (most of) them to become rock-solid foundations. (Counting the bulk of 1 Cor 15:5 as part of a larger interpolation.)

    Mark introduced them as a type of a “new Israel” that failed. This is the theme throughout the OT narratives: God is always choosing a new Israel, a new generation, as each one fails (Thompson). The message is for the readers, who are the ones who identify themselves as the “true new Israel”. The lessons are for them — not to be hard hearted or grow weary like those in the book.

    Mark’s Gospel continues this theological tradition. His Twelve disciples are created as a warning to the real new people of God, the congregation reading/hearing the gospel.

  6. I don’t think there is any evidence that before Mark the “twelve” were known as anything much more than a ‘number only’ (maybe with the top 3 names added at some time). The earliest evidence outside Mark for the twelve knows of no Judas. Maybe some Christians were claiming some sort of genealogical link back to Jerusalem (not Galilee) via the twelve, but I see Mark’s treatment of them as representative of one of four spiritual conditions that are a warning to his own readers. I can understand how Mark’s treatment of them crystallized them as “historical images” for some Christians and Matthew worked to redeem them accordingly.

    Weeden’s argument that Mark is an attack on the insitution of the twelve is carried through on a number of debatable assumptions about Paul’s epistles, and reading back into them evidence from later times. He may be right, but I find Tolbert’s discussion more satisifying because it explains the treatment of the twelve along with a lot of other characters in the Gospel. And Thompson’s understanding of the OT strikes me as dove-tailing perfectly into Tolbert’s thesis.

  7. ” 1. John the Baptist’s death is signalled by Jesus as a forerunner of his own death. What “they did to John” they will do to Jesus, too.
    2. It was not Herod’s will to kill John the Baptist, since he knew he was a good man, but he was pressured by his wife; Pilate is arguably reluctant to kill Jesus, knowing him to be innocent, but is pressured by the priests.
    3. Herodias wants John dead because he condemns her sin; Jesus is hated by the priests for exposing their hypocrisy.
    4. Both the deaths of John and Jesus are associated with ensuing resurrections. Herod believes Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead.
    5. John the Baptist’s followers reverentially bury him; not the disciples, but a few women followers and Joseph of Arimathea, bury Jesus.
    6. Herod promised his girl whatever she asked, up to half his kingdom; disciples of Jesus (James and John) asked Jesus to grant their desire — to sit on either side of him over the entire kingdom. But Jesus said such a request was not in his power to grant.
    7. Herod’s special feast and Jesus’ last supper both take place on momentous days: Herod’s birthday and Passover. A secular and a holy memorial juxtaposed.
    8. At both feasts there was a betrayal and entrapment.
    9. Both Herod and Jesus suffer grief, sorrow, when realizing what they had to follow through — Herod because of is promise, Jesus because of his piety. (John the Baptist probably suffered a twinge of grief, too, at least for a moment.)
    10. The most vivid detail is that the head is served on a dinner dish. Herod had thought Jesus was John the Baptist. Jesus had instructed his disciples to “eat his flesh”. (MacDonald points to the possibility that Mark here was also drawing on a scene in Book 10 of the Odyssey in which cannibalism also features.)

    The parallels are multiple. What is the simplest explanation for the tale in Mark, unique in this Gospel for its rambling and gruesome character?”

    JW:
    Close but no holy See Gar. The primary purpose of “Mark” is to discredit the disciples. Can we work that theme in here? As the Constable said to Dr. Frankenstein in the classic Young Frankenstein, “Of gourse”:

    http://www.errancywiki.com/index.php?title=Mark_6

    Mark 6:16 “But Herod, when he heard [thereof], said, John, whom I beheaded, he is risen.”

    Contrast to Jesus’ own disciples who had been plainly taught by Jesus that he would rise:

    http://www.errancywiki.com/index.php?title=Mark_16

    Mark 16:8 “And they went out, and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them: and they said nothing to any one; for they were afraid.”

    Ouch! That’s gotta hurt (the disciples credibility). So King Herod had faith in resurrection but the disciples did not. Note that “Mark” also sets the table here for JtB by giving it in flashback (pleasing language). And just for Mikelangelole, more foolish coincidences elsewhere in “Mark” on divorce and the rich man.

    Joseph

    1. Could you elaborate on the divorce , rich man reference? I assumed his command on divorce and the rich man who is told to give away their goods, they all seem to involve some controversy with the law, JtB side story and the divorce command seem to use similar language some variation of is it lawful, maybe if you could fill in your reference here.

      That the gospels primary purpose is to discredit the disciples here seems a stretch. What for? I wouldn’t walk away with “this book was mainly written to make some guys look bad”. Judas is immediately labeled as the betrayer, he has no development really, his next mention is his agreement to betray Jesus. none of the other disciples come off as bad, their lack of understanding is meant to mirror the readers, to act as vehicles for instruction, not to demonstrate their own unworthiness, I don’t think we’re given the impression that these guys were all fake followers, I think the lesson is everyone fails sometimes and the path is hard to master. Would this book be written just to knock the disciples down a peg? Is that the central story, not the crucification?
      ————————————————————————

      On the other hand, Neil, the fore shadowing of Jesus does seem to loom large here, I’ve noticed that the mood gets a bit somber after this point.

      “2. It was not Herod’s will to kill John the Baptist, since he knew he was a good man, but he was pressured by his wife; Pilate is arguably reluctant to kill Jesus, knowing him to be innocent, but is pressured by the priests.”
      The good people of harper Collins would also like you to consider the relationship between Ahab and Jezebel

      I wonder if another story were substituted for the one currently in Mark for the death of JtB, would we not be able to make comparisons and contrast? What if it had Josephus version instead? I’ll think about that and get back to you all.

      As McDuff said concerning point 6
      “Er, I thought it was pretty well established that the JtheB party scene was a rewrite by the author of “Mark” of the Jewish works in I Kings 18 [Elijah stuff] and Esther 5.1ff”
      the relation seems clear unless we imagine it as a popular story plot element that was commonly rehashed. I’m not sure I’ve seen another example relevant to Mark, it was in a Grimm’s fairy tale, but that wouldn’t affect mark. If it is the inspiration for Mark , and Ester predates Mark, so also then the plot device of a promise to give half the kingdom. When he decides to use it here, does he then write the pericope of James and John wanting to sit by his throne? It could hardly be directly based of the ester story, the two only want to sit on the right and left, not ask for half the Kingdom. and certainly no dancing for favor from Jesus!

      1. That the gospels primary purpose is to discredit the disciples here seems a stretch. What for?

        Do read Ted Weeden’s “Traditions in Conflict”.

        (Are you aware of Paul’s views of James, Peter and John and Jerusalem apostles generally?)

        none of the other disciples come off as bad, their lack of understanding is meant to mirror the readers, to act as vehicles for instruction, not to demonstrate their own unworthiness,

        Did not Jesus say that whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever is ashamed of him will find that Jesus himself is ashamed of them at his coming? So when in the same Gospel we read the disciples fleeing to save their lives and Peter being too ashamed to admit having known Jesus (just as Judas was ashamed enough of Jesus over his acceptance of being anointed with expensive ointment to betray him), then we see that Mark is lumping all the disciples together as unworthy of Jesus. Peter refused to hang around and die with Jesus, so another Simon had to be dragged in to carry his cross just to drive home the message of Peter’s failure even more.

        Peter means rock, and he’s the leader (hence representative) of the Twelve. Peter, as are all the twelve, are great at the beginning but fail in the end because they are the rocky soil of the parable.

        The disciples’ lack of understanding does not at all “mirror the readers”. The readers understand all too well who Jesus is and what the disciples fail to understand.

        1. It goes beyond simple misunderstanding; Mark portrays them as downright stupid. When Jesus warns them of the “leaven of the Pharisees,” they think that Jesus is referring to the fact that they’d forgotten to take bread with them on the boat.

          On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter talks about building three tabernacles. He’s clueless, but it doesn’t stop him from yammering.

          At Gethsemane, they can’t stay awake — they can’t even do that for Jesus. Just before Judas arrives, Jesus delivers a line that sounds almost as if he’s given up on them: “You can sleep on now and have your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son of man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

          For Mark the Twelve utterly failed Jesus.

          1. The stupidity of the disciples may have been their own view of themselves, not quite as dense as mark which borders on farcical, but I strongly doubt they were conspiring to get Jesus killed so they could start a new mystery religion. I think they were taken by surprise just like all the Egyptian’s followers the day they got wiped out.

        2. I am aware of Paul’s views of James, Peter and John and Jerusalem apostles generally, and it seems favorable. That may make your head spin but despite his arguments with them, by all accounts he seems to consider them fellow Christians. if in his heart he felt differently he doesn’t express it. He doesn’t call them false apostles, and he plans to bring them a collection of money. Paul does not however defer to them as higher authorities. Paul does not recognize either James or Peter as “pope”. The 12 he refers to may have been seen as some kind of leadership body in relation to Q 82,see Luke 22:28-30 and Matthew 19:28-30. If so it seems to have lost authority by Paul’s time, maybe high turn over, or maybe they did go traveling the world as in the legends.

          Compare to such works as the Homilies of Clement where Peter is portrayed as opposing Simon Magus, whom according to Bart Ehrman, are thinly veiled attacks on Paul. Or John the Seer who attacks false Christians as the people of Balaam and Jezebel. If the intention is to show “all the disciples together as unworthy of Jesus”, it would have done so plainly. The disciples are cowards and goobers, but sympathetic individuals.

          If the theory that the gospel is to be read as a circular narrative, the end go back to the beginning, is correct then the view of the disciples as unworthy Jesus doesn’t make sense. If the message is that every generation of disciples fails, then that would contradict all those parables of the kingdom starting small and growing big. As someone here said, the meeting of Jesus and the disciples at the begining is the resurrection appearance, Jesus takes them back in spite of their failure just as Jesus takes Paul despite his persecuting the Church. The apostles “real” mission for Jesus does not begin until they see him resurrected.

          It sound like you are suggesting that Mark’s point is that Jesus had no apostles until Paul, but Paul gets no mention at all in Mark. Who would walk away from this book thinking that Peter and co. could be dismissed as false apostles? This would be like cheering when King Kong falls from the skyscraper, it is bad reading comprehension. Please clarify your point lest I suspect a touch of autism here. No one who incorporated Mark into their own gospel thought so, not even the arch-Paulinst him/her self, Luke. By all indication the 12 are the good seed, the movement grows from them.

          “The disciples’ lack of understanding does not at all “mirror the readers”. The readers understand all too well who Jesus is and what the disciples fail to understand.” The disciples are habitually used as foils to explain things to the reader. in the parable of the sower, if the disciples did not ask, Jesus would not give the fuller allegory, that is to the benefit of the reader, if the reader already understood it, when the disciples ask about the parable, Jesus would have just said “Goddammit! Its a simple metaphor, Jesus, you guys are dumb.” The fear of the disciples at the stilling of the storm is for the benefit of the reader, who may lose faith in the face of calamity. It does not presume the reader is above doubt and the apostles faithless. Peter’s rebuke by Jesus over the way of the cross(Mark 8:31–>) is for the benefit of the reader so Jesus can explain the necessity of self sacrifice in the cause the reader in his own doubt about the prospect of death is to identify with Peter, not judge him for failing to understand what they know. In Mark9:14-29 the disciples cant cast out demons so Jesus can stress the importance of faith, prayer and perseverance, not to demonstrate the 12 have no power of the spirit.

          And finally the request of John and James is not a condemnation of the two, quite the opposite. the immediate role is to inform the reader that they are to be servants, but as a side note it exalts James and John because they(mark 10:39) are to be baptized with the same baptism Jesus gets. martyrdom for the Kingdom of God. This isn’t a punishment, would you describe Judas hanging himself or getting crushed by a chariot( i think that was one of the alternate tales)Judas being baptized with Jesus Baptism? or Herod being eaten by worms? In fact rather than primarily discredit them, it seems to heighten their authority. James, John, and Peter are taken to see Jesus transfigured, Peter correctly call Jesus messiah, after telling peter he will deny him he still tells him to go to Galilee. Why? He just said Peter will deny him, is hedging in case he is wrong? what does that say about “whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever is ashamed of him will find that Jesus himself is ashamed of them at his coming?” The person in the tomb tell the women to have the disciples meet him in Galilee. How are the disciples discredited? The primary purpose of Mark is not to discredit the disciples but to educate the new disciples in the way of Jesus. Ted Weeden would have to have an astoundingly tight argument to over come all this.

          1. It sound like you are suggesting that Mark’s point is that Jesus had no apostles until Paul, but Paul gets no mention at all in Mark. Who would walk away from this book thinking that Peter and co. could be dismissed as false apostles? This would be like cheering when King Kong falls from the skyscraper, it is bad reading comprehension. Please clarify your point lest I suspect a touch of autism here. No one who incorporated Mark into their own gospel thought so, not even the arch-Paulinst him/her self, Luke. By all indication the 12 are the good seed, the movement grows from them.

            I’m suggesting there was no historical Jesus to have disciples in the first place. I dispute Meier’s arguments for the historicity of the Twelve — Meier’s arguments are said by some scholars to be the strongest for the historicity of the Twelve.

            The sympathetic view of the disciples in Mark derives from:

            (a) reading much of the disciples’ character in Matthew, Luke and John back into Mark, perhaps subliminally;
            (b) failing to grasp the original meanings and associations of some passages in Mark (e.g. Peter weeping should be seen as part of the contemporary motif weeping being an indication of unforgiven remorse (self-pity) rather than true repentance).

            Matthew and Luke did not simply incorporate Mark’s material on the disciples. They changed Mark’s portrayal of the disciples. They re-wrote Mark’s treatment of them so that they are less dense, more sincere, and finally coming to understand all that Jesus taught.

            1. (a) reading much of the disciples’ character in Matthew, Luke and John back into Mark, perhaps subliminally;
              (b) failing to grasp the original meanings and associations of some passages in Mark (e.g. Peter weeping should be seen as part of the contemporary motif weeping being an indication of unforgiven remorse (self-pity) rather than true repentance).

              (a)no, I think I’ve wiped out my prejudice as best I can and I’ve given a number of reason for why I think Mark presents the disciples favorably but perhaps they fall under…
              (b)I would need a case by case explanation for why the meaning of the passage originally would be different from what most people, including people unfamiliar with the gospel traditions I would bet, would think.

              That there was no historical Jesus to have disciples doesn’t seem to be a point Mark is making at all. On the point about Meiers, I’ll have to read your article.

              1. You mentioned something about a problem with reading comprehension recently. That seems to be an issue here. I at no point suggested that Mark’s point was that there was no historical Jesus to have disciples! You asked me to clarify “my” point, not Mark’s, and I explained it was “my point”!

              2. The point I need clarifing is the above mentioned point of Mark’s gospel as per, “are suggesting that Mark’s point is that Jesus had no apostles until Paul” as in no true apostels. That is the impression I’m getting from your argument, but I would like clarification, because it isn’t something I would expect you to say. What do you think Mark is saying about Jesus’ disciples? Will Jesus greet them with “well done good and faithfull servent?” or “away, I never knew you!”? Whether there is a historical Jesus or not need not interfere much with the question of “what is Mark selling?”

              3. Mark is the master of ambiguity. His conclusion is ambiguous, as are a dozen other points in his gospel. Don’t look for absolute black and white where these are consistently avoided.

                Mark plays with ambiguities because he is always working at two levels: the literal world of the characters in his narrative and the spiritual or analagous comprehension of the readers.

                In Mark the disciples are literary characters. You seem to be discussing them as if they are real people with independent minds that need explaining quite apart from the page on which they exist. No. Just read them as coming off the quill or whatever of the author.

                Mark is writing for the “true disciples” of Jesus who are the readers of his Gospel. The characters in the story are mere characters in a story.

          2. The person in the tomb tell the women to have the disciples meet him in Galilee. How are the disciples discredited?

            Read the text. The young man does not tell the women to have the disciples meet him in Galilee. And if he had said such a thing, why would Mark conclude that the women said nothing to anyone?

            The young man tells the women that Jesus is going on before them (Peter and the others). Recall Jesus walking on the water – he was walking as if he would pass them by and go on ahead of them.

            There was once a time when Jesus would stop as he passed by to call a disciple. Then on the lake he only stopped for them when they screamed in terror. Now, given the silence of the women, he is leaving them behind.

            James, John, and Peter are taken to see Jesus transfigured, Peter correctly call Jesus messiah, after telling peter he will deny him he still tells him to go to Galilee. Why? He just said Peter will deny him, is hedging in case he is wrong?

            When Peter calls him Messiah he understands what the demons have understood all along, and is silenced just as were the demons. Part of the reason, we soon learn, is that his understanding of the Messiah is (as is the disciples’ understanding everywhere else in the Gospel) only at the surface literal level. He is thinking of a conquering king of this physical world, while Jesus is thinking in terms of a spiritual conqueror.

            Try to read what the author is doing with his characters. He is having them act out lessons for the benefit of the readers. They are not real people who act or think realistically.

            1. No the young man is not telling the disciples to meet him in Galilee. He says that if they go to Galilee they will see Jesus, not the young man. I stand corrected, but seriously I don’t see how you can see this as a dismissal of the disciples. Mark does have an odd ending but assuming that the disciples never meet up with Jesus because the women don’t tell them probably hasn’t passed though many minds. Do you know of a branch of Christianity that did not accept Peter as an apostle?

              Nothing else in the text gives me the impression that Jesus and his disciples are parting company here, and if that was Marks intention I doubt Luke and Matthew would have used mark. If there is a tragedy here then it would fall on the women for not telling the disciples Jesus is alive, not the disciples, who Jesus, by way of a messenger seems very interested in meeting. maybe its a trick so Jesus can strangle peter for denying him.

              As I said before Jesus is already aware the disciples will run before telling them he is going to Galilee. In fact the disciples don’t need the women to tell them shit, Jesus has already told them. Any reasonable person reading this story will conclude the apostles will meet Jesus in Galilee. Why this isn’t in the story is anyones guess, but I have heard some good ones.

              1. I had not heard that, i’ll look into that. I had wondered if Maricon, fan of Paul that he is would have disregarded Peter as a diciple, but I figured that Mark would be an unlikely work from his faction, with its refrences to Hebrew prophacies and scripture. Who are the others? Time saver, if you think it lazy for me to ask rather than hunt dowen the others and what evidence there is to sugest that they didn’t accept Peter as an apostle, I’ll be more than happy to look it up myself.

              2. The whole notion of a genealogy of “right teaching” going back to Peter first appears with Irenaeus. He is constructing a genealogy of “truth” to oppose the many other christianities he was competing against. Paul was even called “the apostle of the heretics” by Tertullian, such was his unique status among those branches of Christianity against which “proto-orthodoxy” stood in opposition. I think Weeden even argues (contrary to another comment of yours) that Paul did indeed label the Jerusalem apostles as “false apostles”.

              3. You are right about the Marcion part, I took a gamble on that and it did not pay out. I have a hole in my knowledge in the area of early church fathers. The volumes are hard to get a hold of in small town libraries, particularly where catholics are out numbered by protestants. Protestants always go straight to Paul! The others were regarded as “Popish”. I’ll try to get those.

                On weeden, I would like to hear his argument or see the paper it is published in. I have briefly seen some arguments suggesting a very nasty split with Jerusalem and Paul, but it was while ago, and I don’t recall them well., It had me for awhile, but lately I’ve been think that the split between Paul and Peter had been exaggerated in the minds of the researchers. It would be cool to see his argument, if you think it is the best one you know.

                How much authentic information do you think the early church fathers (pre-Constantine Christians) had on the era of Christianities start? Paul’s letters are at least 20 years from the time first converted, the gospels at least 10 possibly nearly 100 from Paul, where Jesus is presented as living c.33ce. the first really detailed Christian works come around almost a century later(c.154ce)with Justin Martyr. Justine would have been nearly as far from Paul as the gospels from “Jesus”. how much do they add to our knowledge of Paul or peters thoughts?

              4. I’ll look into the works. on,
                “You ask about Christianity’s “start”. There was no “starting point”. There was, instead, “a riotous diversity” of movements that eventually coalesced into something more recognizably Christian.”
                What does that mean? at some point the movements do something that we call Christian as opposed to another label. Would we speak of Christianity in the pre Hellenistic age? Is Philo Christian? when did the things we call Christian arise? how did that happen.

                On that front we can answer those questions with evidence of several types, physical, documentary (witnesses and accounts of witnesses) and so on. what physical evidence do we have for the earliest existence of a Christian movement? what documentary? Christianity had lots of influences but those wouldn’t be Christianity, that is a distinct product, even if disagreements arise over what the definition is.

                Personally I think Christianity holds that there was a Savior figure named Jesus who is called Christ, messiah or some equivalent word, Jesus is strangely the important word, because Christ, theoretical could mean another being all together, (just as Jews cant be defined merely as worshiping “God”) sects that worshiped a messiah but that messiah is not Jesus is not Christianity, be it a John the Baptist movement or philos philosophy club. Who ever coined “Jesus” as the savior figure invented Christianity be it that Jesus is a mythical being or a person they had heard of. what would you call Christianity?

                There is no evidence of such a belief before Paul’s letters, if authentic from about C.E. 50—whenever the existence of Paul’s letters are undebatable established as existent, you may know the latest possible date for Paul’s letters. They portray what must be pre c.e. 70 events, whether the events are true or not. so somewhere here we should start, Yes? what evidence of Jesus the savior is there much earlier?

              5. Thanks for the links. I read Diogenes again after looking at dorhety’s sight and Looked up Justin martyr (first apology) as well. It is interesting how little space Justine gives the historical Jesus and how he quotes line we identify as scripture, but does not cite the work they come from, like they are common expressions not needing citation.

                When do you think arguments from historical Jesus center pieces of dogma? The works discuss Christian belief in a very technical way. Could it be the audience was pagan? Legends of the act of Jesus might not be a fit for such venues, (and Jesus tuned clay pigeons in to real ones, and used his powers to kill and raise friends)?

                Possibly the “historic” Jesus was not central to its dogmatic beliefs. i think a case could be made for that in modern Catholicism. The theology of Jesus is important, not the legends of his life or supposed saying. what mattered was monotheism, the trinity, and grace to imperfect beings. The Historic Jesus in genral may be a function of modern protestantism, the search for something beyond popery.

                Early Christianity maybe found the theology it created more significant that the Jesus stories and teaching and pushed them back, like Mormonism tries to separate its self from its polygamous roots. The simple ethics and miracle tales are the heart of Christianity like Santa clause forms the heart of Christmas, despite all the birth of the savor, holy talk and peace on earth. (at least in the states, we are so materialistic.

              6. You are asking for more than I can summarize in a few comments. Why not read what’s available online and follow up book references through interlibrary loans?

                http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

                http://web.archive.org/web/20080701200544/http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/home.htm

                The latter is a 2008 archived version of Earl Doherty’s site. This is safe to access.

                Someone appears to have hacked his current site and infested it with viruses, so Google and Yahoo will not access it. (And McGrath calls anyone who spams his blog “an internet terrorist”!)


                Added since posting the above:

                Have since learned that it is not specifically Earl Doherty’s site that has been attacked but all humanist.net sites. Hopefully will be fixed soon.


          3. “as a side note it exalts James and John because they(mark 10:39) are to be baptized with the same baptism Jesus gets. martyrdom for the Kingdom of God.”

            JW:
            The tone of JC here is negative:

            “Mark 10:35 And there come near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee.

            Mark 10:36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

            Mark 10:37 And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on [thy] left hand, in thy glory.

            Mark 10:38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

            Mark 10:39 And they said unto him, We are able. And Jesus said unto them, The cup that I drink ye shall drink; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

            Mark 10:40 but to sit on my right hand or on [my] left hand is not mine to give; but [it is for them] for whom it hath been prepared.”

            Note that in 14:23:

            “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them: and they all drank of it.”

            They LITERALLY drink from the cup that Jesus drank from. Misunderstanding the literal versus figurative meaning is a major theme of “Mark”. Thus the literal fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy here combined with the Argument from Theme makes it likely that Jesus means a literal fulfillment which stands against a figurative fulfillment. If this is the intent for the drinking here it probably follows for the connected baptism. The boys are literally baptized like “Mark’s” Jesus but not figuratively baptized for what’s important, The Passion (the anointing by that anonymous woman who was always be remembered).

            Joseph

            1. Joseph, no, simply incorrect. The passage makes no sense if Jesus is asking if they can be baptized or drink from a cup. There is no tension, it would be an absolutely pointless thing to say. In fact you interpretation would essentially render Jesus’ answer yes, defiantly can sit on left and right. The “Ye know not what ye ask” implies they are asking for something difficult. Jesus says it to imply his sitting in glory will require an ordeal of pain and death. Even the two dullard disciples probably thought that Jesus meant some ordeal, not that the price of sitting at the left and right are as easy as drinking and bathing. What they fail to understand is just how awful the ordeal will be. See the conclusion, Jesus did not come to be served, as the two disciple want to be served, he came to give his life. At the time of crisis the disciple all choose not to drink the cup or take this baptism.

              Do you seriously think any one else would read this passage and think Jesus was talking about the cup at the last supper and getting baptized?

              1. Do you seriously think any one else would read this passage and think Jesus was talking about the cup at the last supper and getting baptized?

                Joseph’s point is found often enough in the scholarly literature and some commentaries. You don’t seem to have grasped that the point many of us have been making is that Mark is written at two levels: there is the literal meaning which is all the characters in the narrative perceive, and there is the spiritual or hidden meaning which only the audience or readers of the Gospel grasp. Only the readers of the Gospel understand who Jesus really is and what he means or implies. This is widely understood and discussed in the scholarly literature.

Leave a Comment

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.