Friday, February 09, 2007

Mark's Gospel Of Peter

"We have seen that Mark's Gospel has the highest frequency of reference to Peter among the Gospels, and that it uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony to indicate that Peter was its main eyewitness source....In a neglected article published in 1925, Cuthbert Turner argued that a characteristic aspect of Mark's narrative composition shows that the story is told from the perspective of a member of the Twelve and that this must be because Mark closely reproduces the way Peter told the story. Major English Gospels scholars of the mid-twentieth century were impressed by the evidence: Thomas Manson accepted the argument but proposed that it be used to distinguish Petrine and non-Petrine sources in Mark, while Vincent Taylor, though partly critical, thought that 'it would be fair to claim that these usages suggest that Mark stands nearer to primitive testimony than Matthew or Luke.' I am not aware that the evidence adduced by Turner has been subsequently discussed, but it certainly deserves reconsideration. Turner drew attention to twenty-one passages in Mark in which a plural verb (or more than one plural verb), without an explicit subject, is used to describe the movements of Jesus and his disciples, followed immediately by a singular verb or pronoun referring to Jesus alone....Matthew and Luke have a clear tendency to prefer a singular verb to Mark's plurals encompassing both Jesus and the disciples. Moreover, this same tendency is also, very strikingly, reflected in the variant readings of Mark. In no less than eleven of Mark's twenty-one instances of this narrative feature, there is a variant reading (more or less well supported) that offers a singular verb in place of the plural....Turner thought the Markan third-person plurals in these passages were modifications of a first-person plural, used by an eyewitness 'to whom the plural came natural as being himself an actor in the events he relates.' If 'we' is substituted for 'they' in these passages, they read more naturally, since a distinction between first and third-person is then added to the difference between plural and singular. Turner argued that one passage, awkwardly expressed in Mark's Greek, makes better sense if an underlying 'we' is reconstructed. This is 1:29, where the 'they' can scarcely include more people than Jesus, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, since these four are so far the only disciples (cf. 1:21): [quoting Cuthbert Turner] In one passage in particular, i.29, 'they left the synagogue and came into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John', the hypothesis that the third person plural of Mark represents a first person plural of Peter makes what as it stands is a curiously awkward phrase into a phrase which is quite easy and coherent. 'We left the synagogue and came into our house with our fellow-disciples James and John. My mother-in-law was in bed with fever, and he is told about her....' [end quote of Cuthbert Turner]...Turner was right to see this narrative feature as adopting the 'point of view' of the group of disciples or of someone within the group. If we are to construe this point of view consistently through all these passages, then it should be that of one of the inner group of disciples - Peter, James, and John - since in some cases it is only they and Jesus who are the understood subject of the plural verb....Peter is both the first and the last disciple to be named in the Gospel, encompassing the whole scope of Jesus' ministry, while Peter is also the most often named disciple in Mark, as well as being named proportionately more often in Mark than in the other Gospels. It is also relevant to observe that Mark first uses the plural-to-singular narrative devise on the first and last occasions Jesus goes anywhere with a group of disciples (1:21, 14:32)....Several literary features combine to give readers/hearers Peter's 'point of view' (internal focalization), usually spatial and visual or auditory, sometimes also psychological. It is this literary construction of the Petrine perspective that has so far gone almost unnoticed in Markan scholarship. Not only has Mark carefully constructed the Petrine perspective; he has also integrated it into his overall concerns and aims in the Gospel so that it serves Mark's dominant focus on the identity of Jesus and the nature of discipleship. Thus, in deliberately preserving the perspective of his main eyewitness source through much of the Gospel, Mark is no less a real author creating his own Gospel out of the traditions he had from Peter (as well as, probably, some others). The perspective is that of Peter among the disciples, whether the inner group of three or more generally the Twelve. The perspective is Peter's 'we' perspective, the perspective of Peter qua member of the group of disciples, rather than an 'I' perspective, that of an individual relating to Jesus without reference to the is Peter's teaching, not his autobiographical reminiscence, that lies behind Mark's Gospel. The Gospel reflects the way Peter, as an apostle commissioned to communicate the gospel of salvation, conveyed the body of eyewitness traditions that he and other members of the Twelve had officially formulated and promulgated....The author of Mark seems to have been bilingual, competent in both Greek and Aramaic, a characteristic that suggests a Palestinian, and most plausibly a Jerusalem Jew. Martin Hengel points to the many Aramaic terms that have been preserved in the Gospel: 'I do not know any other work in Greek which has so many Aramaic or Hebrew words and formulae in so narrow a space.' More recently Maurice Casey has argued that substantial parts, at least, of this Gospel were translated from Aramaic." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 155-159, 161, 179-180, 239)


  1. > "that it uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony"

    "Inclusio"? Is this a mistyping, or are you copying that trick that Catholic and High Anglican writers do of replacing or following a common English word with an obvious Latin cognate so as to drive home the gap-toothed backwoods Fundoes that theology is a complex, nuanced field with subtle terms that are easily lost in translation? You know, "Last week I went to the local store (ad negotium localem) and bought a hot dog with the works (cum operibus canem calorem) that was so anti-Catholic it gave me (ad mihi davit) gastro..." and so forth.

  2. Tom,

    Actually, "inclusio" is a Mafia codeword. So if they "inclusio" any "eyewitness testimony" then we can deduce with relative certainty that Guido's gonna walk again.

  3. Think of an inclusio as bookends, or associate it with the word inclusion. Bauckham argues for multiple forms of inclusio in the gospels and ancient extra-Biblical literature, and the Petrine inclusio in Mark's gospel is found in Mark 1:16 and 16:7. Peter is the first disciple named and the last one named. The first reference, in 1:16, emphasizes Peter's name by using it twice, even though Mark could have used "his" rather than "Simon's". The second reference to Peter in the inclusio, in 16:7, is awkward in that Peter's inclusion among the disciples is a given, yet Peter is singled out by name. The parallel passages in Matthew and Luke don't include the singling out of Peter. Bauckham argues that the inclusio was used to identify an author's sources.

  4. Fascinating that you should be posting on the very book (and chapter) I'm reading now.


  5. Thanks, Jason. That particular expression (expressio) was not familiar (familiaris) to me.