Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why Galilee?

Earlier I was contemplating the literary nature of Mark's gospel, and while I can fairly convincingly (to my mind, at least) explain most of it as purely literary, with a theological aim, something struck me particularly.

The itinerary from Galilee to Jerusalem is notoriously chaotic, forced and nonsensical.

Why does he start in Galilee in the first place?

Mark knows, from the outset, that his story ends in Jerusalem.  If he truly has carte blanche, why the hell does he start in Galilee?

Doherty's "Galilean tradition" fails to convince me of its merit in explaining this, not least (not even close to least) because of its dependence on Q as representing the Galilean movement (without Q there is no Pre-Markan "Galilean tradition" in evidence).  I've long suspected his case could be modified toward Mark without Q, and have suggested to Earl that it isn't essential to his case.  But further reflection leads me to suspect that he saw something I didn't:  It is essential, there needs to be a justification for Jesus in Galilee.

This doesn't mean it couldn't be modified sufficiently, but it would require such a degree that it really wouldn't be Earl's anymore, it would be a case inspired by Earl's, in the sense that Sanders is inspired by Schweitzer.  I might play around with the idea a bit, color me intrigued.

Just thinking out loud...or thinking in text.


VinnyJH57 said...

I do think that this one of the few applications of the criteria of embarrassment that carries any weight.

On the other hand, Maybe the visions of the risen Christ took place in Galilee and Mark was constrained by that to place significant aspects of the story there.

Rick Sumner said...

But why would that demand the earlier placement in Galilee? Why not include resurrection experiences there? Why not have Jesus call Galilean disciples in Judea?

I just get the sense that Mark knew his story must begin in Galilee and end in Jerusalem, and makes whatever convoluted itinerary he can come up with. The trip is less important to him than the locations for the start and finish. And I don't get why the start is so important--important enough to force the story to conform.

VinnyJH57 said...

It might be a case of competing factions within the early church. By placing Jesus's earthly ministry primarily in Galilee, Mark may be trying to pump up the status of a group who claimed to have witnessed appearances there.

On the other hand, if Mark was the first one to historicize a supernatural being who had previously been known only by revelation, maybe it was necessary to locate his earthly existence in a more remote spot then Jerusalem. Mark could be setting up an explanation why these stories hadn't been heard before (like he might doing when he has the women run from the tomb without telling anyone what they have seen).

A big problem with the criteria of embarrassment is understanding the circumstances under which a story was created and the rhetorical purposes that its creator might have had.

Another problem is the assumption that someone will make up the best possible story to serve whatever purpose he had. People frequently do not recognize the gaping holes and obvious problems in the stories they invent. The fact that we can see how much better the story would have worked if Mark had placed it entirely in Judea (assuming that's true) isn't any reason to think that the thought would necessarily have occurred to him.