Monday, October 13, 2008

Mark and Matthew: Intertextuality Continues

So, last week we looked at how the historical Daniel (whose story is in Daniel chapters 1-6) was remembered in the 2nd century BCE (through the visions in Daniel chapters 7-12), as the people of Israel faced a national calamity similar to what Daniel faced. Then, 200 years later, Mark employed some of the language from Daniel 7-12 as he told the story of Jesus at the temple; Mark was addressing the calamity of his day, when the temple was destroyed once again. I'll see if I can graph it for you:

6th century BCE: Babylon destroys temple; Daniels is faithful; Daniel chapters 1-6 tell the story.
2nd century BCE: Greece destroys temple; Daniel is remembered; Daniel chapters 7-12 interpret the events.
65-70 CE: Rome destroys temple; Daniel's memory is remembered; Mark 13 interprets the event.

(Please bear in mind that I blog off the top of my head, so if my dates are a little off, just let me know and we'll roll with it. But, let's not miss the point by quibbling over details unless they are critical.)

Most biblical scholars date Mark's gospel around 65-70 CE, during the time of the Jewish rebellion, the Roman response, the siege of Jerusalem, and finally the destruction of the temple. The 'intertextuality' here is Mark's use of Daniel's language. First, there is the explicit use of the phrase "desolating sacrilege" to refer, in Daniel, to the event when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple and, in Mark, to the destruction of the temple by the Romans. Second, there is Mark's messianic use of "the Son of Man coming in the clouds" to describe the redemption that will follow the calamities.

Most biblical scholars also believe that Matthew was written at least a decade after Mark. Of course there are differences of opinion here. Many conservative scholars want to deny influence of one gospel on another at all, because that seems to mess with their understanding of 'inspiration' as something like divine dictation. But, even among scholars who do not operate out of that kind of defensiveness, there is some question about whether Matthew was written before Mark, or the other way around. The majority, however, date Mark as being earlier than Matthew. I'm in that camp also, but I am only a minor thinker in this affair.

If we accept the most common dating of Matthew- say, 85 CE or so- then the destruction of Jerusalem is a done deal by the time Matthew is writing. So, we go into Matthew wondering how the conversations and pronouncements of Mark 13 look in a gospel that is written later. Here are some observations, first about Matthew in general and then about Matthew's adoption and adaptation of Mark 13.

1. Matthew, for the most part, follows the outline of Mark's gospel. So does Luke, by the way.
2. There are parts of Matthew that he shares in common with Luke that are not in Mark. (Biblical scholars call this "Q" as a source that Matthew and Luke have in common in addition to Mark as their primary source.)
3. There are parts of Matthew that are unique to Matthew. Biblical scholars generally refer to these sections as 'M'. That shows that biblical scholars, on the whole, are not very creative.
4. I read Matthew's (and Luke's) inclusion of so much of Mark's gospel into his own as a sign of having great regard for Mark's gospel. Remember, there were many different 'gospels' popping up all over the place over the first few centuries of the Christian church, so for Matthew to say that this particular gospel merits adoption is saying something!

5.Pertaining to Mark's 13th chapter, after the ordeal with the temple is past: Matthew takes some of Mark's language and changes it. Below is Matthew 24:15-22. In red are the things that Matthew adds to Mark's version; in green are the things that Matthew deletes from Mark's version.

‘So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing where it ought not to be in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect he has cut short those days those days will be cut short.

- Matthew makes sure that the reader knows that the 'desolating sacrilege' is a reference to Daniel. Perhaps that is what Matthew thought Mark meant by the parenthetical phrase 'let the reader understand.' My guess- and who am I compared to Matthew?- is that Mark was using the phrase 'let the reader understand' as a way of pointing from Daniel to the current situation at the temple; whereas Matthew uses it to point to Daniel as the origin of the language. I do not think Matthew has the destruction of the temple in view like Mark did.
- Matthew adds 'or on a Sabbath' as the worst time for having to flee. It might be that Matthew is writing to a more Jewish Christian audience and Mark to more Gentile Christians.
- Matthew does not adopts Mark's past tense to say that 'those days' have already been cut short. I think this is because Mark is looking at the destruction of Jerusalem, while Matthew is looking at some event that still lies in the future.

Tomorrow, we'll look at where Matthew eventually takes this text. If you want to read ahead, look at Matthew chapters 24 and 25 then compare that to Mark 13 and what follows. We'll pick it up there.

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