Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mark and Q, Part 3 (reblogged due to technical difficulties)

...if these coincidences were explained by the Markan knowledge of Q. At first sight the similar divergences of Matthew and Luke from Mark give reason to believe that Mark is not their only common source. The deviations from Mark are then explained by means of Q. But, as soon as Q is reconstructed, one should conclude that it was also Mark's source. So far as I see, this result simply contradicts the premise, which should consequently lead to a re-evaluation of the premise. That is to say, if Mark used Q as a source, Q can no longer be reconstructed only on the basis of Matthew and Luke"(Dunderberg 1995, p502).
I have decided that the AntiQues are correct and there is no Q. Basically, I've come to the conclusion that Mark is Q, so to speak: it was Mark's use/invention of chreia that inspired Matthew to go out and get even more. And then Luke copied Matthew....

This is the third post of a series that attempts to show that the Ba'al-zebub reference in Mark 3 provides evidence that Mark is the original author of this passage. I previously blogged on the Beelzebub reference in Mark 3, which apparently contains at least one Markan theme. I would now like to identify another stylistic feature of Markan usage that appears in all three Synoptic gospels that strongly suggests that the originator of the Ba'al-Zebub story is in fact the writer of Mark. In the blog entry on Markan Interreferences I pointed out a feature of the writer: he tends to cite passages in one place that he parallels elsewhere in the Gospel. Here in Mark 3:20-30 is a good example of that.

Recall that the term "Be-el'zebul" occurs only once in the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 1. The complete sequence of 2 Kings 1:1-8 runs:

1: After Ahab's death, Moab rebelled against Israel. 2: Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, "Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury." 3: But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, "Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?' 4: Therefore this is what the LORD says: 'You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!' " So Elijah went. 5: When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, "Why have you come back?" 6: "A man came to meet us," they replied. "And he said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, "This is what the LORD says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending men to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!" 7: The king asked them, "What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?" 8: They replied, "He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist." The king said, "That was Elijah the Tishbite." (NIV)

There are numerous mentions of demons Old Testament, some more than once, in addition to the Jewish apocryphal literature such as 1 Enoch and texts like The Testament of Solomon. Why pick this one? The mention of Ba'al-Zebub is a like a flare launched out of the Old Testament to attract the reader back to 2 Kings (although in the LXX of Kings the name is slightly different). There are reader will discover that the writer of Mark has paralleled this passage twice before in his Gospel. First, in Mk 1:1-8, he uses it to describe John the Baptist:

2 Kings 1:8
8: They replied, "He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist." The king said, "That was Elijah the Tishbite." (NIV)

Mark 1:6
6: Now John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey.

Next, in the conflict story of Mk 2:1-12, the writer offers us a version of the death of King Ahaziah (Price 2000). The paralytic is lowered through the roof, while the King falls through a lattice. The paralytic is healed because he has faith in Jesus, while the King dies because he does not have faith in God. The writer is using the story in 2 Kings to comment on the story he is writing, a splendid example of his hypertextual skills. The mention of Ba'al-Zebub is there to make sure that we do what generations of readers have done, go back to 2 Kings and see what it says there, and then reflect back on the story of the writer of Mark. Note that in 2 Kings 1:8, it is the King himself who identifies Elijah. The writer of Mark probably wants the reader to go back and complete the quotation and thus find out who John is.

In sum, Mk 3:22 presents us with a textbook example of a Markan interreference, a stylistic feature that is a creation of the hand of Mark. That has certain implications for the Mark-Q overlaps.

Both of these passages, Mark 3:20-3:30 (Beelzebub Controversy) and Mark 2:1-12 (Healing of the Paralytic) are preserved in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, who got them from Mark. Matthew dropped the sequence about being the paralytic being lowered through the roof.

According to Fledderman (2001), the writer of Mark derived this from Q, based on the facts that (1) the material shared with Q is in the same order; (2) the Markan version has features derived from Q; and (3), the rhetorical question "How can Satan cast out Satan?" is derived from elements in the Q controversy; and, (4) the author of Mark combined two Q sayings. Fledderman notes three additional facts: that Mark's version is shorter, that the parts are scattered all over Q, and that there are no parts of Mark's text without a Q counterpart. Fledderman also observes that the Markan elements are scattered all over Q, and that there are no parts that do not have a Q counterpart. "Everything in Mark comes from Q" he tersely concludes (p27). Fledderman also claims that the charge that Jesus is possessed by Ba'al-Zebub comes from the claim in Q that John was possessed of a demon.

Let's examine these from the point of view of the typical behavior of the author of Mark. As the last shall be first, let's start with the claim that the writer of Mark derived his idea of Jesus' demon possession from Q. The Q-text Matt 11:18 (Luke 7:33) says:

16: “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17: “ ‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance; we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.’
18: For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

Fledderman is claiming essentially that the writer of Mark saw this in a text that was later used by Matthew and Luke, and copied it over to Jesus. Recall that the Christology of the writer of Mark is Adoptionist. Let's envision two scenarios:

1. The writer of Mark needs a story to explain that the family was upset by their child's sudden imagining that he is the Adopted Son of God (see commentary on Mk 3:20-30 for further comments). He invents a story about people claiming that Ba'al-Zebub is possessing Jesus, selecting that particular demon out of the many in the Jewish literature and tradition of antiquity in the usual Markan style referring back to passages he has already paralleled. Further, the writer enjoys hiding ironic truths in errors of indentification by the characters, especially Jesus' opponents, in his gospel -- Jesus is in fact possessed, but by God, not by a demon. Later on Matthew picks up the story from Mark. Matthew's Christology is "higher" -- he thinks Jesus is God's Son from the beginning, so there can be no hint that Jesus is possessed by a demon. Therefore he transfers the demon to John, who after all is only a human and in any case a rival of Jesus. Not having any particular reason to prefer Ba'al-Zebub over other demons, Matthew does away with the name -- he has also eliminated the parallel to 2 Kings 1 in his story about the paralytic -- and simply refers to an unnamed "demon." Always willing to play Salieri to Mark's Mozart, Matthew thus eliminates the dancing Markan irony in favor of lurching Matthean didacticism.
2. The writer of Q invents or preserves a story about people claiming John is possessed by a demon (why?). Matthew incorporates it into his Gospel. Meanwhile the writer of Mark discovers Q. Ignoring the rich vein of material in Q so much like the other sayings he preserves, he zeroes in on this offhand remark about John and realizes he can use it for his story about Jesus' family. What a coincidence, eh? He can even use the name 'Ba'al-Zebub' which by happy chance can refer back to two earlier episodes in the Gospel. What luck! And even better, Jesus possessed by a demon is richly ironic, given the writer's Adoptionist Christology.

In case 1, the inclusion of Ba'al-Zebub is the result of the writer of Mark's careful craftsmanship. In case 2, it is the result of a lucky discovery in Q.

The remaining items do not constitute an argument either for or against Markan dependence on Q. The fact that Markan elements are scattered all over Q, and that there are no parts that do not have a Q counterpart, is explainable in a more parimonious fashion through Matthew's dependence on Mark. One need only glance at the passage above to note that Matthew has yoked a charge of being a glutton, derived ultimately from Mk 2:13-17 and before that, perhaps from Galatians, to the charge that John has a demon from Q. No matter which way we opt, for Markan priority and no Q, or Q priority and Markan dependence on Q, we are still stuck with an author taking passages from all over sources and sticking them together to make new passages. "Scattered material" cannot be an argument against anything.

The remaining arguments of Fledderman are explainable under either interpretive framework. If the material shared with Q is in the same order, surely that reflects Matthean dependence on Mark, which we already know is a fact. If the Markan version has features derived from Q that can hardly be surprising, since Matthew copied Mark. This same fact also explains how the rhetorical question "How can Satan cast out Satan?" is derived from elements in the Q controversy. One might note that on p25 Fledderman states: "If we examine Mark's version of the Beelzebub controversy, we note a conscious design that bears Mark's imprint." I couldn't agree more.

A further problem with Fledderman's thesis is that "Beelzebub" pops up in all three versions of the controversy. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have it:

The problem is plain. On Fledderman's thesis, Matthew and Luke derived these sequences from Q rather than from Mark. But if that is the case, what is Q doing with "Beelzebub" in it? In the Gospel of Mark "Beelzebub" fits into a rich system of allusions to the OT arranged by the writer of Mark, and is a Markan stylistic feature (interreference) like approximately a dozen similar features elsewhere in the Gospel. These allusions were not incorporated into Matthew (Matthew drops the story of the paralytic being lowered through the roof), so what is the name "Beelzebub" doing in Matthew? Any of several demons or an unnamed demon will do just as well. Unless it came to Matthew through Mark, there is no reason for it to be there at all. The word "Beelzebub" is a finger that points directly to the writer of Mark, and to Markan creativity in the heart of Q.


Anonymous said...

You got rid of my nice comments!

to summarize:

1) This argument relies heavily on parsimony/Occam's razor (i.e. multiple possibilities for composition and nature of "Q"
2) Absence of Bethsaida section in Luke is more interesting problem, IMO.


Michael Turton said...

(1) Yes. True.

(2) Yes. I'll see what I can do about that soon. I'm still working out how much of Bethsaida I accept as Markan. The second feeding is particularly vexing.