Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 12
This is a truly fascinating section in Bauckham’s argument. Enjoy the read!
Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.
The inclusio of eyewitness testimony
Do the other Gospels evidence anything comparable to Luke’s prologue? Building on the key observation made explicit in Luke’s prologue - that principal eyewitnesses were those who had been present ‘from the beginning’ - Bauckham argues that the Gospels evidence a ‘literary device’ used to mark the principal eyewitnesses. This is a bold move, and one can arguably appreciate this suggestion only in the light of his case concerning the importance of principal eyewitnesses in ancient historiographical practice.
This ‘device’ found first in Mark’s Gospel, and observed in the mention of Peter’s name at both the beginning and end of the story, emphases that this eyewitness was present from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry. The first reference (1:16) involve as an awkward double mention of Simon’s name, while the final reference in 16:7 forms ‘an inclusio around the whole story’. What evidence is there to support this claim?
First, Papias’s witness always suggested Peter’s hand in the Markan Gospel. [Bauckham’s whole argument will thus fly in the face of Joel Marcus’ claim that ‘were it not for Papias, one would never suspect that the Second Gospel were particularly Petrine.’ J. Marcus, Mark 1-8 (AB27; New York: Doubleday, 1999) 24.]. Second, the frequency of Peter’s name in Mark’s Gospel is indicative of the important part Peter played in this narrative. Third, Peter ‘is actually present through a large proportion of the narrative from 1:16 to 14:72’. However, also important is the evidence that comes to light when this inclusio device in Mark is compared with its reception and change in the Gospels of John and Luke.
Both John and Luke preserve the Markan ‘Petrine inclusio’, thus indicating their indebtedness to the Petrine testimony within Mark which they use for their own Gospels. However, the inclusio is altered by both J and L in such a way that indicates its presence was recognised by both John and Luke, and was exploited to make a different claim. Bauckham’s analysis of the material in the fourth Gospel leads to the conclusion that John:
‘uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to privilege the witness of the Beloved Disciple, which this Gospel embodies. It does so, however, not simply by ignoring the Petrine inclusio of Mark’s Gospel, but by enclosing a Petrine inclusio within its inclusio of the Beloved Disciple’ (129).The beloved disciple is introduced at the beginning of the narrative unobtrusively ‘but rather immodestly in that he displaces Peter from the position of absolute priority’. Put directly: ‘John’s Gospel thus uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to privilege the witness of the Beloved Disciple’. Indeed, John’s Gospel seems to imply a friendly competition between Peter and the Beloved disciple such that the importance of the Petrine testimony (via Mark – Bauckham considers it most plausible that John expected his readers knew of Mark [R. Bauckham, ‘John for Readers of Mark,’ in R. Bauckham ed., The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1997) 147-171.]) is played off against that of John. Bauckham sums up:
‘So three of the four Gospels evidently work quite deliberately with the idea that a Gospel, since it tells the whole story of Jesus, must embody the testimony of witnesses who were participants in the story from beginning to end - from the time of John the Baptist’s ministry to the time of the resurrection appearances. These three Gospels all use the literary device of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to indicate the main eyewitness source of their story. This does not, of course, exclude the appropriation also of material from other eyewitnesses, and we shall see that these Gospels also do that’ (131)Matthew’s Gospel seems uninterested in alluding to the principle of eyewitness testimony, a point coherent with the uniquely Matthian feature that he adds no names ‘to those occurring already in Mark, while actually dropping several of the names in Mark’ (132). However, Luke’s Gospel, like John’s, shows a striking re-appropriation of Mark’s inclusio, and includes another of his own indicating the presence of the female eyewitness sources. While Luke is, like John, dependant on the Petrine tradition through Mark, and indicates this in the broadest inclusio, the mention of the names of the women in Luke at both 8:2-3 and 24:5-7 form another inclusio, ‘bracketing all but the earliest part of Jesus’ ministry’, indicating Luke’s reliance on their testimony. Striking is that Luke doesn’t refer to the women by name, as does Matthew, Mark and John, when they are present at the cross. ‘Instead, he reserves that information until the end of his story of the women’s visit to the empty tomb: ‘Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles (24:10).’ This implies that Luke was careful to only name the women to indicate the end of the inclusio of their eyewitness.
Naturally, a question that would be interesting to pursue involves the nature and significance of Matthew’s Gospel, especially if it seems not to allude to eyewitness testimony.