Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 14

I have decided to publish all of the notes I made on this chapter (it is one of the most fascinating and suggestive of all), and so it will again be a three-part summary. From chapter 8 onwards I shall attempt to keep it down to one post per chapter.

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 7. The Petrine Perspective in the Gospel of Mark

‘Mark’s Gospel not only, by its use of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony, claims Peter as its main eyewitness source; it also tells the story predominantly (though by no means exclusively) from Peter’s perspective’
In the previous chapter Bauckham maintained that the identified literary inclusio established Peter as the key eyewitness for the Markan Gospel. However, what further evidence would suggest that the Gospel of Mark involves a particularly Petrine perspective? While modern scholarship tends to reject the claim of Papias that the Markan Gospel was based on Peter’s sermons, or even that it displays Petrine influence, Bauckham, in this chapter, will argue that there is good internal evidence in the Gospel of Mark for just such a Petrine perspective (chapter 9 will look more closely at Papias’ claims regarding Mark’s Gospel).

The first step in his argument builds upon the neglected article by C Turner published in 1925. Turner argued that the Gospel tells the story from the perspective of one of the Twelve, and this must be Peter. In particular:

‘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’ [For example, ‘They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat’ (5:1-2)]
Bauckham calls this the plural-to-single narrative device. However, it is an unusual phenomenon for there is a distinction in the words not only between first- and third-person, but also between plural and singular. What is the significance of this? Citing Turner:

‘[T]he natural and obvious explanation is that we have before us the experience of a disciple and apostle who tells the story from the point of view of an eyewitness and companion, who puts himself in the same group as the Master.... Matthew and Luke are Christian historians who stand away from the events, and concentrate their narrative on the central figure’
Hence, this device shows us that Mark contains a literary feature that emphasises ‘the “point of view” of the group of disciples or of someone within the group’ [italics mine]. A comparison of the use of this phenomenon with parallels in Matthew and Luke, demonstrates the use of this device as ‘overwhelmingly Markan’. Furthermore, the textual critical questions surrounding the instances of Mark’s use of the device, while not reason to doubt the authenticity of the device, show that it was felt to be an unnatural literary occurrence. So why does it exist in Mark? On top of this, the Markan use of the plural-to-singular device appears to be deliberately associated with the Markan inclusio (as discussed in the previous chapter), and appears intentionally maintained in Mark through entire pericopae to emphasise a certain perspective. These observations have important consequences that shall be revisited, but before the significance of these observations can be appreciated, Bauckham covers a little more ground.

Those scholars engaged in narratological analysis of Mark’s Gospel, and the ‘point of view’ expressed, have long recognised the presence of what is called an ‘omniscient narrator’. However, not only have they failed notice the presence of the plural-to-singular device, the significance of the ‘internal vocalisation’ perspective which ‘enables readers to view the scene from the vantage point, spatial and (optionally) also psychological, of a character within the story’, has been neglected. The function of the device understood in light of narratological study is, as Bauckham shows, to get ‘readers into spatial position vis-à-vis the scene in which Jesus then acts’.

Bauckham’s emphasis on the deliberate Markan use of the device, and its relation to the inclusio, raises an important question for which the previous observations are relevant. While Mark’s deliberate employment of the literary device speaks against Turner’s claim that the phenomenon is ‘a mere relic of the way Peter told his stories orally’, does this mean the device was only a literary device and not reflective of a genuine Petrine perspective? First the unnaturalness of the literary structure, as noted above, makes this unlikely. Furthermore, such a view doesn’t take into consideration the fact that Mark appears to use this device in association with the inclusio. Related as it is to the inclusio, Bauckham concludes:
‘While the Petrine inclusio is Mark’s literary means of indicating Peter as the main eyewitness source of the Gospel, the plural-to-singular narrative device appropriately makes the dominant perspective (internal focalization) within the Gospel's narrative the perspective of Peter and those closest to him’
Therefore, the device functions, in effect, as ‘Mark’s way of deliberately reproducing in his narrative the first-person perspective - the “we” perspective - from which Peter naturally told his stories’.

(Artwork from and

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