Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 17
OK, the Zionism podcast will have to wait till probably tomorrow. Back to Bauckham. Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.
Chapter 8. Anonymous Persons in Mark's Passion Narrative
Gerd Theissen (cf. the picture) has argued that ‘various features of Mark’s passion narrative reflect the situation of the Jerusalem church in or around the decade 40-50 C.E’. He does this by suggesting an answer to the strange anonymity of two unnamed persons in Gethsemane, namely that ‘[t]heir anonymity is for their protection’. The pre-Markan source thus deliberately omits the names of certain characters in order to keep them safe from trouble were the texts to fall in to the wrong hands. This helps Theissen date the source as ‘[o]nly in Jerusalem was there reason to draw a cloak of anonymity over followers of Jesus who had endangered themselves by their actions’. This protective anonymity is also reflected in Mark’s naming of Pilate, but not of the high priest Caiaphas:
‘The power of the house of Annas and their hostility to Christians would have made it diplomatic for Christian traditions formed in Jerusalem in that period not to refer explicitly to the name of Caiaphas in an account of the death of Jesus. Pilate, on the other hand, was a quite different case’.In this chapter, Bauckham takes Theissen’s arguments further. First, he analyses the narrative in Mark 11:1-7 and argues that the owner of the colt was kept anonymous as he could be understood to be a ‘complicit in a politically subversive act’. A similar analysis proceeds in relation to Mark 14:12-16 and the Passover meal such that Bauckham can claim that these ‘two stories do give us a sense of the danger, not only to Jesus but to those close to him, during his last days in Jerusalem and the secrecy and subterfuge this required’.
Bauckham then extends this line of reasoning to Mark 14:3-9 and the case of the woman who anointed Jesus. Even though Jesus says that ‘what she has done will be told in remembrance of her’, her name is nevertheless omitted! What can account for this oddity? Bauckham suggests:
‘At the time when this tradition took shape in this form in the early Jerusalem church, this woman would be in danger were she identified as having been complicit in Jesus’ politically subversive claim to messianic kingship. Her danger was perhaps even greater than that of the man who attacked the servant of the high priest, for it was she who had anointed Jesus as Messiah’.Furthermore, Bauckham also points out the potential significance of Mark’s placing this story between the plot to kill Jesus (14:1-2) and his account of Judas’ visit to the chief priests (14:10-11), arguing that ‘[w]e should surely understand that Judas reports the incident of the anointing to the chief priests’. What is more, the Markan downplaying of the Messianic significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his temple ‘cleansing’ and the anointing can also be explained as a protective mechanism for the early Jerusalem Christian community.
The significance of this is highlighted when it is noticed that the anonymous persons in Mark are named in John (cf. John 12:3; 18:10). Bauckham has already argued that the addition of names to a tradition was rare before the fourth century, so it appears likely that John could add these, among other reasons, because the time of immediate danger had passed for the early Christian community in terms of the matters related to in these Markan narratives.
This reasoning can also explain the absence of the Lazarus account in all traditions bar John. ‘For Lazarus’, Bauckham argues, ‘“protective anonymity” had to take the form of his total absence from the story as it was publicly told’. Bauckham speculates further. It seems likely that the ‘naked youth’ in Mark 14:51-52 was not only a Christian, but also was the eyewitness to this tradition. The question arises as to why he was left unnamed, as part of Bauckham’s whole argument is that eyewitnesses were named in the Gospel traditions. In this case, and overriding the convention of naming eyewitnesses, the young man needed to remain under ‘protective anonymity’. Putting the pieces together, one can speculate that Lazarus was the ‘young man’ as the premise that he was a wanted man ‘would explain both the fact that there was an attempt to arrest the young man and that he is anonymous in Mark’s story’. This is indeed detective work of the highest quality!