Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

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Ben C. Smith
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Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:32 pm

I have recently posted a thread about ancient book dissemination in the Classical Texts & History forum. There are two passages on that thread which I tend to regard as potentially quite relevant for our views on how the gospel of Mark came into being:

Lucian, How to Write History 47-48 (translation slightly modified from K. Kilburn in the Loeb edition, Lucian VI): 47 As to the facts themselves, [the historian] should not assemble them at random, but only after much laborious and painstaking investigation. He should for preference be an eyewitness, but, if not, listen to those who tell the more impartial story, those whom one would suppose least likely to subtract from the facts or add to them out of favor or malice. When this happens let him show shrewdness and skill in putting together the more credible story. 48 When he has collected all or most of the facts, let him first make them into a series of notes [ὑπόμνημα], a body of material as yet with no beauty or continuity [ἀκαλλές ἔτι καὶ ἀδιάρθρωτον]. Then, after arranging them into order [τὴν τάξιν], let him give it beauty and enhance it with the charms of expression, figure, and rhythm.

Galen, Concerning His Own Books, prologue: Why the many read my [books] as their own, you yourself know the reason, most excellent [κράτιστε] Bassus. For they were given to friends and disciples without inscription [χωρίς ἐπιγραφής], as nothing was for publication [οὐδὲν πρὸς ἔκδοσιν], but were made for those who requested [δεηθεῖσιν] to have notes [ὑπομνήματα] of what they heard. So, when some of them died, those with them who had them and were pleased [ἀρεσθέντες] with them began to read [ἀναγινῶσκον] them as their own. [....] ...having shared [κοινωνησάντων] them traveled to their own fatherland and, after passing some time, some here and others there began to make them into lectures [ἐπιδείξεις]. In time, after they were all exposed, many inscribed [ἐπεγράψαντο] my name on the repossessed [text]. And, having found that they differed from all the others, they carried them to me, encouraging me to rectify them. So since, as I said, they were not for publication [οὐ πρὸς ἔκδοσιν], but were according to the habit and the need [ἔξιν τε καὶ χρείαν] of those who requested [τῶν δεηθέντων] them, it was likely at any rate that some be stretched out and others pressed together, and the interpretation [ἑρμενείαν] and teaching [διδασκαλίαν] of the theorems should be either complete [τελείαν] or lacking [ἐλλιπή]. It was clear, at any rate, that those written from the things that were spoken [τοῖς εἰρημένοις] would not have the completion of the teaching, nor would have been examined accurately [διηκριβωμένον], as they neither requested [δεομένων] nor were able to learn [μανθάνειν] all things accurately [ἀκριβώς] before having some habit [ἔξιν] in the essentials. These kinds of books [βιβλία] some who came before me wrote up as outlines [ὑποτυπώσεις], just as some wrote sketches [ὑπογραφάς]. And others wrote introductions [εἰσαγωγάς] or synopses [συνόψεις] or guides [ὑφηγήσεις].

Both of these passages, one by Lucian and one by Galen, involve the first step of ancient book dissemination: the "notes" or "memoirs" stage. Lucian tells us that "a series of notes" (ὑπόμνημα) has yet to be put into "order" (τὴν τάξιν); Galen tells us that "notes" (ὑπομνήματα), which are "not (necessarily) for publication" (οὐ πρὸς ἔκδοσιν), may be distributed according to "the habit and the need" (ἔξιν τε καὶ χρείαν) "of those who have requested" (τῶν δεηθέντων) them.

These descriptions of "notes" or "memoirs" are immediately reminiscent of how Papias (or his elder) and Clement of Alexandria describe the composition of the gospel of Mark:

Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.15-16 (quoting Papias): 15 "And the elder would say this: 'Mark, who had become the interpreter [ἑρμηνευτὴς] of Peter, wrote accurately [ἀκριβῶς], yet not in order [οὐ μέντοι τάξει], as many things as he remembered of the things either said or done [λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα] by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I said, Peter, who would make the teachings [διδασκαλίας] to the needs [πρὸς τὰς χρείας], but not making them as an ordering together [οὐχ ὥσπερ σύνταξιν] of the lordly oracles [τῶν κυριακῶν... λογίων], so that Mark did not sin having thus written certain things as he remembered them. For he made one provision, to leave out nothing of the things that he heard or falsify anything in them.'" 16 These things therefore are recorded by Papias about Mark. But about Matthew he says these: "Matthew therefore in the Hebrew dialect ordered together the oracles, and each one interpreted them as he was able."

Eusebius, History of the Church 6.14.5-7: 5 And again in the same books [the Outlines] Clement sets the tradition of the earliest elders concerning the order [περὶ τῆς τάξεως] of the gospels, in this way: 6 He says that those of the gospels having the genealogies were forepublished [προγεγράφθαι], but that the gospel according to Mark had this economy: While Peter was preaching the word publicly in Rome and speaking out the gospel by the spirit, those who were present, who were many [τοὺς παρόντας, πολλοὺς ὄντας], called upon [παρακαλέσαι] Mark, as having followed him from far back and remembering what was said [μεμνημένον τῶν λεχθέντων], to write up the things that were said, and having made the gospel he gave it out to those who had requested it [μεταδοῦναι τοῖς δεομένοις αὐτοῦ]. 7 When Peter came to know, he neither directly prevented nor encouraged it. But John, last of all, knowing that the bodily facts had been made clear in the gospels, urged by friends, borne by the spirit of God, made a spiritual gospel. So much for Clement.

Papias makes the point that the gospel of Mark wrote accurately enough, but "not, however, in order" (οὐ μέντοι τάξει); and Mark wrote "to the needs" (πρὸς τὰς χρείας) of those listening to Peter. Clement says that Mark "gave out" copies of the gospel "to those requesting it" (μεταδοῦναι τοῖς δεομένοις αὐτοῦ). Another version of this Clementine trope is available earlier in Eusebius, and a third version is available from Cassiodorus:

Eusebius, History of the Church 2.15.1-2: 1 And thus when the divine word had made its home among them, the power of Simon was quenched and immediately destroyed, together with the man himself. And the light of religion lit up the minds of those who heard Peter, so much so that they were not sufficiently satisfied with one single hearing, nor with the unwritten teaching of the divine preaching [μηδὲ τῇ ἀγράφῳ τοῦ θείου κηρύγματος διδασκαλίᾳ], and with all kinds of encouragements they besought [παρακλήσεσιν] Mark, whose gospel is extant, a follower of Peter, that he might leave for them also a note in writing [διὰ γραφῆς ὑπόμνημα] of the teaching that had been delivered to them through the word, and they did not cease before prevailing with the man, and becoming the causes of this writing of the gospel called according to Mark. And they say [φασι] that the apostle, when he came to know what had been done, it having been revealed to him by the spirit, was pleased with the desire of men, and the writing was authorized for the petition of the churches [κυρῶσαί τε τὴν γραφὴν εἰς ἔντευξιν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις]. 2 Clement in the eighth of the Outlines sets forth the record, and the Heirapolitan bishop, Papias by name, also testifies with him, and they say that Peter remembers Mark in in the first epistle, which he also ordered together in Rome itself, signaling this very thing, calling the city Babylon most figuratively through these words: She who is in Babylon, elect with you, greets you, as well as Mark my son.

From the Latin translation of Clement by Cassiodorus, Adumbrationes on 1 Peter 5.13: Marcus, Petri sectator, praedicante Petro evangelium palam Romae coram quibusdam Caesareanis equitibus et multa Christi testimonia proferente, petitus ab eis ut possent quae dicebantur memoriae commendare, scripsit ex his quae a Petro dicta sunt evangelium quod secundum Marcum vocitatur, sicut Lucas quoque actus apostolorum stilo exsecutus agnoscitur [an emendation for agnosceret] et Pauli ad Hebraeos interpretatus epistolam. / Mark, follower of Peter, while Peter was preaching the gospel openly at Rome before certain Caesarean knights and proferring many testimonies of Christ, was petitioned by them that they might be able to commit what things were being said to memory, and wrote from these things that were said by Peter the gospel which is called according to Mark, just as Luke is recognized by the style both to have written the Acts of the Apostles and to have translated the epistle of Paul to the Hebrews.

The differences between these treatments of Mark's gospel are intriguing, but are beside my point for the purposes of this thread. For I am not seeking to press either Papias or Clement for genuine historical details about the origins of our second canonical gospel; rather, what impresses me is that both seem to recognize the gospel of Mark as an example of "notes" or "memoirs" — the first stage of ancient book publication. Also, both assume a didactic setting for the gospel, similar to the one which lies behind Galen's discussion of his own books. Both Papias (or his elder) and Clement, in other words, regard Mark as the kind of text which served as a first step toward a polished work, but which was itself not yet at that stage; the kind of text which was intended to be edited and published later, either by the author himself or herself or by others; the kind of text which was susceptible to being circulated in many different versions, each differing from the others.

Papias (or his elder) seems to be saying that, despite Mark belonging to this initial stage of composition, he actually wrote "accurately" (ἀκριβῶς) — recall how Galen writes that texts at this stage have not necessarily been "examined accurately" (διηκριβωμένον) yet. This comes across to me as a bit of apologetic on behalf of Mark, but overall both Papias and Clement agree that the gospel of Mark is the kind of text which belongs to the "notes" or "memoirs" stage of composition.

Ireneaus has a different take:

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1: 1 We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed "perfect knowledge," as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure [μετὰ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἔξοδον, post vero excessum], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing [ἐγγράφως ἡμῖν παραδέδωκεν, per scripta nobis tradidit] what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.

It seems evident that Irenaeus is structuring things so that the apostles (Matthew, Peter, and Paul) are ministering first, and then their followers (Luke and Mark) are writing gospels afterward. John, an apostle, writes last, but he is always a wild card. With him as the great exception, apostolic tradents precede nonapostolic tradents in this scenario. Irenaeus may be writing under the influence of something like what we find in Justin Martyr here:

Justin Martyr, Dialogue 103.8: 8 For in the memoirs which I say were ordered together by his apostles and those who followed them it is written that his sweat fell down like drops of blood while he was praying and saying: If it is possible, let this cup pass, his heart and likewise his bones trembling, his heart being like wax melting in his belly, in order that we might realize that the father wished that his own son truly be in such sufferings on our account, and that we might not say that he, being the son of God, did not feel what was happening to him and befalling him.

What matters most for my purposes here is that Irenaeus is using the language of tradition, not the language of ancient book production and dissemination. Strictly speaking, his account is able to be perfectly harmonized with those of Papias and Clement, since there is nothing preventing a period of Mark being "notes" (Clement, Papias) from preceding a moment at which Mark was officially published (Irenaeus). But, once again, justifying the historical details of the church fathers' accounts is beyond my purview here.

What Galen describes as having happened to his books, the ones which he passed out to people who made the request of him, according to their needs, sounds like chaos. He avers that the various copies thus distributed did not agree with each other. Doubtless he was constantly updating the lecture material which found its way into these "notes," and even if he did not his listeners always could for themselves. Books could even be bootlegged in antiquity, according to Quintilian (refer to that other thead of mine, linked above).

If Papias and Clement agree on the kind of text that our gospel of Mark is, then what does that mean for us? On the one hand, it does not prove that Mark was indeed that kind of text (maybe Papias and Clement are wrong; maybe Papias is not even referring to "our" Mark), nor that what happened to Galen's books also happened to Mark; on the other hand, it really does leave those options open and available. There ought to be no presumption on our parts that this sort of thing cannot have happened to Mark, at least not without serious argument against it, especially in an environment in which changes to the text may be motivated by strong theological or doctrinal views.

In my view, the gospel of Mark shows signs all over it of at least a somewhat variegated (at times haphazard) editorial process. Sometimes I get the feeling that the resistance I encounter to this notion is born of an anachronistic idea of how books are or ought to be published. This thread is a statement as to why I think that the idea that Mark was published in a clean, easy way is an assumption, not a necessary conclusion.

Ben.
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Bernard Muller
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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Bernard Muller » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:03 pm

In my view, the gospel of Mark shows signs all over it of at least a somewhat variegated (at times haphazard) editorial process. Sometimes I get the feeling that the resistance I encounter to this notion is born of an anachronistic idea of how books are or ought to be published. This thread is a statement as to why I think that the idea that Mark was published in a clean, easy way is an assumption, not a necessary conclusion.
I think that the ancient writers telling about gMark origin were making it up, including Mark as the author.
That should not matter about determining if gMark was published in a clean way or not.

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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:16 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:03 pm
In my view, the gospel of Mark shows signs all over it of at least a somewhat variegated (at times haphazard) editorial process. Sometimes I get the feeling that the resistance I encounter to this notion is born of an anachronistic idea of how books are or ought to be published. This thread is a statement as to why I think that the idea that Mark was published in a clean, easy way is an assumption, not a necessary conclusion.
I think that the ancient writers telling about gMark origin were making it up, including Mark as the author.
That should not matter about determining if gMark was published in a clean way or not.
If not (as I allow), then what evidence would help us decide, in your judgment, between Mark having been published in a messy, Galenic way and Mark having been published in a clean way?
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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:21 pm

I am reminded of a colourful illustration I saw many years ago showing Mark at his writing desk with a Roman soldier, sword raised, entering and about to slay him before he gets a chance to write verse 9 of his last chapter. Does anyone else recall that image? Where was it?

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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Bernard Muller » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:37 pm

to Ben,
If not (as I allow), then what evidence would help us decide, in your judgment, between Mark having been published in a messy, Galenic way and Mark having been published in a clean way?
I do not know. But for sure, there was nothing after 16:8 at publication. Maybe the empty tomb passage was not here either, but seems to have been added up soon after. Was the gospel duplicated then? probably not.
The mini apocalypse was possibly also an addition, but done by the original author. Same question as above, same opinion.
Also, what I consider a sure interpolation is 14:28 & 10:1. And there are others, probably, including "Son of God" in 1:1.

BTW, I do not think the gospels were published as being copied in mass & sent all over. I think the original copy was used in one community first, and then if a Christian from another community close by or passing through from far away wanted a copy, because despite the apparent flaws of the gospel, that person thought it would be beneficial, a copy would be made of the gospel (sometimes by that same person). Therefore the diffusion was slow and not systematic but rather spotty. And maybe, after consideration, the elders of the community receiving the gospel would trash it. And of course, copies (one by one) would be made from any other copies.

Cordially, Bernard
Last edited by Bernard Muller on Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:49 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:37 pm
If not (as I allow), then what evidence would help us decide, in your judgment, between Mark having been published in a messy, Galenic way and Mark having been published in a clean way?
I do not know. But for sure, there was nothing after 16:8 after publication.
Well, I tend to disagree with that, but we already knew this.
Maybe the empty tomb passage was not here either, but seems to have been added up soon after. Was the gospel duplicated then? probably not.
See? You already have an accretional, differential view of the text to some extent. You already avoid making the sheer assumption that what we have is exactly what Mark wrote and published.
Also, what I consider a sure interpolation is 14:28 & 10:1. And there are others, probably, including "Son of God" in 1:1.
I tend to agree on 14.28 (possibly also 16.7, as well, though I know you explain that differently) and 1.1. I would like to hear what you have to say about 10.1, since I have not looked into that one.
BTW, I do not think the gospels were published as being copied in mass & send all over. I think the original copy was used in one community first, and then if a Christian from another community close by or passing through from far away wanted a copy, because despite the apparent flaws of the gospel, that person thought it would be beneficial, a copy would be made of the gospel (sometimes by that same person). Therefore the diffusion was slow and not systematic but rather spotty. And maybe, after consideration, the elders of the community receiving the gospel would trash it. And of course, copies (one by one) would be made from any other copies.
None of this is implausible (though I am not necessarily sure about any of it, either). I think you and I are on the same page, for the most part, from a theoretical perspective; where we disagree is on exactly which parts have been added to what.

My point on this thread, as stated in the OP, is not to argue that Papias and Clement were recounting historically correct information about Mark. Rather, my point is that we cannot in advance decide that Mark had to have a publication of the kind that Lucian ascribes to the second phase of ancient book publication, much less one of the kind that modern books enjoy. Mark may have been a text of the first phase instead, one distributed informally, as Galen describes. The fact that both Papias and Clement actually seem to regard it as such a text makes that possibility all the more plausible.
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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Bernard Muller » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:39 pm

to Ben,
I would like to hear what you have to say about 10.1, since I have not looked into that one.
The explanation is here http://historical-jesus.info/appg.html, then "find" on: Mk10:1

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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:56 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:39 pm
to Ben,
I would like to hear what you have to say about 10.1, since I have not looked into that one.
The explanation is here http://historical-jesus.info/appg.html, then "find" on: Mk10:1

Cordially, Bernard
Okay, I had noticed the potential problem with the house in 10.10 before, but no solution had occurred to me yet. Very interesting. Thanks.
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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:15 pm

If the second gospel never got beyond the notes stage of composition the question that arises is why it survived as a gospel in its own right given that Matthew and Luke took it over and incorporated those "notes" in their own gospels while removing some of the "humanizing crudities" of the portrayal of Jesus and uncomfortably ambiguous theological messages in the process.

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Re: Lucian, Galen, and the gospel of Mark.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:30 pm

Treating Mark as a ὑπόμνημα could imply that Mark was the source for something else. The Letter to Theodore speaks of Peter having 'notes' and Mark adding his own 'notes' to that composition opening the door to a text like the Gospel of Peter predating Mark.
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