Good input, Neil Godfrey. The border between history writing and fiction was blurred, which can help to explain why Mark apparantly felt free to 'invent' history in the manner he obviously did. And his three successors likewise. I'm not familiar with Friedmann's and Mandell's book, but I think that there are certain unique aspects of Jewish scriptures which makes it hard if not impossible to compare them with anything else at the time. First of all the way that these scriptures were understood and interpreted by all kinds of Jewish groupings in a harmonzing manner so as to abstract from them one perfect, unified world history which runs from beginning to end. And this was a century old tradition through generations. The very concept of even being a "Jew" can reasonably be said to have been constituted by this very interpretation activity in itself (and still is today maybe). A "Jew" was de facto somebody who interpreted these specific prophetic writings in a certain manner. And the scriptures were prophetic all of them, even the history books of the OT were themselves generally considered prophetic revelations authored by God himself, not by historians that conveyed these prophecies of old.neilgodfrey wrote: ↑Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:41 pmThe use of prophecy was a stock tool for driving the plot of both fiction and history.
Herodotus, the "father of history", narrated many instances of prophetic utterances of the Delphic oracle and it has been argued that Herodotus's Histories was as theological in function as the Hebrew Bible's history books -- meant to teach the power of Apollo and need to submit to his will.
Homer's epics are driven by prophetic announcements, too -- and Homer was considered to be a "historian" in ancient times.
Then there are the clearly fictional novellas (or "historical novels") whose plots are primarily driven by prophecies. E.g. Xenophon of Ephesus and his Ephesian Tale. After a few paragraphs setting the scene the author begins the story proper with a prophecy that no-one can understand but is only made clear after it is fulfilled. Sound familiar? Perhaps the author was inspired by the Gospel of Mark to write a similar fiction?Achilles Tatius wrote Leucippe and Clitophon, another fiction, with a similar motif, though the opening prophecy came in the form of a dream. But other more direct prophecies pop up in the course of the narrative and again the hearers are as bewildered as Mark's disciples about they mean.The temple of Apollo in Colophon is not far away; it is ten miles’ sail from Ephesus. There the messengers from both parties asked the god for a true oracle. They had come with the same question, and the god gave the same oracle in verse to both. It went like this.
When this oracle was brought to Ephesus, their fathers were at once at a loss and had no idea at all what the danger was, and they could not understand the god’s utterance. They did not know what he meant by their illness, the flight, the chains, the tomb, the river, or the help from the goddess. . . . .Why do you long to learn the end of a malady, and its beginning?
One disease has both in its grasp, and from that the remedy must be accomplished.
But for them I see terrible sufferings and toils that are endless;
Both will flee over the sea pursued by madness;
They will suffer chains at the hands of men who mingle with the waters;
And a tomb shall be the burial chamber for both, and fire the destroyer; And beside the waters of the river Nile, to Holy Isis The savior you will afterwards offer rich gifts;
But still after their sufferings a better fate is in store.2
What follows is an attempt to decipher the "parable" by finding what each detail represented in code. At the end of the story the hero bewails that fact that it seems the god prophesied only something negative, loss and failure ... but he is to be proven wrong. It's a similar motif as we find in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus prophecies his death. Peter protests, but he is over-ruled and eventually learns that it's all good.. . . . the Byzantines received an oracle that said
They were all puzzling over the meaning of the prophecy when . . . .Both island and city, people named for a plant,
Isthmus and channel, joined to the mainland,
Hephaistos embraces grey-eyed Athena,
Send there an offering to Herakles.
Other "novellas" follow the same pattern. Another is The Ethiopian Story by Heliodorus.
There is a "historical novel", a fictional narrative, about Alexander the Great (said to be by a "pseudo-Callisthenes") that is also prophecy driven.
One might even say that the motif of a prophecy-driven plot is a characteristic of fiction, or even fictionalized history.
When historians wanted to be taken most seriously they cited their sources or told readers why and how they judged some source more reliable than another. They were not even beyond making up fictional sources -- e.g. Herodotus. Or beyond rewriting scenes from plays and presenting them as an eyewitness narrative -- e.g. Thucydides. Hence Seneca's cynicism towards historians as quoted in my earlier comment.
The observation about how the other three evangelists read gMark (I agree that John too read it) is very relevant indeed, because as you say they apparantly had no problem in changing the words and deeds of Jesus as they pleased. They treated Jesus as a historical character and at the same time a fictional character (or what we would charaterize as fictional). Notice also how Luke formulates his introduction, that many have "endeavored/undertaken/attempted/put their hands upon (επεχειρησαν)" to set down an orderly account of the events (Luke 1:1). I.e. 'tried'. So now Luke feels he needs to set things right, which in some way has to mean presenting the historical truth of the events, "as handed over from those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning" (1:2).
I think it's clear that both Matthew, John and Luke intended their work to be the only version of the truth, to supplant the others. But of course all four of these conflicting accounts ended up becoming the one 'truth', all at the same time! And so began a 2000 year tradition of harmonzation.
It's amusing that John Chrysostom in the fourth century writes that the element of disagreement between the gospel accounts "which seems to exist in little matters" actually testify to their truth, because if they all agreed perfectly then "our enemies" could claim that the four evangelists had met and conspired and so produce an account "by some human compact"!
Nay, this very thing [the discrepancies between the gospel accounts] is a very great evidence of their truth. For if they had agreed in all things exactly even to time, and place, and to the very words, none of our enemies would have believed but that they had met together, and had written what they wrote by some human compact; because such entire agreement as this comes not of simplicity. But now even that discordance which seems to exist in little matters delivers them from all suspicion, and speaks clearly in behalf of the character of the writers.
(Matthew homilies, 1.6)
Origines states that if one wants to take everything in the accounts as historically true, then one has to accept that God can do two different things at the same time:
Or else he has a better solution to the internal discrepancies in the gospel accounts with his allegorical method, as he simply allows historical falsification by the gospel writers: The evangelists sometimes consciously produced false history! I.e. they chose the "spritual" truth over the "material" truth:He, then, who takes the writings of these men for history, or for a representation of real things by a historical image, and who supposes God to be within certain limits in space, and to be unable to present to several persons in different places several visions of Himself at the same time, or to be making several speeches at the same moment, he will deem it impossible that our four writers are all speaking truth. To him it is impossible that God, who is in certain limits in space, could at the same set time be saying one thing to one man and another to another, and that He should be doing a thing and the opposite thing as well, and, to put it bluntly, that He should be both sitting and standing, should one of the writers represent Him as standing at the time, and making a certain speech in such a place to such a man, while a second writer speaks of Him as sitting.
(Commentary on John, X, 3)
This is very close to how I view it also! Except, maybe, that I do condemn the gospel writers for their 'pious falsification' of historyI do not condemn them [the gospel writers] if they even sometimes dealt freely with things which to the eye of history happened differently, and changed them so as to subserve the mystical aims they had in view; so as to speak of a thing which happened in a certain place, as if it had happened in another, or of what took place at a certain time, as if it had taken place at another time, and to introduce into what was spoken in a certain way some changes of their own. They proposed to speak the truth where it was possible both materially and spiritually, and where this was not possible it was their intention to prefer the spiritual to the material. The spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in the material falsehood.
(Commentary on John, X, 4)