Saturday, November 24, 2007

SBL San Diego 2007 II - Mark

Monday morning, I attended a session of the Mark group, if only because (1) it was to be focussed more on textual criticism than usual, and (2) we were supposed to assemble for the ETC lunch there.
The first paper was given by Peter Head, who guided us through the particularities of the presentation of Mark's gospel in Codex Sinaiticus. Though he admitted that his contribution contained more observations than conclusions/interpretations of the findings, I liked it very much, especially the way Peter uses PowerPoint to highlight the points he is making (you had to be there to know what I mean).
A nice example of an observation in search of a fitting explanation is the remarkable use of ekthesis in Mk 9: the many instances of καί with which the paragraphs start are pushed more to the left than usual. One can even observe this phenomenon in Tischendorf's pseudo-facsimile (here - enter "any"/"any" when prompted for a login), but why was it done?
After a short discussion, Nicholas Perrin discussed a well-known variant reading in Mk 1:41: should it read that Jesus was σπλαγχνισθείς ("moved with compassion") or ὀργισθείς ("angered") when a leper said to him; "If you choose, you can make me clean"? Against Ehrman (and others) he defended the first reading.
Vicki Cass Phillips took a different approach to the issue; if the two readings existed, and were scripture for some early communities, what meaning may they have had for these communities?
In my view, Perrin's paper was not really text-critical. The only thing he did was mounting a case for σπλαγχνισθείς as a reading that actually makes a lot of sense in the gospel of Mark. How strong his appeal to the "exodus motive" really is I am not able to judge, but no textual critic ever suggested that Jesus' being moved here would not make sense. The rub lies elsewhere.
Only in the discussion afterwards one of the important questions was raised: if the reading σπλαγχνισθείς is original, how can one explain the origin of the reading ὀργισθείς? There were some confused allusions to the tendency of either the Western text or the scribe of Codex Bezae, but really, this question should have been addressed in the paper. The lectio difficilior argument for ὀργισθείς is too important to be dealt with in a footnote.
The other important question was not even mentioned: part of Ehrman's case - if I remember correctly - is the observation that Luke and Matthew take over Mark's story, but each in a different way, as if they took offense to Mark presenting Jesus as "angered". Here too, thus, a kind of lectio difficilior reasoning: one can better explain the way Mark is used by the other evangelists if one assumes that they read ὀργισθείς. In order to counter Ehrman's case, Perrin should address this issue as well.
After the time for discussion, I quietly left the room, not for lack of interest in the other papers, but because I had to rehearse my own presentation with Geert van Oyen for the TC session in the afternoon (more on this session in a following posting).


Peter M. Head said...

So ... your presentation was rehearsed! That explains a lot.
Thanks for the positive feedback.

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