Walking on water
RingeSH at aol.com
RingeSH at aol.com
Sun Nov 7 07:05:15 EST 1999
The recent exchanges about the "walking on the sea" pericope have been most
interesting! My thanks to those who have taken the trouble and care to post
them. I am especially fascinated by the suggestion that this is a
resurrection appearance story read back into the narrative of Mark. That fits
an argument I made some years ago in a paper read at the SBL Annual Meeting,
but that I have never taken into print.
The paper dealt with the ending of Mark in 16:8, in response to the argument
of Norman Perrin in his final book. Without unfolding my entire particle
here, I said (and still think) that both the "walking on water" and the
"stilling of the storm" pericopes bear traits of resurrection appearance
narratives (the disciples together, but in a place by themselves, the
"phantasma" in one case and the "sleeping-and awakened" Jesus in the other,
the symbolism of the boat as an early figure for the church, the link to the
feeding stories and other "bread" references that invoke the "Lord's supper"
and other meal traditions of the church, etc.).
This all fits with the abrupt ending of the Gospel somewhat as follows: The
final word "gar" syntactically draws one forward, but there is nothing
"ahead." If Mark is the first Gospel (which is my position), there is nowhere
to go from this ending except back to 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of
Jesus Christ, the Son of God...." It functions as a sort of continuous-play
cd: the end returns us to the beginning. There, precisely in the now
RE-telling of Jesus' earthly ministry in the life of the community, is where
we encounter the risen one, "gone on ahead of you to Galilee, as he
promised." Thus, the proclamation of and to Mark's community is that the
risen one is encountered in the life or "journey" of the church, where the
Gospel is told and people are called, taught, healed, fed, etc. The presence
of the resurrected on in Mark is thus not confined to those few days just
after Jesus' death, to which they can only return in memory (which in Luke
and especially Matthew becomes increasingly a memory of a past event, rather
than a memory that makes the event present again), and it is certainly not
only awaited at the parousia (when they will have arrived "on the other side"
of the lake).
This argument is more a theological reading than a historical one, though I
think it is supported by a literary-critical analysis of this Gospel. I
agree: there seems to be nothing coincidental about this Gospel. Mark,
whoever s/he was, was a consummate artist, literarily and theologically!
Thanks for, as it were, letting me get my oar into the water on this issue!
Sharon H. Ringe
Professor of New Testament
Wesley Theological Seminary
4500 Massachusetts Av. NW
Washington, DC 20016 USA
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