Mark and Homer - Time for a fresh subject?
philcam at tpg.com.au
Sat Feb 3 02:36:15 EST 2001
----- Original Message -----
From: JFAlward at aol.com
To: Kata Markon
Sent: Saturday, 3 February 2001 2:43 pm
Subject: [gmark] Re: Mark and Homer
> Joe Alward:
> Larry seems to be arguing that since there are fewer connections of Virgil
> Homer than there are of Mark to Homer, one would expect scholarship long ago
> to have recognized Mark's dependence because it was long ago recognized in
> Virgil. I hope I've properly translated your argument, Larry; if not please
> accept my apology. The premise of Larry's argument seems to be false.
> First, I don't see evidence that there ARE fewer connections to Homer in
Essentially. But not only would they have been recognized in scholarship,
would have been recognized by early Christians and used accordingly. But,
this first objection is valid, yes it would prove my premise false. So
test it rather than bouncing emails back and forth. Let's take a case of
dependence between the two and see how many parallels there are between
I'll even allow you to choose the episode.
Please feel free to choose whatever example you wish; I'll be comfortable
with whatever you have.
> Second, any connections which have gone undiscovered for two
> millennia are, by definition, obscure ones. Even if Larry were to show
> MacDonald listed more parallels between Mark and Homer than exist between
> Virgil and Homer, their well-disguised nature would explain why the
> dependence is not "easily demonstrated."
This would be an argument against the position I outlined, but would not
a false premise. To a degree this type of argument is slippery. These
are so well hidden that not even someone like Justin Martyr or Ambrose were
to detect them, but someone with less familiarity with Homer is able to.
Further, if Mark is able to hide these parallels so well that even his
auditors were not able to see the parallels, one would expect then a greater
level of editorial creativity in other areas of the text, such as his level
Greek. But this is what we don't find.
As I indicated in more than one place in a post I just sent to Rikk, I don't
believe that the "Mark" who inserted the parallels was competent. His
parallels are hidden not because he was clever; they're hidden because they
so poorly constructed in most cases. More about this is found in the other
> Josephus didn't say that John was beheaded, and he certainly never said
> anything about a head on a platter, so where did Mark get this idea, if
> from Homer? I could go on like this to explain what might have been on
> Mark's mind when he included other elements from Homer in his story, but
> made my point, I hope: Mark might have been no more that a
> student completing writing assignments that called for him to create
> about the messiah people were talking about by rewriting stories he
> remembered from Homer. He was a very poor student, wrote in lousy Greek,
> didn't remember all that much from Homer, which he may never have read in
> first place. There's no wonder that there are so many dissimilarities of
> type Larry Swain mentions; it's exactly what you'd expect from an
> young highschooler.
True enough on one level. But you're also not recognizing that the
don't exist, it isn't simply a matter of there being differences.
I don't understand. Which parallels do I not recognize don't exist?
further thinking that there must be literary antecedents for the elements in
No, I'm not. The beheading of John at the behest of Herodias might have been
an urban legend; they only take about five days to spread in most regions of
Where did Mark get the idea for the beheading and silver platter? a) he
made it up--after all if he is writing fiction, why not? And since
head isn't served up on a platter, this isn't really a likely source
The platter wasn't silver. He could have made up the story, as you say, if
urban legend growth hadn't saved him the trouble and created the story for
him. Agamemnon's head in the traditional telling probably landed on a plate.
You need to find another story not in Homer in which all of the eleven
elements are found. Until that's done, the most likely explanation for Mark
having John beheaded at the request of Herodias is that Mark copied Homer.
> Finally, at least in the story of Mark 6, I find your list of allusions
> unconvincing. Let me take the first two. Your first one states that in
> stories their is a King involved in a love triangle with a male relative.
> But this is not the case in Mark. The narrator in Mark goes out of his
> to mention that Herod MARRIED Herodias, Philip who is only mentioned by
> way is NOT an actor in the Marcan drama. Thus, there is NO love triangle
> here, and the issue is one over the observance of the Torah.
> At the time of Mark, Josephus was recording the relationship--the
> "marriage"--between Herod and Herodias'. Josephus also noted that John
> deemed it to be illicit. Based on this information, in Mark's mind there
> a "triangle" involving Herod, Herodias, and Herodias's husband--Herod's
> brother--Philip. Mark ineptly connected this to what he remembered from
> Homer: A wife who was carrying on illicitly with another man beheaded (in
> the traditional telling) another man. Mark transformed this into his
> Herodias carrying on illicitly (in the traditional view) with Herod, and
> Herodias ordering the beheading of another man. There are huge
> between the two tales, of course, but Mark either didn't know that, or
> care; he just had to make sure his assignment was in by Friday noon.
But the triangle in Mark is John, Herod, and Herodias, which isn't really a
triangle at all. That is, in the background John challenges Herod. In the
foreground Herodias who doesn't like John manipulates Herod. Once again,
putative parallel is removed, the actors are different, the relationships
different, the circumstances are different, the method is different. The
elements that are similar are a beheading and dishes, and even the latter
different use of the dishes. This just doesn't seem to me to be
Virtually everything is different in ancient mimesis. You should take a very
close look at Chapter One, and Chapter 22 of MacDonald's book.
Joseph F. Alward, Ph.D.
Department of Physics
University of the Pacific
Stockton California 95211
e-mail: JFAlward at aol.com ---
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