The scope of flashback in Mark 3:21-31 (reposted)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Jan 12 07:23:00 EST 2003

At 3:59 AM -0500 1/12/03, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>It seems that Mark 3:31 resumes 3:21a, with 3:21b - 3:30 explaining
>the background for the event of 3:21a.
>This reading is plausible because the situation of 3:31 looks
>the same as that of 3:21a, because EXW in 3:31 should be the
>outside of the house mentioned in 3:20. It is reasonable
>But the problem with this reading is that the passage 3:21b - 3:30
>seems to be too long to describe the background for the event of
>But if we take only 3:21b as flashback for 3:21a, and take
>3:22 - 3:30 to follow 3:21a, then we should treat 3:31 to
>describe a situation different from that of 3:21a. But then
>how can we account for EXW in 3:31? It should be taken to be
>OUTSIDE [of the house mentioned in 3:21a], shouldn't it?

For my part, I don't think this is a discourse matter at all, but rather a
distinctive feature of Marcan narrative style that has been remarked on by
Marcan scholars: the "narrative sandwich"--or a more elegant name for it
might be "Marcan triptych"--whereby a story is split into halves and a
second narrative unit is "sandwiched" between those halves, yielding the
fascinating consequence that the two narratives interpret each other, as in
this instance, the curious parallelism of Jesus' family supposing he's out
of his mind while the scribes from Jerusalem think he's demonically
possessed. Other examples are: Mark 14:1-12, where 1-2 and 10-11 constitute
a framing narrative linked by the device of repeatd imperfects of ZHTEIN
(EZHTOUN in 1, EZHTEI in 11) for the plot to arrest and execute Jesus,
while in the inner narrative Jesus interprets the anointing as an anointing
for his death. Other examples: Mk 11:12-20, where the two halves of the
"withered-fig tree" narrative enclose the account of the ejection of the
merchants from the temple; Mk 2:1-12, where the two halves of the story of
the healing of the paralytic enclose a controversy with scribes over the
power to forgive sins. I don't think it is appropriate to enter into a
discussion of Redaction-critical perspectives on B-Greek, but I call
attention to this Marcan device because it does have a bearing on the
narrative technique of the passage originally in question.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

More information about the B-Greek mailing list