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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Jan 12 19:58:20 EST 2003

At 6:41 PM -0500 1/12/03, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>Thank you, Carl,
>your answers are really helpful.
>By the way, do you think that the narrative about the scribes
>in 3:22-30 happened between the event of 3.21a and the event of 3.31?
>Most translations seem to agree to this view.

Moon, you're asking a question that goes beyond the scope of what the Greek
text itself says and into the realm of literary-historical criticism. I
have my own observations and judgments about such matters, but I don't feel
it's appropriate to discuss them in this forum.

>For example, consider RSV:
>3:21 And when his family heard it, they WENT OUT (EXHLQON) out to seize
>him, for people were saying, "He is beside himself."
>3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed
>by Be-el'zebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons."
>3:31   And his mother and his brothers CAME (ERXETAI);  and standing
>outside they sent to him and called him.
>3.21a describes the departure of Jesus's family and 3.31 describes the
>arrival of his family. Inbetween the departure and the arrival, the debate
>with the
>scribes seems to happen.
>Is there no way to take the inserted narrative in 3:22 - 30 as a
>information, that is, as a situation that happened before the event that
>involves Jesus' family? In that case, the gap between the departure and
>arrival of  Jesus' family is not exploited for another narrative.
>Moon R. Jung
>Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea
>I> 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
>> >3:21a.
>> >
>> >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
>> WWW:
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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