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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Mon Jan 13 07:34:21 EST 2003

At 7:30 AM +0300 1/13/03, Iver Larsen wrote:
>> Hmm, I think my question was: does the text of Mark IMPLY  that the
>> inserted narrative happened between the event of 3.21a (the
>> departure of Jesus' family) and the event of 3.31 (the arrival of Jesus'
>> family)? Do you mean that the text itself says nothing about it,
>> that is, it does not matter for the purpose of Mark when the inserted
>> narrative happened? I think it makes sense. What was important to Mark
>> would have been the parallelism between the judgement of Jesus' family
>> and that of the scribes. But this is a new thing to me. I tend to
>> to sort the events in a story in a linear or partially linear order, as
>> far as I can. Are you saying that I have to resist such a habit at least
>> when I read Mark?
>To your last question I would say yes. Not only Mark, but any Greek (or
>English) text that is translated fairly literally from a Semitic language or
>was formulated by people brought up with Semitic thought patterns. Mark's
>use of KAI is often called the Semitic KAI, because it implies an additional
>theme or part of a theme, not necessarily a later development. It
>corresponds to the Hebrew waw. The structure is thematic, and often
>circular/repetitive rather than step-by-step chronological.

Let me try to make myself clearer, inasmuch as Iver has answered that last
question of yours from a different perspective. I'm saying that in
discussion on B-Greek we should try to keep the focus upon what the Greek
text AS  A GREEK TEXT can legitimately be said to mean, by which I mean
that we should steer clear of hermeneutical questions about ways of
interpreting the Greek text in terms of historical veracity, authorial
intent, or assumptions that the Greek text must necessarily depend upon a
Semitic thought pattern or distinct Aramaic formulation.

That is, I would agree with Iver that we ought NOT to assume that Mark's
narrative sequence necessarily reflects the sequence of what may or may not
have actually happened. How we judge or discern the author's intent in his
selection of a narrative sequence depends upon the assumptions we bring to
bear upon the analysis of the narrative. Iver seems ready to assume that a
Semitic mind-set must govern or probably governs Mark's narrative
technique, whereas I have noted some time ago that "ring-composition" is by
no means unique to Semitic narrative but is fully developed in Homeric
Greek poetry. Be that as it may, I think the assumptions governing our
interpretation of what the Greek text says as a Greek text lie outside the
parameters of B-Greek discussion in realms of hermeneutics and
faith-convictions, i.e. theological perspectives.

I do think that Mark deliberately sandwiched the story about the scribes'
suspicion of Jesus' demonic possession between narrative segments
indicating the fears of family members that Jesus might be deranged, but
whether the events thus described actually happened or whether they
happened in the sequence in which Mark narrates them lies outside the scope
of what a reading of the Greek text as a Greek text can determine. Such
questions are within the legitimate parameters of the Synoptic-L discussion
list but pass outside the scope of B-Greek.

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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