Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
Chapter 12
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Mark 12:1-12

1: And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 2: When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3: And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  4: Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5: And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. 6: He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They
will respect my son.' 7: But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8: And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9: What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. 10: Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" 12: And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away. 


NOTES
1: And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.

v1: This is drawn from Isaiah 5 (Fox 1992, p119):



1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. (NIV)

Note the presence of the winepress and tower, as in Mark 12:1. The language of the parable is drawn completely from the Septaugint (Kloppenborg 2002, 2004), against Chilton (1984), who sees it as coming from a targum) and thus, cannot go back to Jesus.


v1: Perhaps another example of Mark's Temple-focused hypertextuality is here in v1. Gundry (1993, p684) notes that there was a widespread belief in Judaism that the "tower" in Isaiah 5:1-2 was the Temple, and the "vat" represented the altar. The text does not make it possible to judge whether the writer knew this, however.

v1: When the time came... a reference to Lev 19, where the instructions for harvesting fruit are given (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p338).  Kloppenborg argues (2002) that the parable is taken over by the writer of Mark rather than invented by him, and that the original was not preceded by the Isaiah quote.

v1: Alfred Loisy (1962) argued that this parable was an interpolation, noting:


"Between [11:27-33] and this conclusion someone has intercalated the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (12:1-11), a short apocalypse which turns on the fall of Jerusalem, the evangelisation of the pagans, and on the assumption of Jesus into glory; a fragment of apologetic in the style of the discourses attributed in Acts to the first Christian preachers, and even ending with the usual quotation of the apologists (Psalm 143, 22-23). This must be the work of some Christian prophet, utilized at first as the conclusion of the Jerusalem ministry (note the correspondence of 12:12a with 14:1-2) before being replaced for that purpose by the great apocaplytic discourse (Ch. 13)." (p. 109)

6: He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.'

v6: A supernatural prophecy of Jesus' death.
7: But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'

v7: The parable is on its face is absurd, for how could the tenants inherit the farm if they were the killers of its heir? J. D. H. Amador (1992) has attempted to explain this absurdity using a sociological reading of the parable against the economic desperation of the Palestine peasantry in the first century.
10: Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

v10-11: cites Psalm 118. The proverb was not originally intended as a messianic prediction but was read as such by early Christians. Another signal of Markan creation off the OT. The phrase "has become the cornerstone" is highly controversial, for the Greek can mean either cornerstone or capstone (bottommost or topmost stone) (Donahue and Harrington, p340).

v10: Psalm 118 was written during Maccabaean period. This is the second use of this Psalm in this sequence of events; it was one of the Hallel Psalms (113-118) that celebrate the entrance, Messiah-style, of Simon Maccabaeus into the Holy City.

v10: in Hebrew the word for stone (eben) is similar to the word for son (ben). Perhaps there is a pun here.

12: And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

v12: This verse, in conjunction with the beginning drawn entirely from the Septaugint Isaiah, shows that the parable was most probably created by Mark to serve his narrative purpose of painting the chief priests and scribes as the bad guys.


Historical Commentary

In this long section of Mark the writer is parallel the Elijah-Elisha narrative. The parallel frames are given below:  


Mark 11:12-12:12 2 Kings 9:22-10:27
challenging the authorities challenging the authorities
parable of the tenants, who are all killed and the vineyard given to others Jehu has the 70 sons of Ahab in Samaria killed and takes over the administration of their kingdom
the chief priests and scribes challenge Jesus the priests of Baal challenge Jehu

In her analysis of the Gospel of Mark, Mary Ann Tolbert (1989) identifies the Parable of the Tenants as setting the typology for the second great division of the gospel of Mark. Chapter 11 is the prologue for the final three chapters, in which the Parable of the Tenants serves as the synopsis of coming events, a common feature of Hellenistic popular literature. The events of the Parable mirror the events that happen to Jesus -- he will be beaten, shamed, wounded in the head, and then killed.

The opening verses of the parable draw on Isa 5 as explained above. Returning to Isa 5 brings the reader to a story of how Yahweh will do to Israel essentially what Jesus says the authorities will do to him: 


5: And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6: I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!
8: Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.
9: The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: "Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10: For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah."
11: Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them!
12: They have lyre and harp, timbrel and flute and wine at their feasts; but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands.
13: Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge; their honored men are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14: Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and he who exults in her.(RSV)

In other words, the Parable of the Tenants connects back to a threat by God to destroy the high and mighty of Israel, and where one finds the promise that after all has been destroyed:


17: Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins.

Additionally, a new and very nasty polemical theme emerges here in the parallel to the Eljah-Elisha Cycle: the Markan narrative makes the chief priests and scribes the equal of the priests of Ba'al or the 70 sons of Ahab. This is reinforced in Chapter 13.

Scholars differ greatly on every aspect of this parable. This parable occurs as Logion 65 in the Gospel of Thomas. Some scholars argue that Thomas depends on Mark, others that Mark depends on Thomas. See the Excursus: Mark and the Gospel of Thomas for a discussion of the issues.

This is the back end of a chiasm that extends across Mark 11 and 12.


A
And they came again to Jerusalem.

B
And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?"


C
Jesus said to them, "I will ask you a question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me."



D
And they argued with one another, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will say, `Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, `From men'?" -- they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was a real prophet.




E
So they answered Jesus, "We do not know."




E
And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."



D
And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, And the inheritance will be ours.' And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others.


C
Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

B
And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them;
A
so they left him and went away.

Because of this overarching literary construction, reinforced in v12 (the parable was against them), its dependence on the OT,  its dependence on the Septaugint, and its anachronistic/supernatural prophetic aspects, there is no support for historicity in this pericope.


Mark 12:13-17
13: And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero'di-ans, to entrap him in his talk. 14: And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15: Should we pay them, or should we not?"
But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it." 16: And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's." 17: Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at him. 


NOTES
13: And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero'di-ans, to entrap him in his talk.

v13: Both instances of "Herodians" come in Markan redaction. Mark 3:6 is generally conceded to be ahistorical. Note how the Herodians and Pharisees both simply disappear from the Gospel after the reference here.
14: And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

v14: Note the Markan irony: the Pharisees and Herodians believe they are lying when they identify Jesus as a teacher of the truth, but in fact their false belief is true, just as the Roman soldiers falsely believe they are making fun of Jesus when they call him "King." Note the appearance of the motif of "the way" as a set of teachings (Winberry 1998).
15: Should we pay them, or should we not?" But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it."

v15: coin. Jesus asks for a Roman coin. The request implies Jesus carries none, as his disciples are supposed to. 
16: And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's."

v16: As Donahue and Harrington (2002, p345) point out, the coin would likely have been a denarius of Tiberius, full of imperial titles which could imply divine power. Tolbert (1989, p251) points out that the likeness is an important key to understand the suppressed minor premise of the argument Jesus is making: just as the denarius carries the words and image of Caesar, so humans are made in the word and image of God (this argument actually originated with Tertullian). Thus, as we render onto Caesar what is Caesar's so we should render unto God what is God's. This type of argument is known as an enthymeme and was extremely common in antiquity.

v16: Finney (1993) also points out another subtext here: images were probably forbidden in early Christianity, including images of rulers on coins.
17: Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at him.

v17: Jesus does not even deign to give a clear answer to the question. In the usual Markan fashion, Jesus' adversaries do not press him for an elaboration, nor, despite being experienced quibblers and wits themselves, do they take a quill from their own quiver and direct it at Jesus. The depiction of the Pharisees in Mark is historically implausible.

v17: The view of the state here is read by some to echo Romans 13:1-7. Note Romans 13:6-7:


6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor

v17: Sandelin (1996) based on earlier work of other scholars, points out that this may derive from Eccl 8:2.


2: Keep the king's command, and because of your sacred oath be not dismayed;

v17: Xenophon in his Memorabilia of Socrates, says:


"Moreover, Socrates lived ever in the open; for early in the morning he went to the public promenades and training-grounds; in the forenoon he was seen in the market; and the rest of the day he passed just where most people were to be met: he was generally talking, and anyone might listen. Yet none ever knew him to offend against piety and religion in deed or word."

Historical Commentary
Although some exegetes read political tensions about taxation into this pericope (Theissen and Merz 1998, p 234), none are present. How could there be? There is no crowd. The writer of Mark has not placed this event in front of a crowd, completely denuding it of possible political explosiveness. Nor has he described anything in the narrative portion of the text that would let the reader know this might be an explosive qustion. The author's depiction of the Pharisees and Herodians is thus unrealistic and illogical. Only political idiots would ask an explosive question about taxation in front of a crowd where they could control neither the answer nor subsequent events, while it would be pointless to "entrap" someone without witnesses, as we see here, since without witnesses, any claims they made would look like lies (in any case they could make up a story any time they wanted). This is probably an invention aimed at readers who needed advice on taxation for their time, not a remembered event that took place in public.

The rest is redactive, related at the highest level to the challenge to the authorities derived from the Elijah-Elisha cycle. The ending is implausible, as no one seriously out to entrap Jesus would let Jesus' non-answer go unchallenged. Tolbert (1989, p251) notes that the "saying" appears to stand out simply because it is the syllogistic conclusion to an argument, and its smoothness differs from the disjointed style normal to the writer of Mark. According to Tolbert, Aristotle emphasizes that "gnomic sayings or maxims" are especially suited for premises and conclusions of enthymematic arguments (p251).  In general the pericope presents the familiar structure of setting and riposte seen elsewhere in Mark.

Robert Funk (1997), writing of the Jesus Seminar's conclusions, states:


"Everything about this anecdote commends its authenticity. Jesus' retort to the question of taxes is a masterful bit of enigmatic repartee. He avoids the trap laid for him by the question without really resolving the issue: he doesn't advise them to pay the tax and he doesn't advise them not to pay it; he advises them to know the difference between the claims of the emperor and the claims of God. Nevertheless, the early Christian interpretation of this story affirmed the Christian obligation to pay the tax. Paul struggled with this issue (Rom 13:1-7) and came out on the side of expedience: pay everyone their proper dues, including the civil authorities, who have received their appointment from God." (p. 102)

The ambiguity of the famous saying has lead to numerous interpretations, some of which argue that Jesus supports a "two realms" approach to the religion-government relationship, others that he is engaged in subversive anti-Roman activity (Doesn't everything belong to God?). It begins a bloc of Conflict Stories similar to the set of 5 in Mk 2.1-3.6. For more on the importance of this sequence, please see the Excursus on whether Mark Knew Paul.

The structure of this is a simple chiasm with an ABBA center, common in Mark.


A
so they left him and went away.

B
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero'di-ans, to entrap him in his talk.


C
And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?"



D
A
But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it."




B
And they brought one.



D
A
And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"




B
They said to him, "Caesar's."


C
Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

B
And they were amazed at him.
A
And Sad'ducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection;

Despite the Jesus Seminar's optimistic conclusions, nothing about this pericope commends its authenticity. It is one of a series of implausible depictions of the Pharisees, and its literary structure, historical implausibility, the probable relationship to Romans, and typical Markan saying, themes and structure indicate that there is no support for historicity in this pericope.


Mark 12:18-27
18: And Sad'ducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, 19: "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the wife, and raise up children for his brother. 20: There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no children; 21: and the second took her, and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22: and the seven left no children. Last of all the woman also died. 23: In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife." 24: Jesus said to them, "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25: For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26: And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27: He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong." 


NOTES
18: And Sad'ducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying,


v18: The Sadduccees were a priestly group that were the chief rivals of the Pharisees. During the period leading up to the Jewish War they were the chief collaborators with the Romans and supplied the high priests for the Temple under Roman aegis. Caiaphas, the high priest associated with the death of Jesus, was a Sadduccee. They were held to have denied the body of oral interpretation of the Torah that the Pharisees had developed, and denied that there was resurrection or an afterlife. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem their power was destroyed as well, and they vanished from history. However, much of what has come down to us about them is from their chief rivals, the Pharisees, who formed the nucleus of later rabbincal Judaism, or from Josephus, who is often unreliable. 

v18: It is remarkable that although the High Priest is a Sadduccee who will later have Jesus killed, and although Jesus' enemies are the "chief priests," nevertheless the writer does not connect these items. Was he aware that the High Priest was in all probability a Sadduccee?

v18: the writer of Mark never discusses the beliefs of the Pharisees, Herodians, Priests, or scribes, only the Sadduccees.

19: "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the wife, and raise up children for his brother.

v19: Summarized here is Deut 25:5-6:


5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (NIV)

20: There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no children;

v20-21: perhaps a connection to the story of Sarah in the Book of Tobit. She too had seven husbards, each of whom were killed. (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p350). Tobit may appear in Mk 16.
25: For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

v25: perhaps a reference to 1 Cor 15:35-50
26: And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?

v26: Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6:


Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (NIV)


v26: as usual Jesus' opponents disappear from the pericope once their statement is made.

27: He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong." 


v27: One wonders how being the God of the living relates to Jesus' cry of dereliction in Mark 15: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


v27: 1 Cor 15:36  "You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies."

Historical Commentary

This conflict is part of a second sequence of 5 controversy stories. It contains all the usual features of a Markan conflict story, including opponents who vanish once their statement is made, leaving Jesus' question unanswered, and the familiar chreia structure. The saying that terminates the pericope is based on the OT. There is no support for historicity in this pericope.

The underlying structure of this pericope and its flanking pericopes is very complex and encodes a message from the writer of Mark:


A
Mark 12:10 (Romans 8:31)

B
Mark 12:13-17 (Romans 13:1-7)


C
Mark 12:18 (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)



D-A
Chreia A: Whose wife is she, anyway? (Setting)



D-B Mk 12:24: Jesus says you don't know the Scriptures and God's Power


C'
Mark 12:25 (1 Corinthians 15:35-50)



D'-B'

Jesus says the dead are raised, and cites Scriptures: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"?



D'-A'
Chreia A': You yammerheads! He's the God of the living, not the Dead! (response)

B'
Mark 12:28-34 (Romans 13:8-10)
A'
Mark 12:35-7 (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)

The pericope itself has a simple ABBA structure:


A
And Sad'ducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection;

B
and they asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the wife, and raise up children for his brother.There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no children; and the second took her, and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; and the seven left no children. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife."

B
Jesus said to them, "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."
A
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"


For more on the origin and importance of this sequence, please see the Excursus on whether Mark Knew Paul.


Mark 12:28-34
28: And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" 29: Jesus answered, "The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31: The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other
commandment greater than these." 32: And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34: And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any question. 


NOTES
29: Jesus answered, "The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

v29-30: From Deut 6:4. It begins a set of three OT cites (Deut 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Num 15:37-41) that must be recited three times a day by pious Jews.
31: The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

v31: a cite of Lev 19:18

v31: this too was a thought common in antiquity in many cultures. The followers of Pythagoras, who transmitted dozens of sayings, some of which resemble those of early Christianity, had perhaps the most beautiful formulation: "What is a friend? Another I." (Thom 1994)
32: And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he;

v32-33: are a simply doublet for v29-31, a clear indicator of Markan redaction.
33: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

v33: Tolbert (1989, p255) points out that Jesus gets the last words here because otherwise the dialogue would indicate that the scribe had the authority to validate Jesus' words. The scribe instead is shown as deferring to Jesus.

v33: a reference to Hosea 6:6 and 1 Sam 15:22, where the emptiness of Temple ritual is contrasted to the importance of heartfelt obedience to God's law. 1 Sam 15:22 says:


22 But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (NIV)


v33: Donahue and Harrington (2002, p40) note that just as in Romans 13:1-7 and 13:8-10, in Mark 12:13-17 and 12:28-34, a command to love follows an injunction to obey the governing authorities.

Historical Commentary

The structure of this is very straightforward:


A
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"

B
Jesus answered, "The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."


C
And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."


C
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

B
And after that no one dared to ask him any question.
A
And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, `The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.' David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?"

There is no support for historicity in this pericope. The information the writer presents is all drawn from the OT and traditional Jewish beliefs and practices.

For more on the importance of this sequence, please see the Excursus on whether Mark Knew Paul.


Mark 12:35-44

35: And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36: David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, `The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.' 37: David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?" And the great throng heard him gladly. 38: And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places 39: and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40: who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long
prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." 41: And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42: And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. 43: And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44: For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living." 


NOTES
35: And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?

v35: Jesus just trashed the Temple, and now he is sitting in it, teaching, surrounded by a great throng.
36: David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, `The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.' 37: David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?" And the great throng heard him gladly.

v36-7: Jesus quotes Psalm 110 (109 LXX). Some scholars see this as a later creation which admits that Jesus was not of the Davidic line and seeks to mitigate the damage. Chilton (1984) argues that this is "reasonably" an authentic saying due to the embarrassment criterion, since it clashes with later Christian understandings of Jesus. The Psalm appears to have been used in a coronation ritual for the kings of Israel (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p359).

Psalm 110 is one of the most important texts of OT literature in the NT. It was widely used in early Christian circles in the NT period and is cited in Acts 2:34-5, 1 Cor 15:25, and Heb 1:13.. There are numerous allusions as well (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p359).  This cite of Psalm 110 may also reflect back to Mk 10:35-37. In the Gospel of Mark it anchors the end of the chiasm in Mark 12, and belongs to several themes of the writer, including his presentation of Jesus as Simon Maccabaeus, as David, and as the High Priest. The Psalm in English runs:


1: The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."
2: The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes!
3: Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning like dew your youth will come to you.
4: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz'edek."
5: The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6: He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
7: He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.(RSV)

The structure is apparently a chiasm of the ABC'B'A' style, or perhaps ABCC'B'A', depending on how v5 is interpreted. In it the one to whom it is addressed is exalted to the Heaven where he sits with God (A = v1), then acts as God's King warring on the day of Judgment (B = v2-3), then acts as the High Priest (C = v4), and then King and warrior again (B' = v5-6), and then is exalted once more (A' = v7). In these scant seven verses the one to whom the Psalm is addressed is exalted to Heaven, made King, and made High Priest. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is identified in each of these roles as Heavenly Savior, King and Priest.

v36-7: Psalm 110, though traditionally attributed to David, was written during Maccabean times, as it refers to the high priest Simon Maccabaeus (1 Mc 13:36) through the use of an acrostic of his name formed by its first several lines. This is the third link of Jesus to Simon since Mk 11:1.

v36-7: For more on the importance of this sequence, please see the Excursus on whether Mark Knew Paul.

v36-7: the importance of Psalm 110 in the Markan scheme of presenting Jesus as priest, king and messiah should not be underestimated. In the entire Torah it is the only place where the king is explicitly spoken of as a high priest (Fletcher-Louis 2003).  As Fletcher-Louis writes:


"...Mark 12:35-7 is Jesus' thinly-veiled public statement on the question of Israel's God-intended eschatological constitution: the nation should, and will, be led by one who is both king and priest."(p22)

v36-7: Margaret Barker (Temple) observes:


Psalm 110 (109), is obscure (perhaps obscured) in the Hebrew. The Greek, however, describes how the king is born as the divine son in the glory of the holy ones, i.e. in the holy of holies, and declared to be the Melchizedek priest[17]. The last words of David describe him as one through whom the Spirit of the Lord has spoken, a man who was anointed and raised up (qwm, anestesan kurios), a word that could also be translated "resurrected" (2 Sam.23.1). This is how it must have been understood at the end of the second temple period, because the Letter to the Hebrews contrasts the Levitical priests and Melchizedek; the former have their position due to descent from Levi, but Melchizedek has been raised up (anistatai) with the power of indestructible life (Heb.7.15-16). The Chronicler's account of Solomon's enthronement says that he sat on the throne of the Lord as king, and the people worshipped the Lord and the king (1 Chron.29.20-23). That the Davidic monarchs had indeed become "God and King" in the holy of holies, and that this had not been forgotten, is confirmed by Philo's extraordinary statement about Moses: he became god and king when he entered the darkness where God was (Moses I.158). In his vision, Ezekiel saw this divine and human figure enthroned, the glory of the Lord in human form (Ezek.1.26-28), and the later account of the tabernacle in Exodus 25 remembered the king on his cherub throne as the voice of the Lord above the kapporeth, between the cherubim (Exod.25.22).


v36-7: Tolbert (1989, p249) interprets this as Jesus clarifying his status: it is fine to say Jesus' is David's son, so long as one remembers that he is also his lord. The witty chreia-like structure of the opening verses is also evident. The Messiah is David's son? But how can that be, when David himself calls him Lord?

v36-7: Recall that Paul in Romans 1:3 observes that Jesus is of the line of David.

v36-7: Stephen Smith (1996) argues that the pericope must preserve a historical remembrance because of the "embarrassment" caused to the early Church by Jesus' implication that he might not be of the Davidic line. This argument fails for two reasons. First, as discussed above, there are a number of ways to read Jesus' remarks. Second, the early Church did not write the Gospel of Mark, but the writer of Mark did. And he shows no embarrassment over this. Of course, there was no early Church, in any case, but a collection of disparate communities, so the whole argument collapses.

39: and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,

v39: This reads as though the writer of Mark is thinking of large synagogues in the later diaspora style, implying synagogues as separate buildings with defined seats. This would be a clear anachronism for which evidence from the first century before 70 is scant. This rant is most probably a creation of Mark.
41: And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

v41: the Greek word for "treasury" is unclear; it can also mean the collection boxes themselves as well as the storage of funds in the Temple (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p362).

v41: Jesus sits down facing the Temple. In the very next pericope he will face the Temple Mount to predict its destruction.

42: And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. 43: And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44: For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."

v42-44: are created out of the Elijah-Elisha Cycle in 2 Kings:


Mark 12:41-44 2 Kings 12:5-17
The widow gives money to the Temple money is given for the Temple
the widow gives all she has, not for venal purposes the money is not used for venal purposes.

v42: Steven Carr (2004) observes that of the four canonical gospels only Mark 12:42 explains that a lepton (one of the two "copper coins"), a coin used in Palestine, was worth half a quadrans, a word borrowed from Latin. The quadrans was not circulated in the East (Myers 1988, p323), leading some to argue that Mark was therefore written in Rome as some traditions hold. That need not be the case.

v42: The Jesus Seminar (Funk et al 1997) noted that this story has parallels in the rabbinic literature, ancient Greek writings, and Buddhist tradition, a strike against historicity.

v42: Vespasian ordered that the two copper coins be paid to the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome after the revolt of 70. Could the writer of Mark be satirizing that order?

Historical Commentary

There is much scholarly debate whether Jesus really approves of the generosity he outlines in v44. Is she a model of generosity to be admired, or is he simply pointing out what a victim of religiousity run amok she is? 

The second block of controversy stories ends here.


A
And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, `The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.' David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?"

B
And the great throng heard him gladly.


C
And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."



D
And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury.



D
Many rich people put in large sums.


C
And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny.

B
And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."
A
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"

This pericope contains numerous literary features. These include the development of v35-37 and v42-44 from the OT, the position of v35-37 in the writer's larger pattern of comparing Jesus and Simon Maccabaeus, the position of Jesus facing the Treasury as he will later face the Temple in the next pericope, the implausibility of Jesus teaching to throngs in the Temple, a place he has just trashed, and the Markan elements of the tirade against the scribes and, of course, the crowds who hear him gladly. Due to these elements, there is no support for historicity in this pericope.


Excursus: Mark and the Gospel of Thomas

Introduction


Jesus said, The Father's kingdom is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would go in. Then he killed the powerful one. -- Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. Parts of Greek versions of the Gospel of Thomas were discovered in an ancient garbage dump in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt late in the 19th century. In 1945 a complete version in Coptic, an Egyptian language that adapted an alphabet from Greek, was found at Nag Hammadi. Peter Kirby (ECW) writes:


The Gospel of Thomas is extant in three Greek fragments and one Coptic manuscript. The Greek fragments are P. Oxy. 654, which corresponds to the prologue and sayings 1-7 of the Gospel of Thomas; P. Oxy. 1, which correponds to the Gospel of Thomas 26-30, 77.2, 31-33; and P. Oxy. 655, which corresponds to the Gospel of Thomas 24 and 36-39. P. Oxy 1 is dated shortly after 200 CE for paleographical reasons, and the other two Greek fragments are estimated to have been written in the mid third century. The Coptic text was written shortly before the year 350 CE.

The actual dating of the Gospel of Thomas itself is highly controversial. Some scholars, generally liberals, regard Thomas as predating the Gospels and ancestral to them. Others, generally conservatives and apologists, regard Thomas as derivative and postdating them. Estimates fall anywhere between 60 CE and 200 CE, when our earliest copies are dated.

The issues raised by the Gospel of Thomas can be dramatically shown with a simple comparison between Mk 12:1-12  and Logion (saying) 65 and Logion 66 from the Gospel of Thomas.


Mark 12:1-12
(RSV)
Gospel of Thomas
Logion 65 and Logion 66

(Patterson & Meyer)
1: And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 2: When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3: And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  4: Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5: And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. 6: He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' 7: But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8: And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9: What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. 10: Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" 12: And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away. ..
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65 He said, A [...] person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them. He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard's crop. They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master. His master said, "Perhaps he didn't know them." He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well. Then the master sent his son and said, "Perhaps they'll show my son some respect." Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!
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66 Jesus said, "Show me the stone that the builders rejected: that is the keystone."


Note that Thomas has the material in bold, but does not have the material in italics. In general, the sayings in Thomas are shorter than those in the Gospels, and are shorn of any interpretive or allegorical context. For example, Logion 65 above does not contain the citation from Isaiah that begins the Markan version of this saying. Similarly, Logion 66 above repeats only half the citation of Psalm 118, two verses of which are given in the Markan version. Depending on their tastes, scholars view the shorter versions in Thomas as either more primitive, or more condensed. This pattern is repeated for all the Gospels, for all of them have material that is repeated in Thomas, though none of them have all the material in Thomas, and some Thomas sayings are found in no canonical gospel. Here are many of the sayings in Thomas that appear to overlap those of the Gospel of Mark (from Davies' Gospel of Thomas Website):


Mark 2:18-20 //Logion 104 Bridgroom saying
Mark 2:21-22 //Logion 47c Old wine/new wine, patch
Mark 3:27 //Logion 35 Strong man must be bound
Mark 3:28-29 //Logion 44 Never blaspheme against Holy Spirit
Mark 3:31-34 //Logion 99 My real family
Mark 4:3-9 //Logion 9 Parable of the Sower
Mark 4:9 //Logion 21 (whoever has ears, many places in both)
Mark 4:11 //Logion 62a Those who are worthy can hear my mysteries
Mark 4:21 //Logion 33b Hiding a lamp
Mark 4:22 //Logion 6b  Nothing hidden will not be manifest
Mark 4: 26-29 //Logion 21d Ripened grain is harvested
Mark 4:30-32 //Logion 20 Mustard Seed
Mark 6:4 //Logion 31 No prophet accepted in own home
Mark 7:15-20 //Logion 14c What comes out defiles
Mark 8:27-30 //Logion 13 "Who am I" - themed saying
Mark 8:34 //Logion 55 Must hate family
Mark 10:14-15 //Logion 22a Must be child to enter Kingdom
Mark 10:31 //Logion 4b Last shall be first
Mark 11:22-23 //Logion 48 Faith moves mountains
Mark 12:1-8 //Logion 65 Parable of Tenants
Mark 12:10-11 //Logion 66 Cornerstone saying
Mark 12:13-17 //Logion 100 Render unto Caesar
Mark 12:31 //Logion 25 Love your brother like yourself
Mark 13:17 //Logion 79 Breasts with no milk
Mark 13:21 //Logion 113 Watch for the Kingdom
Mark 13:31 //Logion 111a They will not taste death
Mark 14:58 //Logion 71 Tear and rebuild this house

Several other sayings with affinities to Mark in Thomas may also be observed, such as "Buyers and merchants [will] not enter the places of my Father" which seems to relate to Mark 11:15-19, while some of those identified as similar to Mark are arguable at best. However, the cumulative weight of these parallels makes it difficult to imagine that these two gospels are independent of each other. But which way does dependence run?

Scholars who argue that Mark depends on Thomas generally cite several arguments. (1) They point out that the order of the sayings in Thomas does not appear to reflect the order of the sayings in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). (2) They argue that the brevity of the Thomasine versions of the Synoptic sayings indicates that they are more primitive. (3)  They point out that none of the sayings in Thomas contains any stylistic elements from the writers of the canonical gospels. They bolster this with the argument that in order to recover the source of the saying from the Markan additions, the writer of Thomas would have needed the tools of a modern redaction critic. (4) Allegory is a later addition to the source by the Gospel writers. Stevan Davies and Kevin Johnson (1996) argue:


"It does not seem possible that Thomas could have had the form-critical expertise necessary to excise allegorical elements from a synoptic passage so as to construct a version of a parable that is quite similar to the probable original version. Much more probably, the version we find in Thomas is the more original and it was taken from oral tradition. The synoptic versions are highly allegorized later adaptations."

None of these arguments will stand up to serious scrutiny. The argument from order is particularly interesting. If Mark depends on Thomas, we simply see the mirror image of the problem of order: now we must account for why Mark mixed up the Thomasine order. The argument from order doesn't disappear by reversing dependence.

Argument (2) is an unfounded assumptive argument. "Shorter" simply means "shorter." It does not speak to primitivity in any way. For a precedent, Proverbs 17-24 is based on a longer Egyptian text, which also consists of pithy directives. Proverbs, though later, makes them even shorter.

The most potent argument, on its face, is (3), the lack of the hand of Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John, in Thomas. It depends, however, on the assumption that the ancients were somehow dumber than moderns, and I am always uneasy postulating that. The ancients were skilled literary critics and had no trouble creating, spotting, and extracting parallels and sayings. Moreoever, they were working in Greek, a language that was a living language which they spoke and thought in. Further, some of the sayings in Thomas go back to the Old Testament (such as the citation of Psalm 118 to be discussed below) and thus would have been easy for a literate compiler to pluck out of their Gospel context -- and hence to discover the habits of Gospel writers in assembling stories from OT citations. Note too that Thomas-first proponents have to argue that the writer of Mark was smart enough to strip off the Thomasine formulae at the beginning and end of sayings, but the compiler of Thomas was too dumb to spot the hand of Mark at the beginning and end of sayings. How's that again? Clearly the necessary skills existed in antiquity.

Argument 4, that allegory comes later and parable first, is assumptive -- it assumes that the parables go back in the tradition, which is precisely what one is trying to prove. In sum, no argument for the priority of Thomas based on order and style will hold. They are either irrelevant, subjective, or assumptive.

Mark 12:1-12 and Thomas Logion 65 and 66

The topic under dispute here comprises two passages, one a parable used by the writer of Mark as an allegory on the death of Jesus, the other a citation of Psalm 118. Both of these appear in Mark and Thomas.

Stevan Davies and Kevin Johnson (1996) make an argument for the dependence of Mark 12:1-12 on Thomas Logion 65-66:


But what then of the fact that in Mark (and the two other synoptics) and in Thomas we find the passage from Psalm 118, verse 22, immediately following the parable? In Mark (et al.) the passage from the psalm is intended to be read as a concluding scriptural comment on the foregoing passage, a comment that implies the vindication of Jesus after his death. But the passage is not really appropriate for that purpose as the whole allegorical apparatus of the parable (vineyard, tenants, servants, master) is replaced with another allegorical apparatus (builders, cornerstone). Unless one is told that the Psalm citation comments on the parable, as one is told in the synoptics, one would hardly be expected to think that either of the two has anything to do with the other.

And indeed, in Thomas the two do not have anything to do with each other. They just occur in sequence, and sequencing in Thomas rarely implies that the succeeding saying comments on the preceding saying. In this case, saying 65, the parable, is separated from saying 66, the Psalm citation, by two separate Thomasine literary devices. First, the parable's conclusion is emphasized by the tag line: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear," which signifies that the parable has been brought to completion, and second, by the device of beginning saying 66 with "Jesus said." It is on the basis of an introductory "Jesus said" that modern scholars separate most of Thomas's sayings into individual units.

Furthermore, saying 66 can only serve as an interpretation of saying 65 if it has already been established that 65 is an allegory referring to the rejection of Jesus. And Thomas does not offer saying 65 as an allegory of Jesus in any way. But Mark does and Mark sees 66 as a comment upon that allegory even though the terms of the allegories are completely unrelated. Mark makes of two unrelated traditional sayings one complex discourse.

Rather than hypothesizing the highly unlikely process of the author of Thomas carefully and critically removing allegorical elements from both the synoptic version of the parable and the Psalm citation, I think it is much more reasonable to conclude that Mark found the juxtaposition of the parable of the Wicked Tenants parable and the psalm citation in Thomas. He then constructed the allegory we find in his gospel from that original and used the Psalm citation as a concluding climactic proof-text to support his allegory all of which he presents as a narrative, an argument within the Jerusalem Temple between Jesus and various priests and elders.


At first glance this looks like a strong set of arguments. Davies and Johson say that Psalm 118:22 makes an inappropriate climax to the allegory of the Parable of the Tenants. They point out that this implies that the two have nothing to do with each other. Sure enough, we see that in Thomas the two are separated by taglines and formulaic introductions, though in the same order as in Mark. Davies and Johnson then go on to note that 66 can only interpret 65 if the writer has already established that 65 is an allegory of Jesus' death, but Thomas does not do that. It is the writer of Mark, not the compiler of Thomas, argue Davies and Johnson, who yoked these two unrelated sayings together to form one "complex discourse."

This argument, however, fails to understand the usage of Psalm 118 in Mark, and further, fails to take into account the structural features of Mark 11-12 that preclude Mark's dependence on Thomas and instead demonstrate that the compiler of Thomas, for whatever reason and by whatever route, has lifted these passages from Mark. Let's take a look at 12:1-12, starting with Psalm 118.

Psalm 118 is one of the Hallel Psalms (113-118) that celebrate the entrance of Simon Maccabaeus into the city of Jerusalem a couple of centuries before the time of Jesus. The writer of Mark cites it twice in Mark 11-12. The first time comes in Mk 11:9 where he cites 118:26 (117:25 LXX):


Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (NIV)

Mark 12:10 is the second citation of Psalm 118. The first comes in a very appropriate place  -- as Jesus is entering Jerusalem in Mark 11. It makes an implicit comparison between Simon Maccabaeus' entry into Jerusalem and Jesus' own, casting Jesus as Simon. The historical comparison is apt, as Simon would later become High Priest as well as King, just as Jesus does. He would also wrest independence for the Jews from the Seleucids and found the Hasmonean Dynasty.

The second citation of Psalm 118 is the one in Mk 12:10:


Mk12:10: Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

That makes two instances in which the writer of Mark has linked Jesus to Simon. Yet there is still one more to come, the citation of Psalm 110 further on, in Mk 12:36. That citation is traditionally seen by exegetes as a later invention to explain away the "fact" that Jesus was not of the line of David, but it is almost certainly from the hand of the writer, for it too is an allusion to Simon Maccabaeus. Though traditionally attributed to David, Psalm 110 was written during Maccabean times, as it refers to Simon through the use of an acrostic of his name formed by its first several lines. In other words, Simon Maccabaeus' name is pointed to by a Psalm that appears in a set of verses that discusses Jesus' role as Davidic Messiah. This is the third link of Jesus to Simon since Mark 11:1. In each of the three times in this section that Simon's name has cropped up in this sequence,  it has been linked to Jesus' triple role as King, Son, and Messiah.

Clearly the writer of Mark is not pulling this citation of Psalm out of Thomas. Rather, he has a definite program of linking Simon Maccabaeus and Jesus, which he does three times in the comparatively short space of 11:1 to 12:36-7, including an entrance into Jerusalem that offers people praising Jesus and laying branches at his feet, which might well be taken to be a fourth and separate reference to Simon (to 1 Macc 13:51). One reference might well be a coincidence. Four allusions constitute a program, and that program does not belong to the compiler of Thomas. One might also note two other allusions that link Jesus to Simon: there are five sons in his family (just as there were five Maccabees), and some of them bear the same names as the Maccabee sibs. Clearly this program goes back a long way in Mark.

Recall that Davies and Johnson's first argument was that Psalm 118:26 is inappropriate to interpret the Parable of the Tenants. Actually, as we have seen, it is a perfect capstone for the Parable, for it alludes to a series of events in which a King and High Priest, Simon Maccabaeus, comes to Jerusalem to cast out the Seleucids and take back Israel, just as Jesus will cast out the Wicked Tenants and take back the Vineyard. The writer of Mark was depending on the reader to go back to Psalm 118 and reflect on the history. One might add the additional parallel that Jesus, like Simon, would be cast as High Priest even though he was not of the tribe of Levi.

An additional problem is that in Mark the reason the Heir is killed is explained, while in Thomas, the Heir is simply killed:


Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him.

But why should they kill him because he is the Heir? Thomas almost appears to presume Mark's explanation.

Davies and Johnson also claimed that the writer of Mark allegorized the sayings and parables he found in Thomas. But this calls for a rather strange sequence of events on the part of the writer of Mark. First, he must realize that Psalm 118 relates to Simon Maccabaeus. Then he must incorporate into his gospel. And then he must create a whole program off of it and insert that into his gospel as well. But then we run into other problems. If that is true, then we must accept that the writer then created the scene of the entrance into Jerusalem and the argument about Christ and David in Mk 12:36 because he found the saying from Psalm 118 in Thomas. In other words, that the discovery of this citation spawned Mark's four-point Simon/Jesus program. But as we have seen, the entrance in Jerusalem is structured by the Elijah-Elisha cycle, while the details are taken from 1 Sam 10. Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem has an utterly different basis that has nothing to do with Psalm 118. The writer of Mark has simply intertwined his Simon/Jesus comparison into that story.

Alternatively, one could argue that the writer had already placed the first citation of Psalm 118 in 11:9, and then the third allusion to Simon in 12:36, and went and looked at Thomas and lo and behold! There was another citation of Psalm 118 that he could use in his Simon/Jesus program! What luck! It's almost as if someone had compiled Thomas with the writer's needs in mind.

As we have seen, however, the structuring of the Elijah-Elisha Cycle continues throughout this sequence and all the way into Mark 14:1-11. Mark 12:1-12 parallels Jehu's killing of the son's of Ahab and taking their kingdom, while Mark 12:42-44 parallels 2 Kings 12:5-17. The Simon/Jesus comparison is a contrapuntal theme snaking through all this. In other words, Psalm 118 cannot be dictating structure as the writer already has another program in mind, one that he has been playing out since the beginning of the Gospel.

But there is another interesting feature of the citation of Psalm 118 in Mark 12:10: it contains a bit of wordplay that is right up the writer's alley. The Hebrew for stone is eben, for son, it's ben. A pun on cornerstone for son! What a coincidence, eh? Finding a cite from Psalm 118 in Thomas that exactly fits his program of casting Jesus as Son, King, and Messiah, as well as his tricksy sense of humor. It's almost as if Thomas was written with Mark in mind, or something.

Finally, Psalm 118 and Psalm 110 form another very important part of Mark 12 that is difficult to believe is not from the hand of Mark. For more on the importance of that pair of Psalm citations, please see the Excursus on whether Mark Knew Paul.

In light of all these swirling allusions that link Simon Maccabaeus and Jesus in a short space, we must ask ourselves: is it more reasonable to conclude that the writer of Mark found this Psalm citation in Thomas and then created a whole program out of it, or is it more reasonable to assume that the compiler of Thomas, like so many later interpreters of Mark, including those possesed of superior form-critical skills, missed the significance of the citation of Psalm 118 in the larger program of the Gospel of Mark, and pulled it from its context? I submit that the latter is more reasonable.

Mark 12:1-12 and the Lack of Critical Tools in Antiquity

1. The Parable of the Tenants

Davies and Johnson (1996) expresse a thought found in the minds of many exegetes:


"It does not seem possible that Thomas could have had the form- critical expertise necessary to excise allegorical elements from a synoptic passage so as to construct a version of a parable that is quite similar to the probable original version. Much more probably, the version we find in Thomas is the more original and it was taken from oral tradition. The synoptic versions are highly allegorized later adaptations."

Let's take another look at our side-by-side comparison of the two parables:


Mark 12:1-12
(RSV)
Gospel of Thomas
Logion 65 and Logion 66

(Patterson & Meyer)
1: And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 2: When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3: And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  4: Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5: And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. where to buy viagra online yahoo, viagra 25 or 100 mg, can you buy viagra in malaysia, gaddafi buys viagra, chinese natural viagra uk6: He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' 7: But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8: And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9: What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. 10: Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" 12: And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away. ..
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65 He said, A [...] person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them. He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard's crop. They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master. His master said, "Perhaps he didn't know them." He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well. Then the master sent his son and said, "Perhaps they'll show my son some respect." Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!
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66 Jesus said, "Show me the stone that the builders rejected: that is the keystone."


To reduce this allegory the Gospel of Mark to a parable in Thomas, the compiler had to prune the following.


1: And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.

9: What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others.


10: Have you not read this scripture:
`

 
11: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

12: And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

Verse 1 is a citation from Isaiah and easily recognized by anyone familiar with the Old Testament. Verse 11 is also from Psalm 118 and is also instantly identifiable to anyone who has read the OT. In case our ancient form critic suffered a brain glitch and didn't recognize that, the writer of Mark has helpfully alerted the reader that this comes from the OT with the comment  "Have you not read this scripture...." There is nothing particularly difficult about excising this dross; short opening formulae appear in Thomas and the idea would have been familiar to the compiler. That leaves:


9: What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others.

12: And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

One truly wonders how difficult it would have been for our out-of-time form critic to have removed verse 12. Anyone who had read the Gospel of Mark would be cognizant of the Markan focus on the Bad Guys associated with the power structure in Jerusalem. But in case our thumb-fingered Ancient Critic missed the fact that the writer has appended that to the end of the parable by way of explanation, the writer has helpfully supplied a strong hint that the parable has terminated with the phrase for they perceived that he had told the parable against them which could hardly be true unless he had finished the parable!

This leaves only verse 9, which contains a summary explanation of the parable's meaning. There are many sayings in Thomas, but few explanations. All the compiler had to do was recognize this as a superfluous explanation and excise it in accordance with his usual habit. Again the writer of Mark has supplied the helpful hint with the question in v9a:
What will the owner of the vineyard do? which clearly indicates that the meaning of the parable is about to explained.

Obviously rendering this fleshy allegory down for its parabolic fat would not have been difficult at all. The argument from
a lack of "form-critical expertise" is a twofold error: not only is very little "expertise" required to reduce this Markan giant to a Thomasine midget, but the argument from a lack of form-critical expertise also assumes what it sets out to prove; namely, that the writer of Mark is working off of a source. Thomasine priority is a function of one's assumptions about the relationship between the writer of Mark and his sources that has nothing to do with where the evidence points.

Burton Mack (1991) summarizes the serious problems with the view that Thomas represents an unallegorized parable:


 "The Tenants. Most scholars agree that the story in Mark bears literary allusions to the Septuagint of Isa 5:1-5. Since that, plus the citation of Ps 118:22-23 in Mark 12:10-11, betray the signs of literary activity, several scholars have made the attempt to reconstruct an earlier, less allegorical form of the story. Crossan especially, In Parables, 86-96, argues strongly on the basis of the variant in GThom 93:1-18 that the story was originally not allegorical, either with respect to Israel's destiny, or with respect to Jesus' destiny, and that it was authentic, 'a deliberately shocking story of successful murder' (p. 96). Crossan does not go on to explain the 'parabolic effect' this might have created, except to say it may have been a commentary upon the times. To follow Crossan in this attempt to retrieve the parable for Jesus, one has to imagine a situation in which listeners would not have been tempted to pick up on allusive suggetions to other stories and histories at all. The tightly constructed story, however, with its motifs of 'sending,' 'servants,' in series, to 'tenants' of a 'vineyard' for its 'produce,' to say nothing of the negative fates of the servants, that the tenants knew who the servants were, that the last one sent is different (the son), and that he was killed, is literally packed with invitations to think of Israel's epic history from a Christian point of view. Images and narrative schemes that come immediately to mind include the vineyard as a traditional metaphor for Israel (even if the literary allusion to Isaiah in Mark 12:1 is deleted), the sending of the prophets, the rejection and killing of the prophets, and perhaps wisdom's envoys (Wis 7:27). The parable betrays a reflection on Israel and the negative fate of the prophets that is greatly advanced over Q. Because the special status and destiny of the last emissary is both emphatic and climactic, the story is surely a product, not of the historical Jesus, but of a much later Christian claim. The story fits best just in Mark's milieu where Jesus traditions, including Q, were combined with meditations upon Jesus' death as a crucial event. Mark's additions merely explicate the allegorical significance contained within the story itself." (p168-169, n24)

2. The Parable of the Sower

Also found in the Gospel of Thomas is the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) , Logion 9 in Thomas:


Mark 4:1-20
(RSV)
Gospel of Thomas
Logion 9

(Patterson & Meyer)
1: Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2: And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3: "Listen! A sower went out to sow.  4: And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5: Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; 6: and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. 7: Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8: And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." 9: And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." 10: And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables. 11: And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outsideeverything is in parables; 12: so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven." 13: And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14: The sower sows the word. 15: And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them. 16: And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17: and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18: And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, 19: but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.20: But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
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Jesus said, Look, the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered (them). Some fell on the road, and the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on rock, and they didn't take root in the soil and didn't produce heads of grain. Others fell on thorns, and they choked the seeds and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil, and it produced a good crop: it yielded sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure.

Once again, a glance at this shows how empty the argument from the lack of critical tools in antiquity is. To excise this parable, the compiler of Thomas had to get rid of the following:


1: Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2: And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

9: And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." 10: And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables. 11: And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outsideeverything is in parables; 12: so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven." 13: And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14: The sower sows the word. 15: And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them. 16: And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17: and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18: And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, 19: but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.20: But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."

How difficult would this have been? Anyone familiar with the Old Testament would have had no trouble doing it. The writer of Mark has helpfully supplied us with clues, such as v2: And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: which clearly announces that Jesus is going to say something important. Sure enough, the very next word is Listen! which one finds in innumerable similar contexts in the OT. For example, in Genesis 37:9 and Genesis 42:21 meaningful dreams are announced with the word. In Judges 9:7 Jotham delivers a parable from Mt. Gerizim with the command to listen:


7: When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, "Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you." (NIV)

Clearly anyone familiar with the Scriptures could see that Listen!, prefaced by in his teaching he said to them, and could hardly fail to conclude that important words are about to be spoken at that point in the text.

In Mark the parable runs from v3-8. Verse 9 cites another OT formula
And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" found in many places in the OT, including Psalm 135:17, Proverbs 20:12, Isaiah 30:21, and Isaiah 32:3. Again, no one familiar with the OT could fail to recognize this formula, and realize that the parable had terminated (it appears also in Thomas). But in case our would-be ancient form critic suffered a massive brain glitch about where the parable had ended, the writer of Mark has helpfully followed the clarion call of v9 with a change of scene in 10A:  And when he was alone, and inquiry from his followers about what the parable might mean: those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables, neither of which could hardly be happening if the parable were still ongoing.

But even after all this, if our ham-handed ancient exegete was still unable to get a grip on the parable, the writer of Mark then gives us v11-12, the famous citation of Isaiah 6:9-10, which anyone familiar with the OT could hardly fail to recognize. After that comes an explanation of the parable. Surely our critic would not have confused the explanation of the parable with the parable itself.

In sum, the entire argument that Mark must depend on Thomas because there was a lack of critical tools in antiquity is founded on a completely unsupportable claim. As this detailed look has shown, it must be utterly rejected.


Thomas and the Cleansing of the Temple

The Gospel of Thomas appears to allude to Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple in a couple of places, most clearly in Logion 64b:


Businessmen and merchants will not enter the places of my Father.

Davies and Johnson (1996)  discuss why this must be a Markan expansion of a Thomasine saying:


"I will briefly survey the elements of Mark's passage: "On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there." [This is a summary statement defining what happened.] "He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts." [This is a narrative expansion of the previous sentence, unnecessary, strictly speaking, but appropriate to do, if one is writing a narrative, which Mark is doing.] "And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "`My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it `a den of robbers.'" [The scriptural pastiche (Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11) serves to justify the activity that has been narrated. A similar pastiche of scriptural passages is used by Mark in revision of GTh 65-66 (Mk 12:1-12).] "The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching." [Passages such as this are common in Markan controversy-redaction, where Judean leaders plot against Jesus and "crowds" are foils for his teaching and usually support him.]"

The whole Markan pericope is summed up at the beginning "Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there," which appears to be a narrativization of Thomas 64b "businessmen and merchants will not enter the places of my Father." The controversy conclusion and scriptural pastiche probably derives from Mark. Whatever "places of my Father" may have meant to the compiler of Thomas, the applicability of the phrase to the Jerusalem Temple seems obvious.

The idea that the Markan story originated from Mark's narrativization of a saying is not new."


This analysis is faulty on many levels, and once again we will confront the problem of a saying without context in Thomas that in Mark is intimately related to a set of allusions and further, to structural features in the Gospel that preclude Markan borrowing of an extant saying.

The analysis of Davies and Johnson goes wrong almost immediately. They write of  Mark 11:15-16:


"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there." [This is a summary statement defining what happened.] "He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts." [This is a narrative expansion of the previous sentence, unnecessary, strictly speaking, but appropriate to do, if one is writing a narrative, which Mark is doing.]

On their reading, Mark 11:15 is simply a statement of an event that occurred, while Mark 11:16 is unnecessary. However, as we saw in the notes and commentary to Mark 11:15-19, these two verses are not statements of history, but relate to Nehemiah and a similar Temple Cleansing in the Old Testament. The argument of Davies and Johnson depends on the writer of Mark having no alternative OT source for his story, for they have already conceded that "...the scriptural pastiche probably derives from Mark." Unfortunately for their case, Mark 11:15-6 is also "scriptural pastiche," for the details here are taken from Nehemiah:


8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense. (NIV)

Their analysis is correct in one respect: it was taken from an older source. The source is not Thomas, however, but the OT.

Note too that in addition to verses from the OT cropping out in Mark, the larger issue of businessmen and merchants in the Temple is also OT in origin. Earl Doherty (1999) has identified at least three possible sources:


Malachi 3:1
"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.(NIV)

Hosea 9: 15
"Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious. (NIV)

Zechariah 14:21
...And on that day there will no longer be a merchant in the house of the LORD Almighty. (NIV)[some manuscripts read "Canaanite" for "merchant."]

The writer of Mark is aware of Malachi 3:1, for he cited it in Mark 1:2. Similarly, Zechariah 14:21 takes us to Zech 14:4, one of the most famous messianic verses of the period, which apparently lies behind Jesus' location on the Mount Olives when he begins his final essay into Jerusalem.

"Narrativization" of Thomas will not hold for another reason. As we saw in the commentary to Mark 11:15-19, the Temple Cleansing is the climax to the writer's use of the Elijah-Elisha Cycle in creating Jesus' activities in Palestine. The Thomas saying cannot have been narrativized to create a Temple Cleansing because that was already in the writer's program from long before. Thomas Brodie (1998, p92) explains. At the climax of the two legend cycles, the Temple is cleansed (Jesus drives out the moneychangers, Jehu kills the priests of Ba'al). Both are annointed (2 Kings 9), accession with cloaks on the ground (2 Kings 9), waiting before taking over (2 Kings 9:12-13, Mark 11:11), challenge the authorities (2 Kings 9:22-10:27), Mark 11:11 - 12:12), and money is given to the Temple (2 Kings 12:5-17, Mark 12:41-44). As Brodie puts it (p93), ..."the basic point is clear: Mark's long passion narrative, while using distinctive Christian sources, coincides significantly both in form and content with the long Temple-centered sequence at the end of the Elijah-Elisha narrative."

Finally, the problem of narrativization must confront the way the writer constructed the gospel by relying on the Old Testament for its details and intermediate structures. Davies and Johnson cite Maurice Goguel:


 "At the outset the record must have been a great deal simpler than it is now. Originally it would have said that Jesus protested against the presence of the sellers of merchandise and money-changers in the Temple. Quite naturally the saying of Jesus was transformed into an incident, and, at the third stage of development, the saying and the story to which it had given rise were combined."

This position is indefensible. No evidence suggests that "the record must have been simpler." There is no record of this incident prior to Mark. The claim that "the record must have been simpler" is an assumption of source criticism, not a historical judgment (based on what evidence?). Goguel claims that Quite naturally the saying of Jesus was transformed into an incident although the opposite would be just as natural (aren't the various references to the Temple's destruction in the NT and Thomas an example of a "historical" event becoming a saying?). Then the quote talks about the "third stage" even though no evidence suggests there was a second, let alone a first.

The reality is that the writer of Mark had certain habits of creation that suggest the opposite case. The author created the Temple Cleansing using his standard operating procedure of grabbing structures and stories from the OT. Recall that Mark 11:1-11 is based on 2 Sam 9-10 while the first fig tree pericope seems taken from Micah 7:1. Davies, Johnson, and Goguel are in essence arguing that the writer of Mark relied on 2 Sam 9-10 for Mark 11:1-11 (annointing), then the writer picked up Micah 7:1 for Mark 11:12-14 (fig tree cursing), then he rolls into the Temple and suddenly veers into Thomas for one saying, 11:15a, then it is back to Nehemiah for 11:15b and 11:16. The writer of Mark simply doesn't work that way. If you attribute 11:15a to one of the three possible OT sources, there's no need for Thomas at all. Instead, we get the usual Markan picture of creativity off of the OT at all levels. In this case I would argue that 11:15a is based on Zech 14, which he has used elsewhere. Zech 14:4 is one of the most famous verses of messianic legend, and the whole passage is about how the nations of the world will worship in the Jerusalem Temple on the day of the lord, after terrible destruction. It is a textbook example of Mark's hypertextual focus on the Temple.

In other words, on every level, the format and details of this pericope show unmistakeable signs of Markan style. As we have seen, the Temple Cleansing is most likely an invention of the author of Mark. There is nothing in there from Thomas.

Finally, we should point out that against the argument from order, there are three sayings in order in Thomas, Logion 64B, 65, and 66. These are the Temple Cleansing, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, and the Cornerstone Saying, in the same order one finds them in Mark. But in Mark that order is controlled by the events in 2 Kings. Hence, either Thomas has copied Mark, and retained Mark's order, or it's probably just another one of those coincidences....

Paul, Mark, and Thomas

Before I close out this excursus, I'd like to highlight one other issue from the point of view of priority. In Mark 8:17-18 we find:


17: And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18: Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?

In the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 17 similarly gives us:


Jesus said, "I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart."

While Paul in 1 Cor 2:9 observes:


But as it is written, "Things which an eye didn't see, and an ear didn't hear, which didn't enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him."

Deuteronomy 29:2-4 says:


2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to
Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those
miraculous signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or
eyes that see or ears that hear.

The Gospel of Mark apparently alludes to 1 Corinthians several times. Looking at the above sayings, it seems we must conclude that the compiler of Thomas had the same affection for the OT that Mark does, and the same affinities for 1 Cor. Eerie, isn't it?


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