Did GosMark's Author Possibly Invent the Empty Tomb? (Nope 5 of 9)


We've been doing this a while, starting back here at Part 1. Currently I'm looking at a number of problems that tend to cluster around the Gospel tomb accounts, and how their existence as problems doesn't follow cleanly from the proposal that GosMark's author simply invented the tomb (or even its emptiness). In the previous Part, that problem was women being the first witnesses to the tomb, in the sense of them being women at all.

But there are more subtle problems associated with those women:

4.) GosMark's invention of the tomb, and so of the women being at the tomb (or even his invention of the women, too), does not fit the embarrassing GosLuke material of the apostles deriding the women's report as "oblivion-gush".

Peter is a partial exception in GosLuke; but the brief verse about him rushing out to check the tomb is late (and meant to clarify something in the Emmaus story itself about people, plural, so not just him, going out to check the tomb after the women return), and he still doesn't see Jesus there; or rather his (textually solid) verification that he has also seen Jesus (apparently alone, at some undisclosed location) happens off-screen and doesn't even get reported firsthand: other people pre-empt the Emmaus disciples on their return with the mere claim Peter has seen Jesus!

(And yet, Luke still narrates in detail a unique first-appearance to Clopas-and-whoever, on the road to Emmaus, without even clarifying that Peter saw Jesus first after all! Why would Luke invent this, and not invent a private Peter visitation? -- why would Luke not put whatever little he wanted about the Peter visitation first? -- something that even the late addition about Peter running off to check the tomb doesn't do! GosLuke is as pro-Peter as any canonical text, though with the usual canonical harsh criticisms of Peter. This oddity, among other reasons such as linguistic forms, is why even sceptical scholars sometimes regard the Emmaus material as not only being primitive, predating any canonical composition, but even historical to some significantly real degree; even if they think it's a touched up hallucinatory vision of some kind. But I don't see that the Emmaus material in itself, even if it predates GosMark, affects the question of whether Mark did invent the empty tomb: the tomb itself is mentioned in the Emmaus block as existing and being empty, but I grant that theoretically this could have been part of the touchup from original material. Thus my merely parenthetical digression.)

I suppose one could propose that this shape of the data echoes an original authoritative resistance to GosMark's innovation. But that proposal doesn't remotely explain why the author's contemporary authorities decided to void their own authoritative visions or whatever, ditching Peter's vision of Jesus to an off-screen after-the-fact second-hand report of exactly no details (only archived ten to fifteen years later on standard dating theories), in order to embrace this upstart's version; nor does the proposal explain why both GosMark and GosLuke (and the other canonicals for that matter) keep insisting on the subsequent authority of the same chief apostles despite their repeated blunders in the narratives (and Peter most especially).

Things don't get any better when a woman from the tomb gushes about something else involving that tomb's emptiness, and disciples (including Peter) are more clearly shown believing her:

5.) Mark's invention of the empty tomb does not fit with the GosJohn story of the women (Mary Magdalene and at least one unknown someone-else, presumably a woman as in GosMatt) finding the empty tomb and thinking something perfectly mundane if puzzling is wrong: someone has moved the body.

This variation, while harmonizable, is simply bizarre if GosJohn is such a late production, and especially if it's supposed to represent a far development of an invented tomb story. What's the point of inventing this?!

Not to disparage whoever else is with Mary (but so nearly not-mentioned, that there's a popular belief only Mary is mentioned in GosJohn as finding the tomb empty), because the other companions were never treated as personally important (although typically named) in other accounts.

Not to disparage Mary, because she gets to see Jesus first by herself (and sees angels by herself for that matter -- her companion drops out of narrative sight completely once they report the missing body to Peter).

Not to disparage Peter, because now he's actually shown at the tomb, and the first one inside -- although still not the first to believe Jesus is risen, but that's no worse off than other accounts.

To promote the eyewitness author over-against Mary, because Mary was initially mistaken? But Mary still gets the first visitation from Jesus, and a far more personally focused one than the other first appearances in other accounts; and Peter is still emphatically meant to be the leader of the apostles after this -- more emphatically than in any other canonical Gospel. Besides which the implication is that if MaryMag hadn't shown up, looking for Peter (and not for the "beloved disciple" who just happened to be there), the Disciple wouldn't have been at the tomb at all.

To promote the Beloved Disciple and/or Peter? -- by inventing Mary being mistaken about what happened to the body?! That only works by disparaging Mary in their favor, which very much doesn't happen; quite the opposite!

To promote Mary Magdalene as the special authority people ought to be following? She disappears completely from the story afterward! -- and Peter is given authoritative (if penitent) priority, although the BD insists he himself has a right to be heard.

Mary's mistake, as a mere development of a detail (the tomb and its emptiness) that, per hypothesis and standard dating theories, didn't even exist 30 years prior to GosJohn, comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere. It might explain, in a backhanded way, who that "young man" was at the tomb in GosMark, namely the beloved disciple (still lingering and thinking over his realization when another group of women connected to MaryMag arrives), but it doesn't go out of its way to do so; most commentators never even notice the potential link.

In other words, Mary (and Company) thinking the missing body was merely a normal (though troubling) problem, is an independent variation about the tomb: not a tradition dependent on GosMark, thus not a tradition dependent on GosMark having invented the tomb (and the women's connection to the tomb).

Granted, it isn't impossible that there could be independently invented tradition of something sheerly invented previously, even if it's impossible to make any clean guesses that fit the extant data, about the purpose of the invention. But the theory of GosMark's invention has always been, quite necessarily, bound up tightly with the idea that Mark's invention was so respected and admired that (so to speak) it memetically overwrote whatever had come before to create memetic variations of its new innovation. And there's no clear explanation why this independent variation, of the empty tomb being mistaken for a normal problem, would be breaking so nearly off the vine.

As a clarification attempt at some things happening that confusing morning, the variation makes some sense; as a competitive variation of the Markan tomb story it makes no sense, and makes even less sense (if possible) as a developmental extension of the story.

But then, if it's an independent clarification attempt, the tomb and its emptiness has another attestation independent of GosMark: and that weighs (even if only a little) against Mark inventing the empty tomb.

Next up: let us consider exactly how awesomely special and important the subsequent authorities were in finding that empty tomb, shall we? No, I'm not entirely kidding -- it's really important...!


Jason Pratt said…
Too early for a witty quip; so just registering for comment tracking.

Hey Jason I am really glad you are giving your usual through job on this topic. It's really important because the Jesus mythers make such deal out of Mark the assumption that he in vented it all.

Popular posts from this blog

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Asherah: Not God's Wife

Space Aliens and Assumptions

Space Aliens and Assumptions

Scientifically Documented Miracles