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Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

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Published by: 31songofjoy on Oct 16, 2012
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The Parable of the Sower andMark's Jewish Leaders
TCRENCE
J.
KEEGAN, O.P.
Providence CollegeProvidence, RI 02918
DOES MARK'S GOSPEL DRAW A DISTINCTION
between the Pharisees of Galilee and the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Jerusalem, or do theytogether form a united bloc of opposition against Jesus? Historical critics,especially redaction critics, see solid grounds for distinguishing them. Literary critics, especially those concerned with plot development, claim theyconstitute a single character group. Both methodological approaches recognize Mark's creative use of geography. Studies of redaction and some literarystudies find a strong correlation between geography and the distinct groupsof Jewish leaders opposed to Jesus.
1
Other literary studies see various rolesplayed by Mark's geographical distinctions,
2
but they often claim that the
1
M. Cook,
Mark's Treatment of the Jewish Leaders
(NovTSup 51; Leiden: Brill, 1978)
82;
E. S. Malbon, "The Jewish Leaders in the Gospel of Mark: A Literary Study of MarcanCharacterization,"
JBL
108 (1989) 272-73.
2
For C. W. Hedrick ("What is a Gospel? Geography, Time, and Narrative Structure,"
 Perspectives in Religious Studies
10 [1983] 257) and J. Dewey ("Mark as Interwoven Tapestry:Forecasts and Echoes for a Listening Audience,"
CBQ
53
[1991] 223-24), geography provides theframework for individual episodes. For E. van Eck ("Die ideologiese funksie van ruimte in dieMarkus-vertelling: 'n Verkenning,"
Hervormde Teologiese Studies
47 [1991] 1010-41), the wayfrom Galilee to Jerusalem expresses the narrator's ideological perspective of following Jesus insuffering. For E. S. Malbon ("Galilee and Jerusalem: History and Literature in Marcan Interpretation,"
CBQ
44 [1982] 242), Marcan geopolitical locations represent a nonmanifest mythological system. For M. A. Tolbert
(Sowing the
Gospel:
Mark's World in Literary-Historical  Perspective
[Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989] 113-15), geography distinguishes the two main phases
501
 
502 THE CATHOLIC BIBLICAL QUARTERLY I 56, 1994unified opposition to Jesus on the part of all of the groups of leaders transcends geographical boundaries.
3
Those who would distinguish the groups of Jewish leaders point out thatthe Pharisees appear mainly in Galilee, do not confront Jesus directly, andchallenge him primarily on matters of religious, legal observance. The chief priests, scribes, and elders appear as a distinct group only after Jesus hasentered Jerusalem; they confront Jesus directly and challenge him on theissue of authority.
4
There is, however, some overlapping, with the Phariseescontinuing to appear after Jesus has left Galilee (once [10:2] after he hasentered Judea, and once [12:13] after he has entered Jerusalem), and with thescribes appearing both alone and with the Pharisees in Galilee, and bothalone and with the chief priests or elders, or with both, in Jerusalem.
5
RobertMowery, however, has shown that when one considers the formal features of the Marcan references this overlapping does not diminish the clarity of thedistinction drawn between the two groups. Most of the Galilean referencesto the Pharisees use the collective designation "the Pharisees," while the twonon-Galilean references (10:2; 12:13) do not.
6
Most of the references to thescribes in narrative material set in Jerusalem use the collective designation"the scribes," while none of the six narrative references to scribes outside of Jerusalem use this designation.
7
There are four nonnarrative references toscribes outside of Jerusalem. All four use the collective designation "thescribes," but all four refer to scribes who were absent.
8
Mowery can conclude,then, that in spite of the apparent overlap there is strong textual support for
of the story and the dominant type of action in each: Jesus preaching the word, and the messiah-king coming into his city. For M. Boring ("Mark
1:1-15
and the Beginning of the Gospel,"
Semeia
52 [1990] 45-46), geography structures not the biography of Jesus but narrative Chris-tology.
3
J. D. Kingsbury, "The Religious Authorities in the Gospel of Mark,"
NTS
36 (1990) 46.
4
Cook,
Mark's Treatment,
29, 81-82; D. Lührmann, "Die Pharisäer und die Schriftgelehrten im Markusevangelium,"
ZNW7&
(1987) 172. For S. H. Smith ("The Role of Jesus'Opponents in the Markan Drama,"
NTS
35 [1989] 171), up to 8:11-13 the Pharisees'"role hasbeen confined to debating matters of halakhah related ... to the eating
motif."
For Malbon("Jewish Leaders," 266-67), "the scribes and the Pharisees raise religious objections. . . . Thechief priests, scribes, and elders raise also what must be called political objections, based on theirstruggle with Jesus for authority and influence over the people."
5
Smith ("Role of Jesus' Opponents," 167), rejecting the claim of some redaction criticsthat the scribes of the passion narrative differ from those of the Galilean controversies, maintains,from a literary perspective, that they are the one group that draws the story of Jesus'conflict with the religious establishment into a coherent whole.
6
R. L. Mowery, "Pharisees and Scribes, Galilee and Jerusalem,"
ZNW 
&0
(1989) 266.
7
In 2:6,16; 3:22; 7:1,5; 9:14 (ibid., 267).
8
In 1:22; 8:31; 9:11; 10:33 (ibid.)
 
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER 503maintaining that "the Pharisees" pertain to Galilee and "the Scribes" pertainto Jerusalem.
9
Those who see the Jewish leaders as a unified character group areusually concerned with plot development. Mary Ann Tolbert holds that asthe plot of the gospel develops the response of the Jewish groups "from firstto last" never wavers.
10
She can speak, therefore, of the "consistent, almostmonolithic stance of the Jewish groups."
11
Jack Dean Kingsbury, who likewise is concerned with plot development, rejects the redaction-critical claimthat the two groups of leaders are to be distinguished on the basis of thesubject of their dispute with Jesus.
12
For him, as the plot involving the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders develops, what is at issue is alwaysthe question of authority.
13
He similarly rejects any geographical basis fordistinguishing the two groups, noting both the scribes challenging Jesus'authority in Galilee and the Pharisees continuing their attack on Jesus'authority from Galilee to Jerusalem.
14
While it is not unusual for diverse methodologies to yield diverse andeven contradictory results, the disagreement noted above is somewhat disconcerting. If Mark the redactor so clearly distinguishes the Pharisees of Galilee from the chief priests, scribes, and elders in Jerusalem, should notMark's narrative exhibit a reason for this distinction? Conversely, if the plotof Mark's narrative employs all of the Jewish leaders as a composite character group, why did Mark the redactor so clearly distinguish them? StephenSmith and Elizabeth Struthers Malbon are two literary critics who recognizethe distinction between the Jewish groups.
15
Smith, in presenting the unityof the plot, tends to blur the distinction. Malbon, on the other hand, offersliterary grounds for maintaining the distinction;
16
for her it is because of themythic meaning of narrative space in Mark that the Pharisees are associated
9
Ibid., 268.
10
Tolbert,
Sowing the Gospel 
139-40.
11
Ibid., 147. F. J. Matera ("The Prologue as the Interpretive Key to Mark's Gospel,"
 JSNT 
34 [1988] 10) likewise speaks of "a monolithic bloc of opposition."
12
Kingsbury, "Religious Authorities," 46.
13
See J. D. Kingsbury,
Conflict in Mark: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples
(Minneapolis:Fortress, 1989) 69, where he suggests that there is a "trend from matters dealing implicitly withthe issue of authority to matters dealing explicitly with this issue." For Tolbert
(Sowing theGospel,
233), "The issue of Jesus' authority to do and say what he does has been at the centerof his conflict .. . from the beginning of the story."
14
Kingsbury, "Religious Authorities," 45-47.
15
Smith, "Role of Jesus' Opponents," 161-82; Malbon, "Jewish Leaders," 259-81.
16
Smith ("Role of Jesus' Opponents," 167) suggests that the scribes draw the conflict withthe authorities into a coherent whole; he also suggests (pp. 172-73) that the Pharisees* challengesto Jesus in 8:11 and 10:2 bring their opposition into line with that of the chief priests.

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