Scripturalization in the Passion Narrative: A Small Example

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Mark Goodacre has argued in a recent article (based I think on a seminar that he gave a few years back to the Erhardt seminar here in Manchester) that the starkly alternative approaches to the use of the OT in the gospel passion narratives, made famous by Dominic Crossan, fail to do justice to the evidence.  Briefly stated, Crossan suggests that many scholars work on the model that sees the passion traditions as ‘history remembered’ (and he includes Raymond Brown in such a group).  Rejecting this model, Crossan argues instead for the tradition as ‘prophecy historicized’.  Mark argues (I am remembering what he says here, because the article itself is not to hand) that instead we should imagine a more complex process by means of which the tradition undergoes ‘scripturalization’.

A small example of this occurs in the transitional verse Mark 14.26/Matt. 26.30/Luke 22.39/John 18.1.

Mark reads: Καὶ ὑμνήσαντες ἐξῆλθον εἰς τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν and is followed by Matthew exactly. The verse seems to me to be a basic geographical description, necessary to the plot, and rooted in the pre-Markan tradition that has the last supper narrative followed immediately by the Gethsemane scene. Luke expands and breaks the movement down into a general statement Καὶ ἐξελθὼν followed by more specific christology and discipleship focussed description: ἐπορεύθη κατὰ τὸ ἔθος εἰς τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν, ἠκολούθησαν δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ οἱ μαθηταί.

John, in what I take to be an independent tradition (i.e. this is not a redaction of Mark or Luke in my view) moves the action on by using the same basic descriptive verb ἐξῆλθεν σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ but adds the following detail: πέραν τοῦ χειμάρρου τοῦ Κεδρὼν ὅπου ἦν κῆπος.

As Brown argues in Death of the Messiah, the extra Johannine detail is informed by Scripture: in this case LXX of 2 Samuel 15.16 and 23, which gives us:
καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ βασιλεὺς καὶ πᾶς ὁ οἶκος αὐτοῦ τοῖς ποσὶν αὐτῶν … καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς διέβη τὸν χειμάρρουν Κεδρων

This sets up a clear Jesus/David parallel in which the surrounding themes of betrayal and weeping on the Mount of Olives are obviously relevant.  What intrigues me, however, is that, while Mark and //’s focus on the weeping later in their narrative, they do not allude to the 2 Samuel text at this point, whereas John, who does make the allusion, is christologically unable to include the Gethsemane scene in what follows.  In other words, there is evidence here of an ongoing ‘back and forth’ between the basic data of the passion tradition, scriptural texts and provide that data with an interpretive framework, and a renewed ‘telling’ of the data in the light of that framework.

See further: Mark Goodacre, “Scripturalization in Mark’s Crucifixion Narrative” in Geert van Oyen and Tom Shepherd (eds.), The Passion of Mark (Leuven: Peeters, 2006): 33-47