Monday, October 29, 2007

Bock's second review

Here is a link to a second review by Darrell Bock. I want to respond to his concern over what the Coptic says in regard to "daimon." The photos are clear here. The Coptic says "daimon" and on this NG team and I agree. But our translation of this word into English is very different. NG team uses "spirit" and I use "demon" following traditional convention of translation of this word in Christian and Gnostic sources. In The Critical Edition, Kasser, Wurst and Meyer have pulled "spirit" and simply left "daimon" for all to translate at will.

As for my remarks in The Thirteenth Apostle, that Mark was written as pro-Pauline propaganda against the disciples in Jerusalem, Bock does not like or agree with this since he is of the opinion that early Christianity was much more harmonious than I see in our sources. Whatever one's opinion on the historical origin of Mark, the Gnostics who wrote the Gospel of Judas are interpreting it in just this sense: as polemic against the Twelve. Thus their characterization of the Twelve as ignorant and faithless, while Judas the confessor as a demon. All this is Markan interpretation on the part of the Gnostics.

8 comments: said...

Well yes, the early Christianity represented by the exant NT is fairly harmonious BECAUSE the NT contains large amounts of Pauline propaganda, including I have decided, a Pauline mission to Genntiles, all superimposed on the truly earliest 'Christian' documents written in an entirely Jewish milieu.

Unknown said...

While I might agree with Bock on the nature and meaning of Mark, I think his remark on the availability of the texts or facsimiles of the text is more important. Dr. Deconick, did you have access to a facsimile of the text when you did your translation? It seems from Bock's review that he does not.

I have no grounds to say whether you are right or wrong, partly because I don't read Coptic but also because I don't have access to the text, even if I could read Coptic.

April DeConick said...


You are continuing to miss the point. I have been the loudest public advocate demanding that NGS release the facsimiles which they have not done for any of us. So I worked from the transcription and photos in the Critical Edition. The word daimon occurs in the Coptic manuscript. You can see it very clearly if you look on p. 206 of the Critical Edition. The question isn't whether or not daimon is in the text. The quibble is over how it is to be interpreted. Bock appears not to have looked at the Critical Edition.

We will not agree about Mark mainly because I have no apologetic agenda with Mark. The text is saturated with discord when it comes to the disciples, and they never come into the know. The ancient readers/hearers appear to have picked this up because both Matthew and Luke rewrite Mark in such a way to get rid of the dislike of the Twelve. Mark's theology is pro-Pauline. All this suggests that it was a pro-Pauline gospel, downplaying the Twelve and their authority. said...

If Mark was more primitive than Matthew and Luke (the latter two removed the dislike of the twelve), then may be the original dislike in Mark was aimed at priests (not the Pauline disciples) who did not understand the prophet. In Mk.8.32,33, I suggest it was a named high priest (not the Pauline Peter) who rebuked the prophet for 'speaking plainly', and the prophet counter-rebuked the high priest. Thus the Pauline editorial change related to 'dislike' in Mark was found to be unsatisfactory by the editors of Matthew and Luke. Original Mark was written for an entirely Jewish milieu. said...

One of the Pauline editor's devices that makes Mark and Acts seem harmonious are the journeys apparently made by Jesus and Paul to Gentile areas.

The literary effects of the journeys in Mark and Acts are astonishingly similar:

1. In both Mark and Acts, the journeys support the idea of a mission to Gentiles at the same time as distancing that mission from Jews.

2. In both Mark and Acts, many of the miracles are made to occur in Gentile areas, because Gentiles were apparently more accepting of the Pauline message than Jews.

3. The Pauline introduction of fictitious journeys broke up the seamless original narratives (narratives that are now garbled). Thus for Mark, I suggest the original narrative was all based in Jerusalem in and around the temple, and in Judea. For Acts, the original narrative was based mostly in Rome and partly in Jerusalem. Both original narratives were written in and for a Jewish milieu.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your response concerning the facsimilies. I agree that they should be released. I appreciate your explanation on how you came to your translation of the text. Like I said, I am no expert in Coptic but I do find it fascinating that the NG scholars mistranslated the text. Your previous posts made me wonder if the NG was more interested in sensationalism than true scholarship.

As to your comment that I have an apologetic agenda when it comes to Mark, please don't categorize me so easily. I too see the discord in Mark. I have considered the possibility that the reason for the discord is Pauline influence. I have also considered that there are other possible influences that do not necessarily rule out Pauline influence but rather are alongside the Pauline. I would suggest that the editorial work in Mark is not so clean as to reveal one source of influence. On the other hand, I have wondered sometimes if the disciples are not used in Mark as the people who ask the questions (often stupid questions) so that Mark's Jesus can provide the answers, thus providing teaching for the early Church.

Belief does not make we witless nor cause me to blindly follow a specific party line. Frankly I find a great deal of Mark to be rather subversive, particularly of those in the early and present Christian community who think they have everything figured out. Since I AM a pastor I tend to apply this to the modern Church. I realize you task is different.

Unknown said...

Oh, and thank you for your continuing insistence that facsimilies of documents be made available to the scholarly community. I had hoped that the secreting of documents ended when BAR outed the withheld parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Clearly this is not the case. said...

The anti-priest, anti-sacrifice stance in the Gospel of Judas leaves me thinking that the process by which that Gospel came about was somewhat similar to the Pauline editorial process by which the NT was produced from the earliest 'Christian' documents written in and for a Jewish milieu. In other words, there was an original shorter document about the prophet Judas who was anti-priest and anti-sacrifice. This document was changed and expanded by Sethian editors into a document in which their Jesus was anti the current 'orthodox' Christian priests, probably Romans, since 'they sacrifice children' (which I take as exposing their children). Judas and the twelve were seen by the Sethians as related to the 'orthodox' side which in its Gospel of Mark also downplayed the twelve, by default.

I suggest that the negative attitude to the twelve/thirteen in both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Judas had its origin in the prophet Judas' attitude to the priests who relied on animal sacrifices as a means of cleansing. Like the 'orthodox' Jesus, the Sethian Jesus was also a fabrication. Thus the prophet referred to in the Gospel of Judas was in fact Judas - "he was regarded by all as a prophet" (see the Conclusion in the NG version).