Re: On the right and left of Jesus (fwd)

Stephen C. Carlson (
Wed, 18 Sep 1996 09:41:12 -0400

At 08:30 9/15/96 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>(1) I suspect that Stephen Carlson has already read and dismissed Norman
>Perrin's discussion (in _What is Redaction Criticism) of this pericope and
>its function in the threefold Marcan cycle (in Mark 8-10) of Passion
>prediction + misunderstanding by disciples of wht discipleship is + sermon
>by Jesus on Messianic role and role of disciples.

I agree that there is a threefold Marcan cycle (Perrin only discussed
the first prediction in detail; we are discussing the third), and so
it appears that the pericope as it stands in Mark is about discipleship.
However, I am interested in what Matthew does with the same material,
and the pericope appears to have a much different yet coherent literary

> I still think, however,
>that Matthew's version with the mother of James and John putting the
>question rather than the sons of Zebedee themselves, IS most likely meant
>to soften the presumptuousness of such a question coming directly from the
>disciples, who are certainly not exposed in Matthew to the almost ruthless
>sarcasm surrounding them in Mark's gospel.

I think that if Matthew's only purpose was to soften Mark's take on the
disciples, removing Mk10:35b ("Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever
we ask of you.") and replacing it with ("asked a favor of him" Mt20:20)
would have sufficed. The role of the mother is what I found interesting.
To me, it didn't help to put the sons of Zebedee in a better light --
though I have been properly admonished, in a private email, that I should
not import my American culture into the text -- and at any rate Matthew
explains that Jesus saw through the mother's request and addressed the
real instigators.

In addition, Arlo J. Nau, PETER IN MATTHEW (1992) analyzed the role of
the mother of the sons of Zebadee in this pericope as Matthew's desire
to remove any speaking roles for James and John. Nau, who assumes the
standard 2SH, believes that Matthew also has an anti-disciple slant but
in a different way than Mark's.

>(2) I think that the positions at the right and the left of Jesus in glory
>probably are meant to be positions of honor, but the discussion has been
>interesting in disclosing alternative possibilities of interpretation and
>has brought to light more than one possibility that I was never aware of
>hitherto. Perhaps it is worthwhile to be reminded occasionally (so long as
>it's not TOO frequently!) of how much there is in the gospels that we do
>NOT wholly understand.

If there is irony in the Matthean account (and possibly in Mark's as
well), then at one level the positions at the right and left of Jesus
must be understood as positions of honor. However, that does not
settle the question as to whether other meanings, on a different level,
were also meant.

>(3) [...] I think, however, that the story
>as we have it in Mark presupposes a theology of the sacraments in place,
>and that there are pieces of the understanding of "those for whom it has
>been prepared" that we may not be able o recover readily from the unknown
>early ecclesiastical history.

The sacramental aspect is quite intriguing and one which I have not
fully explored. I am therefore somewhat puzzled that Matthew would
omit Mk10:38b, 39b ("or be baptized with the baptisim that I am
baptized with") given Matthew's interest in ecclesiology. This may
be a text-critical issue, but the critical reading is quite secure
with an {A} rating. A similar saying shows up in Lk12:50 in the middle
of a Q section, but is not usually assigned to Q.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson                   : Poetry speaks of aspirations,              : and songs chant the words. :               -- Shujing 2.35