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In An Introduction to the New Testament, page 263, Raymond E. Brown says material from Mark 6:45-8:26 is unexpectedly missing from Luke's Gospel, and refers to this as the "Big Omission", although I think it is more widely referred to as the "Missing Block." This includes the important events and sayings, in succession:

  • Jesus walks on the water
  • Jesus in the region of Gennesaret, where even those who touched him were made whole
  • Pharisees argue 'clean and unclean'
  • the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman who sought to have her daughter healed
  • the trip through Sidon and the Decapolis
  • the healing of the deaf and mute man
  • Jesus feeds the four thousand
  • the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod
  • the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida

The omission of this material also results in the incongruous passage in Luke 9:18: "And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?"

How did this 'missing block' come about, and what is the significance of it?

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    fwiw, the SBL GNT has the Greek word for "alone" in the plural; "on their own" might be a more accurate gloss. – fumanchu Jan 22 '15 at 17:23
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    @fumanchu I don't know...ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον ("as he was praying") is clearly singular, and κατὰ μόνας ("alone") appears to be idiomatic, a set adverbial phrase. Technically μόνας is not only plural but feminine, probably due to an understood χώρας or ὁδούς. – Susan Jan 24 '15 at 14:21
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Some, like Raymond E. Brown, in An Introduction to the New Testament, page 263, prefer to refer to the omission in Luke's Gospel of material from Mark 6:45-8:26 as the 'Big Omission' (or 'Great Omission') in order to distinguish what he terms the 'Little Omission' of Mark 9:41-10:12. Others refer to the major omission simply as the 'Missing Block'.

John Dominic Crossan says, in The Birth of Christianity, page 107, that if you postulate Matthean and Lukan dependence on Mark, you should be able to explain every omission, addition or alteration in Matthew and Luke over their Markan source. The 'Missing Block' has been a major subject of scholarly inquiry for many years.

Robert A. Stein says, in Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, pages 265-266, that numerous attempts have been made to explain why the material in Mark 6:45-8:26 is missing from Luke's Gospel. Some of these are:

  1. Luke abbreviated Mark's material to allow for hisother material from 'Q' and 'L'.
  2. Upon coming to Mark 6:45-52, in which Bethsaida is mentioned, he decided to omit it. Looking away or being distracted, he accidentally focussed on Mark 8:22, where Bethsaida is again mentioned. Thinking he was looking at the first reference to Bethsaida, he began to use the material from Mark again.
  3. Luke omitted this material to avoid having repetitive incidents, such as feeding the five thousand (Mark 6:32-44) and feeding the four thousand (Mark 8:1-10). However, much of the material in the great omission has no parallel anywhere else in Luke.
  4. Luke was using a defective copy of Mark's Gospel that lacked 6:45-8:26. Stein dismisses this as an unlikely scenario because it is so unlikely for material to be missing from the middle of scrolls. However, other scholars have established that codex manuscripts were already being used towards the end of the first century, and that Christians were among the foremost users of the codex format in the early centuries CE.
  5. Luke wanted to limit Jesus' mission to Galilee and thus omitted Jesus' contact with Gentiles outside Galilee.
  6. Luke proceeded direct from the feeding miracle in 9:10-17 and Herod's question about Jesus in 9:7-9 to highlight the explicit Christology found in Peter's confession.

Stein says that the fact we have so many attempts to explain the great omission suggests there is no convincing solution.

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I'd like to speak of this section not in comparison to Luke but by comparing it to the rest of Mark.

Mark 6:45-8:26 has a number of peculiarities which set it apart from the rest of the Gospel.

1)This section of the gospel contains a number of 'doublets' of episodes in other portions of Mark 6:45-54 -Walking on water, a form is found in Mark 4:35-41 8:1-10 -The feeding of the 4 thousand, Mark 6:30-44. 8:22-26 - Healing of the blind man, Mark 10:46-52

2)Two of the healing stories in this section occur with Jesus going through elaborate almost ritualistic actions: 7:32-36 and 8:22-26. Nowhere else in any of the gospels can one find such behavior by Jesus when there is a healing miracle.

3) The "Mark's" vocabulary in this section of the gospel exhibits some features primarily found only here. For example: ---The adjective "without insight" is only used in this section. ---"to understand" is used 4 times in this section and only once outside of it; and only with regards to an allusion to a biblical passage (Isa 6:9-10).

4) This section details episodes of Jesus' ministry which occurred outside of Galilee.

These points are meant to show that this section of Mark was added after the gospel was completed and not by the original author; but by someone who attempted to mimic the style and vocabulary of the primary author. This person was ultimately very successful, for the differences in this part of the gospel although easily discovered, can have other valid explanations besides additions by a second author.

But if the theory is valid and the entire section is an addition, it would explain why it is missing from Matthew and Luke; for it was added after they used the Gospel of Mark in writing their own.

How can one explain the first version of Mark being completely lost and only the second version surviving the millennia?

How does one explain all the surviving versions of John having chapter 21 when internally, it is clear that the original work ended at chapter 20?

Time can pass between authorship and public release of the work.

Clement (c. 195) stated that the gospels with genealogies (i.e., Matthew and Luke) were "openly published", before mark. This May mean that Mark's Gospel; although written first, was initially in private circulation.

Something that may back up this hypothesis is, Clement's Letter to Theodoros regarding a more spirital, expanded version of Mark. If it is to be considered genuine; this gospel, stored in Alexandria (Where tradition states Mark went on to preach and become it's first Bishop) was a version of Mark that is not the version that has come down to us. I'm not here to weight the pros and cons regarding this unknown version's authenticity. I only bring it up to show that the history of canonical Mark may be a very complex one.

In closing, this is not my theory, for a more complete presentation of the theory see Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels pages 284-286.

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