You can read the whole series here.
Gethsemane 1. Where to begin? The Gospels give us different pictures. John’s Gospel has the Last Supper, chapters 13-17 and then a break, crossing the Kidron Valley in chapter 18. The break in the other Gospels is not so clear, especially in Luke. It’s hard to make a break there, but the Supper is a complex thing in itself, so I’m just going to start things with Gethsemane, even though that’s not always how the Passion is defined. But this thing has to be finite. It’s a blog post. The same thing happens at the other end. Matthew doesn’t make a sharp divide between death and burial. I think the latter belongs in a treatment of resurrection, something I don’t want to get in to, and I haven’t really carefully reviewed the texts anyway. That’s on purpose. This series focuses on issues we don’t consider with much frequency.
I’m going to break down the scenes of the Passion by following the sequence that Fr. Brown uses in his Death of the Messiah because it’s reasonable to me. There is a huge literature, you have to make some choices and definitions, so there you go. The Evangelists wouldn’t expect people to be doing stuff like this—comparing what they all say. That is really contrary to what they intended. There is value in reading the intentional way, or vertically, but reading horizontally, across the different Gospels, reveals things about how narratives were constructed and perhaps why.
Mark 14:26 (and Matthew): “Having sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” For Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is leaving a Passover meal and going to Gethsemane. (For John it’s different. He has the meal taking place the day before Passover.) It’s not clear from the Greek apparently, whether the intent is to say they sang multiple hymns, or just one. In the (Jewish) Passover liturgy, there is a set of hymns, called the praise hymns that had become attached to the feast. There is a problem connecting the two ideas however.
The Jewish Passover liturgy is prescribed in the Mishnah, a kind of second Jewish law that was firmed up toward the end of the second century. Hardly anything is known about early first century practice. Newer Jewish scholarship forbids transposing the 200AD picture back to 30AD, although there was a long accepted tradition of doing so. There were large transformations between those eras, and we’ll see that going forward. Another thing is clear, Mark, who takes pains to explain Jewish cleansing practice elsewhere, probably has no expectation (and maybe no knowledge himself) of what happened here. We just don’t know what psalm(s) they might have used. I’ll come back to this problem in the trials, and the temple veil tearing at the death of Jesus.
Mark just wants to give a reverent closing to the supper with the hymn then, and move on.
Next: The Mt. of Olives and a Davidic text that may provide an explanation of structure. Judas as antitype.