Saturday, April 11, 2009

brutal agonies, mental pictures

"None of the four gospels pays special attention to the brutal agonies of mind and body implicit in crucifixion; they can assume that each of their contemporary readers has witnessed the common ghastly sight, one that appalled even so hardened a lawyer as Cicero. In fact, the condemned was fastened to an upright wooden cross or other scaffolding with spike-sized nails and rope (the Greek word for cross means stake); sometimes the body was supported by a rudimentary footrest, sometimes by a thick peg in the fork of the body; then the condemned simply hung suspended, stripped, in all weathers till he died or was dispatched, sometimes by a breaking of the long leg bones (if the condemned could not press up on his legs to draw deep breaths, he would soon suffocate)."
--"The Strangest Story: A Preface to the Good News According to John" page 162 Three Gospels by Reynolds Price

"Like his great predecessors and the masterly Western narrators who have succeeded him as his pupils, Mark knows that the first thing a listener or reader craves from the teller is clean-lined portrayal of mighty, or at least magnetic, acts--an apparently magical summoning up through mental pictures of memorable acts achieved by actual human beings, however heroic, against the overwhelming force of years and enemies. And with his Hebrew forebears, Mark alone among Christian narrators stands with a very few narrators from Asia as supremely successful in the two prime aims of storytelling[: 1) 'assuming a great deal of prior knowledge by his readers' and 2) 'trusting implicitly that his story in itself... is... compelling']. Surely those aims are the capturing and holding of an audience (readers from many times and cultures) and the compulsion from that audience of literal belief as they story unfolds. In short, Mark commands a degree of attention in the reader--an attention which soon becomes a conviction that what he or she is reading or hearing is in fact a possible tale, a possible figure made by humans against the background sight of Earth and the distant sky, pregnant with meaning for every soul."
--"A New Thing Entirely: A Preface to the Good News According to Mark" pages 60-61 Three Gospels by Reynolds Price

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