Palam, Aperte, Silentium – Something Hidden in Plain Sight? (The Gospel of Mark)

I briefly made use of this in my book, but it bears more examination and given the question I was asked yesterday (see below), I wanted to write a short post on it. ]], the great writer of resistance, has three transcripts available for writers and audiences alike. They are the public, the hidden, and the double-meaning transcript. The double-meaning transcript allows for the “subordinate group politics” to act itself out in plain sight (Scott, Domination, 18–9). This acting-out involves using folk ways, words, and other things only the group would recognize to tell a story of resistance, but the difference between this and the hidden is the public performance of the former.

There is something along those lines in Latin rhetoric as well, at least according to Quintilian. Palam involves language used by orators and poets meant to be plain or forthright. Aperte is that language which is “open,” or rather, open to those who understand it. Finally, silentium is used only when there is a need, when the outside and hegemonic group is prancing around with its power, and is done in such a way as to allow the orator/poet to speak freely but to have the audience apply their meaning to it. Like the doubling-meaning transcript to the hidden, silentium exists as a subordinate to aperte. It takes place only at the must crucial of times, but in plain view.

Yesterday, I was asked privately (so, no names) about the possibility of understanding the final production if one doesn’t understand or know of the source material. The Gospel of Mark, I contend, contains this apertesilentium rhetoric, where the author is using a known story (namely that of Jesus) to present a hidden transcript in pubic (the double-meaning; i.e., the mirrored-reflection of the Jewish War and the messiahs who followed). My convoluted answer is that yes, on some level every audience will understand something of the final production even without knowing the source material or intention of the author. This doesn’t remove the original intent, nor does it suggest reception is the dominant aspect of the production. On another level, an audience may pick up on that something is being said but not clearly heard, even without the source material. This, I believe, drives our examination for the sources of these works today. But, there will always be an audience who understands the production as the author intended, namely the first audience (hence the importance of Matthew and Luke in reading Mark).

Unfortunately, we today find it difficult to hear the silentium because the story is now so invested in our culture we see ourselves as the source material, hearing no cues as to the hidden meaning(s). Are we wrong, then, in reading Mark as a simplistic historical narrative of the life of Jesus? Hardly, but we aren’t fully reading it with the ears of the first audience. We have replaced the aperte with our need for palam and that prevents any serious investigation into the Gospel.

short post, short editor, going home now. 

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