In Response To: Tim Lewis
On: Resurrection in Mark
I had contrasted two stages of later theories of Jesus: (1) He was taken up
to Heaven at the time of his death, and will return presently to judge the
world; and (2) He was three days in the earth, then rose from the dead, and
from there ascended to Heaven. It will be seen that the second is merely a
complication of the first. I had given as my conclusion that the Markan
community had originally held view (1), and only later was persuaded instead
of view (2).
Tim objected: "The 'Resurrection Jesus' is completely at home in Mark's
Gospel (Mk 8:31; 9:9-11; 9:31; 10:34). Perhaps 'Jesus Appearances' is
The short answer is, it depends what kind of appearances we mean. Jesus can
appear as an apparition, which is how some accounts seem to go (and Luke's
appearances have something of that quality; Jesus suddenly appears and
suddenly vanishes). Or he can appear in the flesh, complete with the
Crucifixion wounds in that flesh, and can be handled by his dubious
followers (and can himself eat something, which an apparition presumably
could not). This is the Resurrection in the Body, which I gather is the
final form of his line of Jesus Theory thinking (view 2 prime) in the early
Or Jesus can not appear at all, save as a vision of himself in Heaven (view
I now complicate the picture.
We are enjoined by the Managers to keep these messages short, and obedient
as always to higher authority, I had failed to note the whole story of Jesus
theory, which had also an original stage: (0) Jesus expected to bring off
the Last Days by his purifying assault on the Temple, and his followers
originally joined him in this belief; they expected to usher in a new age of
Davidic rule (see the Triumphal Entry in Mk). This of course did not exactly
happen, but we have early testimony that it was at one point EXPECTED to
happen. See also Luke, where a follower of Jesus, shortly after the
Crucifixion, announces this as his expectation of Jesus. He is soon
undeceived, but that Luke allows this prior opinion to register at all is a
point of considerable interest.
So much for the original expectation, held during Jesus's life, but then, of
course, came Jesus's arrest and execution, and the theorists in the Jesus
movement had somehow to account for that. The first of those reconsidered
theories was that Jesus did NOT fail in his original purpose, as it
certainly seemed for a while that he had, but rather that he HAD to die. Not
only did this revised expectation come to pass, it was known in advance by
Jesus that it WOULD come to pass, and it was asserted that it was God's will
that it SHOULD come to pass.
So far theory, but now the followers had to be convinced of it, and to many
it was a repugnant theory. (Think of it: "God so loved the world, that he
killed his only begotten son . . . " How is that going to go down, in your
average logical Sunday School? Right; mine too).
So the new theory had not only to be thought of, it had to be forced on an
audience at least partly resistant to it. As I read the text, Mark does
both these things. He introduces the new theory, AND he portrays the
difficulty of persuading the faithful to adopt it. This, as I take it, is
what is happening in the vicinity of the first passage Tim cites. Allow me
In Mk 8:27-30, Jesus asks who his disciples think he is, and Peter answers,
You are the Messiah, the chosen deliverer of Israel. Nobody in that section
corrects him. On the contrary, that answer is represented as right, and the
other identifications by the public ("John the B, or Elijah, or one of the
prophets") are supposed to be understood as wrong. This, I think, represents
a layer of Mark when the official view of his community was view (0). Jesus
was the Messiah, who would soon come into his kingdom. The contention of
some disciples for a place of honor in that kingdom (though some relevant
passages have been redone in light of later Jesus theory) will also attest
that expectation. So far, we and Mark are in view (0).
But in the light of later theory, this cannot be allowed to stand. It is
obsolete information. So we immediately have 8:31f, which proposes an
entirely different view of things, namely, the necessity for Jesus's death
(view 1 or a version thereof).
And how does Peter react? With shock and disapproval, and argument and
resistance. For this he is royally chewed out by Jesus, as a tempter and
agent of the devil. Emblematic meaning: this was a new and unwelcome
doctrine to the early believers, and was at first resisted by at least some
At minimum, 8:31f certainly contradicts the view put forth and accepted in
the immediately preceding passage. Is that suggestive? Together with other
like indications elsewhere, I suspect so.
Does anybody out there REALLY think that Jesus went around telling the
crowds, "In four weeks I am going to be executed by the Romans, so believe
in me?" Not intrinsically likely, and not what the great majority of the
Markan material on Jesus's preachings and healings tells us. The only
dissenting notes are a few inserted and highly revisionist passages which do
their best to give the previous material, by which I mean the previous
expectation, a totally different spin.
I admit that by gJn, the message of Jesus from the first is Jesus Crucified.
Thus does the science of Gospel writing eventually bite the whole bullet,
and make itself consistent. Behold the Lamb of God, says John on first
seeing Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world. That's a very polite, a
very abstract, a very poetic, a very antiseptic, way of putting it. In any
case, and in great contrast to Mark in particular among the earlier Gospels,
the sacrificial, the redeeming death, is the first and last theory of gJn. I
merely suggest that it took much time, and much wrenching of hearts, in the
early Christian community or communities, and not a little vigorous argument
and outspoken resistance to argument, before earlier expectations had been
stamped out and replaced by this particular view of the matter.
I think that Mk 8:31 is an early part of that stamping out process, and that
the original view held by Jesus's followers, as Mark himself remembers in
the adjacent passage and in most of the rest of his Gospel, was for a
success and not a failure in Jerusalem.