Nineham's commentary on Mark 15:38 is that "the veil-rending signifies the removal through Christ's death of some hitherto impassable barrier, most likely the barrier between God and man so strongly emphasized in Jewish religion." Such an interpretation could be held in parallel with the interpretation that the rending signifies Jehovah quitting the Temple.
On the subject of the Anointed, i.e. the future king of the Jews, Bart Ehrman makes the point that the Baptizer preached the Apocalypse, as did Paul and the early Church. The ethic of Jesus was an "interims-ethik" and he clearly looked forward to the Apocalypse too, as did the Qumran sect. The Pharisees, to whom Jesus' views were closest, were pacifist and exceptionally, there was one Zealot among the disciples. It can be agreed that Jesus accepted Messiahship, but what is highly debatable is that he accepted Messiahship in the terms of the ordinary Galilean, when the evidence would seem to point to one along the lines of the books of Daniel and Enoch . He would have known that any claim to Messiahship of whatever stripe was political dynamite and this accounts for his caution.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, February 19, 2010 7:09 PM
Subject: Re: [GPG] The Rending of the Veil (Messianic Secrets)
In Response To: Previous Questions
On: The Rending of the Veil
I had doubted that Jesus consciously and forethoughtfully intended to
sacrifice himself for Israel (the Bacon theory). We then had:
Q: Is it, however, too outlandish to accept as highly probable that,
after the murder of John the Baptist, Jesus was only too aware of the
risks he was running in confronting the Jewish power structure.
BRUCE: Not at all. But please note that this is not the original
question. In fact, it is an opposite and incompatible question. See
Q: Since the Sadducees were hand in glove with the Romans in Judea he
must have been well aware of what his fate might be if Jehovah did not
BRUCE: Right again. He was betting everything on the intervention of
God. Please notice: That is different from saying he intended God NOT
to intervene, so that he could be successfully sacrificed. No?
Q: He had to mind his step, too, in Galilee where Herod was concerned.
BRUCE: Right again. His whole style of preaching in veiled terms, of
avoiding large towns, of keeping moving rather than staying where the
crowd he attracted might eventually betray his presence, his
circuitous return from points outside Galilee, which so convulsed
Pierson Parker with unseemly mirth and inappropraite merriment, his
use of signs and countersigns and safe houses in Jerusalem - all this
speaks to two things. (1) A sense of danger from the authorities. (2)
A wish not to be arrested by the authorities. It is the last part that
proves an intention to succeed, rather than an intention to be killed.
If he wanted to be killed, there were much easier ways of doing it.
Q: With Isaiah 53 in mind, might he not have conceived himself as the
Suffering Servant Messiah who would be instrumental in God's
inauguration of the Kingdom?
BRUCE: Right again, but note again: The Messiah is not an atoner for
sins, he is the bringer of God back to Israel, and the restorer of
Israel to political power and military might and the whole nine yards
of OT nationalist dreaming.
Q: I agree that the ordinary man in the Galilean street hoped he would
be a terrestrial redeemer of Israel in the Davidic mould, but that was
the role he is shown as rejecting.
BRUCE: And where in Mark does he reject this? He accepts without
protest the crowds who hail him as precisely the conventional
man-in-street Messiah. He even sets up that triumphal entry scene at
considerable cost in staff time and prior arrangements, by providing
himself with the right animal, and riding into into the City on it.
This is rejection? As for his specific Davidic credentials, we see him
in Mk arguing with the Jerusalem crowds that, from Scripture itself,
out of the very mouth of David the ultimate witness, the Messiah need
not be technically David's son. Which, as of that moment in time, he
indeed was not, and everybody knew it.
Of course that Davidic idea continued to percolate in later decades,
even though, technically and logically speaking, it was part of a
discredited scenario (those who have read the later apologetic
chapters of the Mencius, which struggle to account for Mencius's
diplomatic failure in Chi, will have exactly the right sense for it).
And thus it is that the Second Tier Gospels provide Jesus with - guess
what? - a Davidic lineage. They do it different ways, but they make a
point of doing it. And hymnbooks to this day follow suit.
The amout of Mark that can be read as recording the above scenario is
very extensive. Not a few passages here and there, but a consecutive
narrative, amounting to about half our present Mark. (I isolated that
half in the reconstruction I shared with all comers at SBL 2008). No
part of that narrative bears obvious signs of having been interpolated
into the rest of it. All of it attests the same Jesus self-conception.
Perectly consistent, on the assumptions above spelled out. That, to my
mind, is a lot of evidence. Uncontradicted in the early texts, albeit
layered over by later texts, and by later additions to earlier texts,
to keep pace with a rapidly developing Atonement and/or Resurrection
Or so it looks from here.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Wrede was and remains a great man, but the fact is, there are TWO
Messianic secrets in Mark.
One is in grain, so to speak. It is in the core Markan narrative, and
it is the point of much of that narrative. The secret is the covert
purpose of Jesus - covert because illegal - to bring God back to
Israel, in real time, with himself as the Messiah. That is, as
providing the initiating event for the Return of God. This leads Jesus
to speak in indirect terms, to keep away from the police, to cross
borders at points likely to be unwatched, and all the rest of it.
The other is not in grain, textually speaking. Rather, it is imposed
by later layers added to the text, and the fact of their later
addition - the signs of interpolation recognized by every text science
on the globe - are manifest in the text itself. The added part rests
on nothing in Jesus's words or his doings. It arises solely from the
later community's wish to read a different message into the earlier
story, to insist that Jesus's historical disciples had misunderstood
him (a claim not very flattering to the oratorical powers of Jesus,
but hey, nothing, and no theory, is perfect). These later additions
insist that what Jesus really meant was quite different from what his
most intimate companions thought of him as saying. They show him as
INTENDING to fail at his original Messianic purpose, and as
theologically rationalizing that failure in advance.
This I would call, not the Messianic Secret, but rather the Messianic
Mistake. It converts the term "Messiah" from a patriotic to a personal
meaning (a saviour of individuals, not of nations), and it builds
around that reconception a whole edifice of interpretation and
overlaid claims about the historical past. And even moreso about the
future, and an increasingly distant future, at that. (And the author
of 2 Peter was much upset by the jeering which this claim was drawing
in his day; hence the magnificent and yet mundanely not quite
satisfactory equation 1000 years = 1 day).
As I read the evidence, Synoptic and other, the historical early Jesus
communities were very soon at odds with their own memories of the
historical Jesus. From perfectly understandable needs and motives of
their own. It is this tension, and the meaning of it for the actual
historical past, that the Historical Jesus people so far (and so far
as I know) have been reluctant to observe.
But the above scenario for Jesus is itself understandable, in
contemporary Jewish terms, which are the only ones likely to apply.
Jesus's thought that he could himself bring off the return of God was
perhaps a little daring; his family and friends might conceivably have
thought to dissuade him.
Come to think of it, isn't that exactly what Mark shows them as doing?
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]