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Mark (6)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG Containing: Mark (6) From: Bruce Rikk s point (h), the 6th to be taken up in this set of reflections, concerned, as he says, a point of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2008
      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG
      Containing: Mark (6)
      From: Bruce

      Rikk's point (h), the 6th to be taken up in this set of reflections,
      concerned, as he says, a point of major disagreement between him and the
      commentary under review. Rikk is appending this note to his previous one,
      hence the transition word:

      RIKK: a major point of interaction: Adela has therefore three categories
      for Jesus: teacher, prophet, and divinized messiah (see here Collins and
      Collins, KING AND MESSIAH AS SON OF GOD, 2008). I thought, given Hurtado's
      LORD JESUS CHRIST, and Fee's PAULINE CHRISTOLOGY both of which argue for an
      early pre-Markan high christology, and Blackburn's early THEIOS ANER where
      Jesus is assimilated to Yahweh, that she might have added a Jesus as Yahweh

      BRUCE: That is, Adela might have agreed with these sources. Why?

      RIKK: E.g. in Mark's opening sentence and his only editorial citation, Isa
      40:3; Mal 3:1 in Mk 1:2-3, neither of these have anything at all to do with
      a coming Messiah but instead echo the Exodus' motif of the very
      presence of Yahweh.

      BRUCE: (Isa 40:3) "A voice cries, In the wilderness prepare the way of the
      Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Mal 3:1) "Behold,
      I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek
      will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you
      delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts."

      These seem to me, on their face, to have everything to do with the coming of
      God, and nothing specifically to do with the presence of God. That an Exodus
      meaning may be annexed to an Isaiah quote, it seems to me, is a dubious
      methodological assusmption. Mark chooses what he chooses, and we, his
      readers, are limited in our deliberations by his choice. I cannot think that
      we are entitled to read him as though he had chosen something else instead.

      RIKK: I then noted that the activities Mark ascribes to Jesus have only
      minimal parallels with first century Messianic hopes, and are instead, given
      his emphasis on Israel's scripture, are far closer to Yahweh's deeds at
      creation/exodus and their prophetic counterparts of new creation/new exodus.

      BRUCE: I don't think it is given that Jesus has to correspond with other
      Messianic hopes of the time. Perhaps he was different, maybe even unique;
      who knows? We can only examine such evidence as there is. How do we proceed
      to do this? To my mind, the logical first question would be, Given that
      Jesus somehow emerges under the aegis of John the B, how far does John the B
      correspond with other Messianic hopes of the time? I think it might emerge
      (and from the John studies I have seen, it seems indeed to emerge) that he
      was somewhat distinctive within the general cloud of such hopes. The next
      question would be, How far does Jesus in turn coincide with the knowable
      program of John the B? Mark itself gives us reason to suspect that the
      answer is: Jesus diverges from John at many points. For example: (1) no
      baptism, (2) no set prayers for followers, (3) no set fast days, and (4) no
      avoidance of settlements (no location "in the wilderness"), and indeed an
      emphasis, consistent with security considerations, on going to sinners where
      they are to be found, namely, in habitation clusters. This leaves aside
      questions of doctrine per se, where some differences might also exist. Given
      that John is reasonably distinctive within 1c Messianism, and since Jesus,
      once he gets going, departs in turn from John, it would be something of a
      coincidence if Jesus would up programmatically identical with the general
      Messianism of the day. However that were defined (and that definition would
      have to be pretty broad in the first place, from vegetarianism at one end of
      the scale to armed rebellion at the other).

      And of course there is the problem of whether the Isaianic references in
      Mark were put there by Jesus, or by Mark. Myself, I am strongly in favor of
      the latter possibility. The former would require separate demonstration, and
      my impression is that the demonstration would be exceedingly difficult.

      RIKK: The latter coheres with Hurtado's and Fee's observations: namely we
      should expect a high Christology in Mark since it was already coin of the
      realm by the time he wrote.

      BRUCE: As a stranger in the land, I have to be amused at some of the terms
      in which NT people are content to discuss NT issues. Taking "Christology" as
      meaning "theories about the nature and identity of Jesus," it seems that the
      working contrast is between "low" (Jesus was human) and "high" (Jesus was
      divine). That is two options. But Mark alone has five, and that is not to
      reckon with postMarkan conceptions in Luke (at least one) and John (ditto).
      I can only feel that discussions like the present one would benefit from a
      more finely divided palette.

      But to put it as Rikk seems to, Was the theory that Jesus was divine current
      before Mark? That partly depends on where you put Mark in the chronological
      scheme of things, and whether you are prepared to recognize early and late
      strata within Mark itself. There is also the issue of where Mark comes
      chronologically in relation to Paul, and whether Paul's ideas of Jesus are
      constant over his career. Fee, as I understand him, believes that there is
      *no* change in Paul's ideas as expressed in the Epistles, and he even
      accepts the Deuteropauline epistles. Fee is one of our eminent textual
      critics, but in the higher criticism, into which he has been venturing
      lately, he seems, if one may dare to suggest such a thing, to move with a
      little less finesse. As to Paul's Christology, despite the size of the book,
      I find Fee's position simply untenable. One way of distinguishing the
      Deuteropaulines, as I understand it, is that they expand in cosmological
      directions which were unknown to the Historical Paul, and so on and on.

      As to Mark, Hurtado's recent revision of his Mark commentary devotes exactly
      zero Introduction space to the question of Christology. He dwells instead on
      the "mystery" of Jesus as seen by other characters. I don't think that the
      defective understanding of Jesus's message on which Mark lays stress at some
      points (but not, let it be noted, at other points) can fairly be translated
      as a general view of him as "mysterious." And in any case, Hurtado is a 20th
      century figure, and I give more weight to the early (if heretical)
      impression of the Markan Jesus: that he received power at his baptism, and
      relinquished it again at his death. This leads to notions sometimes called
      Adoptionist, sometimes Docetic, but whatever the name, it implies that Jesus
      was a mortal in whom a borrowed divine power temporarily resided, not a god
      in his own right.

      It might be said in response, There are other places in Mark where a more
      Godlike Jesus is portrayed. I would answer: no description of Jesus's powers
      in Mark (eg nature miracles) tells us where Jesus got those powers, or how
      long they were to remain with him. They ornament, but do not necessarily
      refute, the picture I have just described. (A picture that Luke at many
      points still retains, hence not a fluke of inadequate text-critical
      preliminaries in Mark).

      A further argument for the relatively modest position of Jesus on the
      man/god scale in Mark is the lengths to which the later Gospels go in order
      to extend, exalt, glorify, and cosmologize the Markan Jesus. Just as they
      take pains to repair the missing ending of Mark (for such they evidently
      felt it to have been). These are works of rearchitecture. By the location of
      their scaffolding, they signal to us the deficiencies they perceived in
      Mark. One of the heavy scaffolding areas, with buckets of mortar being
      passed up and down the ladders, is the Christology of Mark.

      The large evolutionary picture gets even clearer if one recognizes the
      accretional strata in Mark, which also show that even within Mark there is
      an increasing tendency to divinize Jesus. But the rough Gospel Trajectory I
      have outlined above seems to me a sufficient reason to doubt the Fee/Hurtado
      (FH) picture of Christology.

      RIKK: Adela of course does not like Hurtado's work (and understandably has
      not yet engaged with Fee),
      claiming to have refuted it. I'm not persuaded that she has. I was hoping to
      engage with her in question time on that issue (I think her two main counter
      arguments fail), and on what I see as Collins and Collins' confusion of
      filial image-of-God language as per Israel (Ex 4:22; Deut 32:18) with
      divine-King image-of-god language as per Egypt; both elements being present
      in the ANE. My point is "son of God" "begotten" was also applied to Israel
      but no one suggests Israel is divine, and the king as God's son is better
      seen as a subset of Israel's kinship designation. Thus the complete lack of
      evidence for cultic veneration of Israel's king and thus no divinized
      Messiah in the Pss (they also misread the role of the names in Isa 9, which
      no more describe the ontology of the king than they do the preceding three
      parable names in Isa 7-8; and seeing a divinized Messiah in e.g. 1 Enoch is
      I suspect to misread the imagery).

      BRUCE: What the OT thinks of the Messiah would need a different book, and
      one which in any case might not be determinative for Jesus, let alone for
      Mark. And I also don't want to get off onto commenting on Collins & Collins
      at this point. Sufficient unto the day is the book thereof. As for Adela's
      refutation of Hurtado, in the book under discussion at SBL, I couldn't find
      Hurtado listed in her (11-page!!) index of opinions receiving major
      attention in her commentary. Her Bibliography lists only three Hurtado
      items, none of which is his Mark commentary (1983, 1989). So I can't comment
      on whether I agree that her refutation is deficient. I think my refutation,
      above, may suffice for the present purpose. Does anybody really think that
      Jesus in Mark is universally regarded as a mysterious being? Does anybody
      really think that Jesus in Paul undergoes no alterations, changes, or
      extensions? If so, let them be heard in support. Meanwhile, it seems to me
      that Adela's sense of perspective, in passing over these positions with
      scant or no attention, is about right.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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