Re: Markan Fabrications
Last night I spent a little time cutting, pasting and pruning your
recent responses to Richard Anderson, Ron Price and myself, in order
to try to understand what kind of christology you think the opponents
of the author of Mark had.
In response to me, you said the following with regard to the differing
"The christology of Mark's opponents, as I see it, was a christology
focused upon Jesus' power and success as a miracle worker. It was a
christology which was patterned after the Greco-Roman divine-hero
concept, a person who had unusual powers associated with the
supernatural and used those powers to address human need. Dieter
Georgi [_The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians_? D.H.] has
identified Paul's opponents in Corinth whom Paul repudiates in his
series of correspondences found in what we know as II Corinthians, as
examples of early Christians having this divine-man orientation. ...
They, as I see, disdained Mark's suffering-servant perspective as
promoting a christology and, its corollary, a discipleship of
weakness. Thus the Markan Jesus' call for self-giving,
self-abnegation, humility, (e.g. 9:33ff.; 10:35-45), Mark's opponent's
view contemptuously, as did their "cousins" in II Cor. 10-13, as Paul
"My own reading of Mark is that he is concerned about two
christological titles "Christ" and "the Son of God," which appear in
tandem in his introduction (1:1) and in the high priest's question.
My theory is these are titles that Mark's opponents use to express
their own christological orientation. Mark silences those titles when
they have a divine-man christological orientation. And allows them to
be used uncensored when they their meaning is conformed to Mark's
suffering-servant christology by the Markan Jesus."
In response to Richard Anderson, you said:
"As I read the first half of the gospel, prior to the Petrine
confession, I see the primary profile of Jesus presented is that of a
miracle worker which fits the "divine man" or triumphalist orientation
to christology Paul encountered in Corinth as evidenced in his
correspondence with that church in what we call II Corinthians (cf.
Dieter Georgi). Peter then makes a christological confession, calling
Jesus, "the Christ." From the point of view of the hearers, the only
profile that they have been given up to that point is that of Jesus as
a miracle worker, and sometime teacher. My conclusion is that the
hearers would assume that Peter made his confession based upon
"living" with this miracle working profile of Jesus. Thus, so I
conclude, Mark wants his hearers to assume that Peter's confession was
to a "divine-man" christology. Once Jesus identifies his own
christology as a suffering-servant christology and than urges his
followers to be suffering-servant disciples (8:31-38), the disciples
remain in conflict with Jesus over understanding his christology and
their own preference for a triumphalist (divine-man) discipleship (see
9:33-37; 10:35-45 and my _Mark_). Thus I see the christological
conflict in the gospel and in Mark's community as being primarily
between a divine-man christology and a suffering-servant christology."
And to Ron Price, you said:
"In my interpretation of the Markan gospel, Mark used this parabolic
approach to present dramatically Jesus in the first half of his
narrative as a successful miracle worker, whom some humans in the
drama have begun to suspect has unusual supernatural powers. Demonic
forces even recognize Jesus christologically as "the Son of God" as a
result of Jesus' power to exorcise them. That presentation of Jesus,
as I suggested in my essay, fits well the profile of a divine man in
Greco-Roman culture, as well as a divine-man christology which certain
Christians developed to win converts in that culture. I contend that
that was what Mark's opponents were trying to do with their divine-man
"Since the only presentation of Jesus in the first half of the drama
is as a divine man, and since the demonic forces in effect make
christological confessions to Jesus, therefore when, as Mark scripts
the drama, Peter makes his surprising confession and names Jesus as
"the Christ," that confession, according to the dramatic logic, can
only have been made on the basis of Peter's experience and recognition
of Jesus as a divine-man 'Christ.'"
"Rather these miracle tellers imaged Jesus as a Messiah in mold of
Moses, and as the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Deut. 18:15: "The
Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your
own people." Dieter Georgi has shown how the divine-man opponents of
Paul in Corinth (II Corinthians) modeled their divine-man christology
after the divine man "par excellence, Moses" (_The Opponents of Paul
in Second Corinthians_, 124ff., 271ff.). The divine-man opponents of
Paul us the title "Christ" to encapsulate their divine-man
"Therefore, these divine-man Christians, in the interest of their
evangelistic enterprise, accommodated themselves to the ideology of
the Greco-Roman culture and began to refer to Jesus as "the Son of
"Thus, the choice of the title "Son of God" as a christological title
for Jesus not only solved these Christians' evangelistic problem, but
it also served as an effective bridge title, linking their Jewish
tradition with Greco-Roman culture in their missionary enterprise."
"However, I also surmise that these Hellenistic Jewish-Christians did
not want to abandon their Jewish messianic heritage that envisioned
Jesus, their divine man, as the Christ. So they decided to preserve
that title "Christ" while at the same time adopting the title "Son of
God," required to evangelize their potential converts into belief in
Jesus. Thus, they developed a hybrid christological title, h0 CRISTOS
hO hUIOS QEOU or anarthrously, CRISTOS hUIOS QEOU ..."
"As part of Mark's schema for unmasking his opponents' christology as
false, he, in true parabolic fashion introduced his opponents' title
at the outset (1:1) and then at the moment of parabolic reversal
proceeded to describe Jesus as God's suffering-servant who
acknowledges "the Christ, the Son of God" (14:61f.) as an acceptable
christological identification of himself when it is properly
understood in terms of his own self-defined christology of suffering
While I have not read Georgi (his book is not in stock at either
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at the libraries I haunt) I have generally
not found convincing those studies which identify a high degree of
Hellenization in the ideas held by or about the person of Jesus in the
letters of Paul or in the Gospels. I am also hesitant to accept the
proposals of Crossan and others who see Galilee as a place where
Jewish residents borrowed freely from Hellenistic and Roman culture
and practices. My reading of Josephus and the few other
contemporaneous sources available makes me believe that it was much
more likely the original followers of Jesus had a political messianic
vision of him than a mystical one.
In my opinion, they have overstepped themselves in their use of
cross-cultural anthropology. I do not object to using it to produce an
explanation that incorporates the known evidence (after all, that is
"history"), but I do have problems with using it to generate covering
laws which are in turn used to reconstruct "history" that is otherwise
not attested, especially when these reconstructions are treated the
same as the former category of explanation. However, I will concede
that I have yet to fully develop a personal position on the subject of
the application of anthropology to historical reconstruction.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- At 04:29 PM 6/3/00 -0400, you wrote:
>While I have not read Georgi (his book is not in stock at either
>Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at the libraries I haunt)...
If you are interested, ABEBOOKS (www.abebooks.com) has several copies.
Michael T. MacDonell, Ph.D. (Ransom Hill Bioscience, Inc.)
Dieu mésure le froid à la brebis tondue.
-Henri Estienne (1594): Les Prémices, etc. p. 47.