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[Synoptic-L] Re: Mk 1,1

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  • John Dickson
    ... Though the syntax is disputed (see the commentaries) the fact that KAQWS followed by GEGRAPTAI and a scriptural citation almost without exception
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 1999
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      Sakari wrote:
      >1) What does the writer mean by ARXH? Does it simply mean
      >the beginning of the book? In that case he would have called
      >his book a Gospel (EUAGGELION) of Jesus Christ. Or is the
      >book only a beginning of the gospel?

      Though the syntax is disputed (see the commentaries) the fact that KAQWS
      followed by GEGRAPTAI and a scriptural citation almost without exception
      articulates or validates that which precedes, suggests that Mark intended no
      full stop after hUIOU QEOU (if original). In other words, the 'beginning' of
      the gospel about which Mark speaks corresponds to that which is expressed in
      the citation and connected narrative (vv.4-8) that follows. Despite the
      fact that what follows is actually a conflation of Mal 3:1 and Is. 40:3,
      Mark is clear that the EUAGGELION is to be located specifically within the
      Isaianic tradition. The reason this Isaianic text in particular is described
      as the ARCH of the gospel becomes explicable when we note that Is. 40:1-9 is
      the passage in which Isaiah's 'messenger' (MBSR / EUAGGELIZOMENOS) of
      salvation is commissioned to herald the arrival of God's salvific presence
      and which introduces Deutero-Isaiah's highly specialised use of BSR /
      EUAGGEL- (41:27; 52:7; 61:1). It may be asked why Mark does not, then,
      explicitly quote Is. 40:9 where the important root appears twice. First, the
      fact that he has already said, "the beginning of the gospel …as it is
      written in the prophet Isaiah (chapter forty)" makes an explicit citation of
      v.9 unnecessary. Secondly, Is. 40:3 is more pertinent to Mark's point about
      the 'preparatory' (hETOIMAZW v.3) 'gospel' work of John the Baptist.
      Thirdly, Mark may have wanted to avoid explicitly linking EUAGGEL- with the
      preaching of the Baptist because, for him (like other Jewish traditions of
      the period), the term had specifically messianic connotations. The Baptist's
      ministry concerns the ARCH of the gospel, whereas Jesus' concerns its
      fulfillment (PLHROW v.14). Mark 1:1-3 alerts us, then, to the importance of
      the Isaianic 'messenger' language for Mark. Thus, when just a few paragraphs
      later Mark states that Jesus went into Galilee KHRUSSWN TO EUAGGELION TOU
      QEOU it is likely that he intends for us to locate this gospel-activity too
      within "the prophet Isaiah." The fact that this EUAGGELION concerns the
      'fulfilment of the time' (PEPLHRWTAI hO KAIROS) implies that the
      'preparatory' gospel work spoken of by Isaiah 40 and embodied in the
      preaching of the Baptist comes to completion in the proclamation of Jesus.
      Incidently, vv.14-15 have strong affinities with Is 52:7, making Mark's use
      of the Isaianic 'gospel-messenger' tradition even more striking.
      Just some thoughts.

      John Dickson
      Department of Ancient History
      Macquarie University
      Sydney, Australia
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