Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

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Peter Kirby
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Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Peter Kirby »

In this post, I aim to problematize a prima facie reading of Mark, according to which Jesus is the Christ. I will make it clear that I started this inquiry by wondering if Mark's Jesus could be read as non-Messianic or even anti-Messianic, then looking through the text to see if that interpretation is contradicted. This is not primarily, then, an attempt to read Mark according to historical-critical methods and then to determine the most likely interpretation intended by the original author.

It is, however, a reading and an interpretation of Mark. Any given text, especially a text like the Gospel of Mark, can have various readings, only one of which was the one intended by the author. We will miss the potential of the text to be read in various ways if we focus exclusively on what we believe to be the most likely intention of the author. Naturally, this might cause us to overlook the actual intention of the author, if it were not the one that is most obvious to us. Not only that, and just as importantly, it would cause us to overlook the way others can read - and could have read - the text. Even if we reject the reading as not possibly being the intention of the author, that reading could still have been discovered and used by other people in the past. Understanding the way the text could have been read is worthwhile in its own right.

Since I do not aim to show that this is the most likely reading, I will just take the text in order and illustrate the readings according to which, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is not the Christ. I will start with all the references to Christ, move on to the passages with reference to the son of David, and conclude with passages with reference to the Son of God.

I will show some of the text variations in Sinaiticus (01), Alexandrinus (02), Vaticanus (03), Ephraem (04), and Bezae (05).

The "Christ" Passages

(1) Mark 1:1. αρχη του ευαγγελιου ιυ χυ (01) [υυ του θυ (02) / υιου θυ (03, 05)]

This verse is why I call the idea that Jesus is the Christ a prima facie reading of Mark. It primes you to think this way, if you didn't already think this way because of a general contextual knowledge that Jesus is believed to be the Christ.

There are two possibilities here, according to which, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is not the Christ:

(a) This line was added later, as a title, and did not form part of the Gospel of Mark.
(b) The word behind χυ was not Christ. I don't rely on this possibility. In every other case, I will translate χυ as Christ. If that translation is correct, then this reading would perhaps make more sense under (a), that this was not part of the Gospel of Mark.

I will not suggest any other text variant without manuscript support.

(2) Mark 8:29. ο πετρος λεγει αυτω συ ει ο χς [ο υς του θυ (01)]

For this reading, I will assume that the text of the Gospel of Mark was, "You are the Christ, the son of God." The analysis of this passage would be different in a few ways if it were based on the text with just "You are the Christ" (which is not to say that the reading of the Gospel of Mark overall would change much), but I will leave that to one side. The text of Mark as it is transmitted is not only one thing, and the text of Mark in this reading may be different from the text of Mark in another reading.

Several people had already suggested false ideas for Jesus' question, “Who do people say that I am?” The dramatic tension is raised when Jesus asks: “But who do you say that I am?” On the prima facie reading, according to which Jesus is the Christ, we bring the assumption that the answer given is the truth because Jesus is the Christ and, therefore, this is a big reveal. Because it is a big reveal, it is supposed, but not the time for it to be proclaimed, Jesus enjoins silence. This text is the source of the term "messianic secret," as opposed to alternatives like "Son of God secret," which doesn't quite roll off the tongue. Of course, on the prima facie reading, Jesus is both, making a distinction unnecessary.

However, neither the author nor Jesus say that Peter's identification is correct. This allows an interpretation where Jesus is not the Christ. On the other hand, in the Gospel of Mark, as we will see, Jesus certainly is the Son of God. This implies that, on any interpretation, an answer of "Christ, the son of God" also isn't completely wrong. On this reading, it is a half-truth, mixed with error and misunderstanding.

Referring to himself, Jesus teaches that "the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31). According to the prima facie reading, Jesus is teaching about the Christ. According to that reading, the Gospel of Mark intends to outline two different understandings of the Christ, the understanding of the Christ that is prevalent among others (such as Peter) and the understanding of the Christ from Jesus (and, implicitly, the Gospel of Mark). This is also, of course, how almost everyone reads it today. It's hard to see that it's an assumption, but it is.

Is a reading according to which Peter uttered a half-truth consistent with what follows? Certainly it is. On this reading, there is only one understanding of the Christ in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus and Peter had the same understanding of the Christ. Peter said that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus did not affirm it. Jesus instead speaks about the Son of Man. As an aside: in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks only about the Son of Man, and only others refer to him as the Son of God. On this reading, at least, the Gospel of Mark has us identify Jesus as both.

Peter rebukes Jesus; on this reading, Peter rebukes Jesus because of his misunderstanding that Jesus is the Christ. On this reading, the Christ, also known as the Messiah, is a king of the Jews. The Christ, in the Gospel of Mark, is not meant to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. This is indeed a big reveal but not as commonly understood. The dramatic climax is not Peter's confession. It's the rebuke of Jesus:

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

On this reading, Jesus is convicting Peter for his half-truth earlier, which led to Peter's resistance to the teaching of Jesus on the Son of Man, which was given to the disciples to instruct them on who Jesus truly is. Jesus is the Son of Man and the Son of God, but he is not the Christ. Jesus is revealing that Peter doesn't understand what it means for him to be the Son of God. The reference of Jesus, "not setting your mind on the things of God," calls back to Peter calling Jesus the Son of God, something Peter didn't truly understand. Instead, Peter is focusing on his understanding of the Christ, subjoining the term of "the Son of God" to it, which misleads him as to the nature of the Son of God and who Jesus truly is. Peter isn't rebuked for his understanding of the Christ. Peter is rebuked for believing Jesus is the Christ, which causes Peter to misunderstand who Jesus is.

What's more, on this reading, Jesus is discrediting the notion of the Christ as something that is not of God. It is only an ambition of men and concerns only "the things of man." Men can become kings, kings can be anointed, and kings can restore a kingdom for the Jews. That is who the Christ is, for the Gospel of Mark, so Jesus is not the Christ.

Anticipating an objection here, I should say that everyone is familiar with the prima facie reading(s) of the rebuke of Jesus. That is also a valid interpretation here. Refer back to the introduction on the purpose of this post. I haven't shown what the most likely intention of the author is. It may even be possible for you to show that this reading was not intended by the author, even while this remains a reading that is worth considering as a way that the text could have been approached.

(3) Mark 9:41. εν ονοματι μου οτι εμονεσται (01: "in my name, because he belongs to me")

Some other variants, not chosen:
εν ονοματι οτι χυ εσται (02: "in the name that he will be Christ's")
εν ονοματι οτι χυ εστε (03, 04: "in the name that he is Christ's")
εν τω ονοματι μου οτι χρυ εσται (05: "in my name, because he will be Christ's")

When I came across this verse in translation ("because you belong to Christ"), that was when I was ready to put down my keyboard and set aside this reading entirely. Just before I did, I loaded Mark 9:41 into NTVMR. Seeing the variants there, I became persuaded of the opposite: maybe I really am on to something here, given that the clearest counter-example to this reading is the subject of so much textual variation.

Of course, I can't be sure of which variant is original to Mark. As I said before, though, I don't need to know. For this to be a reading of the Gospel of Mark, which is subject to textual variation and not available everywhere with the same text, it only really needs to be the reading of a text of the Gospel of Mark. It doesn't have to be the original text, which was not known to the reader of this text either.

There is a possibility that the textual variation reflects differing interpretations of the Gospel of Mark. It's possible that this variant, the one that I am using for this reading of the text of the Gospel of Mark, without any reference to Christ, was an "unorthodox" corruption of scripture, to turn the phrase of Bart Ehrman. It's possible that the text was changed in the belief that the Gospel of Mark would not say that Jesus is the Christ. There are, of course, other possibilities for this change of the text.

If this is the text being read in the Gospel of Mark, no further analysis is necessary, other than to say that it doesn't have Jesus as the Christ.

(4) Mark 12:35-40.
35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

This text has invited many different interpretations. Logically, they can be grouped under four headings.

(a) Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is indeed a son of David, but Jesus was speaking figuratively (e.g., what Jesus meant is that the Christ is far more than the son of David).

This is the most conventional reading. It assumes that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus is a son of David, which is not an unnatural reading of the rest of the Gospel of Mark. After making these assumptions, based either on other passages of Mark or on a general understanding of who Christ is, there is not very much wiggle room left in the interpretation of this passage. These two assumptions lead, somewhat inevitably, to thinking that Jesus meant this figuratively in the Gospel of Mark.

(b) Jesus is the Christ, but Jesus is not a son of David.

This is the most obvious reading, in my opinion, absent any other context (which is not the same thing as saying it's the most likely intention of the author). The idea that Jesus is the Christ makes sense of why Jesus is introducing this discussion of who Christ is. It posits that Jesus is, indirectly, speaking about who he is. The idea that Jesus is not the son of David makes sense of the rest. The scribes are berated at the end, and the scribes are questioned about how they can claim such a thing. If Jesus still is the son of David, despite the tongue lashing delivered to the scribes who say that the Christ is the son of David, then Jesus could also be accused of being a sophist himself. Jesus does say enigmatic things in the Gospel of Mark, but Jesus doesn't deliver this as a parable or a mystery. He delivers it as a refutation of the scribes from scripture, denying what they are saying.

(c) Jesus is not the Christ, but Jesus is the son of David.

This is a logically possible reading, but it's a strange one. Let's consider it briefly, though. If this is someone's reading, then they consider that those calling Jesus the son of David are correct. They also consider that the Christ is predicted from scripture and that this Christ cannot be the son of David. Because Jesus is actually the son of David, he cannot be the Christ.

This argument proceeds logically, but it is far from intuitive, which is the only thing I can really say against it. I believe it is more likely that someone would reject Jesus both as the Christ and the son of David. This would be an impossibly unconvincing argument to launch against those expecting the Christ. Confirming the details they expect, that he is the son of David, doesn't really help the case against them. Likewise, if someone believed that Jesus is not the Christ, it is strange that they would do so on the basis that Jesus is the son of David. It seems more likely that a belief that Jesus is not the Christ would develop first, and then it would also seem likely that a simultaneous belief would arise that Jesus is not the son of David, towards rebuttal of the idea that Jesus is the Christ.

Hypothetically, if the son of David detail about Jesus were difficult to deny, this interpretation could have developed.

(d) Jesus is not the Christ, and Jesus is not the son of David.

This is, perhaps, also a fairly obvious reading because it doesn't fight against the thrust of the passage, condemning the scribes for their interpretation of scripture that would predict a Christ who is the son of David. In this vein, we can continue along the lines of reading the Gospel of Mark as saying that the idea of a Messiah, a supposedly prophesied king of the Jews, was not from God but of men. The purpose of this passage, on this reading, is to show that the scribes have failed to read the scriptures correctly. The point isn't to correct their idea of the Christ into a different one, arguing for a Christ who is not the son of David, as a prophesy about Jesus. The point is to expose the contradictions in the interpretation of the scriptures as pointing to a prophesied Christ. Another point that may be read here is also that Jesus is not in this prophesy, and that Jesus is not one who puts enemies under feet, like a conquering king, as the scribes thought of the Christ. That's because, on this reading, Jesus is not the Christ.

(5) Mark 13:21-22. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Later, Jesus speaks about the coming of the Son of Man. Here, Jesus warns people not to be deceived by claimants to be the Christ. The most obvious interpretation is that Jesus is the Son of Man, who is also the Christ. The warning is to be watchful for the true arrival of the Christ.

This reading, where Jesus is not the Christ, does cut against the grain here. It asks us to separate out the prediction of a coming Son of Man, who is Jesus, and the prediction of claimants to be the Christ. These are false claimants, not that there has to be a true one. These false prophets attempt to lead astray the elect, who hope for the arrival of the Son of Man, not the Christ.

Since this passage is about false Christs and false prophets, and because that isn't directly related to Jesus, this reading would not be difficult to sustain in the face of encountering this part of the Gospel of Mark.

(6) Mark 14:61-63. ο χς ο υς του θυ (01).
But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ? The Son of God?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?”

Just for consistency, and because the symmetry is intriguing, possibly suggestive of a pattern in the textual transmission of Mark (but also very easy to explain in both cases by assimilation to Matthew), I will once again select the text variant from Sinaiticus, but the reading here wouldn't really change on any of the other variants:

ο χς ο υς του θυ του ευλογητου (02)
ο χς ο υιος του ευλογητου (03)
ο χς ο υς του ευλογητου (04)
ο χρς ο υιος του ευλογητου (05)

The choice of where to put the punctuation here is meaningful, but its importance should not be exaggerated. It's also possible that the high priest is repeating Peter's half truth in the form of a question: "Are you the Christ, the Son of God?" Either is allowed on this reading.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus never speaks of "the Son of God." Where Jesus uses a title of himself, it is "the Son of Man." In this passage, Jesus comes as close as he can to identifying the Son of Man with the Son of God, without actually saying those words. Since all of this is true, one way to read this reply from Jesus is: “I am [the Son of God], and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” If this is how we read the passage, then Jesus is affirming (only) that he is the Son of God.

The charge of blasphemy is responding to the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God and seated at the right hand of Power. There would be, presumably, no charge of blasphemy just for the claim of being the Christ. This is consistent with a reading of the Gospel of Mark according to which Jesus did not claim to be the Christ.

It's possible that they misunderstood the answer. They deliver Jesus to Pilate, with the implication that they told Pilate that he claimed to be the king of the Jews (Mark 15:2), which is to say, the Christ.

(7) Mark 15:26-32. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Jesus is mocked in three different ways here, all of which can be attributed to false accusations:

(a) “The King of the Jews”

A repeat of the charge that Jesus doesn't affirm in Mark 15:2 ("You have said so") and for which he is mocked in Mark 15:18. The charge becomes farcical when affixed to the cross of a man being crucified.

(b) “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days”

A repeat of the false accusation that was brought against Jesus (Mark 14:57-59):

For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.

(c) “the Christ, the King of Israel”

This is who the Christ is, and, on this reading, this is who Jesus is not.

(8) The Other "Son of David" Passage

Mark 10:46-52.
46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how this passage doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus was the son of David. The utterance comes from a blind man, who yells it out twice before Jesus takes pity on him. Some readers would take this as an argument that Jesus was not the son of David.

(9) The "Son of God" Passages

Recall that, on this reading of the Gospel of Mark, an utterance of Jesus as "the Christ" comes only from these three unreliable witnesses:

(a) Peter in Mark 8:29, when being subsequently rebuked by Jesus
(b) The high priest in Mark 14:61, when questioning Jesus
(c) The chief priests with the scribes in Mark 15:32, when mocking Jesus

Meanwhile, in these places (among other references to "the Son"), Jesus is said to be "the Son" of God:

(a) Mark 1:11. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
(b) Mark 3:11. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
(c) Mark 5:7. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
(d) Mark 9:7. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
(e) Mark 14:62. And Jesus said, “I am [the Son of God], and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
(f) Mark 15:39. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Perhaps (b) and (c) seem potentially untrustworthy, but this is part of the "secret" of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus wants them to be silent about who he is. The topic of this secret would just be a digression.

Given the nature of the references to "the Christ" and the "Son of David," compared to those of Jesus as "the Son of God," it's not difficult to imagine someone reading the text as contrasting these two different concepts.

There are more subtle arguments that can be deployed, based on passages other than just those about the "Son of David" and "the Christ," to try to show that Jesus is the Christ in Mark. However, subtlety often precludes the resolution of a theological dispute. So even if these subtle arguments are correct, it would not be difficult for them to have been ignored, in favor of a different reading of Mark.

I will leave for another post to look into any text outside of Mark, whether using Mark to make a gospel or commenting on various christologies and interpretations that could be relevant here. It will perhaps be interesting to see how plausible it seems, on its own, that some people may have read the Gospel of Mark as saying that Jesus is not the Christ.
davidmartin
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by davidmartin »

the 'kingdom' does sound quite Messianic. how to explain that in a non-messianic reading?

isn't it that it's the definition of what the Messiah is that Mark is engaging with?
perhaps it's not saying he isn't the Messiah, it's he's not a certain type (but if that were true though it would have to be absolutely emphatic he was the Messiah and it was the definition that was being debated. If it's not emphatic he was then... it would weaken that idea which would be a pity i think as it seems a lot simpler!)
rgprice
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by rgprice »

Yes, Peter I think you are onto something. This is largely in line with how I have been reading Mark as well. I think a problem, however, is that the "Gospel of Mark" is not an original and unrevised text. So there are also some points of confusion in the reading caused by modifications of the text.

It seems that the Gospel of Mark is a text that comes from a prior narrative than has undergone minor orthodizing revisions. There is a bigger problem though. The original narrative appears to be based upon the Pauline letters, and in the Pauline letters Jesus is referred to as Christ.

As for the rebuke of Peter, I think this has to be read in light of Galatians:

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

We can relate this to the words of Jesus in Mark. The Davidic Messiah is a "king of the Jews". Jesus is not a "king of the Jews". Indeed he is not an earthly king at all. His kingship is in heaven. The mission of Jesus is not to convert Gentiles to Judaism.

So I think the issue here is that Jesus is identifying that he is not the JEWISH MESSIAH, he is not a Davidic king.

I do think that the use of Christ in Mark 1:1 is original and intended to identify him as Christ, but the message of the narrative is that the Christ is not a Davidic Jewish king.
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Ken Olson
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Ken Olson »

Peter,

It's an interesting question in the sense it makes you think seriously about what Mark is trying to say. I think it is possible to read Mark as not saying that Jesus was the Christ (setting aside 1.1 as a possible later addition to the text - Clayton Croy has argued for that), but I don't think it's a very plausible reading, let alone the most plausible possible reading.

But my first question would be: where are you placing the burden of proof here? You're arguing that it's not necessary to read any of the occurrences as Christ in Mark's gospel as positively affirming that Jesus is the Christ. But does failure to positively affirm that Jesus is the Christ mean that Jesus is not the Christ? Wouldn't you need to provide positive affirmation (such as an explicit outright denial from Jesus) to conclude that?

Best,

Ken
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

I'd consider first a series of "stepping stone" arguments before taking the big leap.

Perhaps step 1 is to identify and defang the various prevalent assumptions that might impede acceptance of your hypothesis.

(1) We know nothing about Mark. There is nothing on the page that identifies him as a Christian, and surely nothing that eliminates the possibility that he is a former Christian (which would account for his knowledge and interest in the subject - think of how much one of our fellow members writes in his maturity about his youthful involvement with a cult).

(2) We do not know that Mark was a work of Christian apologetics. We infer that Matthew is a Christian apologetic work because by comparison with Mark it has so many pro-Christian improvements of what is otherwise copypasta from Mark. In other words, Mark's earliest readers found it deficient as apologetics - perhaps it simply wasn't.

(2 bis) Even if it was written with apologetic ambitions, we don't know what those were. Maybe it was trawling for converts, "meeting non-Christians where they were," in hopes of inspiring follow-up conversations. Maybe it was a response to persecution by Gentiles - hey, we're not that weird, and we're diverse, maybe some of us do eat babies, but not all of us. The idea that this gospel was written by and for some well-defined faith community to express its specific beliefs to one another is an assumption.

(3) "Any given text, especially a text like the Gospel of Mark, can have various readings, only one of which was the one intended by the author."

Where is the evidence that Mark, or authors in general, intend a single reading of their work? Why would the author of "any given text," particularly an elite author like Mark, be unaware that his text "can have various readings?" Why would he not consider this a feature rather than a bug?

(3 bis) There is a distinct possibility that Mark is a performance work. Obviously, it can be read alound and probably was when that was how reading was typically done. It also lends itself to dramatic performance by plural casts from 2 to about 100 (60 speaking parts and 40 special business, not counting the walla-wallas in the crowds).

On the further assumption that if a play, its author aspired to more than one performance (pace Danila Oder), then the author anticipated performances not monitored by him. In other words, each company determines its own reading, with neither the necessary ambition nor the means to know what the author thinks of their reading.

Of course the gospel can be performed as if Mark's Jesus is not the Christ. Richard III can be performed as if the king were the heroic victim of treason. OK - that would be the Stormfront Players production, but it can be done, and without violence to the text (which like Mark has its variorum).

Step 2 might be to propose an example specific reading. This allows the critical community to think through an alternative for themselves before having at your very detailed analysis of a category of hypotheses. You are not committed to the example being the correct one among the category.

One that I like is not so much that Mark's Jesus isn't Christ, but rather that he doesn't know whether or not he is, and doesn't know what the kingdom of God is with any precision, just that it's something wonderful. He learns more and more as the action unfolds, about himself and about this "kingdom" he's encountered in visions.

I think this would play marvelously - all those "the kingdom of God is like ..." moments are him discovering something more about his life-changing vision.

Anyway, interesting thread. Small point: there's no reason to suppose that the narrator is the voice of the author. The narrator is a character as much as Jesus or Peter is a character. All those "and immediately's" early on are his impatience to get to the blow-off - the author, on the contrary, is taking his sweet time, setting up the climax, meanwhile keeping the audience engaged.
Last edited by Paul the Uncertain on Sat Feb 10, 2024 6:53 am, edited 3 times in total.
rgprice
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by rgprice »

I think we also have to consider 1 Cor 2:

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Mark 15:
"2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied."

"9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted."

"25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews."

The rulers of this age did not understand who he was. He was not the Messiah - king of the Jews, that was a misunderstanding.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Secret Alias »

Look at the variant for Mark 1:1 - 2 in Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses ad illuminandos 3.6. See if it helps your case.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Peter Kirby »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 6:40 am (3) "Any given text, especially a text like the Gospel of Mark, can have various readings, only one of which was the one intended by the author."

Where is the evidence that Mark, or authors in general, intend a single reading of their work? Why would the author of "any given text," particularly an elite author like Mark, be unaware that his text "can have various readings?" Why would he not consider this a feature rather than a bug?
I anticipated this kind of response to that sentence, and I could have taken some time to clarify in advance, but I didn't. Out of being lazy mostly.

Put simply, that is not what I mean.

Suppose that a text has simple readings A, B and the author intended to achieve this ambiguity. Then we can say that the intent of the author was a third thing: A-or-B.

So if an utterance is:

"Fruit flies like a banana."

Which may have a reading of "flies" as a noun (reading A: fruit flies) or verb (reading B).

We can easily say the intent of the author was A-or-B.

It may even be the intent was open ended ambiguity. That itself could be called another thing that the intent is. Etc.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Peter Kirby »

rgprice wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 4:46 am Yes, Peter I think you are onto something. This is largely in line with how I have been reading Mark as well. I think a problem, however, is that the "Gospel of Mark" is not an original and unrevised text. So there are also some points of confusion in the reading caused by modifications of the text.

It seems that the Gospel of Mark is a text that comes from a prior narrative than has undergone minor orthodizing revisions. There is a bigger problem though. The original narrative appears to be based upon the Pauline letters, and in the Pauline letters Jesus is referred to as Christ.

As for the rebuke of Peter, I think this has to be read in light of Galatians:

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

We can relate this to the words of Jesus in Mark. The Davidic Messiah is a "king of the Jews". Jesus is not a "king of the Jews". Indeed he is not an earthly king at all. His kingship is in heaven. The mission of Jesus is not to convert Gentiles to Judaism.

So I think the issue here is that Jesus is identifying that he is not the JEWISH MESSIAH, he is not a Davidic king.

I do think that the use of Christ in Mark 1:1 is original and intended to identify him as Christ, but the message of the narrative is that the Christ is not a Davidic Jewish king.
I consider what you are saying to be a version of the prima facie reading.

My discussion of Peter's confession touches on this.

The vast majority of adherents to this prima facie reading say something like you are saying, that there is more than one understanding of "Christ" or "Messiah" in the Gospel of Mark, so the purpose is to contrast two different understandings of the "Christ."

At that point, you would be saying that this reading is not on to something. You would be reasserting an interpretation of Mark where Jesus is the Christ.

It's no surprise that a large number of those who take a prima facie reading understand some of these passages in Mark as saying that "the Christ is not a Davidic Jewish king." This is completely different than saying that the OP is on to something. This is saying that the OP reading is wrong, a version of the prima facie reading is correct, and the Gospel of Mark has Jesus as the Christ.

These passages have always been plumbed to find two different versions of the Christ in Mark. Generally speaking, that is the reading at variance with the reading in the OP, according to which there is one version of the Christ in Mark. This is fundamentally at odds with the typical interpretation that Mark sets up contrasting understandings of the Christ.

You might be right. You may also view what you are saying as different than what others are saying about the prima facie reading (and of course it is - just as what they are saying is different also), but in terms of the OP, it's just another version of the same old same old, because it says that Jesus is the Christ in Mark.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Peter Kirby »

davidmartin wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 4:00 am the 'kingdom' does sound quite Messianic. how to explain that in a non-messianic reading?

isn't it that it's the definition of what the Messiah is that Mark is engaging with?
perhaps it's not saying he isn't the Messiah, it's he's not a certain type (but if that were true though it would have to be absolutely emphatic he was the Messiah and it was the definition that was being debated. If it's not emphatic he was then... it would weaken that idea which would be a pity i think as it seems a lot simpler!)
On this reading, Mark's understanding of the Christ is of "the Christ, the King of Israel" or "King of the Jews" who restores the Jewish kingdom. These are the things of man. Becoming a king takes an army, maybe a little luck and/or divine favor, and that's what the Christ is. Just one of the many human rulers on this earth, only with the distinction that he restored the kingdom of the Judeans, which makes him the king of the Jews.

Mark does have his apocalyptic material, but it isn't necessary to connect the apocalyptic with the messianic (read as: a man who is the king of Judea). The end of the world is coming. That doesn't bring a king of the Jews.

It does bring judgement for your sins. It does finalize whether you are part of the kingdom of God. We should be concerned about our sin, not about the restoration of a kingdom of men, not about "the Christ," because the danger is losing one's soul. Everything else is passing away.
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