Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

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

Post by Peter Kirby »

Giuseppe wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:20 pm Thank you to make me even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.
I could show you some burnt toast and you would be even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Giuseppe »

Peter Kirby wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:50 pm
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:20 pm Thank you to make me even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.
I could show you some burnt toast and you would be even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.
indeed there is not difference for me between Mark (interpreted as an open enigma) and a burnt toast, hence your conclusion continues to be true for me if I modify it slightly so:

I could show you how much Mark is subtle and you would be even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.

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

Post by Peter Kirby »

Giuseppe wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:56 pm
Peter Kirby wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:50 pm
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:20 pm Thank you to make me even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.
I could show you some burnt toast and you would be even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.
indeed there is not difference for me between Mark (interpreted as an open enigma) and a burnt toast, hence your conclusion continues to be true for me if I modify it slightly so:

I could show you how much Mark is subtle and you would be even more persuaded that *Ev precedes Mark.

Stop, lol.

I will reply to what you wrote that isn't nonsense.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin »

Peter Kirby wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 8:49 pm
rgprice wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 8:35 pm I still think this is unlikely. Why would the author use the name Jesus Christ as an honorific in the title and then proceed to question whether Jesus is the Christ, never using the name as an honorific again? And again, so much of the narrative deals with the mystery of his identity. If one is writing a narrative about a mystery one doesn't reveal the answer in the title.

So even if the writer did think that Jesus was the Christ, the narrative makes this matter a mystery. You aren't going to undermine your entire plot device in the opening line.
I agree with you here.

I don't adopt this suggestion about Mark 1:1 (or about Mark 9:41).

I do discuss Mark 1:1 and Mark 9:41 in the OP.
It seems to me that the most critical points of Peter's contribution are the necessary text-critical decisions (3 in total!) and the interpretation of Mark 14:62. imho, of these four points, the decisions on Mark 1:1 and Mark 9:41 are likely to be judged most critically, at least by textual critics. At first, I just wanted to offer alternative interpretations that would allow you to stick with today's preferred text variants for 1:1 and 9:41.

There are some points that I still don't understand. The emphasis of the voice of heaven is never on the title ("Son of God"), but on the relationship between the two (God and Son - "you are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased."). I find it reflected in other pericopes that it's not about the title, but about the relationship.

Furthermore, in what sense is the Baptist Elijah? He is Elijah (Mark 9:13), but they are nevertheless two people who are not identical (Mark 9:4). How exactly do you have to imagine this? This seems to me to be an important point in relation to our questions.

These are all still open points for me. But I suspect that it's about how one has to understand this BEING (title, name or whatever).

Just a side note: one of my pet theories is that Mark had the prophecy about Bethlehem in mind, but moved the home to a Galilean Netzers-town (so to speak), which somehow clearly rejects Bethlehem, but still reflects it at a new level. I suspect it's similar with Christ. Everything happens as promised, but differently than expected.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by Peter Kirby »

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 12:31 am It seems to me that the most critical points of Peter's contribution are the necessary text-critical decisions (3 in total!)
Thank you! This is an insightful comment.

I believe that two are necessary, one is material, and another one is just interesting.

Mark 1:1 can be said to be necessary, but only because I don't consider that the original text of Mark had any non-Christ (Chrestos) references or that the reference to Christos can be interpreted in a way compatible with the OP's reading.

Mark 9:41 is the absolutely necessary one, to my mind. Without it, the interpretation fails.

Mark 8:29 is material. Without it, the discussion of this passage changes substantially. However, even though I didn't bother to do an analysis of this passage two separate times, both ways, I think the overall reading can be sustained with either variant of Mark 8:29, as I wrote in the OP. On the other hand, I believe that this kind of reading of Mark 8:29 is indeed strengthened if the variant selected is considered as the text. The reason I think so is, primarily, that it helps make more sense of the command to "tell no one" (his identity).

Mark 14:61 is just interesting, as I wrote to RG Price. Other than being another variant in 01, parallel to Mark 8:29 in the text of 01, which is a curious thing (and it is the also text of 01 that has the variant of Mark 9:41), nothing else really changes. The discussion of the passage would be the same, with the substitution of a different divine name.

The later discussion suggests that some of these differences, such as Mark 9:41, could have been the subject of disputes as to the original text, which could put fuel on the fire both for those who might accept this reading and for those who rejected it.

I also believe that the text critics are most likely correct about Mark 9:41 (as I suggested earlier), and that the reading of 01 is probably not the original text of Mark, which is to say again that I consider it most likely that Mark 9:41 (probably) shows that the original text of Mark contradicts the reading in the OP.

What I do sense is that, with the text variant, the window was opened to a different interpretation. It's possible that someone opened that window deliberately, in which case the text variant may provide a trace of the adoption of this kind of reading (but there are, of course, alternative explanations for this modification of the text). In any case, I would suggest that those who may have adopted this reading did so with a text of Mark that was not the original text of Mark.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

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Giuseppe wrote: Sat Feb 10, 2024 10:49 pm My point is that your first post in this thread lists a lot of good points (supporting the interpretation that Jesus is not the Christ) that can't be considered "subtle readings", so much they are logical points.

While when you deal with the examples derived from the Passion Story in order to continue to support the same interpretation (that Jesus is not the Christ) your readings become by need "subtle readings", i.e. "effect black box", valid only for you but not for all.
Thank you. This approaches a more correct description of what I'm saying, but still isn't exactly what I'm saying.

First, while I have said this several times in this thread already, I may have to explain again the nature of the OP and the following posts (and what they are not). If you understand them as a list of "a lot of good points" and "logical points," arguing in favor of the OP's reading of the intent of the author of Mark, then you have misunderstood my purpose in writing, and you have misunderstood my position regarding the intent of the author of Mark. Put simply, I don't believe that the interpretation of the OP is the right one, in the sense that I don't believe that it was even anticipated by the author of Mark. Several people grasped right away what I'm saying in that regard (made clear in the intro to the OP), or with just a few more words (in the first couple pages of this thread), but not all.

Second, there is something that I am saying about this reading. I am speaking to the likelihood that it could have been adopted, if someone had any inclination to regard Jesus as not being the Christ. Having this inclination doesn't necessarily imply that they would read Mark this way. It's possible that they would do what I in fact did: read Mark and (given certain manuscript variations of the text) reject the interpretation as not within the scope of what they consider defendable. We can view the plausibility of this reading as a concept that roughly corresponds to the proportion of people that we would expect to adopt such a reading if they were so inclined to do so, against those who would find that they had to reject the reading even though they would like it if it were true. Those in the latter group did not have no alternative. They would often want to find different texts that could support what they believe, or modify existing texts to match their beliefs.

Notice that, as mentioned in the first point, the relevant plausibility, being spoken of here, regards how likely someone would be to accept such a reading if they are among those who would receive it gladly. This is not an estimate of the likelihood that the original author meant something. It is an estimate of the likelihood that a subset of readers could have taken the text this way. Of course, in both cases, these statements must be qualified by saying that these estimates are not scientific; they rely on human interpretation and judgment on the matter.

Third, what I am saying about this reading is that it is relatively normal. To illustrate what I mean by that, allow me to create a Scoville Scale of how unpalatable a given reading is.

Tall Drink of Water - this is the most appealing type of interpretation, since the reader believes there are positive arguments in favor of their interpretation, which they believe make their interpretation arguably better than other ones.

Certified Non-Spicy - there's nothing of substance to recommend one reading or the other.

Jalepeno Peppers - a sliding scale approximating how likely someone would be to reject the reading based on their evaluation that the arguments against it are better, where 1 jalepeno pepper means this rejection is slightly persuasive (but easily ignored and easily forgotten), and 5 jalepeno peppers means that this rejection is overwhelmingly persuasive, capable of causing the most severe level of repeated angst, self-doubt, and even relapse in a sincere believer.

Certifiably Insane - there's no way to understand how a human being can seriously relate the text to the interpretation.

To calibrate the intention behind the scale just a little, let's take a few examples at the far end of it:

Certifiably Insane - the Gospel of Mark is a story about how one man warned the world to take three days of rest after any heavy lifting, like carrying a cross, before getting up again for any other strenuous physical activity, like pushing a boulder.

5 Jalepeno Peppers: "But I have also read a contrary interpretation, according to which Mark 9:41 is a threatening word in the sense of: Whoever gives you water instead of the Spirit will be punished!" (sorry, just my opinion)

4 Jalepeno Peppers: "Mark can reject “Christ” as a title (“You are the Christ!”) but retain it as an honorary name" (again, sorry)

Now let's take an example from the other end:

Tall Drink of Water: Jesus was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins.

This doesn't say anything about the objective strength of this argument, only that adherents would find it more probable than not, on the basis of their arguments regarding the passage. As such, they consider that their point of view is reinforced.

Okay, now let's go through the OP's readings here.

(1) Mark 1:1

N/A. Not in the text assumed to be in use on this reading.

(2) Mark 8:29

Tall Drink of Water. It takes a lot of contextual clues to arrive at the understanding that Peter was wrong, but things that can be read as these kinds of clues are actually there. Those inclined to this reading would find support for it here in the text.

(3) Mark 9:41

Certified Non-Spicy. There's nothing particularly relevant, once the variant selected for this reading is used.

(4) Mark 12:35-40

Tall Drink of Water. Since readings (b) and (d) from the OP here share the most important virtues when it comes to reading this passage, adherents of either would have seen support for their views here.

(5) Mark 13:21-22

1 Jalepeno Pepper. The passage is a little irritating to someone who believes that Jesus is not the Christ, but it's also easy to ignore. The argument against is easy to dismiss as speculative.

(6) Mark 14:61-63

2 Jalepeno Peppers. I can see some evidence that this is a sticking point for some people in this thread, so it seems that it could also have been the biggest such in the past. On the other hand, it's still just mildly troublesome. The OP's reading is easy to defend as plausible, and I may or may not expand on this in a separate post. I understand that "the other side" disagrees, but that's still kinda missing the point (or, perhaps, that is the very point, that many people who see themselves as reasonable do disagree). This is about getting in the headspace of people inclined to think this way, not about proving whether they were right or wrong. It's about how unnatural it would be perceived by them.

(7) Mark 15:26-32

Tall Drink of Water. From the OP, part (a) is not affirmed and seems literally wrong, part (b) is clearly said to be a false accusation, and part (c) clearly provides both a definition of the Christ and an evident reason to think that Jesus isn't such a one. Indeed, the whole crucifixion narrative could have been read in support of the view that Jesus is not the Christ.

(8) Mark 10:46-52

Tall Drink of Water. Some would think this is anti-Davidic, and some would also associate anti-Davidic with anti-Messianic. It's not a very strong point, but some could read it as support of their views.

(9) Mark 1:11, Mark 9:7, Mark 15:39, etc.

Tall Drink of Water. These emphatic recognitions of Jesus as "the Son" (by God) or the "Son of God" appear at critical junctures, suggesting that it is the central point of Mark regarding the identity of Jesus. The contrast with the appearances of "the Christ" or the "Son of David," which are substantially compromised by comparison, could have led people to contrast these two different sets of titles in the interpretation of Mark.

That's five "Tall Drinks of Water," one case of "1 Jalepeno Pepper," and one case of "2 Jalepeno Peppers." When we look at this as a whole, we see a coherent worldview about how to interpret Mark. This is how the exegetical game is played. Without providing the best explanation of each individual passage given no context whatsoever, interpreters look for clues as to an interpretation, then they read the difficult bits out of the text, justifying it on the basis of the reading of other passages.

If we imagine that people look for the toughest argument against their view, then choose to abandon their views based solely on an evaluation of it, we completely misunderstand human psychology as it most commonly occurs. The cases of "1 Jalepeno Pepper" and "2 Jalepeno Peppers" would be read from a perspective of "confirmation bias." Instead of causing them to abandon their views, defending their interpretations of these passages could leave them even more firmly convinced of the validity of that interpretation.

Finally, one more thing. The subjective scale above was developed in response to the idea that the OP relies on destroying all meaning and all boundaries of interpretation, creating a "black box," a void upon which can be written any interpretation whatsoever. This is not true. The OP permits discrimination regarding the level of plausibility of an interpretation, and the OP is indeed based on judgment calls about that kind of plausibility. The OP is not based on a libertine-style idea of every reading being equally permissible. It's based on the idea that the OP's reading is within the normal range of how interpreters approached the text, such that we can't say that someone wouldn't interpret the text this way.

The reading was not planted in the text by the author himself, but it is still indeed there, waiting to be discovered. It is a good question whether anyone in antiquity discovered the reading themselves -- a matter of what happened, instead of a matter of what is just plausible to have occurred -- and that is the next logical step for discussion, after a proper degree of plausibility is recognized for the reading in the OP.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by rgprice »

There is still something off here regarding 14:61-62.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the XY, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”


15 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

If Jesus has given a clear and direct answer to the Sanhedrin, then why continue on with the coy mysteries about his identity?

Of course the Sanhedrin asked if he was the Christos (apparently), which of course was taken to mean an anointed king of the Jews sent by God. But the fact that the Sanhedrin uses one term and Pilate another means a game is potentially still being played.

Is it possible then that in an original version of the narrative the Sanhedrin simply asked:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Meh, this is not too satisfactory either. I guess it has to be that the high priest asked him if he was the Christos, otherwise, what's all the fuss about? But the high priest doesn't ask if he is king of the Jews. So the writer must be indicating that while he is the Christos, the Christos is not a king of the Jews, which is fairly obvious and makes sense.

But what about:
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christos, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “So you say,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

How this is handled in Luke is interesting:
66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Christos,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

This has separated the question of the Christos from the Son of God.

For the ending of v69 the on-line interlinear Bible has: "δυνάμεως τοῦ Θεοῦ"
https://biblehub.com/interlinear/luke/22.htm

I assume the manuscripts use nomina sacra here, but this is alternative interpreted as "the powerful God" or "the power of God".

To me this is potentially an important distinction. The first interpretation can imply a different God, i.e. a God more powerful than a lesser god. The second interpretation, however, can also be interpreted alternatively to mean that he will be seated to the right of some other being who is adjacent to God. The standard interpretation being that he would simply be seated to the right of God, who is powerful.

Here is BeDuhn's reconstruction of Marcion, which is not much different than Luke:

They brought him for charges into their council-chamber, saying,
67 “If you are the Christos, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I should tell you, you would in no way trust (it).
69 But from now on the Human Being will be sitting to the right of God’s power.”
70 Then they all said, “Are you, therefore, the child of God?” And he said to them, “You are the ones that are
saying (it).”

Interestingly he doesn't use the ""right of the powerful God" interpretation.

At any rate, the writer of this version of the narrative seems to have recognized some potential for alternative readings of Mark and has made an effort to disambiguate the narrative by separating out the question about being the Christos from being the Son of God. However, this writer does not have Jesus provide a direct answer to either question!

And again, in the scene with Pilate Luke has removed ambiguity:
23 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christos, a king.”

3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

So I find it quite interesting that in Mark Jesus is so coy about indicating whether he is actually the Christos or not, yet he provides a direct answer in this scene that leaves no ambiguity, while in Luke/Marcion, there is far less ambiguity about what Christos is taken to mean yet Jesus never answers the question directly.

Let's see Matthew:
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew more faithfully follows Mark in many places. Here Matthew says what we might suspect Mark should have said.

This leads me to wonder if indeed the answer of Jesus was in fact so direct in the original narrative from which Mark was derived, i.e. proto-Mark. This seems to support the possibility that in proto-Mark the answer of Jesus was not direct. Both Matthew and Luke witness a version of the narrative in which Jesus does not give a direct answer here.

If Matthew and Luke are derived from proto-Mark, not canonical Mark, then perhaps they witness to what was originally written here.

It is possible then that the editor of canonical Mark recognized the serious ambiguity of Jesus' identity in the overall Markan narrative and thus decided to provide clarity here, where it wasn't necessary in Matthew and canonical Luke because his identity is more solidly affirmed in those narratives.
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by davidmartin »

RG that's impressive work. can I add one thing regarding the messianic secret?

it could be possible to read this in light of the deprecation (or your preferred term) of the disciples, that the mistake they made was not to keep it secret, not that they might be wrong about it. a proclamation of the messianic kingdom would be ruled out. since this is mentioned, the reader might assume some disciples ignored this and went around announcing it. Jesus is like, ok who was it, who let the secret out?
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Re: Jesus is not the Christ: A Reading of Mark

Post by andrewcriddle »

One issue is whether anyone could easily believe
a/Jesus is the Son of Man
b/ Jesus is the Son of God
and also believe
c/ Jesus is not the Christ.

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

Post by Secret Alias »

The Marcionites. Harder to believe they believed there were two Christs. The Jewish messiah is always THE messiah
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