To begin with a personal anecdote: when I graduated high school and embarked on a degree in Religion & Theology, my goal in part was to be an apologist. Among the popular apologetics I had readily consumed was Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) (my attitude to apologetics has since changed quite a bit as it seems to me more about reinforcing the worldview of insiders than an effective mode of persuasion for outsiders and I tend to think the best apologetic is how a tradition impacts one’s daily life and how one treats other people). Moving away from that personal tangent, Strobel’s chapter “The Profile Evidence: Did Jesus Fulfill the Attributes of God” interviews D.A. Carson and has the following conversation:
For example, in Mark 10 someone addresses Jesus as “good teacher,” promoting him to reply, “Why do you call me good? No one is good-except God alone.” “Wasn’t he denying his divinity by saying this?” I [Strobel] asked. “No, I think he was trying to get the fellow to stop and think about what he was saying,” Carson explained. “The parallel passage in Matthew is a little more expansive and does not find Jesus downplaying his deity at all. “I think all he’s saying is, ‘Wait a minute; why are you calling me good? Is this just a polite thing, like you say, “Good day”? What do you mean by good? You call me good master-is this because you’re trying to honey up to me?’ In a fundamental sense there’s only one who is good, and that’s God. But Jesus is not implicitly saying, ‘So don’t call me that.’ He’s saying Do you really understand what you’re saying when you say that? Are you really ascribing to me what should only be ascribed to God?’ That could be teased out to mean, ‘I really am what you say; you speak better than you know’ or ‘Don’t you dare call me that; next time call me “sinner Jesus” like everybody else does.’ In terms of all that Jesus says and does elsewhere, which way does it make sense to take it?” With so many verses that call Jesus “sinless,” “holy,” “righteous,” “innocent,” “undefiled,” and “separate from sinners,” the answer was pretty obvious (162)
It is hard to deny Mk 10:17-18 (cf. Luke 18:18-19) creates issues for Christology, so much that the parallel in Matthew 19:16-17a ”good” is no longer an adjective describing the teacher (διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ) but ”what good thing I must do” (τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω) and ”why do you call me good? No one is good except one, God” (τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός) becomes “why do you ask me concerning the good? One is good” (τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός). Yet Carson’s view of Mark as actually implicitly pointing to Jesus’ divinity is a traditional reading (cf. Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Halls, Mark for Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series) and I came across online an extensive case that at the level of the evangelist (regardless of what the historical Jesus or the rich man thought) the intent was for the perceptive reader to reach this deeper understanding in Brian Han Gregg, “Why Do You Call Me Good: A Markan Riddle” Scripture and Interpretation 3:1 (2009): 68-78. Gregg’s case seems to hinge on whether one accepts that the words/deeds of the Markan Jesus go beyond the Jewish concept of agency (e.g., could the conflict in Mk 2:7f be about the source of Jesus’ authority, see the interpretive comment in Matt 9:8?) and whether the call to sell all & follow me supersedes Torah (might the man’s attachment to possessions be seen as breaking the first commandment which prevents him from Torah obedience as interpreted in the Jesus movement?). On the contrary, I don’t think Mark intended to discredit Jesus’ deity or goodness because I am not sure it is yet an issue in this particular gospel but was merely trying to make a point against flattery that should be reserved for God; however from a canonical or sytematic theological perspective I am not opposed to a Christian who wants to make the equation Jesus = good = equal with God even if not convinced that was how the first readers (or auditors) of Mark heard it. What do you think?