Like the last post on the importance of Isaiah to Mark and thorougly scriptural roots to Christology, next up for review is Joel Marcus, The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (Lousville: Westminster John Knox, 1992). He aims to combine approaches (Christological titles, history-of-religions, narrative criticism) (8). Each chapter starts with pericopes that explicitly refer back to scripture with a citation like “it is written” and explores the larger context (8), then proceeds to try to separate tradition and redaction (8-9), then looks at the narrative as a whole (9-10), then at parallel Jewish or Christian scriptural interpretations (10) and lastly at what it reveals about the setting-in-life of the Markan community (10-11; cf. Marcus’ article on this). I will focus on Christology.
Ch 2 (12-47) covers now familiar territory on Isaiah. Mark put Isa 40:3 together with Exod 23:20/Mal 3:1 conflated text (cf. also in Q [Mt 11:10/Lk 7:27]) because in the MT and Aramaic there is identical expression for “prepare the way” (thus the evangelist is a native speaker even if readers using the Greek text are not) (16). Following Guelich he argues kathōs gegraptai (as it has been written) is a transitional bridge from 1:1 so the Isaiah ascription is key to the “beginning of the gospel” (17-8). He agrees with Stuhlmacher on the Isaianic background to ”gospel” (18-19) and finds many Isaianic themes - announcement to behold God and coming kingdom (20), eschatological comfort (21-2), wilderness location (22-3), second exodus (24-6), proto-apocalyptic imagery (Yahweh’s council, new age) (28-30), entering the kingdom like Yawheh’s kingly rule and return with people to Zion (33), healing the blind (34-5), way to Jerusalem and Yahweh’s triumphal procession in holy war (35-7). On Christology, 1:2-3 “your” (Jesus) way and the “way of the Lord” (Yahweh) shows both unity and distinction (37-8). Likewise Jesus as kyrios is much more than just a “master/owner” (2:28; 11:3; 12:36-7) but he is distinct from and subordinate to God as kyrios (10:18, 40; 12:36-7; 13:32; 14:36; 15:34) (38-39). This unity/distinction can be seen in 5:19-20 (Gerasene man is instructed to tell what the “Lord” has done for him and he tells what “Jesus” did for him so that Jesus acts in the power & authority of the Lord), 11:9 (blessing Jesus in the Lord’s name or Jesus coming at a deeper level is the advent of the Lord) and 2:7, 10 (only God can forgive sins, but the Son of Man has authority on earth to exercise this prerogative) (40). He adds that the distinction is maintained when Jesus’ apparent defeat at the cross is the time of God’s victory, so he disagrees with Watts’ view that Jesus is identified as the Divine Warrior (41, 41 n. 105).
Ch 3 tackles the baptism (48-79). ”It came to pass in those days” reflects a solemn biblical formula (48). There are echoes of Isa 63:19 MT (rending heavens), 63:11 MT (bringing the shepherd up from the sea and putting the holy spirit on him) and 63:14 LXX (descent of spirit, probably why Mark has eis [in] instead of epi [on]) (49-50). There are allusions to Ps 2:7 (50-1) and, in support of the servant of Isa 42:1, he argues the following: the best option for “beloved” (Isa 42:1 chosen on, a late Targum on Ps 2:7, a solitary reference to the binding of Isaac, the firstborn in Exod 4:22-3?) is from Isaiah as “beloved” (agapetos) can be a cognate of “chosen” (eklektos/eklelegmos (Isa 42:1) and that “beloved” and “well pleased” (eudokēsen) is used in Matt 12:18 citation of Isa 42:1 (cf. eudokēsen also in Theodotion and Symmachus) (51-2); Mk 1:10-11 is similar to the Targum on Isa 41:8-9; 42:1; 43:10 (cf. Chilton) (53) and the parallel with the independent John 1:32-34 shows a common reference to the “chosen one” so the servant may be original and Ps 2:7 reference redactional in Mark (54-5). Marcus proceeds to analyze Jewish and Christian eschatological and messianic interpretations of Ps 2:7 (59-66). Mark has both themes of the apocalyptic kingdom and royal son of god (66-9). As for the titles’ meaning, Marcus argues it is an earthly monarch who at his coronation is invested with the kingly authority of his father (cf. Christ’s dominion in Rom 1:4; Heb 1:5; 5:5; Col 1:13; Lk 22:29) (69-70). As “begotten” there is a substratum of meaning that the king while distinct in some way bears Yahweh’s personal presence and share in his holiness, so it transcends the boundary of a juridicial adoption to take on superhuman/cosmic dimensions and more of a change in essence (71-2). Marcus notes that the aorist eudokēsen suggests the past election and pre-existent choice of the Messiah (like israel), though it is not clear if Jesus became the Messiah at the baptism at his annointing (74-5). The quasi divine implications of “son of god” explain why it was rarely used and discontinued in Jewish literature (77-9).
Ch 4 is on the Transfiguration (80-93). The scriptural echo “Listen to him” sounds like the exhortation of Deut 18:15 (81). The account is saturated with Moses imagery from ascending a mountain with 3 men (Exod 24:1-2; 9-18), appearance changed (Exod 34:29-35), 6 days (Exod 24:16), God in a cloud and the crowd’s astonishment (Mk 9:15; cf. Exod 34:29-35) (82-3). Granted only Jesus’ clothes and not face shine (contra Matt/Luke parallel; cf 2 Cor 3:5-18) and Mark puts Elijah before Moses, but the reason is Mark’s focus on eschatology (i.e. coming of Elijah per Malachi, radiant garments at the eschaton [Dan 12:3; 2 Apoc. Bar 51:1-3; Matt 13:43; Rev 7:13-14]) (89). This is not low Christology as there are traditions of Moses enthronement (cf. Ezekiel the Tragedian; Philo, Life of Moses 1.155-158; John 6:14-15; a tannaitic midrash tanhuma 4:51-52) (84-86). 9:1 as a bridge from 8:38 to the Transfiguration shows the latter is proleptic of the eschatological kingdom and Jesus like Moses ascending the mountain to become king and 9:9 connects it to the resurrection (87, 88; contra Gathercole on pre-existence). Traditions of Moses’ translation to heaven are attested in Philo (Questoins on Genesis 1.86), Josephus (Ant 3.96; denied in Ant. 4.326 but includes a counterproductive tradition that Moses was still taken up in a cloud to descend to a ravine) and the Mekilta (Bahodesh 4 [Lauterbach 2.224]) (88-9). Moses was divinized in Philo (Life of Moses 1.138; cf. Allegorical Interpretation 1.40; On the Sacrifices of Abel and Cain 9; The Worse Attacks the Better 161-62; On the Migration of Abraham 84; On the Change of Names 19; On Dreams 2.189) and the Pesiqta de Rab Kahana on Deut 33:1, though Philo and the Rabbis back off by insisting the language is metaphorical or on Moses’ mortality but other first century Jews may have expressed cultic devotion to Moses (90-91) and Mark 8:38 does not shy from Jesus bearing his Father’s glory (91).
Ch 5 (94-110) offers a solution for where Mark found a scripture that Elijah would be mistreated; Mark tries to reconcile the promise that Elijah will restore all things in seeming contradiction to the necessity of the Son of Man suffering (cf. Servant Songs, righteous sufferer of Psalms, Dan 7) with the idea that the forerunner suffers like the Messiah. Ch 6 (111-29) looks at Ps 118:22-3 LXX (111). His reconstruction of the tradition history has the parable first circulate without the scripture (cf. Thomas 65) and the Psalm alters its point from condemning injustice (bad tenants) to vindication (112-14). Marcus laments that Mark suggests the transfer of the vinyard (Israel) from the tenants (Jewish leaders or all Jews?) to a mixed but predominantly Gentile church (“others”), understandable in the heated context of the Jewish War but problematic with centuries of Christian anti-Semitism (117-8). Regarding Christology, he argues the “stone” could be read literally for the Temple (cf. T. Solomon 22:7-23:4) or figuratively for the people (1 Pet 2:4-7; 1QS 8:4; 1QH 6:25-29; 7:8-9) and the parable has other Temple imagery (tower = temple; cf. 1 En 89:73; 4Q500; see also Mark’s interest in the Temple in 11:27, 9-11, 15-18, 27-33; ch 13) (120-1). The Markan Jesus desires a new eschatological temple with the inclusive vision of Isaiah (cf. Mk 11:17) (121), though its current tenants will be excluded (122). Jesus is the cornerstone of the new temple (the Church), for the parable does not explicitly mention the son’s resurrection so the vindicated stone must apply to the transfer of the vineyard (with Temple) to “others” (123). As cornerstone of the faith community, they are inseparable (disciples to “be with him”, Son of Man represents humans, share in Spirit, eucharist) (123-4)
Ch 7 (130-52) looks at Ps 110 and 8:7 (under the feet) behind Mk 12:35-37 (130). The parallel with Barnabas 12:10-11 shows this is mostly traditional rather than redactional (131-2). Again he looks at the reception of Ps 110 in Jewish eschatology (postexilic context of Psalter; 11QMelchizedek; parasha 4 [midrash on Psalms]; Mk 12:36 introduces it as spoken in the Spirit and emphasis on Jesus’ unrivalled authority and cosmic power in all under his feet) (132-7). As to whether Jesus accepted “son of David” or not, Marcus first notes the title is concentrated in the “way” section (10:46, 52; 11:9-11; 12:35-7) (137) and the geographical location of Jericho/Jerusalem/Temple may have fueled Davidic hopes (138-9). Second, it is insufficient as no father calls his son “Lord” (139-40) and Marcus denies that Jesus intends to resolve a contraction as there is no second passage cited (scribal opinion) and the natural reading is a negative answer (152). Though the Messiah’s Davidic sonship is common in Jewish and Christian texts (exception Barn 12:10-11) (140), Mark’s preference may be for “son of god” (cf. Barn 12:10, possible stress on not his [i.e. David's] son, the reference to divine begetting in Ps 109:3 LXX) (141). “Son of god” goes beyond Davidic sonship (cf. Rom 1:3-4; Mk 14:61-62 with Dan 7:13/Ps 110:1 in background) as he participates in the divine majesty and is the “filial plenipotentiary” who rules over human and cosmic foes (142-4, he points to the theophany at the sea ion p. 144). He ties this in with the “Two Powers heresy” of rabbinic Judaism though Mark does not see it in violation of the Sheme (cf. 12:28-34, linked with catch words like teacher, teaching and Lord) because Mark’s figure is still subordinate to God (145). The Shema also seems to appear behind Mk 2:7 and 10:18 (“except one, God”) and together Jesus is both distanced from/unequal to God and yet represents his heavenly authority on earth (146). Finally Ch 8 (153-98) covers the Passion Narrative where Marcus sees the influence of Zech 9-14 (the shepherd, the scattered and regathered sheep, the Mount of Olives, the holy war and eschatological imagery) (154-64), the Son of Man as both an individual judge (Mk 8:38; 14:62; cf. similar idea in the Similitudes of Enoch that may influence Matt 25 and Jn 5:27) and collective representative (shares in sufferings and martyrdom; cf. represents collective saints in Daniel) (164-71), the Righteious Sufferer of the Psalms (172-86) and the Suffering Servant (poured out for “many”, silent before Pilate and torturers, paradidonai in Isa 53:6, 12) (186-96).
So in comparison to Watt’s, both agree on the centrality of the Scriptural background to Mark and especially on the use of Isaiah and the Suffering Servant, though Watt’s is based on a PhD thesis that is more narrowly focussed on Isaiah while Marcus explores the wider OT background. Further, both see Mark’s Christology as fairly high (for Marcus Mark has Jesus as the cosmic quasi divine son of god, a second power in heaven, the new temple) though unlike Watts and Johannson Marcus ultimately sees Mark’s Jesus as subordinate to Yahweh. One area that I might disagree with Marcus is that I do not think Jesus rejected the title “son of David” (he accepted the acclamation from Peter and Bartimaeus) and I think “son of god” should be read as equivalent to the annointed royal king, though Mark may redefine the role in an eschatological light where Jesus is currently enthroned in heaven as Lord and will rule at the coming of the apocalyptic kingdom. What do you think: do you agree or disagree with Marcus’ interpretations of the various OT backgrounds behind Mark and has he achieved the right balance in seeing Jesus as both in unity with but also distinct from God?