I am excited to see everyone at the upcoming SBL/AAR in Atlanta. I plan to catch sessions such as the “Q” scholars responding to Francis Watson’s book, the competing reconstructions of Marcion’s Gospel, the question of ethnicity in Luke-Acts, the review of the Paul Within Judaism book, and, of course, all of the free receptions. :) As for my own session, I posted the abstracts for my session on Markan Christology and the papers have been distributed in advance to members of the Mark seminar. Here is my paper’s outline:
- Adolf von Harnack on adoptionistic or pneumatic verging on docetic Christologies. The “low” vs “high” Christology classification system.
- Michael Peppard on how adoption may be the means by which imperial power was transferred to the supreme benefactor of the Empire. Bart Ehrman writes, ‘[E]ven though later theologians came to consider a “low” or “adoptionist” Christology to be inadequate, I do not think we should overlook just how amazing this view was for the people who first held it… he had actually been elevated to a position next to God Almighty who had made all things and would be the judge of all people.’ (How Jesus Became God, 231).
- The reception of Mark among different audiences (cf. Adela Collins, Peppard), both a 1st century audience familiar with messianic exegesis as well as the imperial cult and a 2nd century audience engaged in changed Christological controversies.
Mark in the 1st Century
- Early High Christology Club? A divine Christology or dyadic devotional pattern may have quickly emerged as evident in pre-Pauline fragments, but there is a risk of treating NT textual representations of Christian beliefs/practices as monolithic and trying to recover the original “essence” of “Christianity” before the “fall” into discord (e.g. Richard Bauckham writes “the highest possible Christology – the inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity – was central to the faith of the early church even before any of the New Testament writings were written, since it occurs in all of them” [God of Israel, p. 19], apologetic or counter-apologetic works assuming the legitimacy of Christian confessions depends on their roots in the historical Jesus). Added note: the theological validity of the Nicene-Constantinople creed does not depend on how long it took to formulate the conceptual or ontological categories.
- At the baptism, Jesus is anointed or elected to his messianic office and possibly to his task as the Isaianic servant (Donald Juel’s Messianic Exegesis; Joel Marcus, The Way of the Lord).
- The biblical background to the baptism and transfiguration should not be underestimated (scriptural allusions to Ps 2:7/Isa 43:1/MT Isa 63:19, bath qol, echoes of Sinai and Moses/Elijah in the latter scene), but Peppard complements this analysis via his study of Roman adoption contracts and bird omens before a victory or imperial ascension (Seutonius, Aug. 94; 96; Claud. 7; Dom. 6). Jesus was the recipient of the baptism vision, while the transfiguration was for the benefit of witnesses (cf. Peppard’s comitia curiata or “representative assembly” confirming Roman adoptions).
- Mark’s Gospel does not imply pre-existence (cf. James Dunn and Adela Collin’s rebuttal of Simon Gathercole’s thesis on the Synoptic “I have come” sayings) and other Markan texts that could be read as divine “epiphanies” can be interpreted differently.
- Jesus’ power over the sea may either echo Moses’ miracles (cf. Philo, Life of Moses 1.55-58) or Yahweh’s power to trample the sea (cf. Job 9:8), but a possible compromise position is that Yahweh has extended his power over the Sea to the Davidic king (cf. Daniel Kirk and Stephen L. Young’s JBL article). Scholars find echoes of Moses (cf. Marcus), the Son of Man (Rudolf Pesch), and Hellenistic epiphany stories (cf. Candida Moss, Simon S. Lee) among other interpretive options in the transfiguration, but the framing of this event between an eschatological saying and a resurrection appearance indicates that it is a proleptic vision of Jesus’ future appearance like the glorified saints when the kingdom arrives “in power” (cf. Dunn).
- Davidic king: Peter’s confession of the “Christ” or Bartimaeus’s plea to the “son of David” is at least partially correct (cf. the two-stage healing of the blind person), but it has to be complemented by an understanding of Jesus’ way of the cross (cf. Ernest Best). Jesus does not deny his Davidic sonship in Mark 12:35-37, but redefines it in light of his lordship in heaven and, therefore, resolves a potential scriptural contradiction (cf. Juel).
- Colonial mimicry and Jesus as rival-emperor (e.g. Tae Hun Kim, Craig Evans on the title “son of God” and the Priene inscription).
Mark in the Late-First and the Second Century
- Matthean and Lukan redaction (e.g. infancy narratives, omissions of Mark 5:31/7:32-35/8:23-26/13:32, editorial tweaks in Mark 6:5-6/Matt 13:58 or Mark 10:17-18/Matt 19:16-17a).
- Various 2nd century Christian groups (e.g. Cerinthians, Ebionites, Marcosians, Carpocratians, and Orphite Gnostics according to Irenaeus’s Adv. Haer. 1.15.3; 1.25.1; 1.26.1-2; 1.30.4-6) entertained the idea that the “Christ” was a divine being who possessed the human Jesus at the baptism and abandoned him at the cross. This could be called a “possessionist Christology” (cf. Michael Goulder, April DeConick) or a “separationist Christology” (cf. Ehrman). According to Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.11.7, those who separate Jesus from the Christ and deny that the Christ could suffer preferred Mark’s narrative, probably because it commenced at the baptism and recorded Jesus’ feeling of divine abandonment on the cross (cf. Against Heresies 1.8.2 following the wording of Mark 15:34 instead of Matt 27:46).
- Possible scribal corrections at Mark 1:1, 1:10, and 15:34 to counter-act a reading of Mark through the lens of a possessionist/separationist Christology (cf. Ehrman).
- The “centrist” or “proto-Orthodox” church defends Mark’s theological merits by claiming it in the name of the Apostle Peter and reading it as part of the fourfold Gospel canon. Potentially difficult Christological passages in Mark can be explained by cross-referencing it with other authorized Gospels. Francis Watson writes, ‘[T]he fourfold gospel may itself be seen as an act of gospel production, marking the defining moment in the reception-history of the individual texts it contains while also establishing a new, composite text which generates a more comprehensive reception-history of its own’ (Gospel Writing, 7).