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One reaches the chapter mid-point in Mark with increased  expectation to discover the identity of Jesus. Common themes emerge--a second feeding and boat story "closing out the third segment of Jesus' Galilee mission" (NISB Notes), a continued incomprehension and obduracy of the disciples, Jesus' exasperation in  "Do you still not perceive or understand?" followed by the question, "Are your hearts hardened?" this motif already encountered, and by a final two questions, "Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear?" Jesus next asks the disciples if they do not remember the first feeding, and after recalling this provision, asks once again, "Do you not yet understand" (17-21)


Why should it be surprising that the narrative of Mark next explores a story of Jesus' healing a blind man? In fact, 8:22-10:52, the final segment of the Galilean ministry,  is sandwiched by two giving sight stories (this one and the one in 10:46-52). NISB Notes highlights the misunderstanding of the disciples ironically contrasted to the "giving of sight to the blind." The blind can see; those who see have no insight. In this story, the blind man who has been brought to Jesus by other people requires two attempts before being healed, the first giving only partial vision and the second, restoring his sight. This blind man is then sent to his home, reminding readers of the leper who proclaimed the healing freely 1:45, Jesus' ordering the people around the raised Jairus' daughter to tell no one, and the people zealously proclaiming the cure of the deaf man in 10:36, although ordered by Jesus not to do so. The last healing story, that of Blind Bartimaeus, who comes on his own, shouting "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" follows a third passion-prediction section (NISV Notes). This is the first time Jesus is called Son of David, a claim discredited in Mark in 12;35-37, an enthymeme proving that "the Messiah, whom David calls 'lord,' cannot be his son" (NISB Notes).


 Michael Turton suggests a possible redaction meant apologetically:


v36-7: Jesus quotes Psalm 110 (109 LXX). Some scholars see this as a later creation which admits that Jesus was not of the Davidic line and seeks to mitigate the damage. Chilton (1984) argues that this is "reasonably" an authentic saying due to the embarrassment criterion, since it clashes with later Christian understandings of Jesus. The Psalm appears to have been used in a coronation ritual for the kings of Israel (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p359). 


Psalm 110 is one of the most important texts of OT literature in the NT. It was widely used in early Christian circles in the NT period and is cited in Acts 2:34-5, 1 Cor 15:25, and Heb 1:13. There are numerous allusions as well (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p359).  This cite of Psalm 110 may also reflect back to Mk 10:35-37. In the Gospel of Mark it anchors the end of the chiasm in Mark 12, and belongs to several themes of the writer, including his presentation of Jesus as Simon Maccabaeus, as David, and as the High Priest. The Psalm in English runs:



1: The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool." 

2: The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes! 

3: Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning like dew your youth will come to you. 

4: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz'edek." 

5: The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 

6: He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. 


Pasted from <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark12.html>


The earlier verse is, of course, the one where James and John want to sit on right and left of Jesus in his "glory:


35: And James and John, the sons of Zeb'edee, came forward to him, and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36: And he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" 37: And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.


Pasted from <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark10.html#10.35.37>


v35-37: Ched Myers (1988, p279) sees an allusion to Psalm 110 in the first two verses:



1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." 2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.(NIV)

In Psalm 110:6 the Lord sits in judgment on his enemies, just as James and John ask for here. In Mk 12:35 this same passage becomes the basis for a discussion of Jesus' Davidic relationship.


Pasted from <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark10.html#10.35.37>


It may be well, at this point, to bring to mind another passage in Mark (10:17):


"And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Joshua said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’"


Here, Jesus, self-designated "Son of Man," refuses the title of "good," pointing out that God alone is good. Actually, Jesus has been consistent in referencing himself as "Son of Man" in contrast to the Christological "Son of God."  Readers do well to recall that the right and left places of distinction are given in Mark to the two criminals crucified with Jesus, bringing back the theme of rejection, suffering, and death. Hidden among all of this is, of course, some theology. We know, for example, from Luke that Elizabeth is a descendant of Aaron and Mary was her cousin (1:5, 1:36). Jesus, of course, in Matthew is the son of the Holy Ghost, and a child of a virgin mother. Paul, earlier than the Synoptic Gospels, describes Jesus as "descended from David according to the flesh" and "designated son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:8). Mark has not included the birth of Jesus so is not bothered by the potential controversy.


The three titles used in Mark for Jesus become pivotal to understanding what identity is evolving. In a 1994 article, Lewis S. Hay lays out several critical focal points, including definitions for "Son of God," "(S)son of (M)an." and Son of David and critical demarcations where Jesus potentially became Christ: resurrection, baptism, and his teaching and history. It is appropriate to begin with definitions, already discussed at some length in earlier sections. Using Oscar Cullman, Hay defines three senses of "Son of God":


Cullmann's survey of Jewish literature reveals that the term "son of God" may mean: (a) an angelic being; (b) Israel as God's chosen people; (c) the righteous or obedient within Israel; or (d) the king as the personal representative of God's elect nation.


This accords with the Hebrew understanding of the title:


Term applied to an angel or demigod, one of the mythological beings whose exploits are described in Gen. vi. 2-4, and whose ill conduct was among the causes of theFlood; to a judge or ruler (Ps. lxxxii. 6, "children of the Most High"; in many passages "gods" and "judges" seem to be equations; comp. Ex. xxi. 6 [R. V., margin] and xxii. 8, 9); and to the real or ideal king over Israel (II Sam. vii. 14, with reference to David and his dynasty; comp. Ps. lxxxix. 27, 28). "Sons of God" and "children of God" are applied also to Israel as a people (comp. Ex. iv. 22 and Hos. xi. 1) and to all members of the human race.

Yet the term by no means carries the idea of physical descent from, and essential unity with, God the Father. The Hebrew idiom conveys nothing further than a simple expression of godlikeness (see Godliness). In fact, the term "son of God" is rarely used in Jewish literature in the sense of "Messiah." Though in Sukkah 52a the words of Ps. ii. 7, 8 are put into the mouth of Messiah, son of David, he himself is not called "son of God." The more familiar epithet is "King Messiah," based partly on this psalm (Gen. R. xliv.). In the Targum the 

 of Ps. lxxx. 16 is rendered 

 (= "King Messiah"), while Ps. ii. 7 is paraphrased in a manner that removes the anthropomorphism of the Hebrew: "Thou art beloved unto me, like a son unto a father, pure as on the day when I created thee."


Pasted from <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13912-son-of-god>



Hay says all three have relevance to Mark, but the last one has meaning especially in light of Ps 2:7 and the messianic interpretation. Hay further points out the critical junctures at which "Son of God" can be found in Mark:


The term appears in the title line of the Gospel (1:1);1 it is pronounced from heaven at the baptism and transfiguration (1:11 and 9:7); it is confessed by the demons whose power the Son is breaking (3:11 and 5:7); it is claimed by the Son himself before the High Priest (14:61-62); it is uttered by the centurion at the foot of the cross (15:39). Moreover, Jesus appears as the son in the parable of the vineyard (12:1-12), and designates himself as "the Son" who does not share the Father's knowledge of the time of the end (13:32).

American Academy of Religion, "The Son-of-God Christology in Mark," Source: Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Apr., 1964), pp. 106-114 Published by: Oxford University Press

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1460203


The ESV provides the following commentary, emphasizing communication at the beginning and end of Mark, his commissioning, his reference to himself as the bridegroom, and the centurion's testimony:


Mark 1:1 Rather than emphasizing the events leading up to Jesus’ public ministry in terms of his genealogy and family roots (as do Matthew and Luke) or in terms of its theological foundation (as does John), Mark focuses on its actual beginning. The gospel is the good news of the fulfillment of God’s promises. In the OT (Isa. 40:9; 52:7Nah. 1:15) “good news” is connected with the saving intervention of God to help his people. of Jesus Christ. The gospel is proclaimed by Jesus, the Messiah, but in a secondary sense the good news is the report about Jesus. Mark communicates both at the beginning and end of his Gospel (Mark 1:1; 15:39) that Jesus is the Son of God.

Mark 1:10–11 Immediately is a favorite word of Mark’s (he uses Gk. euthys, “immediately, at once,” 41 times). It imparts a sense of speed and urgency and often introduces a new incident or a surprising turn of events within an incident. The Spirit of God descends upon Jesus in his baptism (see notes on Matt. 3:16Luke 3:22). Jesus is thus commissioned for a unique service (cf.Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1). Mark’s allusions to the OT here involve Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God (Ps. 2:7) and the servant of God (Isa. 42:1). The heavenly voice confirms the eternal, love-filled Sonship of Jesus (see note on Matt. 3:17). Note that all three persons of the Godhead—the Spirit, the Father, and the Son—are involved here.

Mark 2:8 perceiving … that they thus questioned within themselves. Jesus’ divine nature is revealed in his ability to read their thoughts. (Cf. note on Matt. 24:36 concerning the limits and extent of Jesus’ knowledge in his human and divine nature as the incarnate Son of God.)

Mark 2:19–20 Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom, who in the OT was the Lord (cf. Isa. 62:5Hos. 2:19–20). While Jesus is present with his disciples, they are to rejoice; when he is taken away from them … then they will fast. They will then return to the practice of fasting to seek the presence of God, but they need not do that when Jesus, the Son of God (see Mark 1:1; 15:39), is with them. “Taken away” is an indirect prediction of Jesus’ death (see Isa. 53:8).

Mark 15:39 The centurion has observed the death of many crucified criminals; he recognizes the purity and power of Jesus (in this way) and rightly sees that he is the Son of God (cf. note on Luke 23:47). Like the thief on the cross who expressed faith in Jesus (Luke 23:39–43), the centurion may have had incomplete understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission, but Mark seems to record this testimony as an indication of the centurion’s faith and the truth about Jesus’ identity.


Pasted from <http://www.esvbible.org/search/content/notes/esvsb_notes/%40%2A%20%22Son%20of%20God%22%20%26%20%40note_type%20lsb%7Csb%7Chs/Mark/>



Hay next outlines three critical positions:


  1. Rudolf Bultmann, who, following W. Bousset and others, sees Mark's Son of God as basically a Hellenistic figure.' Bultmann argues that the early Palestinian community origi¬nally attributed the title "Son of God" to Jesus in a purely Jewish-messianic sense, and placed his accession to Sonship at the resurrection (cf. Rom. 1:4). It was thus that the words of Ps. 2:7 were interpreted: "Thou art my beloved son; this day have I begotten thee." But when Christianity moved on to Gentile soil the Jewish-messianic view of the Son of God was metamorphosed into the Hellenistic figure of a divinely empowered miracle worker, and it is this notion of the Son which appears in Mark. With the evangelist, more-over, the accession to Sonship was transferred to the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Thus the Gospel presents Jesus as becoming the Son of God at his baptism, for it is then that he receives the divine Spirit which subsequently enables him to perform his supernatural deeds.
  2. The second point of view is represented by Oscar Cullmann. In agreement with J. Bieneck4— the two are mutually indebted to each other — Cullmann discovers in the second Gospel a thoroughly Jewish concept of the Son of God.' Against Bultmann he contends that the contexts in which the title "Son of God" is ascribed to Jesus are, by and large, not those which present him as a worker of miracles, but precisely those in which he appears as God's servant, chosen to bring redemption to men by his suffering and death. It is in his obedience to the Father's will, even though that will means ultimately the cross, that Jesus manifests that he is God's Son...' The real motivation behind the ascription, and its full justification, Cullmann discovers in the consciousness and claims of Jesus himself.' According to Cullmann, Jesus was fully aware of his unique filial relation to God and forthrightly disclosed this fact to his disciples. The Gospels' reticence about Jesus' open claims to Sonship is explained by the supposition that Jesus employed the title infrequently and in a carefully guarded manner so that his Sonship would not be associated with the other claims to divine sonship so often heard in the world of the first century.'
  3. A third point of view is defended by Walter Grundmann, who claims that the Christian use of the term "Son of God" is inexplicable either in terms of contemporary Judaism or Hellenistic thought, but could have originated only in the distinct teaching and history of Jesus.' Grundmann, however, does not recognize in the teaching of Jesus any genuinely unique notion of Son ship; on the contrary, his entire treatment of the subject subsumes the particular idea of Gottessohnschaft under the more general Gotteskindschaft, the latter to be taken "in the widest sense."" This general Gotteskindschaft is what Jesus claims for himself and shares with all his disciples. The Gospels' use of the term "Son of God" as an honorific title for Jesus Grundmann quickly dismisses as the work of the believing com munity, apparently agreeing with historical-critical scholarship that the title has taken on a primarily Hellenistic meaning."


Hay himself suggests yet another possible direction of interpretation:


We may say, then, that Mark's understanding of Jesus' Son ship is, in regard to its temporal manifestation also, parallel to the form in which the early community understood the sonship of the believers : just as the sonship of believers was seen as both a present reality through their participation in the Spirit (Rom. 8:14-15; 9:26; II Cor. 6:18; Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7), and a future reality to be fully revealed at the resurrection (Rom. 8:19; cf. also the use of the future forms in Matt. 5:9, 45; Luke 6:35), so Jesus' Sonship was understood to have been realized during his earthly life by his obedience to the Father and then irrefutably revealed at his resurrection (Rom. 1:4). The distinction between the two lies in the fact that Jesus is the one Son who, by his radical obedience to the Father, guarantees the eschatological sonship which he proclaims to all who believe.


From this, Hay makes three final observations:


  1. First, a genuinely historical view of Jesus as Son of God places Jesus' Sonship on a par with the sonship of all God's elect. There is no essential or metaphysical difference between his relation to the Father and that which is open to all other men.
  1. Second, this historical view of Sonship is quite consistent with the conviction of the evangelist that Jesus really is the Son of God. We have seen that Mark has no intention of answering the question of when Jesus became the Son. At the same time, the historical understanding of the Sonship means that the Gospel is a presentation of Jesus' becoming the Son (in a historical or existential sense) in his words and deeds. In the historical realm being and becoming are identical. Jesus is not a person who, incidentally, has a history; Jesus is his history. Mark proclaims Jesus as the very Son of God precisely by reporting his historical words and deeds.
  1. Mark's Christology is integrally bound up with the kind of literature he is writing — i. e., with the Gattung "Gospel." Given his understanding of Christology, Mark could present Jesus as the Son in no other way. What we have in his Gospel, therefore, is not myth, despite its mythical elements, but genuine history. In contrast to Mark, the stories of the Gnostic redeemer center in the philosophical problem which emerges in the metaphysical distinction posited between God and man. Hence, they are openly mythical, the proper function of the myth being to bridge the gap between the human and the divine. There is no attempt in them to write history, and for this reason the Gnostics never felt compelled as did the Christians to harmonize their stories into a rational whole. The evangelist, on the other hand, does not know God as the meta¬physical opposite of man but as the God who has revealed himself in the history of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus does not appear in Mark as one whose mysterious nature combines metaphysical opposites in an irrational, unfathomable paradox. Rather, he appears as the Son of God in his human words and deeds, in his history. Since Mark's avowed purpose was to present Jesus as the Son of God, we can only assume that he reports those words and deeds of Jesus which, when rightly understood, reveal him as the Son. The origin of Mark, and the rise of the Gattung "Gospel," was thus the direct result of a historical Christology and the preservation of those historical traditions which were Christologically significant.


In a similar way,  Jack Dean Kingsbury ("The "Divine Man" as the Key to Mark's Christology: The End of an Era?" (1981,

http://int.sagepub.com/content/35/3/243) has reviewed scholarship concerning the "Divine Man," identifying two directions: that of  Wrede and Bultman, whom he sees (except for the idea of preexistence) understanding Jesus Christ as the Messiah (Christ), the Son of God, fundamentally in the same way as Paul; a second phase understands Mark as adopting the Hellenistic divine-man Christology, this inferior to Paul, with others maintaining Mark sought to combat and correct the Hellenistic divine-man Christology. Kingsbury then explains the work of several scholars belonging to this second direction. First, Leander Keck adopted a traditional cycle of mystery stories and restricted their significance by focusing on the cross. Hans Dieter Betz explains Mark as reinterpreting divine-man Christology through emphasizing messianic secret, the passion, and eschatology. Paul J. Achtemeier argues that Mark uses two cycles of miracle stories originally formed as liturgy celebrating an epiphanic Eucharist (bread broken as divine-Man) and inserted into these a framework emphasizing Jesus' death. Theodore Weeden says Mark combats "false prophets" and "false Christs" by insisting Christian existence finds meaning and fulfillment in the pneumatic glory of divine-Man existence. Norman Perrin contends Mark's Christological tension with his tradition was resolved by correcting the divine-Man Christology. Perrin says Mark uses Son of Man to interpret and correct Son of God; he plays down divine-Man and emphasizes suffering. John Donahue says Son of Man is the title par excellence because it provides a true and accurate meaning for the Jesus history. Paul Achtemeier finds Son of God ambiguous and Son of David inadequate to express the life of Jesus of Nazareth; the only suitable title is Son of Man.


Kingsbury continues by pointing out that recent investigations involving Divine-Man appear to be relatively rare in pertinent literature, as is also "Son of God." When used, two types of Divine-Man can be established: divine by reason of wisdom and moral virtue or divine by power to perform miracles. Kingsbury outlines various meanings for Divine-Man as "divine man," "inspired man,"  a "man related to God," or an "extraordinary man." Some scholarship has sought to trace "son of God" to pre-Christian Judaism with some evidence emerging in Qumran literature.


Having sorted out implications of the two titles, Son of Man and Son of God, Kingsbury concludes by explaining how different trajectories of usage can be discovered: the Son of Man is not used within circles of the Messiah, King, Son of David and evidences no aura of secrecy, used in settings of opposition and when Jesus sets himself up as a model for the disciples to emulate in "self-sacrifice"; messianic titles focus on a true perception of who Jesus is, a trajectory ending in the centurion's confession at the crucifixion that Jesus is the Son of God and that the disciples will see him again in Galilee; the Son of Man trajectory aims at the second coming when all will know who Jesus is--the Royal Son of God.



Not surprisingly, N.T. Wright (The Resurrection of the Son of God, 2003) commits a final chapter to "The Risen Jesus as the Son of God," where he describes two interlocking meanings of "Son of god": Israel as a whole, "and the king (or Messiah) more specifically."  He also distinguishes son of a god and son of "the" God.  He describes Christians as believing that Jesus was "the personal embodiment and revelation of the one true God" (731) and that" the Jewish eschatological hope has been fulfilled" (726); Jesus was son of ho theos (725)  :


To claim the risen Jesus as 'son of God' in the sense of 'Messiah' was the most deeply Jewish thing the Christians could do, and hence the most deeply suspect in the eyes of those Jews who did not share their convictions. 724



One final observation should be made about the use of the article in the title. In Θεου υiός, Matt. xxvii. 54, and Mark xv (1886), D. R. Goodwin explains that the important distinction lies in the distinction that demigods were to be understood only as the son of some god, not one God: 


But, finally, even if this centurion must be presumed to have uttered his words from the polytheistic point of view, the proper English of those words would no more be "a son of God" than "the Son of God" ; but, "the son of a god." The point of distinction lies in the Θεου̑, no t in the υiός nor in the article with either. The heathen demigods were not supposed to be "sons of God," but " the sons of some god." Hercules, for example, was not " a son of God," but " t/he son of a god "; and Aeneas was "the son of a goddess." Is it not high time that we should hear no more of this blundering mar-ginal reading, "a son of God"? Shall its advocacy still be con-sidered a mark of the highest and broadest scholarship?  



Geza Vermes in "From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity (Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 2012, 38:6) traces the evolution of Christianity from it Hebrew-Jewish background into the first century and followers of "the Way," into Jewish-Christian and  Christian gentiles, and finally, a full-blown Christology. Vermes points to the Didache, second half of first century, as never calling Jesus "Son of God"; he says this title is found only once in the Didache, "where it is the self-designation of the Antichrist, 'the seducer of the world' (16.4). He further says the Didache "uses only the lowliest Christological qualification for Jesus," with the Greek term pais  being rendered as "God's 'Servant.'" Vermes argues that "The switch in the perception of Jesus from charismatic prophet to superhuman being  coincided with a geographical and religious change, when the Christian preaching of the gospel moved from the Galilean-Judean Jewish culture to the pagan surroundings of the Greco-Roman world. He finds evidence of this in the Epistle of Barnabus, 120 CE, falsely attributed to Barnabas and more likely the work of a gentile Christian author.


This debate has also been taken up in Biblical Archaeology, where the issue revolves about "pre-existence" and "enthronement":

Is the Son of Man Pre-existent and Enthroned?

Back to Scholar’s Study


The January/February 2011 issue of BAR featured a book review, written by James C. VanderKam, of King and Messiah as Son of God. We then received a letter from J. Harold Ellens, retired professor of philosophy and psychology at Calvin Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary, wishing to clarify the terms and concepts used to describe the Son of Man in the ancient literature. Dr. Ellens’s letter is below, followed by responses from the book’s authors, Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins.


Dr. Ellens’s letter:

In your superb January/February 2011 issue, you published a welcome book review of Adela Yarbro Collins’s and John J. Collins’s King and Messiah as Son of God. The review was written by James C. VanderKam. The review is in many ways quite helpful and the book itself is genuinely useful for our field. However, there is in this review, and in the volume itself, an error that seems to surface frequently when a discussion of Second Temple Judaism is involved regarding the concept of the Son of Man. The review contends that the Son of Man in 1 Enoch, and by implication in Daniel 7, as well as 4 Ezra and other documents, is pre-existent and enthroned. More care must be taken regarding this issue. Nowhere in Second Temple Jewish literature is the Son of Man both pre-existent and enthroned. In Daniel 7–9 he is neither pre-existent nor enthroned. He simply appears in the presence of God in Daniel’s vision sometime around 535 B.C.E. and is given authority and power, but no throne. In 1 Enoch he is enthroned but not pre-existent. Only the idea of the Son of Man and his name is pre-existent in the mind of God in 1 Enoch. Enoch is there named the Son of Man. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Son of Man seems possibly to be enthroned but is not pre-existent. He starts out as a human on earth and ends up in heaven as the Judge (enthroned?). In the final redaction of John’s gospel, with its prologue and final chapters, the Son of Man is pre-existent (1:1–3), and in the end exalted, but not described as enthroned. Many scholars continue to make these mistakes, as in this review. We should let the texts, in each case, say exactly what they literally say.

Dr. J. Harold Ellens
Retired Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Calvin Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary
Founding Editor, Emeritus Editor-in-Chief,
 Journal of Psychology and Christianity
Farmington Hills, Michigan


Adela Yarbro Collins responds:

The Son of Man is quite clearly expected to be enthroned when all things are renewed (Matthew 19:28). In Mark the Son of Man is very probably expected to be enthroned at some point after Jesus’ death, since he is described as “seated on the right of the Power,” i.e., God (Mark 14:62). The same is true of Luke 22:69. Although it is not stated explicitly, it is likely that the Son of Man is depicted as enthroned for the future judgment in Luke 21:36. Those being judged will “stand” before the judge, the Son of Man, who is expected to be seated.

John J. Collins responds:

I have three brief comments on Hal Ellens’s letter:

1. While the point is tangential to the issue at hand, no critical scholar can date Daniel’s visions to “some time about 535 B.C.E.” They date from the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century B.C.E.

2. The statement “only the idea of the Son of Man and his name is pre-existent in the mind of God” fails to understand the relation of the name to the person. The naming of his name is a form of pre-existence.

3. Whether the identification of Enoch with the Son of Man is integral to the Similitudes of Enoch is perhaps the most controversial question in the study of 1 Enoch. It is found only in the last chapter of the work (chapter 71), and even there the interpretation is disputed. There are good literary reasons for regarding that chapter as a secondary addition to the Similitudes. Prior to that chapter, there is no hint that Enoch is identical with the Son of Man, or that he is seeing himself in his visions. The interpretation of chapter 71 is admittedly disputed, and this is one issue on which Professor VanderKam and I disagree.


In the actual review itself, Vanderkam concludes the following concerning Collins' research:  "He concludes that the title points to a special relationship between god and king, though the king may not have been thought to be a god <http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/reviews/king-and-messiah-as-son-of-god/>.


Further, Collins does not find Jesus to be represented in the Synoptic gospels as preexistent:

In Paul’s letters (Philippians 2:5–11 and possibly also in 1 Corinthians 8:6 and 2 Corinthians 4:3–4), Adela Yarbro Collins finds a reference to Jesus’ preexistence. But in the Synoptic gospels, she thinks, Jesus is not represented as preexistent.

She recognizes that the historical Jesus may have spoken about one “like a Son of Man” as a heavenly Messiah coming soon to exercise divine rule. Moreover, after the crucifixion, Jesus’ followers identified him as that Son of Man—and worshiped him, as was the case in the ruler cults of the time.


Having already pointed out the location of "Son of God" in Mark, it may be useful, also, to review structurally where the title "son of David" appears, two times declared by blind Bartimaeus, the other in a teaching of Jesus in the Temple in enthymeme:



Pasted from <http://www.biblestudytools.com/search/?q=Son+of+David&c=mr&t=nrs&ps=10&s=Bibles>



The ESV provides the following account of the title, identifying Bartimaeus' acclamation as messianic, the identification of the Messiah as LORD OF David, and the transcendence of this Lord over any merely political messiah:


Mark 10:47 Jesus will later identify the cry of the blind man (Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me) as expressing “faith” (v. 52; Matthew notes there were actually two blind men, but Mark and Luke [Luke 18:35–43] only tell about one of them; see note on Matt. 20:30–31). “Son of David” is a messianic acclamation (see Mark 12:35–37).

Mark 12:35–37 While in the temple, Jesus publicly raises a question that he has already discussed in private with his disciples: who is the Messiah of God—is he essentially the son of David or the Lord of David? Jesus’ point is not to deny that the Messiah is a descendant of David (e.g., Ps. 2:1–12; 89:1–52Isa. 9:1–7Jer. 23:5–6Ezek. 34:23–24). The issue is that, in this passage (i.e., Ps. 110:1–5), there is no mention of the Messiah being the son of David; rather, the Messiah is here the “Lord of David” (see note onMatt. 22:41–46). Jesus affirms the divine inspiration of the Psalm through the Holy Spirit. The Lord (Hb. Yahweh) grants to David’s Lord (Hb. ’Adonay) an exclusive place of honor at his right hand and helps David’s Lord overcome his enemies. Jesus anticipates being exalted to the right hand of God, and thus he far transcends any expectation of a merely political, Davidic messiah.


Pasted from <http://www.esvbible.org/search/content/notes/esvsb_notes/%40%2A+%22Son+of+David%22+%26+%40note_type+lsb%7Csb%7Chs+%40book+41/>



Readers should note that  the Messiah or future deliverer of Israel took on various connotations with no fixed notion in the time of Jesus: as a future king like David, as "an authoritative priest to provide definitive instruction in God's law" and "as a comic figure sent by God to overthrow the forces of evil" (Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction To The early Christian Writings (New York: Oxford, 1997). N.T. Wright also agrees that in the first century, Messiah meant Israel's Messiah:


To say that Jesus is 'the Christ' is, in first-century terms, to say first and foremost that he is Israel's Messiah, not to say that he is the incarnate Logos, the second person of the Trinity, the only-begotten son of the father. Even the phrase 'son of god', during Jesus' ministry and in very early Christianity, does not mea n what it came to mean in later theology, though already by the time of Paul a widening of its meaning can be observed. http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/resurrection/wright_resurrection.htm



Pure preponderance would suggest a preferential use of the title "Son of Man" throughout Mark:


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Pasted from <http://www.biblestudytools.com/search/?q=son%20of%20man%20&t=nrs&s=Bibles&c=mr&ps=10&p=2>


Concerning "Son of Man," Dom HENRY Wansbrough notes that the term plays a key role in the three prophecies of passion (8:31, 9:31, 10:33), the passion and vindication (9:9, 12), and three times in passion without explicit mention of resurrection (10:45; 12:21,41); it is also used in relation to Jesus' authority.



1. Of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. Jesus uses it several times in speaking of his approaching passion, death and resurrection. It plays a key role in the three great prophecies of the passion (8.31; 9.31; 10.33), again in another prophecy of the passion and vindication (9.9, 12), and is used three times of the passion without explicit mention of the resurrection (10.45; 14.21, 41).


2. Of Jesus' authority. The other way in which the Markan Jesus uses this expression of himself is to state his authority. On two occasions this is his authority on earth, authority to forgive sins (2.10) and authority over the Sabbath (2.28). On the other occasions, all the sayings are in prominent positions, and therefore all the more important for Mark's view of Jesus.


- If anyone in this sinful and adulterous generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (8.38).

This saying leads into the Transfiguration, when Jesus is already seen in the glory which will be his. It is a presage of the final judgement.


- And then they will see the son of man coming with great power and glory. And then he will send the angels to gather his elect from the four winds (13.26-27).

This is the climax of the 'eschatological discourse', the foretelling of the persecution of Jesus' community in the world, ending with their liberation by the son of man.


- You will see the son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven (14.62).


The importance of this saying is that it forms the climax of the interrogation before the high priest. In Mark's presentation it is the claim which constitutes the point of his final rejection by the Jewish authorities, and leads immediately to the decision to have him killed. The claim is judged by the high priest and his council to be blasphemy. It is not immediately clear why this should be blasphemy. Certainly the claim to be Messiah is not blasphemous, for other messianic claimants soon before or after this were not condemned for blasphemy. Most probably the reason is the combination of 'seated at the right hand of the Power' and 'coming with the clouds of heaven'. This implies that Jesus is to be at the right hand of God on his throne. But if while 'seated' he is also 'coming', he must be actually sharing the mobile Merkabah-throne of God. This Merkabah-throne is the chariot-throne on which God is seated in Ezekiel 1. Already at the time of Jesus this imagery bulked large in the imagination and descriptions of Jewish mysticism (called Merkabah-mysticism). Such a claim would give good grounds for the charge of blasphemy.


From these three key-sayings it is clear that for Mark the background of the expression 'son of man' is the prophecy of Daniel 7.13-14:


I was gazing into the vision of the night,

when I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven

as it were a son of man.

He came to the One most venerable

and was led into his presence.

On him was conferred rule, honour and kingship,

and all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.

His rule is an everlasting rule

which will never pass away,

and his kingship will never come to an end.


In the prophecy preceding this vision Daniel describes four great beasts, representing the four great empires which persecuted and oppressed the Jewish nation. The son of man, in his turn, represents the nation itself, at last vindicated and triumphant, and finally to rule over the whole world with God's own authority. Mark understands the expression, well-known to have been characteristic of Jesus, to be this son of man, sharing God's power and authority. However in this final saying he goes beyond the prophecy, to represent Jesus as sharing the throne itself of God. The trial scene is, then, for Mark the climax of his presentation of the mystery and meaning of Jesus.


Pasted from <http://users.ox.ac.uk/~sben0056/essays/marksviewofjesus.htm>




Interestingly, the high priest in chapter fourteen asks a question relative to Jesus' being the Messiah. Michael Turton has explored the scholarship relative to interpreting the question and the answer credited to Jesus. In sorting through this, Turton points out that Jesus deflects the question in Matthew and Luke; original manuscripts made Jesus' answer less direct; the "I Am" could have been stated ironically as a question, "Am I?"; in Hebrew, "I Am" would be translated YHWH, leading to the accusation of blasphemy, although to claim to be Messiah is not in itself blasphemous; the "coming with clouds of heaven" (14:62) has associations with God's Temple (1 Kings 8); Christians have associated the Messiahship with Psalms 110:1; this section may be associated with Jehoiada's bringing out the "true king" to Queen Athaliah in 2 Kings 11:14 and her cries of "Treason" and resulting tearing of clothes. Turpin concludes, saying that scholars agree that Jesus did not commit blasphemy, and even if he had, the appropriate punishment would not have been crucifixion <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark14.html>  If "Son of the Blessed One" be interpreted as a circumlocution to avoid naming YHWH, then "Son of God" also is used in this same context,  reopening the question already discussed of what "Son of God" means; that all three names occur in close proximity lends considerable credibility to the idea that Jesus becomes Son of God/Son of David/Son of Man through radical and model obedience to the Father, through his suffering, and eventually through his death. Certainly, Michael Turton concludes this:


Since Mark's avowed purpose was to present Jesus as the Son of God, we can only assume that he reports those words and deeds of Jesus which, when rightly understood, reveal him as the Son. The origin of Mark, and the rise of the Gattung "Gospel," was thus the direct result of a historical Christology and the preservation of those historical traditions which were Christologically significant <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark10.html#10.35.37> .


Finally, Mark 13:39 has the centurion at the foot of the cross recognize Jesus as "Truly, this man was God's son!" Even here, the emphasis is upon Jesus the man as "son."  Various versions render "son" as either with or without capitalization; likewise, version inconsistently use "the" before Son:


King James Version

15:39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

American Standard Version

15:39 And when the centurion, who stood by over against him, saw that he so gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

Bible in Basic English

15:39 And when the captain, who was near, saw how he gave up his spirit, he said, Truly this man was a son of God.

Darby's English Translation

15:39 And the centurion who stood by over against him, when he saw that he had expired having thus cried out, said, Truly this man was Son of God.

Douay Rheims

15:39 And the centurion who stood over against him, seeing that crying out in this manner he had given up the ghost, said: Indeed this man was the son of God.

Noah Webster Bible

15:39 And when the centurion who stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and expired, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

Weymouth New Testament

15:39 And when the Centurion who stood in front of the cross saw that He was dead, he exclaimed, 'This man was indeed God's Son.'

World English Bible

15:39 When the centurion, who stood by opposite him, saw that he cried out like this and breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'

Young's Literal Translation

15:39 and the centurion who was standing over-against him, having seen that, having so cried out, he yielded the spirit, said, 'Truly this man was Son of God.'


Pasted from <http://www.greeknewtestament.com/B41C015.htm>


Paul McReynolds in Word Study Greek-English New Testament translates 13;39 as ""truly this the man son of God was."


Chapter one has already addressed Mark's use of Messiah, noting the possibility for several conflicting messianic claims and, certainly, the expectation for a Messiah seeming to be at the threshold of the age. In chapter eight, the section in Mark recording Peter's declaration, Peter seems to have in mind a "divinely anointed, supernaturally endowed Davidic king who would destroy the contemporary evil political power structure and gather Israel into God's kingdom (Ladd,  Theology of the New Testament, 139). Here, Peter is rebuked and the scribes are questioned concerning their expectation of the Messiah; Jesus, of course, was mocked at the crucifixion as being anything but a Messiah. In chapter two,  Ehrman (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 64-65) is quoted to make the point that the first two chapters of Mark bring into view a Jesus not recognized by Jewish leaders, a person who offended them with his sayings and actions, this leading to a series of conflict stories that created a crescendo in tension, the conflict continuing through ensuing chapters to the climatic point of Peter's confession, explaining that here the recognition is partial and that Peter rejects the idea of a "suffering Messiah."


Closer attention is warranted for Peter's rebuke in this chapter:


31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."


Pasted from <http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/mark/8.html>


Readers should note that Peter rebukes Jesus immediately after Jesus begins to teach that he "must undergo great suffering."  Jesus then turns to the greater crowd with the disciples and says that his followers must "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me," telling them, "those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." It should be remembered that from the beginning, Jesus' message and mission has been about "good news of God."


Michael Turton spends significant time explaining that the "take up the cross" passage has echoes in  in Cynic and Stoic circles  as well as Jewish literature, and then he concludes, interestingly in chapter eight commentary, with the following summation concerning the historicity of all of Mark, notably omitting any historicity to this chapter itself:


In my opinion that short answer is: precious little. The events of Jesus' life in Mark are most likely drawn from the Old Testament, Jewish writings, popular philosophies of the Roman empire, and similar sources.

Pasted from <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark08.html>


Hay's earlier remark about the historicity of Mark can be restated at this point:


 Jesus' Sonship was understood to have been realized during his earthly life by his obedience to the Father and then irrefutably revealed at his resurrection (Rom. 1:4). The distinction between the two lies in the fact that Jesus is the one Son who, by his radical obedience to the Father, guarantees the eschatological sonship which he proclaims to all who believe…. What we have in his Gospel, therefore, is not myth, despite its mythical elements, but genuine history. In contrast to Mark, the stories of the Gnostic redeemer center in the philosophical problem which emerges in the metaphysical distinction posited between God and man. Hence, they are openly mythical, the proper function of the myth being to bridge the gap between the human and the divine.


This is also the conclusion of George Amoss, "Introduction to the Christology of Mark's Gospel," 1979, who agrees that "Son of God" can only be understood in terms of "Son of Man":


For Mark, "Son of God" can only be understood in the light of another title, "Son of Man." Although, as Perrin and others have shown, Jesus may not actually have used the term in reference to himself, "Son of Man" appears in Mark's Gospel in the words of Jesus, who uses it as a self-designation. Furthermore, the Markan Jesus seems to employ this title specifically as a corrective to the common, erroneous understanding of "Son of God." For example, in 8:27-38, Jesus' reply to Peter's confession of him as messiah is that the Son of Man must suffer. Similarly, while Jesus' answer to the high priest's question, "Are you the messiah, the son of the Blessed One?" is "I am," he immediately qualifies that response by adding, "And you will see the Son of Man seated upon the right hand of God...."

Mark's point seems to be that we cannot understand who Jesus is, and cannot, therefore, be his disciples, until we realize the centrality of suffering in his mission -- and in ours. Jesus is not a messiah of earthly glory, but of self-emptying, suffering love of God and humankind. Mark prepares us for this realization in subtle ways in the first half of the Gospel. This section could almost be, as Weeden notes, a "divine man" story, concentrating as it does on Jesus' "mighty deeds" and his imparting of esoteric information to his disciples. Perhaps this is why there has been some confusion over Jesus' rebuke of Peter in 8:33: from the foregoing material in the Gospel, it is not difficult for the reader to assume that Peter's confession is correct. Yet Jesus finds it not only inadequate but even demonic. It appears that Mark has "set up" his readers. Up to this point in the Gospel, they have been nodding their heads, comfortable in their understanding of Jesus, feeling confirmed in that understanding by Mark. But now Mark delivers the blow: they are condemned, not by Mark, but by Jesus himself.


Yet it seems to me that Mark has not left the critical reader totally unprepared for the development in 8:33. Throughout the first section of the Gospel, we see Jesus identifying himself with those who suffer: the poor, the sick, the hungry, the sinners and outcasts. We see him bridging the gulf between Jew and Gentile. And in Chapter 4 we have a glimpse of what is to come, as the disciples, to whom "the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given," are likened to outsiders in their inability to understand Jesus' parabolic teaching. Mark is beginning, in a subtle and creative way, to expose the un-Christian errors of elitism and triumphalism. From 8:33 on, those errors will be repeatedly condemned and corrected by Jesus.


Although the climax of Mark's Gospel is often considered to be Peter's confession, the Gospel's high point for me is the confession of the Roman centurion at the foot of the cross. Here, Mark's Christology and its implications are embodied in an unforgettable scene in which Mark's narrative style of presenting theology reaches its dramatic height. Misunderstood and finally deserted by his disciples, and seemingly abandoned even by God, Jesus dies in anguish of body and spirit. He speaks no fine words from the cross (as in later Gospels); he can only cry out his desolation to God before he dies with a loud, inarticulate cry. And it is only then that a human being -- not one of the "saved," but a hated Gentile oppressor and idolater -- can call him "Son of God."


This, then, is the essence of Mark's Christology: Son of God = Suffering Son of Man. Mark's conception of Jesus certainly includes power and authority implied in the Son of God title (the miracles and exorcisms, the setting aside of the Sabbath, the imminent judgment); but for Mark the power and authority are hidden in Jesus and will not be fully revealed until the parousia, the return of Jesus in glory. In the meantime, we must not attempt to appropriate Jesus' future glory to our present, but must follow him in the way of the cross. The gnosis which he has left us is not the esoteric, power-bestowing knowledge of the "saved" elect, but the secret of a hidden Kingdom born in weakness, a Kingdom which must grow through suffering and opposition so that the divine will may be fulfilled. It is not those who boast of their salvation, who prophesy, and who perform miracles who will be saved, but those who "endure to the end" by "doing the will of my Father," that same will which Jesus accepted at Gethsemane. Jesus, the "suffering servant of God," must be not only our savior but our model. We cannot share in his resurrection unless we have also shared in his ministry of suffering love. This was Mark's message to the Christians of his day; it is a message that Christians today still need to hear and heed.


Pasted from <http://www.qis.net/~daruma/mark-c.html>


Structurally, chapter eight is a pivotal chapter for understanding the identity of Jesus: the disciples' continuing incomprehension reveals itself in their questions about how the crowd can be fed and intensifies in the boat when they  have forgotten to bring any bread, bringing only one loaf with which they understand they can not feed  everyone in the boat; Jesus again asks a question, "Do you still not perceive or understand. Are your hearts hardened?" then moves on to the statement about having eyes and ears, but neither seeing nor hearing. They have been cautioned by Jesus to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod,  which the disciples take literally. Ritually prepared foods, of course, were not to contain yeast, suggesting here a connotation of "veiled evil" (NISB Notes). With the restoration of sight to one physically blind, Jesus next teaches the model of suffering Son of Man, which Peter refuses, followed by further teaching on what it means to become a follower of Jesus.


In relation to suffering, in the full context of Mark, suffering is caused by surrounding society--evil leaders, religious and political--who oppress truth and the seeking of truth; the kingdom of God realized would result in a different world order (Notes NISB).  "Taking up the cross and following" Jesus has sometimes been used to suggest passivity in the presence of suffering--not the intent of Mark's total message about how the kingdom of God is to be achieved. Mark has been argued by Donald W. Riddle as  belonging to the genre martyr ology :


Perhaps the key to the answer of these questions and the key to the understanding of the Second Gospel, as such, may be found by noting as a purpose of major importance what may be styled its martyr motif. The propriety of the suggestion appears in studying the problem presented by the apparently disproportionate space devoted to the passion story. From the fact that the largest interest in the work is the presentation of the story of Jesus' death and the reflection of its significance, it would seem that some special function were to be served by the content and the form of this material. Although it does not seem to have engaged the attention of scholars to any great degree, it would appear to be extremely significant in this light that the Gospel according to Mark appeared in immediate sequence to the set of calamities beginning with the so-called persecution of Nero. In view of these events, evidently so pregnant with meaning to the early Church, it may be asserted with some confidence that the function of the martyr motif in Mark assists in the understanding of the entire work as intended to guide its readers in this unfamiliar situation. To accomplish this purpose, a particular picture of Jesus was drawn, a picture whose boldest lines presented Jesus as an example of martyrdom.


Riddle goes on to say that Mark was written for the purpose of indoctrination with "incidents… recounted to prove, not that Jesus is the anointed, for this had plainly been proclaimed from the first line of the gospel, but that the way of the anointed is the way of the cross.' And, most significantly, moreover, that the way of the cross was not for Jesus only, but is for his followers. This marks the subtle purpose." Structurally, Riddle traces the following pattern: In Caesarea, Philipi, Jesus begins to teach that it necessary for the son of man to suffer, be rejected, be killed, and after three days rise. "Others must "take up his cross and follow" (8:34-38). In the next chapter, the disciples are to keep quiet about the transfiguration until after "the Son of Man had risen from the dead (9). In chapter ten, Jesus teaches the disciples that he is to be killed and to rise again after three days (32-34). Again, others are to follow, leaving homes, family, and fields to receive these again a hundredfold, with the addition of "with persecution" and "in the age to come eternal life" (28-31), this followed by the third prediction of persecution. Riddle then interprets John and James that they will meet the test of martyrdom--drink the cup, be baptized, become servants if they are to become great (10:35-45).  An eschatological program is predicted (chapter 13). Jesus, crucified under the legend of being "King of the Jews" is confessed as being "Truly, … a God's Son" (15:39).


It should be noted that Mark eight ends with an apocalyptic connotation, a "Son of Man" coming "in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" ((38) while chapter nine emphasizes the imminence of the Kingdom of God and that the experience of the Kingdom of God coming with power is to be experienced in the living.  These are two completely different references--one speaking to "end time" and the other speaking to "Kingdom" near, imminent, present. A scholar who would disagree with me on this assessment is Neil Q. Hamilton, (Journal of Biblical Literature, Dec., 1965 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3264868>:


Mark expects the coming of the Son of man before the end of his generation (9 i), for the juxtaposition of the coming of the Son of man in 8 38 with the coming of the kingdom with power in 9 i is his way of showing that they will occur together. And the coming of the kingdom is the principal context for the whole of Mark. This is the reason Mark begins the account of Jesus' ministry with a summary of his message that focuses on the conviction that the kingdom is at hand (1 15). What­ever the relation of this summary to the actual message of Jesus, it must not be overlooked that there is more here than an attempt to report Jesus to us. This nearness of the kingdom was a conviction Mark held at the time of writing and one of the main things he wished to convey to his readers. This explains why he connected "the kingdom is at hand" with "believe in the gospel."


It is, of course, important to understand Hamilton's fuller argument that Mark wrote a geography to fulfill his expectation of eschatology:


Probably he inter­preted the destruction of Jerusalem as a providential sign that God had abandoned the traditional site of the eschatological drama. Instead of Judaism and its homeland, Judea, God has chosen the Son of man as the focus of the end. What location is especially appropriate to him? Jesus is from Nazareth in Galilee. The new holy place must be Galilee. So Mark created the Galilean ministry to support his conclusion that in God's rejection of the homeland of Judaism, he has chosen instead the homeland of the Son of man's first career as the new holy land and setting for his second career. Mark evidences this same kind of geo­graphical concern in the beginning of his gospel. John appears at the Jordan because Elijah was translated near the Jordan. The geography of the first career dictates the location of the second.


If we have understood Mark correctly, it is a serious misunder­standing of Matthew and Luke to suppose they move in the same direc­tion as Mark. Matthew and Luke use Mark's story of the empty tomb as though he offered it as the ground for belief in the resurrected Jesus. Following this false lead they write gospels that inject the historicity of Jesus into his resurrection in order to give resurrection enough rigidity to support the faith of the church. By contrast, Mark wishes to re­interpret the traditional resurrection. Rather than presenting it as quasi history he sees it as a transition from the real history of Jesus' first career to an equally historical second career. And Mark's convic­tion about this second career compels him to create a fitting first career. If this is correct, it explains why Mark came to be written.


Hamilton develops his understanding of Mark based on translation rather than resurrection, as the following excerpts demonstrate :


The story of the empty tomb is most probably the story of a translation. In fact it may be most accurate to call it an anti resurrection story. Assuming that Mark ends at 16 8, the most obvious thing about the story of the empty tomb, when compared to resurrection tradition, is that it avoids dis­playing the resurrected Jesus.


Following the model of Elijah, Mark creates a double career for the Son of man. The first career is the ministry of Jesus: he forgives sin as the Son of man (2 io), sets aside the sabbath as the Son of man (2 28), and dies as the Son of man (9 12). The second career will be as the tradi­tional Son of men come in power and glory (9 i; 13 26; 14 62). The appropriate transition between careers must be a translation, which is what Mark makes out of the resurrection tradition (9 9, 31; 10 33).


Mark's special contribution to the eschatological crisis after 70 is his conviction that the resurrected Lord should be replaced by a translated and returning Son of man who will have an earthly career analogous to his first career as Jesus of Nazareth, only this time with the power and glory of the kingdom of God. In contrast to the movement of the interest of the church toward heaven, Mark wishes to refocus attention to earth.


C.H. Dodd asks readers to understand  that Son of Man is associated with functions of the Servant but also with the apocalyptic Last Judgment and the End of the World:


 But the language about the coming of the Son of Man is another matter. "The Son of Man is to come in the glory of his Father"; "They will see the Son of Man coming in time clouds"; "Like the lightning flash that lights up the earth from end to end, will the Son of Man be when his day comes." 29 Of course it is imaginative symbolism; but what does it symbolize? It occurs in association with language about the Last Judgment and the End of the World, which apparently are conceived (at least in some passages) to coincide with the coming of the Son of Man. We cannot but recognize here traits of the "apocalyptic" hopes and speculations which, with a long ancestry behind them, revived in strength during the feverish years that preceded the fall of Jerusalem.. The question remains open, what did he mean?


It would seem right to start from the standpoint of sayings which are both plain and central to the teaching of Jesus. Nothing in it is more clearly original or characteristic than his declaration that the kingdom of God is here. It meant that a hope has become a reality. You no longer look for the reign of God through a telescope; you open your eyes to see. But at the same time there is more than meets the eye. It is the reign of God; it is the eternal God himself, here present. There is a power at work in this world which is not of this world, something "super-natural," an invasion from time Beyond -- how. ever you may choose to express it. It gives an eternal dimension to time temporal present, and to each succeeding "present"; but it can never be exhausted in any temporal present, however deeply significant. The kingdom of God, while it is present experience, remains also a hope, but a hope directed to a consummation beyond history.


To express this aspect of the kingdom Jesus was content to make use of long-established symbols -- a feast with the blessed dead who are "alive to God," 30 a great assize with "all nations" standing at the bar.31 These are not forthcoming events, to which a date might be assigned. They stand as symbols for the reality to which the spirit of man awakes when it is done with past, present and future. This is the Kingdom of God in the fullness of its meaning, and it lies beyond history. And yet it "came" in history, in that crucial episode of which Jesus was himself the active center. Its blessedness was a present possession of those who accepted it. "How blest are you who are poor! The kingdom of God is yours." 32 They were guests at a wedding feast: "How can you expect the bridegroom’s friends to fast while the bridegroom is with them?" 33 And yet, it is in another world than this that they are to "eat and drink at his table in his kingdom." 34 Again, the moment of decision to which the presence of Jesus brought those who encountered him was the judgment inseparable from the coming of the kingdom. "Now," writes John, "is the hour of judgment for this world" 35 -- the Last Judgment, he means. Essentially it was a judgment which people passed on themselves by their reaction to his presence. It might be acquittal ("Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.") 36 or it might be condemnation ("Alas for you! It will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment.").37 It is judgment in history. but its significance reaches beyond history; and this ultra-historical significance is expressed in the dramatic picture of all nations gathered before the throne of the heavenly Judge.


In view of this, it follows that the total event of the earthly career of Jesus, as well as his action in detail, is regarded in two aspects: on the one side it had effects in an actual historical situation; on the other side it had a significance reaching out into man’s eternal destiny, and to be expressed only in symbol.


Pasted from <http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2241&C=2113>



Chalmer E. Faw has identified 8:27-10:45 as "The Heart of the Gospel of Mark" (1965, The Journal of Bible and Religion<http://www.jstor.org/stable/1458876>. Before doing so, though, he remarks on the problematic nature of outlining Mark from 4:35 through 8:26, calling it an "omnibus section with several minor divisions" with elements present from all preceding sections--including popularity, opposition, activity and wonder-working, amazement, change in locale, sending out of the twelve, death of John the Baptist, return and report of the twelve, a climatic statement that "He has done all things well." In fact, Faw finds chapter 8 as beginning lamely and being anti-climatic; then he turns to discussion of the "heart of Mark:":


It seems to this writer that there are con­vincing evidences that 8:27-10:45 comprises a distinct section. First is the changed mood which dominates this portion of Mark. Most scholars note that at this point Jesus changes his method and no longer teaches in general terms to the popu­lace at large but addresses himself to a nar­row circle of disciples, makes predictions about his own person and discloses to them his own nature and vocation. Here he is definitely revealed to the reader as the Christ. What was something of a mystery and a secret for the general public in pre­ceding sections is now revealed openly to the inner-group.


Faw, in addition to using the change in mood as indicating a distinct section, incudes in the argument the three-fold prediction of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the inclusion of a prologue, Peter's confession, the closing sayings on rank and greatness, and the final, climatic ransom text of 10:45; he concludes the author or compiler of Mark throughout works with distinguishable sections:


These three features are the more con­vincing when one considers other sections of the book and studies the general pattern employed there by the author or compiler. In the several distinguishable sections, either derived from single sources or com­posite in nature, one may recognize dis­tinctive moods which prevail throughout and characterize them as sections. In chap­ter one there is the immense popularity of Jesus which sweeps like a brush fire through all of Galilee. In 2:1-3:6 it is the note of controversy and opposition. The parables of 4:1-34 are clothed in a mood of mystery with the hiding of truth from outsiders and the corresponding revelation of it to the in-group. The rambling section or cycle of sections of 4:35-8:26 is dominated through­out by the note of wonder-working power on the part of Jesus and the resultant amazement of all who witness his deeds. Then comes our own section with its mood of suffering and cross-bearing on the one hand and resurrection and glorification on the other. One might go on and note the definite apocalyptic character of chapter 13, the stark moving story of chapters 14 and 15. One may safely conclude that regard­less of sources the author has created a pat­tern of sizeable blocks of material, each with its fairly distinct and discernible mood.


Faw next shows that the author or compiler uses climatic statements--a well selected saying--to close sections and finds the following:


The popu­larity section (1:14-45) closes fittingly with this accent on widespread fame: "so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter."


The controversy section (2:1-3:6) is climac­tically rounded out by the observation that the Pharisees went out and imme­diately took counsel with the Herodians how to destroy Jesus (3:6).


The ending of the parable section is equally impressive: "with many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he ex­plained everything" (4:33-34).


The apoc­alyptic section (Ch. 13) ends with the impressive saying, "and what I say to you I say to all: watch."


Considered in this light Mark 10:45 "for the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many," not only makes a fitting closing to the section but is another con­vincing example of the author's pattern. Faw next remarks that this sectional division may be missed due to the complex use of sources, the two-fold geographical division, and the tendency to emphasize suffering:


Further confusion has arisen in many of the discussions of this central section as the result of a tendency to regard its dominant mood as primarily that of suffering and death. It is interesting how scholar after scholar refers to the three predictions as "passion announcements," "predictions of the passion," or "prophecies of the pas­sion," omitting the fact that every time the death is predicted the resurrection is also predicted. Now to be sure, there is a certain brevity of expression and even help­ful alliteration in most of these titles but the interesting thing is that even the dis­cussions included under these headings make a great deal of the suffering and the death and very little of the equally impor­tant note of resurrection and victory. In fact one might be so bold as to say that scholars here make the same error that Peter did in his rebuke of Jesus: that of seeing only the negative side of the story


Faw then concludes that Jesus is the Christ of Israel and of humankind:

It is that Jesus is the Christ not only of Israel but of the very spirit of man, con­quering through suffering service and death, and glorified by divine power. Further­more, it says that the Christian is one who discovers and makes as his own this same way of the cross, with all of its accompany­ing virtues of self-denial, tender considera­tion, pure life and persevering faithfulness, becoming truly great not by authority over people but by authority with people as servants of all.


A syncretistic view of Mark sees in this gospel a bringing together of the Imperial cult with Jewish fulfillment:


In mimicking the language of the Imperial cult and in quoting Isa 40:3 Mark appears to have welded together two disparate, potentially antagonistic theologies. On the one hand, he proclaims to the Jewish people the fulfillment of their fondest  hopes—the good news of the prophet Isaiah, while on the other hand he has boldly announced to the Roman world that the good news for the world began not with Julius Caesar and his descendants, but with Jesus Christ, the true son of God (Craig A. Evans,

"Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel," 1981).


Evans sees eight characteristics shared by the gospel in common with the Imperial Cult:


  1. The emperor’s reign or victory was announced as “gospel” or “good news.
  2. Often omens and prophecies preceded the accession or death of an emperor.
  1. The Roman Triumph. Following a great victory a “triumph”  was held, at which time the emperor’s sovereignty and divine status were reaffirmed.
  1. Various inscriptions illustrate how the Roman emperor was viewed as divine.
  1. It was believed that the Roman emperors could in some instances effect healing.
  2. Being seated at the “right hand” of deity was another important part of the ritual and symbolism of the emperor cult.
  3. Beginning with Augustus, libations were to be poured out at every banquet, public and private, in honor of the emperor.
  4. The anticipated arrival of the emperor was referred to as a "new world order."


The passage appealed to in Isaiah includes important themes of Jewish fulfillment echoed in the Christian movement:


There are five passages in all (Isa 40:1-11; 41:21-29; 52:7-12; 60:1- 7 ; 61:1-11). Three of them (Isa 40:1-11; 52:7; 61:1-2) were very important in the development of Jesus’ theology and that of the early church.13 The first passage promises the restoration of Jerusalem, via a new exodus from bondage and a new occupation of the promised land. The second passage speaks of the coming herald who will proclaim the good news of the reign of God. In the Aramaic tradition, “Your God reigns,” is paraphrased, “The kingdom of your God is revealed.” It is probable that this language is what underlies Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom (cf. Mark 1:14-15). The third passage speaks of the anointed messenger who proclaims recovery of sight to the blind, relief to the oppressed, and good news for the afflicted. This passage is alluded to in Jesus’ reply to John’s messengers (cf. Matt 11:2-6 = Luke 7:18-23).


Evans then concludes, not unlike Faw, that Jesus is the Christ of Israel and humankind, that the "good news" is for the entire world, Jews and Romans alike.

The good news of Isaiah, fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, had now become the good news for the entire world. As the true son of God, Jesus offers the world genuine good news, which no Roman emperor could ever hope to offer or bring to pass. It is in this context that the Markan evangelist boldly sets forth his apologetic. Despite rejection at the hands of his own people (and the most important people, as importance would have been measured at that time) and a shameful death at the hands of the most powerful people, Jesus was indeed the son of God, humanity’s true Savior and Lord. Mark’s purpose is to narrate the story of Jesus in such a way that such a confession will appear compelling and plausible to Jews and Romans alike.

Finally, it may be worth noting that the "messiah" references in Mark exceed all other title; an ESV search reveals at least twenty-six; these run the gamut from the gospel claimed by the messiah, John's proclamation of Lord and Messiah, his own work revealed as preparation for this messiah, a Decapolis openness about a messiah not political or military,  people's astonishment at this non-political, military messiah, Jesus' expressed sadness at this misunderstanding of  his mission, the overt failure on the part of many--and his own disciples--that he is to be a suffering messiah, the Messiah of God acknowledged in Peter's confession Jesus as the Christ, i.e., the divinely anointed leader and Messiah, the self-accepted humbling of this Messiah of God, Jesus' prediction that the Son of Man must be killed (overturning the Jewish expectation of a political and military messiah), the consequent rejection by the elders, priests, and scribes, the prediction of a specific rather than general resurrection at the end of the age, the admonition for the disciples to let go and take up the cross of obedience and dependence on the messiah, the "letting go" and glimpse of the Kingdom of God by the three disciples, a subsequent failure to grasp the nature of the Transfiguration and a desire to raise an earthly tent, the endorsement by the Father that "This is my Beloved Son," the disciples' continued misunderstanding and Jesus' instructions concerning servant hood the resolute turn to Jerusalem, the Triumphal Entry, (and celebration of a political and Davidic messiah, the rejected messianic "stone" which is "divinely vindicated and established as the cornerstone of a new building," the climactic "Lord of David" passage, and finally, the anticipated exaltation and warning about false Christs and false prophets accompanied by the protection of God's own.


  • Mark 1:1 Rather than emphasizing the events leading up to Jesus’ public ministry in terms of his genealogy and family roots (as do Matthew and Luke) or in terms of its theological foundation (as does John), Mark focuses on its actual beginning. The gospelis the good news of the fulfillment of God’s promises. In the OT (Isa. 40:9; 52:7Nah. 1:15) “good news” is connected with the saving intervention of God to help his people. of Jesus Christ. The gospel is proclaimed by Jesus, the Messiah, but in a secondary sense the good news is the report about Jesus. Mark communicates both at the beginning and end of his Gospel (Mark 1:1; 15:39) that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Mark 1:2–3 Mark identifies John the Baptist as the predicted one who prepares the way of the Lord (cf. Isa. 40:3Mal. 3:1).Isaiah the prophet is named because he was more prominent and more of the quoted material comes from him. When the text is expounded in the following verses, Mark refers only to the Isaiah citation. John will be identified by Jesus as the one who comes in the spirit of Elijah (Mal. 4:5Matt. 11:13–14Mark 9:11–13; cf. also note on Luke 3:2). The path or “way” is to be readied for “the Lord,” and surprisingly the one who comes after John is both the Lord and the Messiah (Mark 8:29). The following Gospel account demonstrates that Jesus, the Messiah, is also a member of the Godhead.
  • Mark 1:5 all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem. John’s ministry represents a fulfillment of the promise of a new exodus (cf. Isa. 11:11–15; 40:3–11; 42:16; 43:2, 5–7, 16–19; 48:20–49:11; 51:10) in which Israel is delivered from the wilderness, and, so to speak, enters into the river Jordan again (as in Josh. 3:1–4:24) to receive God’s promises of end-time salvation.confessing their sins. God was working in people’s hearts, calling them to turn back to himself, in preparation for the coming Messiah.
  • Mark 5:18–20 did not permit him. Jesus did not allow the restored and thankful man (v. 15) to join him. It is possible that he was asking Jesus for permission to belong to the closer circle of disciples (that he might be with him recalls 3:14). Jesus wanted the restored man to be a witness to God’s power in the Decapolis—an example of Jesus intentionally instructing a restored person to proclaim what had happened to him, in contrast to his call for secrecy in other cases (see 1:44; 5:43; 9:9). Jewish and Gentile people in the Decapolis did not yet pose the same danger of misunderstanding Jesus as a political or military messiah, as was the case in Galilee. Note that the work of the Lord in 5:19 is described as the work of Jesus in v. 20, indicating that Jesus shares the same nature as God himself.
  • Mark 7:37 The people are astonished in the sense that they wonder whether Jesus is the Messiah (see Isa. 35:5–6). They are not expecting a suffering Messiah but rather a political liberator along the lines of the earlier Maccabean uprising (166–160 b.c.).
  • Mark 8:12 Jesus sighed on account of the attitude underlying and driving the demand of v. 11. (For other examples of Jesus expressing emotions, see 1:41; 3:5; 7:34.) this generation. Cf. Deut. 32:5, 20Ps. 95:10Mark 9:19no sign. See note on Matt. 12:39. An open heart, together with Jesus’ demonstrations of divine authority, should be more than enough for seeing that he truly is the Messiah.
  • Mark 8:23–25 Jesus led the blind man out of the village, perhaps to be away from elements of unbelief and hostility (cf. 5:40; 6:6). Do you see anything? In the context of 7:31–8:26, and especially in light of Jesus’ focus on the disciples’ lack of understanding (8:17–21), the man’s answer may be analogous to their limited apprehension of Jesus. They see him vaguely (seev. 29), just as the blind man now sees people merely like trees, walking. Jesus’ healing of the man in two stages may have been intended to emphasize this fact. This interpretation is supported by the fact that vv. 22–26 contain no less than nine terms related to “seeing.” The disciples will soon understand that Jesus is the Messiah (vv. 27–30), but they will not yet fully grasp that he is to be a suffering Messiah (8:31–9:1).
  • Mark 8:27–16:8 Testing Jesus’ Authority in Suffering. Having displayed his messianic authority and power (1:1–8:26), Jesus is now tested as the Messiah of God.
  • Mark 8:27–33 Peter’s Confession. Near the source of the Jordan River, Jesus begins to teach his disciples that the Messiah of God must die and be raised again (v. 31). Each of the major predictions of Jesus’ death and resurrection (see chart) is followed by teaching on discipleship (vv. 32–38; 9:32–50; 10:34–45).
  • Mark 8:27–29a Caesarea Philippi was some 25 miles (40 km) north of the Sea of Galilee, and had been a center of the worship of Baal, then of the Greek god Pan, and then of Caesar (see note on Matt. 16:13). Who do people say that I am? Jesus’ questions (Mark 8:27, 29) prepare for his teaching. He must clarify that the Messiah of God is to be humbled (v. 31; 10:45) and exalted (8:38) for the sake of his people. This goes against popular expectations. On John the Baptist and Elijah, see note on 6:14b–15.
  • Mark 8:31 Jesus corrects the disciples’ messianic expectation by stressing that the Son of Man must (cf. 9:12; 14:21, 41be killed (cf. 9:9, 12, 31; 10:34, 45; 14:21, 41) and rise again (cf. Isa. 53:1–12). Christ’s death is necessary because the eternal, messianic rule of God begins with atonement for sin, i.e., the sacrifice that will bring about reconciliation between God and man.and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes. The leaders, who will reject Jesus, belong to factions of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court in Israel (e.g., Mark 10:33; 11:18; 14:1; 15:1). While the opponents seek to kill Jesus (3:6), God’s appointed will is that the Messiah atone for sins. To “rise” again must puzzle the disciples. They expect only the general resurrection of all mankind at the end of the age, prior to judgment (Dan. 12:2).
  • Mark 8:34 Following the first major prediction of his death and resurrection (v. 31), Jesus instructs in discipleship all those whowould come after me. The goal of self-denial (cf. 14:30, 31, 72) and taking up one’s cross is not pathological self-abasement or a martyr complex but being free to follow the Messiah (1:18; 2:13). Self-denial means letting go of self-determination (cf. Ps. 49:6–8) and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on the Messiah.
  • Mark 9:1 Some standing here who will not taste death probably points toward the three disciples who will accompany Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration. To see the coming of the kingdom of God … with power refers to an anticipation of this future event in the transfiguration (see 2 Pet. 1:16–18), which prefigures the overwhelming glory of Christ in his return (Dan. 7:13–27Matt. 16:28Mark 8:38; 13:26–27). For various interpretations of Jesus’ statement, see note on Matt. 16:28. Letting go of self-centered self-determination (Mark 8:34) leads to glimpses of future glory (9:1–8), just as the death (8:31) and glory (8:38) of the Messiah are to be seen together.
  • Mark 9:5 Once more, Peter and his companions do not grasp the greatness of the Messiah (cf. 4:40; 6:52; 7:18; 8:17–21, 32–33; 9:32; 14:26–42). Peter sees Jesus merely as someone similar to Moses and Elijah and wishes to raise tents (as earthly habitations for heavenly beings) for them, perhaps because he wants to prolong the experience. Peter does not know what he is saying, for he is speaking out of fear (9:6).
  • Mark 9:7 The voice … out of the cloud echoes Ex. 24:15–16This is my beloved Son; listen to him is uttered for the benefit (cf. Mark 9:2, 4, 7, 12–13) of the three disciples (cf. 4:34; 6:31–44; 9:28; 13:32 Pet. 1:16–18). Jesus, with all his claims, is endorsed by the Father (see Ps. 2:7Isa. 42:1Mark 1:11). “Listen to him” echoes Deut. 18:15, 18, where Moses is shown to be a leader-prophet. Anyone who does not listen to the Messiah of God rejects God, who sent him. The three disciples see the glory of Jesus; they see his greatness over Moses and Elijah; and they hear the divine authentication of Jesus as the eternal Son.
  • Mark 9:32 The disciples understand neither the necessity of the Messiah’s death (they still expect a political liberator) nor the idea of the resurrection of an individual (they expect the resurrection of mankind at the last judgment; cf. Dan. 12:2; see notes onMark 9:99:10). Yet they understand enough of what Jesus is saying that they do not want to know more, so they are afraid to ask him. Perhaps they remember that Peter’s earlier attempt to express disapproval of Jesus’ predictions of suffering led to a harsh rebuke (8:33).
  • Mark 9:35 he sat down. Teachers often sat in order to teach. Just as the Messiah of God leads by suffering, each disciple is to lead (be first) by becoming a servant of all. The suffering of Jesus not only marks the beginning of the messianic rule of God but characterizes patterns of conduct (such as humility, faith, and love) that are required in the kingdom (Phil. 2:1–11).
  • Mark 10:32 Jesus is aware of his impending death (cf. 8:31; 9:31Isa. 53:1–12) but proceeds resolutely toward Jerusalem, like the servant of the Lord in Isa. 50:7 who set his face “like a flint” (cf. Luke 9:53, “his face was set”). The Twelve were amazed to see Jesus’ solemn determination in light of what he had already told them about his forthcoming suffering and death (Mark 8:31; 9:31). In addition to the Twelve, others followed along, but Mark says that they were afraid. This fear might have arisen from their belief that Jesus was a political messiah; if so, they might be facing fierce battles in Jerusalem, as in the earlier Maccabean revolt. It is more likely that the larger group of followers saw Jesus’ sober, deliberate progress toward Jerusalem, and had heard from the Twelve something of his predictions of suffering, and thus concluded that by following Jesus they might face a similar fate.
  • Mark 10:35–37 James and John belonged to Jesus’ “inner circle” (cf. 1:19, 29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2). If Jesus was going to die and be raised in Jerusalem, they may have thought this journey was their last opportunity to put in a request for future assignments. They falsely envisioned special places of honor (one at your right hand and one at your left) when Jesus (as a strictly political messiah) would rule in Jerusalem on the throne of David (in your glory; see note on Matt. 20:20).
  • Mark 11:1–11 Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem. Jesus enters Jerusalem upon a colt and is hailed as the triumphant Messiah of Israel.
  • Mark 11:9 Hosanna (Hb. “Save!” or “Please save!”; see Ps. 118:25). Here “Hosanna” points to the celebration of Jesus as a political, Davidic messiah (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14Isa. 9:1–21; 11:1–16Jer. 23:1–8). Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord is from Ps. 118:25–26, a prayer of blessing for the coming messianic kingdom (but see also notes on Matt. 23:39Luke 13:35). The Triumphal Entry takes place at the beginning of Passover week, which recalls the Jewish people’s liberation from Egyptian slavery (see notes on Mark 14:17John 2:13); the pilgrims now anticipate the messianic liberation from Rome’s oppression. The claims of the disciples are ultimately true, but it will not be Rome that is defeated now but Satan, sin, and death. All enemies of righteousness will one day see the authority of Messiah. This is the only time in Mark where there is no evident tension between Jesus’ messianic identity, the messianic expectations of his disciples, and those of the people (cf. Mark 2:8–10; 8:27–31; 10:45). Jesus tolerates this brief period of celebration in fulfillment of Zech. 9:9, but with the certainty that nothing will obstruct the divinely ordained death of the Messiah.
  • Mark 12:10 At the time of Jesus, Ps. 118:22–23 was already known as a messianic psalm (cf. Acts 4:11). The opponents of Jesus can thus understand what he means: the “stone” refers to the Messiah. Builders refers to the leaders of Israel. Rejected echoes the theme of the persecution of the prophets of God (Neh. 9:9–35Acts 7:1–53). The new Israel (or faithful Israel) will accept the Son as the rightful messenger, heir, and cornerstone of the messianic kingdom (Jer. 31:26Zech. 4:7). Both Mark 12:9 and 12:10speak of reversal: in v. 9 God transfers responsibility for his people to “others,” and in v. 10 the rejected messianic “stone” is divinely vindicated and established as the cornerstone of a new building (see notes on 1 Pet. 2:4–8).
  • Mark 12:35–37 While in the temple, Jesus publicly raises a question that he has already discussed in private with his disciples: who is the Messiah of God—is he essentially the son of David or the Lord of David? Jesus’ point is not to deny that the Messiah is a descendant of David (e.g., Ps. 2:1–12; 89:1–52Isa. 9:1–7Jer. 23:5–6Ezek. 34:23–24). The issue is that, in this passage (i.e.,Ps. 110:1–5), there is no mention of the Messiah being the son of David; rather, the Messiah is here the “Lord of David” (see note on Matt. 22:41–46). Jesus affirms the divine inspiration of the Psalm through the Holy SpiritThe Lord (Hb. Yahweh) grants to David’s Lord (Hb. ’Adonay) an exclusive place of honor at his right hand and helps David’s Lord overcome his enemies. Jesus anticipates being exalted to the right hand of God, and thus he far transcends any expectation of a merely political, Davidic messiah.
  • Mark 13:22 The tribulation (v. 19) is accompanied by false christs and false prophets (on testing false prophets, see notes on Matt. 7:15–209:341 John 4:1). They lead astray by performing signs and wonders (cf. the actions of the Antichrist in 2 Thess. 2:3, 7–121 John 2:18). Unlike Scripture, signs and wonders are not clear indicators of God’s presence and will. Jesus’ remark that even the elect (see note on Matt. 22:14) could be led astray emphasizes the stunning character of the false prophets’ miracles. But God will protect his own, so that they will not believe in a false messiah or prophet.



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What should be noted, especially, that references to messiah/Messiah disappear after the apocalyptic chapter thirteen, this in contrast to Son of David (ending at chapter twelve), Son of Man (fourteen), and Son of God (fifteen).  One may then choose to marvel that it is only in the Triumphal Entry that "there is no evident tension between Jesus’ messianic identity, the messianic expectations of his disciples, and those of the people," this celebration, only shortly lived. References to Christ in Mark, however, extend this discussion in interesting ways to the :


  • Mark 1:1
    The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.1
    [1] 1:1 Some manuscripts omit the Son of God
  • Mark 8:29
    And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
  • Mark 9:41
    For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
  • Mark 12:35
    And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?
  • Mark 13:21
    And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.
  • Mark 14:61
    But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
  • Mark 15:32
    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.


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[Jesus Before the Council]

[53] [v]And [w]they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. [54] [w]And [x]Peter had followed him at a distance, [y]right into [z]the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with [a]the guards and [b]warming himself at the fire. [55] Now the chief priests and the whole council[f1] were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. [56] [c]For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony [d]did not agree. [57] And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, [58] [e]“We heard him say, [f]‘I will destroy this temple [g]that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, [h]not made with hands.’” [59] Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. [60] And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”[f2] [61] But [i]he remained silent and made no answer. [j]Again the high priest asked him, “Are you [k]the Christ, the Son of [l]the Blessed?” [62] And Jesus said, “I am, and [m]you will see the Son of Man [n]seated at the right hand of Power, and [m]coming with the clouds of heaven.” [63] And the high priest [o]tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? [64] You have heard [p]his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they [q]all condemned him as [r]deserving death. [65] [s]And some began [t]to spit on him and [u]to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him [v]with blows.


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Here, C.H. Dodd says Jesus allows himself to be condemned to death for claiming this term:


And now let us look at the other occasion. According to the three earlier gospels, when Jesus was brought up for examination before the High Priest, he was asked point-blank, "Are you the Messiah?" According to Mark he replied, without ambiguity, "I am." According to Matthew the reply was, "The words are yours" (literally, "You have said"; there is no sufficient evidence that this was an accepted form of affirmation, either in Greek or in Hebrew or Aramaic; we might paraphrase it, "you may have it so if you choose"). In Luke we read that Jesus refused to reply at all. "Tell us, are you the Messiah?" says the High Priest; Jesus retorts, "If I tell you, you will not believe me." John does not describe the scene before the High Priest, but there seem to be echoes of it in a passage where Jesus is publicly challenged in words similar to those of Luke: "If you are the Messiah, say so plainly." Jesus replies, "I have told you but you do not believe" (meaning, apparently, that various things he had said and done should have led them to the right answer).4 Here again we have the same problem: did Jesus, or did he not, when he was publicly questioned, intend to accept the title, "Messiah"?

We may perhaps get some light on the matter if we consider the sequel to this questioning. Whether it was at a formal examination in court, or earlier in a public confrontation, that Jesus was asked the crucial question, we may fairly understand it as a preliminary to his arraignment before the Roman governor. The charge which was then preferred by the priests was that of claiming to be "king of the Jews." The charge was of course framed for Roman ears. Among themselves the priests would not have used that expression. They would have said that he claimed falsely to be the "anointed" king of Israel, the Messiah. In his examination before Pilate Jesus was asked, "Are you the king of the Jews?" and he replied (as all gospels agree) with the noncommittal expression, "The words are yours" ("Have it so if you choose"). At this juncture a refusal to disown the title would have the same effect as an avowal, and it was a matter of life and death. Jesus at any rate allowed himself to be condemned to death for claiming to be (in Jewish terms) Messiah.5


Pasted from <http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2241&C=2113>


Dodd goes on to point out that the roles of messiah and servant (source in Isaiah) become fused, and later argues that Jesus, more than an individual, is the inclusive representative of the community:


In particular, the Servant is commissioned "to bring Jacob back to the Lord, and that Israel should be gathered to him"; 9 and so Jesus is said to have declared himself "sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 10 And in fact, as we shall see, this is a key to much of his activity. It explains the importance he attached to his approach to tile "tax-gatherers and sinners," in whom he saw just such "lost sheep." And if the mission of tile Servant defined the work to which Jesus set his hand, the fate of the Servant, whose life was made "an offering for sin," 11 and who "bore the sin of many," pointed to the destiny that awaited him: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give up his life as a ransom for many." There is good reason to think that Jesus himself first directed the attention of his followers to the figure of the Servant. He did so because by reflecting on it they might be led to a juster idea of what it was to be "Messiah." "You think as men think, not as God thinks," he said to Peter; we might venture to paraphrase: "Your Messiah is a conqueror; God’s Messiah is a servant."


Pasted from <http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2241&C=2113>



Readers may wish to recall that Wrede, arguing for the more theological than historical or "interpreted history" version of Mark,  describes the "Messianic secret" as a construction created by Mark to harmonize what the church came to understand of Jesus after the resurrection and what it had understood previously in the manner of his historical mission:


The total impression created by the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus intentionally concealed his messiahship from all

except those within the inner circle of the disciples, and even they failed to understand his

office and identity. Only with the resurrection did the perception of his true character begin to

be grasped. This impression, Wrede argued, is a Markan construction. The “messianic secret”

is a literary device which originated in the early church to account for the absence of any

awareness that Jesus was the Messiah in the historical tradition. Recognition that the secrecy

phenomenon is a theological construction provides a unitary explanation for the injunctions to

silence in the Gospel.


Wrede located the source of the idea of a secret about the messiahship in a contrast between

what the Church came to think of Jesus as a result of the resurrection and the manner in which

his life had been understood during his ministry. No one considered Jesus to be the Messiah

prior to the resurrection because Jesus “actually did not represent himself as Messiah.9 When

the Church came to think of Jesus after his resurrection as Messiah they explained the absence

of any explicit declaration of his messiahship by Jesus during his ministry with the proposal

that Jesus had secretly revealed his messiahship. In this way the non-messianic historical

tradition of Jesus’ ministry was harmonized with the theological conviction of the Church that

Jesus was the Messiah. Although the idea of the messianic secret did not originate with

Mark,10 the evangelist was the first to edit the tradition so thoroughly that his Gospel is

impregnated with this theological construct.


Discussed by William L. Lane, “From Historian to Theologian: Milestones in Markan Scholarship,” Review &

Expositor 75.4 (Fall 1978): 601-617.

From Historian to Theologian:

Milestones in Markan Scholarship

William L. Lane


Lane summarizes Wrede's conclusions regarding Mark: "Mark’s Gospel must be recognized as a bold attempt to give a messianic

interpretation to the non-messianic character of Jesus’ earthly ministry." Lane next counters this with another possibility:


The “secret” is, accordingly, a “witnessed secret” which is to be kept from others whom Jesus excluded. The

accent of the narrative alternates between disclosure of the messiahship and veiling. The

motivation for the injunction to silence may be found in the rank unbelief of those who had

ridiculed Jesus with their scornful laughter (5:40-42).


Lane concludes that Mark, as writer, was a Christian who presented Jesus in this context: "It was necessary to recognize that Mark was a Christian thinker who reflected theologically on the event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and on its significance for his own community."


N.T. Wright counters an idea of resurrection that he believes has been foisted onto the world through attempts to understand the resurrection historically:


The resurrection of Jesus is to be seen not as the proof of Jesus' uniqueness, let alone his divinity--and certainly not as the proof that there is a life after death, a heaven and a hell (as though Jesus rose again to give prospective validation to Dante or Michelangelo!)--but as the launching within the world of space, time and matter of that God-in-public reality of new creation called God's kingdom, which, within 30 years, would be announced under Caesar's nose openly and unhindered. The reason those who made that announcement were persecuted is, of course, that the fact of God acting in public is deeply threatening to the rulers of the world in a way that Gnosticism in all its forms never is. The Enlightenment's rejection of the bodily resurrection has for too long been allowed to get away with its own rhetoric of historical criticism--as though nobody until Gibbon or Voltaire had realized that dead people always stay dead--when in fact its nonresurrectional narrative clearly served its own claim to power, presented as an alternative eschatology in which world history came to its climax not on Easter Day but with the storming of the Bastille and the American Declaration of Independence.


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The Kingdom of God represented by Jesus, says Wright, is that of inbreaking justice:


But the whole point of the Gospels is that the coming of God's kingdom on earth as in heaven is precisely not the imposition of an alien and dehumanizing tyranny, but rather the confrontation of alien and dehumanizing tyrannies with the news of a God--the God recognized in Jesus--who is radically different from them all, and whose inbreaking justice aims at rescuing and restoring genuine humanness. 


Pasted from <http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3559>


A recent blog by James Tabor, picked up by Bible History Daily (http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-interpretation/the-making-of-a-messiah/ )  summarizes the Messiah passages, then concludes that the culture built up this possible career identification:

Running through the various layers and strata of the New Testament gospel traditions is a complex set of Messianic titles or designations against which the careers of both John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth are tagged and evaluated. In the climatic exchange at Caesarea Philippi, the Markan Jesus puts it most bluntly–”Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The possibilities subsequently enumerated appear earlier in Mark, when Herod Antipas hears of the “powers” at work in the career of Jesus and rumor has it that he might be John the Baptizer “raised from the dead,” or Elijah, or one of the prophets of old (Mark 6:14-17). Each of these possibilities are implicitly rejected by Mark as Peter makes his definitive, though at this point misguided, declaration: “You are the Messiah” (see Mark 1:1 where the reader is clued into the mystery of who Jesus is: Jesus Christ [Son of God]). On trial before the high priest, the question is put even more directly: “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answers “I am” but then couples his affirmation with the added declaration: “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (presumably based on a combined reading of Dan 7:13-14, Psalm 110 and possibly Psalm 2). Earlier, when Jesus is glorified on the high mountain, just following Peter’s declaration, the disciples ask, in response to their experience of the “kingdom of God coming with power”–“Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Mark 9:11). Jesus implies that the recently-executed John the Baptizer is indeed the Elijah to come (based on Malachi 4:5), but was rejected and killed based on what was “written of him” (Mark 9:13).

Tabor concludes:

    For over a hundred years now these materials have presented scholars of the New Testament with a classic form of the proverbial “chicken or the egg” question. Do our gospel traditions import and impose these textual categories onto the figures of John and Jesus, long after their deaths, as a kind of exegetical or “scribal” enterprise to explain and justify the shocking and wholly unexpected facts of their deaths–the beheading of John and the crucifixion of Jesus? Or is it remotely possible, or even probable, that figures such as John, Jesus, and for that matter, a whole host of late Second Temple Jewish Palestinian “messiah” figures, intentionally acted within an existing messianic tradition? The Dead Sea Scrolls give us insight into the life and times of the unnamed “Teacher of Righteousness.” Josephus mentions a string of messianic figures, besides Jesus, including Judas the Galilean, Athronges, Simon the Perean, “the Samaritan,” Theudas and “the Egyptian.” I would argue that these and others might well have derived their self-identity and also a self-propelled “career pattern” based on a reading of prophetic “messianic” texts.