Thursday, July 01, 2010

Liveblogging the Gospel of Mark III

Wups, here it comes! I had remarked on how unremarkable was the career of Jesus in the early portions of the Gospel of Mark. But then out of nowhere (as it seems) in the middle of Chapter 8 (verse 29), we get:
And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
Then in verse 31:
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Cat's pretty much out of the bag now, wouldn't you say? I think this is the first time the word "Christ" (i.e., "Messiah" or "anointed one") has been used in Mark. But just to remove any doubt, next in Chapter 9 we find Jesus climbing "a high mountain," there to disport himself with Elias and Moses. And as if to drive the point home, here's the voice again, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, saying (Maerk 9:7) "this is my beloved Son: hear him."

Generally, Chapters 9 and 10 include more routine garden-variety healing, but also an increasing amount of programmatic preaching, the sort you would expect from an agent of the Almighty. The interesting wrinkle is that at least as presented so far, all this is supposed to be a secret among the special friends. Mark 8:30, omitted between the two verses quoted above, says:
And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
So also in Mark 10:32:
He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him.
Fine, but the question remains: why the big secret? If there is this grisly life (!) plan, and if he knows it and the disciples are to know it, why should they "tell no man" what is up?

I'm sure that barrels of ink have been spilled over this one and I am only guessing, but two thoughts. One, the writer does seem to be talking out of both sides of his mouth here. We have this "tell no man" stuff. But on the same page, almost in the same paragraph, we see Jesus speaking--and the crowd responding--in a manner as if to suggest that they know perfectly well what is afoot.

And two--this is only speculation, but I wonder if the writer didn't feel the need to defend against a certain kind of critic. That is: apparently quite a few scholars agree that a good deal of the "Christ" apparatus was made up after the fact--in the 30s, 40s and 50s. I wonder if the author felt he had to defend himself against those who would say: well, if all this was foreordained, how come nobody knew about it at the time? You're covered if nobody knows except those who are in the club.

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