Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not EVEN the Son

I had a long conversation today with my friend Brant Pitre - which reminds me to plug once again his amazing news book, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile (Baker, 2006). One of the things we talked about is Jesus' self-understanding in the Gospels.

Typically it is assumed that Mark's Gospel evidences a "low" Christology - that is, Jesus is not described as divine. Whereas, for example, John makes several statements indicating the divinity and preexistence of Jesus (e.g., John 1:3, "the Word was God... all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made"; John 5:18, "[he] called God his Father, making himself equal with God"; John 8:58, "...before Abraham was, I am"; 10:30, "I and the Father are one", etc.) Mark (it is said) has a much more earthly view of Jesus.

One passage that is typically mentioned in this regard is Mark 13:32, "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." At first glance this passage seems to play well into the hands of those who argue that Mark has a "low" Christology.

But look at that passage again...

What is fascinating here is that Jesus places himself above the angels. No one knows the hour, not even the Son. This implies that Jesus is greater than the angels.

It is hard to imagine how powerful this statement would have been in a first century Jewish context.

Mark's Christology is a low Christology? Maybe it's time we start to rethink that proposition.


St Pio said...

Have you read Mr. Pitre's book yet?

David said...

When one understands how Mark presents his theology, i.e., through story and dialog, one quickly sees that Mark has a very high Christology. When Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead, he did something that only God/Yahweh had done in the Old Testament. When Jesus calmed the storm, this was something that only Yahweh could do: and the reaction of his disciples was fear and wonder. The healing of the leper in chapter 1, how many lepers had been healed in the OT? Two, both directly through Yahweh's intervention. The first half of the Gospel of Mark is composed this way to lead the reader/hearer to recognize the divinity inherent in Jesus.

But I would ask you to flesh out your thoughts on 10:30. Sounds interesting, but I am not sure how your exegesis proceeds ...

St Pio said...

Why does St. John's Gospel record Jesus' more explicit words/deeds concerning His divine nature? Has St. Mark purposely left these "apostolic memories" out, so his Gentile audience is not tempted to dismiss (or accept!) the gospel as yet another religious myth or legend?

stc said...

I don't think there's a low chistology to be found anywhere in the New Testament, with the possible exception of James. (And even James refers to Jesus as the "Lord of glory".)

But Mark's christology is relatively low, certainly by comparison to John.

I accept James Dunn's argument that the earlier New Testament documents pick up the ambiguity of Jewish statements about angels, wisdom, and the Word of God. For example, Jews sometimes spoke as if Wisdom was a separate entity that God could send forth as his agent; and in those texts, Wisdom seems to be almost a second deity alongside God. And yet, the Jews remained monotheists.

I think that's a good paradigm to keep in mind when interpreting the christological affirmations of Mark and Paul. But does it constitute a "low" christology? — I wouldn't say so.

Moonshadow said...

I don't think Mark's christology is low. In chapter 2, Jesus is forgiving sins. "Who but God alone can forgive sins?" the scribes ask themselves in Mark 2:7.