Mark 10.45 and Who Killed Jesus?

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On arguably the second best biblioblog (mad props to Mark Goodacre) a commenter questioned my interpretation I recently released on Huffington Post Religion, daring to suggest I was wrong, suggesting a better interpretation based on Mark 10.45.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (NASB)

I can’t write fully on this, namely because I don’t have the time today and second BUY MY BOOK.

However, 10.45 is written after, long after, the time of Jesus. Second, I would see this as responding to Israel’s nationalistic sins, such as the Revolt — see Maurice Casey here who is sublime in his reasoning, although I place the date of Mark much later than he. In other words, Jesus is pictured here as excepting his death as a martyr for Israel in penance for its revolt against Rome/crime against God. We see this exemplified in the death of Simon bar Giora. (See my book)

So, does this verse/saying of Jesus still fit with my view that the Historical Jesus could very well have taken the initiative? Yes. For instance, Jesus names himself as the primary participant here in his death. Second, this fits the martyrdom hypothesis. If the Historical Jesus (let’s separate that from the Gospel Jesus) saw Israel in need of repentance (Daniel’s closing chapters c.f. with John’s baptism), a repentance only achieved by sacrifice (Psalms of Solomon, Maccabees) then it is still possible he intended to give himself to the Romans as a sacrifice to God for the sins of Israel.

While this doesn’t fit our patina layered theology, it can easily fit the time and place and a few other things.

Post By Joel Watts (10,056 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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16 thoughts on Mark 10.45 and Who Killed Jesus?

  1. I think it’s the 1000 word limit at Huffpo that is keeping me from fully understanding your position, though I’m not yet tempted to buy your book. I think the idea of Jesus giving his life for the nation of Israel actually fits with New Testament theology. Paul’s view seems to be that Gentiles are included because they have been grafted into Israel, and that just as Jesus rose from the dead, so all Israel will rise from the dead. Jesus is Emanuel for Israel first — the children — but also for his dogs who are willing to eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.

    • Bilbo,

      I think we need to get too what giving his life meant.

      I have no issue with that, but I would still place the onus on Jesus. I disagree, however, with your application of the dogs/crumbs interpretation. Jesus wasn’t dying for the nationalistic sins of Rome or Syria, or the such, but for Israel. This was his only intent, I would argue.

      I am, of course, talking about Mark here and not Paul, although Mark does show a Pauline influence somewhat.

      • I’ve had time to re-read your Huffpo article and what you say here. First, I agree with you that the onus was on Jesus for his death. I think it’s clear that Jesus was in control of the events pertaining to his arrest, trial and execution.

        Second, if we agree that Mark’s Jesus saw himself as a sin offering, then I think we should interpret his silence at the trial not only in terms of 2 Kings 18, but also in terms of Isaiah 53.

        Third, the important question would be the meaning of Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I suggest that whatever its meaning, if Jesus was intent on giving his life as a sin offering, then I don’t think we should interpret it as a cry of disappointment that God had not rescued him from the cross.

        Fourth, as to whether Mark’s Jesus only saw his sacrificial death as pertaining to the nation of Israel and its sins, I think the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman is relevant. His first answer to her is, “Let the children first be fed.” It suggests that Israel has temporal priority, not exclusivity. There are far too many OT passages about the Messiah or the Servant being for all the nations, not just Israel. And I don’t think it’s an accident that Jesus had all this take place at Passover. If I recall correctly, the angel of death passed over the houses not only of the Israelites, but of those Egyptians who placed the blood of the lamb on their doors as well. A fact that Jesus probably would have been familiar with.

        Now did the historical Jesus see himself as a sin offering? I guess that depends on who one thinks the historical Jesus was.

        • Bilbo,

          The sacrifice for moral sin is different than national sin (although I am tempted to remind us that Deuteronomy is about national and political covenants between YHWH and Israel).

          I don’t suggest it was a sin offering.

          I think the Syro-Phoenician woman is an a-historical event. Jesus doesn’t really have an answer so much as Mark’s narrative incorporates an rather unknown entity into the story to further some need. Further, Messiah is a term defined much later, and not fully recognized until much later, even past the Gospel of Mark. Messiah is not really defined for many until Bar Kokhba.

          The fact that the palm branches are used in the entry into Jerusalem suggests a political motif. Considering the role the Temple plays in the Gospel and in the Revolt, it is a political image.

          • No doubt you know a lot more about Israel’s sacrificial system than I do. However, if Mark’s Jesus had Isaiah 53 in mind, the term used there, asham, is the same used Leviticus for a sin or guilt offering.

            Perhaps Mark made up the story about the Syro-Phoenician woman. If his audience was Jewish, this might have been a way of helping them to accept the idea of Gentile believers in Jesus. But if his audience was Gentile, then given Jesus’s diminishment of Gentiles in comparison to Jews, I would suspect the story was historical.

            No doubt the concept of the Messiah was (and still is?) in a process of development in Jewish thought. But the idea of a Jewish prince arising and ruling the world was in play before the term “Messiah” was applied to it. And in the Servant songs of Isaiah, I think it’s made clear that the Servant is to save all nations, though I’ll need to look that up to be sure.

            Certainly the palm branches are a political image. And Mark is trying to get across the idea that the disciples and those with whom Jesus was popular expected him to be a political ruler. But Mark is also trying to get across the idea that Jesus didn’t see himself this way. Especially if he saw his destiny as being a human sacrifice.

          • Bilbo,

            Do you know if Mark had Isaiah 53 in mind?

            I think that it is evident from internal sources that the audience was Jewish, and knowing that the Gentile mission didn’t begin in earnest until long after Mark, to allow that Mark is writing to a group of Gentiles to propose what he does is highly subjective, I’m afraid.

            No, actually there is barely a record if at all about a worldly ruler from among the Jews. To be honest, I think Josephus had the biggest hand in making that one stick. Isaiah 53 is about Israel, not about a particular person.

            How do you know, when all of Mark points to a political sacrifice, that he was saying something different?

  2. Bilbo,
    Do you know if Mark had Isaiah 53 in mind?

    I think 10:45 indicates that Mark’s Jesus had Isaiah 53 in mind.

    I think that it is evident from internal sources that the audience was Jewish,…

    Okay.

    …and knowing that the Gentile mission didn’t begin in earnest until long after Mark,…

    Do you defend this position in your book? If so, then I am tempted to buy and read it.

    No, actually there is barely a record if at all about a worldly ruler from among the Jews.

    Isaiah 9 and 11? Psalm 2?

    Isaiah 53 is about Israel, not about a particular person.

    I think the Servant Songs are ambiguous and can be understood to refer to Israel or to an individual. Messianic Jewish scholar Mark Kinzer offered what I thought was the best explanation: The Messiah is Israel par excellence.

    How do you know, when all of Mark points to a political sacrifice, that he was saying something different?

    If you defend the thesis that all of Mark points to a political sacrifice, then I’m even more tempted to buy and read your book.

  3. Hi Joel,

    Since you didn’t reply, I’m not sure how tempted I should be to buy your book. Meanwhile,
    I’ve started re-reading Mark. I’m finding it difficult to read Mark as solely or even mainly as a political document. John saying that one will come baptizing with the Holy Spirit; Jesus casting out demons; Jesus healing people; Jesus forgiving individual sins. I just got to the end of chapter 4, where Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, and the disciples wondering who he really is. That seems to be a major roadblock to anyone who wants to read Mark as a political thing. Does your book address any of this? If so, I’ll buy it and read it. Just out of curiosity.

    • Bilbo,

      I’m not sure where. I didn’t reply, but if replying to you is the deciding factor of buying my book, I’ll do with one less sale.

      And yes, the book does hands those things succinctly enough. It is rather difficult to separate political from religion in the ancient world. This is why Deuteronomy, while seeming moral, is a political covenant between YHWH and Israel as they left the political confines of loyalty to Assyria.

      Mark, I propose, has the Deuteronomic influences and uses. Some of the themes are the same… Especially exile and divine loyalty.

      And demons, headings, etc… Are all related to this view.

  4. You asked me a whie ago if I know if Mark 10:45 had Isaiah 53 in mind. It just struck me (as in slamming palm of hand against forehead) that Jesus says in that verse: “The son of man came not to be served, but to serve….” And Isaiah 53 (and the previous songs) are about the servant of God. Jesus saw his mission as to be the servant of God. So yes, I think there is good reason to think that Mark 10:45 had Isaiah 53 in mind.

    • That’s a bit of a stretch. I mean, there are plenty of instances in the OT that speaks of prophetic humility, or service to others. One word doesn’t suggest so easily the use of a passage, especially since Isaiah 53 doesn’t always hold the same theological interpretation for Jews of the time as it does for later Christians.

  5. But in this verse Mark’s Jesus is defining what his mission is: to serve. In fact, in 10:43-44, he says, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” I think Jesus saw his mission as to be the slave of all. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that Mark’s Jesus identified himself with the servant of God in the Isaiah passages.

    • I think it very much is a stretch to identify any self-contextualization. I mean, we have plenty of servant passages in the Psalms that could have given a “Davidic king” insight into himself. The Psalmist wrote affectionately about kings being servants/slaves to God and to others.

      Not only that, we would have to first identify an interpretation existent at the time that allowed for Isaiah 53 to be used by a single individual. This is simply not the case.

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