I had hoped to invest some time in exploring this subject, either for a chapter or a paper, but right now I am swamped. I was recently reminded of this, first in reading this book and second via an email. So, I wanted to take a quick second and sketch out an idea.
I think Mark 13 is something of a chaotic chiastic passage. By that, I mean Mark does not using a simple pattern like A B B C B B A, but rather, has a focal point from and to which all things flow, even if the pattern is “messed up.” It is the cosmic battle between the Abomination of Desolation and the Son of Man. Everything leads to that and from that. It is the center point of this chapter and is the historical event of the destruction of the Temple.
The cosmic battle is the counterpoint, or the mimetic refraction.
Further points of consideration:
Mark 13.19: “those days” – points both to the future (from Jesus’s standpoint) and to the days mentioned in 13.7–9, 12–13.
13.5-6 is explained further in 13.21–22.
13.18 founds a counter in 13.28.
The abomination of desolation is earthly, looking down but finds the opposite in the Son of Man descending whereby we are told to look up.
You’ll just have to deal with me for a minute. I am not a sales rep nor do I participate in the Logos Affiliate program. More power to those bloggers who do. I would rather not, so that at least in appearance, I can presume to give you unbiased advice. I say this because I am biased to serious bible study and I believe you can actually get serious through Logos.
For instance, there is a textual variant in Mark 9.49 that I like to play around with from time to time. I believe it points to a time of rehabilitation after….well, I’ll leave it there for the moment.
First, I start with the Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible. This is a commentary on the entire bible and the textual variants found therein. Rick Brannon, one of my favorite people and one of the editors/authors of this volume, writes,
The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible (LTNB) cover both the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament with over 2,000 notes. These notes are situated somewhere between what is found in footnotes in modern English Bibles and the sort of material covered by Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. But the discussion in LTNB is geared toward readers with little to no text-critical knowledge. The goal is to provide English translations of several important variation units and some brief non-technical but relevant information about the unit.
In the LTNB, I go to Mark 9.49:
As you can see, there is a difference, although some may argue against it being that much of a difference. I mean, unless you want to argue for purgatory or something…
After this, because I’m not satisfied, I go to the Ancient Literature Database. When this first started, the references were something like 60,000 but now, it racing past 180,000 entries. So, what do I come up with?
The Testament of Levi reads,
And of all thy first-fruits and of wine offer the first, as a sacrifice to the Lord God; and every sacrifice thou shalt salt with salt.
If I wanted to go further, I could commentaries, but these two things helps to make a reasonably informed decision.
Robert H. Stein has written a very specific book on a very particular chapter in the Gospel According to Saint Mark. Taking only chapter 13 (although he does provide a lead-in by exploring its place in the book itself), Stein goes virtually line-by-line through the chapter, offering the ‘why’ of his interpretation. He does so by relying on conservative scholarship as well as canonical support. His reliance upon these things, including Q and other unidentified oral sayings, is mixed with his acceptance and use of critical scholarship as well. Indeed, given his locus, his conclusions are that much more outstanding. All of this — locus, avenues of investigation — would normally give me pause when considering his conclusions; however, I find little fault in them. While I do not agree with his conclusion regarding the arrival of the Son of Man, his treatment of the first half of Mark 13 and his conclusion thereof is spot on. The book is divided into 8 chapters. The first lays out his thesis statement and his actual goal. The second chapter tackles various issues in reading this chapter, such as placement in Mark. Chapters 3-7 each discuss a specific, and successive, pericope wherein the chapter itself is given a critical and theological account. The final chapter includes the author’s own translation, making use of cues inside the text. Again, he uses intracanonical support as well as (a hope of) oral tradition. Unfortunately, this is the lowpoint (although admittedly, his lowpoint is still well above the highpoints of many) of Stein’s work. In the end, he allows that the first part of Mark speaks to the destruction of the Temple while the second half alerts the readers to an unknown date of the arrival of the Son of Man. He bases this on the inclusio he sees in 13.5 and 13.23. Rather than an inclusio, I believe Mark is using a chiastic structure. But, this is my view point, not my book. In all, while Stein uses avenues I would not, he arrives at a solution I believe is tenable. Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man is an important book, especially in these times of heightened expectation. It is at once academic and theological, allowing the reader to place Mark 13 within the context of the entire Gospel as well as seeing how it works without a canonical context.
Scholars of the Gospel of Mark usually discuss the merits of patristic references to the Gospel’s origin and Mark’s identity as the “interpreter” of Peter. But while the question of the Gospel’s historical origins draws attention, no one has asked why, despite virtually unanimous patristic association of the Gospel with Peter, one of the most prestigious apostolic founding figures in Christian memory, Mark’s Gospel was mostly neglected by those same writers. Not only is the text of Mark the least represented of the canonical Gospels in patristic citations, commentaries, and manuscripts, but the explicit comments about the Evangelist reveal ambivalence about Mark’s literary or theological value. Michael J. Kok surveys the second-century reception of Mark, from Papias of Hierapolis to Clement of Alexandria, and finds that the patristic writers were hesitant to embrace Mark because they perceived it to be too easily adapted to rival Christian factions. Kok describes the story of Mark’s Petrine origins as a second-century move to assert ownership of the Gospel on the part of the emerging Orthodox Church.
The Gospels contain many hard sayings of Jesus, but perhaps none have puzzled and intrigued readers as much as Jesus’ discourse on the coming of the Son of Man in Mark 13. Is Jesus speaking entirely of an event in the near future, a coming destruction of the temple? Or is he referring to a distant, end-of-the-world event? Or might he even be speaking of both near and distant events? But in that case, which words apply to which event, and how can we be sure?
Seasoned Gospels scholar Robert Stein follows up his major commentary on Mark with this even closer reading of Mark 13. In this macro-lens commentary he walks us step by step through the text and its questions, leading us to a compelling interpretive solution.
The first time, Jesus silently (ignore the Hosanna shouts) enters into city, goes to the Temple, looks around, and leaves. In Mark 11.15, Jesus enters the city and goes to the Temple to cleanse it. In Mark 11.27, Jesus goes to the Temple where he begins to preach. This happens quickly, within the space of 3 days.
Each entry is marked by an increasing sense of importance for Jesus. I may side with some who suggest the crowd was already present when Jesus entered the city, celebrating the Passover. In other words, Jesus slipped by and stood in the crown while it shouted the usual triumphant shout. The second time, however, Jesus comes in and makes himself known as a person of priestly suspicions (basically, he wanted the Temple pure). The next time, Jesus comes in and starts to preach.1
Could the thrice entry point us to some of Mark’s literary sources? I am inclined to believe Mark 11.15–17 points us to Titus’s siege in 70, wherein the bandits were holed up inside the Temple. What about the first one, then? I may argue in a future paper the first one points us to the attempted coup by the Egyptian. The third one? Well, Jesus did have to go Jerusalem… In all, however, the stories are told in such a way as to answer previous entries by would-be-tyrants and siege victors — they show that Jesus did not come to conquer.
Maybe these two entries, with their two goals, point to the Two Messiah Motif. ↩
There are common points. Both start at the Mount of Olives. Both have friends with them. For Jesus, they are his disciples. For the Egyptian, guards. There is a multitude of people as well.
If we go further, we find a connection between Mark 11.15–17 and the siege of the Temple, with the entry by my favorite baddie, Simon bar Giora (4.570-584).
I am attracted to the Egyptian story as a literary source because of Acts 21.38–39. I think there is something in Luke, perhaps calling attention to Mark’s usage.
So, why is Mark using two literary sources, but reversed, to present the story of Jesus’s entry? Because it is apologetic. Mark does not want Jesus seen as the conquering tyrant. He wants to show how peaceful Jesus was, so he mimics (borrows) the language of Josephus so that his audience can get a sense his intent.
Jesus does not come to conquer Jerusalem. /a/Christians are not traitors or treasonous.
Adam Winn has made a decisive turn from the search for the literary sources of the Gospel of Mark to discovering the Roman ideology, or rather the counter to Roman ideology, buried in it. His new article in JSNT can be found here:
Tyrant or Servant? Roman Political Ideology and Mark 10.42-45 – Journal for the Study of the New Testament, first published on April 11, 2014 (Here).
Long time readers know that it was Winn’s 2008 volume, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, that got me going on Markan literary sources and in many ways, Roman imperial ideology. While others may not see what is plainly there, I believe Mark is written to do several things, but it is written because of Vespasian and the changes he wrought in the κόσμος. (<—yes, that is on purpose.)
Before we go further, let me call attention to my friend Garet’s post, wherein he states he disagrees with such enterprises. He is honest about his paper, that it is a “critical inquiry for apologetic purposes.” But, I do not think we can dismiss those who see anti- imperial ideology in the New Testament as somehow anti-apologetic. To understand what I mean, read pp23–24 in Winn’s article.
Winn examines Mark 10.42–45 as if it were read by a Roman audience. To introduce his readers to this worldview, Winn first lays out the groundwork necessary for “Mark as a ‘Roman Gospel,'” giving clear reasons for such a statement. He focuses largely on his work and one by Brian Incigneri, although he doesn’t fail to bring in other sources (even sources considered somewhat conservative – Evans). The reader must pay attention at this point, because the object rightly raised to any Roman understanding of Mark 10.42–45 is that it contains no directly related imperial language. Later, Winn can draw his readers back to this point to show them that Mark does not have speak the language consistently in order for his audience to understand him — after all, the sum of the Gospel is subversion of the imperial order.
Following this, Winn gives his reader a crash-course on the political ideology of Roman rulers and the recusatio. Without this section (and you may need to read it first before the article and then once more within the article), Winn’s arguments would falter. We are simply given what it meant to be a Roman prince.
Finally, the author exegetes Mark 10.42–45 section by section, drawing together his arguments thus far. Unlike previous volumes by Winn, he has little to no trouble offering a solid interpretation of his work and what it might mean, theologically. It is here that the genius of the thesis comes into play — one can actually hear how this section is read in the forum magnum next to Tacitus and Suetonius.
My concerns are tangential. I would like to have seen more developed in the narrative/Christological interpretation section. What sort of ruler, besides the self-sacrificing kind, is Jesus? Divine, or otherwise.[1 I am presenting a paper at AAR-EIS in a few weeks that I believe points to something of a high Christology in Mark, although different than John. It is higher than adoptionism, but not binitarianism.] Of course, this may be a theological bridge too far for such an article. Further, I feel 10.45 could be developed to show the “ransom” language is somewhat imperial (especially if you connect it to the Triumph – something Winn has already connected (in the article and elsewhere) to the Passion). Beyond that, his arguments are sound, if not near airtight.
Note, this is an article — not a book. I recognize that.
Winn does a masterful job of filling the void of reading this section of Mark as might have been read against the backdrop of political ideology. I rather appreciate the fact that the pericope’s interpretation is not because of language directly in the pericope, but taken as a whole from the Gospel. He also doesn’t date the Gospel of Mark, so we can take the article as a broad reaction against Roman imperial ideology. Further, he gives due attention to the author and the audience, rather than focusing on literary sources. Because of this new focus, Winn brings out the message as heard by the audience rather than any latent construction used by the author. He is careful to note Mark’s turning (he labels it “radicalizing”) of certain words and phrases and is equally anxious to let his readers know that what he is proposing is not emulation, but subversion. (Note, Garet misses this difference, as do many). In other words, even with his firm stance, he allows his audience some room in applying certain aspects of his thesis to their own stances.
My answer is nuanced. By opening his Gospel as Mark does, he is presenting Jesus as representing God, but this does not (as we know from the OT) mean the representative is the represented. But, Jesus is in God’s place.
Why? Because Jesus is slowly taking the place of God. Jesus is not God in Mark, but because God is absent, Jesus replaces God by doing what God does not. Jesus forces God to act by becoming the obedient Israel and absorbing the violence of his world into his body.
This is tiring, I know — but we see the same theology in Lucan’s Pharsalia. Cato the Younger acts in the place of God to become the God(divine)-Man. His death is the sacrifice for Rome and to the gods because the gods are absent.
Is Jesus God and a party of the Trinity in Mark’s Gospel? I don’t think so, but Jesus does become God.
Others have noticed Mark’s adoptionistic language. I’m okay with that.