Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
August 25th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Jesus’s (building) entries into Jerusalem (Mark 11.11–27)

English: Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

English: Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is really for discussion… In Mark 11, Jesus enters into Jerusalem 3 times, each one more grander than the last.

Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς τὸ ἱερόν· καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντα ὀψὲ ἤδη οὔσης τῆς ὥρας ἐξῆλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα. – Mark 11:11.

Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ τοὺς ἀγοράζοντας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, καὶ τὰς τραπέζας τῶν κολλυβιστῶν καὶ τὰς καθέδρας τῶν πωλούντων τὰς περιστερὰς κατέστρεψεν – Mark 11:15.

Καὶ ἔρχονται πάλιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ περιπατοῦντος αὐτοῦ ἔρχονται πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι – Mark 11:27.

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.

  1. Maybe these two entries, with their two goals, point to the Two Messiah Motif.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. 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).

Comments

20 Responses to “Jesus’s (building) entries into Jerusalem (Mark 11.11–27)”
  1. My present view is that Jesus’ choice of entry into Jerusalem was a way of letting Jewish people know that he was claiming to be the Messiah, without explicitly saying so and risking immediate arrest by the Romans. I’m assuming that most Jewish people would have been familiar with the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. I’m assuming that the crowd that is traveling with him to Jerusalem are mostly Galileans, who would have been familiar with him, his works, and his teachings. When the Galileans see him entering Jerusalem on a donkey, they make the connection and start the Hosannahs. I also assume that the crowd was small enough that it didn’t catch the attention of the Romans, or if it did, seeing a man riding a donkey without swords or spears didn’t strike them as a threat.

    I accept Mark’s explanation that “it was late,” at face value for the reason Jesus only looks around. Most of the market would have cleared out by then, and there were few to teach.

    • Bilbo, I do think Mark is presenting the coming of Jesus as pointing to his role as Messiah – however, numerous others had tried to the same thing… entering Jerusalem with crowds. Here, I think Mark is speaking directly to the false messiahs and their failed entries, showing Jesus (and thus his followers) as peacefully entering and only entering to cleanse/purify/preach.

  2. “Maybe these two entries, with their two goals, point to the Two Messiah Motif.”
    I assume you are going to expand on this?

    • Sorry about that, Gary!

      The Two Messiah Motif is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls somewhat. It involved one Messiah from the Tribe of Levi/Joseph who would restore the Law and one from Judah (Son of David) who would restore Israel’s independence. We see in the Gospels something of the Two – and when we get to Hebrews, the two are completely combined.

      I cannot validate everything here: http://www.chaim.org/2messiah.htm, but it gives you a pretty good overview (i think)

  3. Thanks. Never heard that before. Although the web site is “end times” stuff, and I wouldn’t belief that,… But, “the two Messiahs from “Son of David” and another who was the “Son of Joseph.” Though one can find the sufferings of Messiah attributed to the sufferings of the Davidic Messiah in many rabbinic writings, often a second Messiah is posited, the “Son of Joseph” or “Son of Ephraim””…I can certainly see roots from perhaps either Two kingdoms, Northern Israel and Southern Judah, two priesthood, Shiloh and Aaron, or two leaders, priest and king. Or either the life of Brian, or Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, and “Son of Man/God”… 🙂

    Or maybe Titus and Vespasian? After all, Josephus did call Titus “King” in Jerusalem, when Vespasian was Emperor in Rome…. Just kidding!

    • Hagee actually has this concept buried in his “end times” bit. Indeed, the Messiah is always about eschatology (which is why we shouldn’t bother with Left Behind and other nonsense because it already happened)

      I think the 2 messiahs bit is lacking in the way we examine the messiahship of Christ – which is why hebrews is written. it combines the two sufficiently (as does John)

  4. Hi Joel,

    I’m curious. What other Messianic pretenders entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey?

    • I’m not sure any road on a donkey, although I’m sure some attempted horses and others. The donkey may be systematic of the (re)portrayal of jesus as a peaceful Messiah contender.

  5. I may just be attempting mind-reading here. If so, please forgive me. I assume that Mark is recording an actual historical event. It would explain the very anti-climatic nature of Jesus’ first entry into Jerusalem. We have the drum roll sounding softly and getting louder and louder as he approaches the Temple. We’re waiting for the loud clash of the cymbals as he enters the Temple, and….nothing happens.

    Now that would make sense if one were merely trying to record what actually happened. History is often really quite boring. But if one believes that Mark has written largely fiction, or at least that he has shaped the events in his story for some ulterior purpose, then one has the challenge of coming up with what that purpose might be. I wish you good luck in that endeavor.

    • I assume Mark is theologizing a historical event, without the pesky post-enlightenment need for straightforward facts. We really don’t see straight history during the NT times.

  6. So of the Mark 11:11-27 passage, which parts do you consider historical (in the post-enlightenment sense) and which parts are mere theologizing?

    • i think most of Mark is theology. I do think Jesus came to Jerusalem and preached in the Temple, as common during the day. For me, I’m not too concerned with extracting history as I am in understanding what Mark may have used, and then why.

  7. Ah. For me, I’m assuming most of Mark is history (in the post-enlightenment sense), and so I’m interested in what Jesus did and why he did it, as well in what he said and why he said it. Thus I see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as a way of beginning to provoke a confrontation with the Temple authorities. Is he really claiming to be the Messiah? If so, what should we do about it?

    • but, can you prove anyone wrote in that sort of sense, free of theology and only reporting fact, during the time period? Since we cannot, and just the opposite, I believe we have to look at what Mark was saying (theologizing) about the story of Jesus.

  8. That’s a claim I find difficult to believe. True, Mark has a specific theological point of view. Does that mean that he made up stories whole cloth (such as Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem) just to make theological point? And how far are we to take this principle? You say that you believe that Jesus actually taught in the temple. But surely Mark could have made that up as well to serve some theological purpose.

    And there seems to be a good deal of circularity here. Mark has a certain set of theological beliefs about Jesus and makes up stories about him in order to communicate those beliefs. But why does Mark have those beliefs about Jesus? If they weren’t based on actual events from Jesus life, what are they based on? And if they are based on actual events from Jesus life, why wouldn’t Mark communicate those events, in order to make his theological points, instead of making up stories whole cloth?

    • Bilbo, I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier – I’ve been in the hospital for a bit. I can only briefly explain now.

      I don’t think Mark created stories wholesale, but borrowed from previous stories and ideas to present his story to an audience. Indeed, much ancient and even modern story telling is based on this.

      I say I believe Jesus taught in the Temple because it would have been expected for him to do so and not uncommon.

      Paul has a particular set of beliefs about Jesus without ever having met Jesus or without knowing “the Gospel” What is that particular belief? That he was the Son of God, the redeemer, etc… Why? Does he need the stories of Jesus’s life or is it the Resurrected Jesus Paul experienced that started to put all of the pieces (the LXX) together?

  9. “But why does Mark have those beliefs about Jesus? If they weren’t based on actual events from Jesus life, what are they based on?”

    Just a thought, generated by a book I am reading now, “God’s Problem”, Ehrman. OK, not exactly on subject. But maybe. I’d tend to say Mark is based upon facts on Jesus’s life, but taken in context of:
    1. The transition from explaining suffering in the OT, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God, The classic view of suffering”, to the NT view, “Redemptive suffering”, someone else causes the suffering, not God, and the suffering/forgiving process Jesus was suppose to have initiated. (From Ehrman’s book).
    2. Mark’s final ending being missing in original versions.
    Seems to imply the importance of Jesus’s peaceful coming to Jerusalem (not a warrior God), shows this transition from OT to NT view of suffering. Resurrection is only important to show Jesus was a forgiving God, not a warrior God.
    3. Mark written after 70AD, so Mark is trading off suffering OT versus NT, we rejected Jesus so we are subject to suffering from other people (destruction of Jerusalem), but God didn’t do it. We did it to ourselves. And yes, I know, the NT didn’t exist then. But the concept of redemptive suffering must have been floating around orally at the time, to try and explain 70AD, so the concept was eventually coalesced into later NT texts.
    Just a thought. But maybe a bunch of Bull. What do I know? Nada.

  10. Revision. Mark’s resurrection: not proof Jesus is God. Proof the redemptive process works. Jerusalem burns, temple gone, but everything will be all right in the end.

  11. Hi Gary,

    I have no doubt that Mark had all sorts of theological points he was trying to make. But what was the difference between Christian belief about Jesus prior to Mark and Mark’s view? And how would we know?

  12. I guess if you compared Paul’s writings to Mark’s writing, some conclusions could be drawn. But it seems Paul was rather ambiguous. Maybe I’m wrong, but Paul seemed to play to his audience, a good fund raiser and good politician. And that assumes Paul represented the proto-Christian beliefs about Jesus before Mark. I’m not so sure he did. But I’m not qualified to make a judgement about it. Just speculation on my part.

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