Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 21st, 2015 by Joel Watts

Mark 1.1-11 – Jesus v. The World

Sculpture of Julius Caesar by 17th century Fre...

Sculpture of Julius Caesar by 17th century French sculptor Nicolas Coustou. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are notes from my CTP Class – but I wanted to put them here for a few reasons. And look… I made a video:

Why Isaiah and not “the prophets” or at least Malachi? Why is Mark… wrong? He’s not. He’s trying to draw your mind into something. He wants his hearers to understand something profound about Jesus.

These are what I would call mimetic cues. 

He begins by calling it Isaiah…something clearly “wrong… but this is a way to draw your attention. I think it is meant to draw your attention to at least two levels of Old Testament interpretation.

See my posts on the Gospels as memoirs

On the level of Isaiah (see below), he’s calling your attention to Isaiah 60. This first part begins with Isaiah and ends with Isaiah.

On another level, he is pointing you to Malachi. It is not that he is wrong. It is that he is trying to draw you out. Look at Malachi 3. Look at the language of baptism to be drawn from there.

[tweetthis]The Gospels are a-historical, not a-historical. They tell you more than what is on the page.[/tweetthis]

The Baptism of John positions the movement of baptism against the Temple elite. There were a few reasons for baptism during this time.

  • Women after childbirth or menstruation
  • A bride before her wedding
  • Priests (in the Temple) before divine service
  • Men on the eve of Yom Kippur (also optionally, before Shabbat)
  • For converts to Judaism
  • In preparation of a dead person for burial
  • For new kitchen utensils

Well, we can rule out a few of them, can’t we?

I think John’s baptism was directed against the Temple priests. I’m trying to limit my observations solely to Mark, but Mark is knowledgeable of St. Paul’s writings — so we cannot dismiss statements the statements about the church being the temple and our reasonable, i.e., priestly, service. Nor can I equally dismiss the “kingdom of priests” language from 1 Peter 2.9 and Revelation 1.6 (cf. Exodus 19.6) .

[tweetthis]The Gospel of Mark is as complex as Jesus, with as many levels.[/tweetthis]

The Dove:

The Dove represents at least 3 simultaneous meanings. The New Creation, the return of the covenant, and an assault on Rome.

  • When the dove returned to him in the evening, there was a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak! Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. – Genesis 8.11
  • Isaiah 60.1-22
  • As Julius Caesar was felling a wood near Munda in Spain to clear a site for his camp, he noticed a palm-tree and ordered it to be spared, as a presage of victory. The tree then suddenly put out a new shoot which, a few days later,had grown so tall as to over-shadow it. What was more, a flock of doves began to nest in the fronds, although doves notoriously dislike hard, spiny foliage. This prodigy was the immediate reason, they say, for Caesar’s desire that his grand-nephew, and no one else, should succeed him. (Suetonius Aug. 94.)


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).


8 Responses to “Mark 1.1-11 – Jesus v. The World”
  1. Good stuff! What do you think are the best commentaries on Mark out there?

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