Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 10th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Paper Accepted – AAR-EIR 2014 (Jesus as Primary Actor)

The information is here. My ultimate goal is to turn this into an essay for a collection by the end of the year.

The question of “who killed Jesus?” arises periodically. Oftentimes, we hear the traditional chants of “the Jews” or “the Romans” while in some quarters we are beginning to hear “God did it.” If we were reading Paul, these answers are sufficient; however, based on the Gospel of Mark I propose a different reading. Instead of Jesus as a sacrifice, I suggest that because God is absent and has forsaken Israel during the Roman occupation Jesus acts to take within himself the chaos of a God-abandoned cosmos so as to order a new world. I offer this interpretation through a reading of Lucan’s Pharsalia, focusing on the character of Cato the Younger.

This paper will argue that if we place the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel next to the Cato of Lucan’s poem, what emerges is an image not of a sacrifice whereby Jesus was only a willing victim forced by God, but a “divine man” and “hero” who acts by his own will to save Israel when God has abandoned his people. Based on this interpretative measure, Mark 14.36, is no longer a desire to be free from the sacrificial duties, but a request that God act where he has not acted before. Further, 15.34 stands to represent not simply the abandonment of Jesus, but so too of Israel. After briefly detailing Paul’s language of Jesus’s act, I will show a literological connection existing between Jesus in Mark’s Gospel and Cato in Lucan’s Pharsalia. Finally, I will offer a path forward on the question of “who killed Jesus?” by reading Mark through the disaffected Roman poet’s eyes.

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

5 Responses to “Paper Accepted – AAR-EIR 2014 (Jesus as Primary Actor)”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    Of course, one could through a monkey wrench into the theological clockwork and blame it of Eve. If that fails, try Adam.

  2. Now More Than I Should says

    Sorry, I missed your question. I was on my may to finding something else on the related topic when I found it.

    Basically, the battle over who killed Jesus is usually whether it was the Jews of the Romans. All I’m suggesting is it goes back to blaming the woman. After all, in Biblethink, either woman or Satan is typically responsible for all mankind’s woes. If that doesn’t work, blame Adam. He isn’t here to defend himself.

    • I’m sure I can say there is a “bible think.” After all, the Jews around the time of Jesus didn’t really have much of an atonement theology, save that of the temporary, as a way to renew the covenant.

      Further, I’m not sure we can find much of a woman of women in Scripture. After all, we had positive images of women. Paul blamed Adam, not Eve. There is Mary and so on.

      Nor do I think we see the devil as the one assigned our fault in Scripture. Most of these things are later developments.

      I would argue the death of Jesus is well within the line of other kings ransomed for their people.

  3. Now More Than I Should says

    Meanwhile, on to other things.

    Somewhere in another thread on the same topic – which I cannot find at this time – I pointed out that, based on my having served in the United States military abroad, how Jesus died wasn’t so much determined by Rome or Jerusalem authorities as by the boots (sandals) on the ground. A small confirmation of the fact that there wasn’t that much difference between how yesterday’s Roman soldiers viewed occupied lands and they way today’s American military personnel sees things came in the form of a partial translation of a letter written by an apparently literate Roman soldier named Pilon. For more on the story, follow the link below:

    http://news.rice.edu/2014/03/14/rice-grad-student-deciphers-1800-year-old-letter-from-egyptian-soldier/

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