Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 8th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Where does Mark 1.1 come from and what does it mean?

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse Synago...

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse Synagogue in Cologne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There may be simply several sources for Mark 1.1. I tend to think it comes directly from the Priene Calendar inscription, setting GMark as the anti-Roman Gospel.

This is Mark 1.1 in the Greek:

Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ.

This is the calendar inscription:

ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κὀσμωι τῶι δι᾽ αὐτὸν εὐαγγελίων ἡ γενέυλιος ἡμέρα τοῦ θεοῦ

But, what if it is pointing to Genesis 1.1?

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

Another possibility is that it comes from Greek Hosea, 1.2

Ἀρχὴ λόγου κυρίου πρὸς Ωσηε

What would Mark 1.1 mean depending on the source?

The Roman Anti-Imperial Gospel is a direct challenge to Vespasian and the Roman propaganda machine after the destruction of the Temple and the subjugation of the Jews. This sets up the Roman centurian to make a rather profound statement at the Cross. Further, this is a direct challenge to Caesar and the entire line of Caesars, making the entire story of Jesus a rather profound attack on imperialism.

[tweetthis]Mark is a direct challenge to Caesar and the entire line of Caesars[/tweetthis]

A connection to Genesis 1.1 would connect it to the entirety of the Old Testament, but more explicitly the Torah. Jesus is the Torah (Wisdom). Further, this is the new creation — like the old, but now to include the Gentiles. And it is truly new. This is, possibly, picked up in John with John’s rather flamboyant retelling of Genesis 1.1. Notably, Matthew begins with a direct reference to Genesis, something Jerome thought was the original title of Matthew.

If we looked at Hosea, then we could see that Jesus is immediately thrust into the role of prophet. Further, look at what Hosea says about Gentiles. Look at Hosea 2.23 and 8.8. St. Paul uses Hosea 2.23 in Romans 9.25. Jesus is coming to call a people who is not his people to be his people. And… Israel is among the Gentiles. This may be why Matthew picks up a rather weak “prophecy” in Hosea to tell of the travels of the Holy Family.

Do we have to pick? Maybe, maybe not. Each source gives Mark a grand strategy that must be explored independently and then together. Hosea and the anti-Roman strategy can be better combined in my opinion.

Wow. I love literary source criticism — because I believe the source is intentional and meant to help the audience understand the new work by the light of the old.

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

6 Responses to “Where does Mark 1.1 come from and what does it mean?”
  1. Hosea 8:11Because Ephraim hath multiplied altars for sinning, altars have been unto him for sinning. 12I wrote for him the ten thousand things of my law; but they are counted as a strange thing. 13As for the sacrifices of mine offerings, they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but Jehovah accepteth them not: now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins; they shall return to Egypt. 14For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and builded palaces; and Judah hath multiplied fortified cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the castles thereof.

    Just a slight caveat…your perspective “Further, look at what Hosea says about Gentiles”… Is based upon Mark and NT perspective. Hosea from the Jewish perspective is about the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. About Solomon building to fortify the Southern Kingdom, at the expense of the North, about the split of the two, about the South’s perspective of the North being unGodly, being conquered, and becoming half-breeds, and the South now facing the same ultimate disaster. Nothing to do with Jesus, until the NT writers inject Rome and their Emperor (son of God), ideas projected onto Jesus. So OT Ephraim magically becomes Gentiles in the NT. correct me if I am wrong. Thus “Son of God” evolved, much like as described in Ehrman’s latest book. Some NT texts didn’t have it, but they tended to migrate to its addition as Paul’s theology pushed the envelope in that direction.

    • Gary, you assume a break between the Jewish writers of the NT and the books they and others Jews interpreted and reinterpreted.

      • Concerning Hosea, of course I assume a break. According to my handy-dandy NRSV commentary, Hosea was suppose to have been written about “events right up to the Assyrian siege of Samaria in 722” BC.

        So Mark ~70 AD from 722 BC ~ like, 800 years.

        I think I might have to join the Eastern Orthodox Church, which apparently believes Christianity preceded Judaism. 🙂

        ;BTW, I hope you know I am kidding…
        But not about the Hosea stuff.

        • No… no.. I mean… the OT books were in a state of interpretation and reinterpretation. I mean, look at the Dead Sea Scrolls. Sure, there were considerations for “no, this is too crazy” but later interpreters weren’t concerned with original meaning.

          (and of course, I know you’re kidding)

          • “but later interpreters weren’t concerned with original meaning”…
            Dallas Theological Seminary, please take note.

            And Harold Camping, wherever he might be currently. Last seen riding the fourth blood moon of the year.

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