Following up on Isaiah 65.1-7 and Mark 5.1-20

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...
Image via Wikipedia

As we turn to the exegesis of Mark 5.1-20, which I have already weighted heavily with the idea that Mark is using mimesis to undue Vespasian’s actions in Gadara and Simon bar Giora’ claims, it is necessary that I examine the normative source for a Gospel writer, the Jewish Prophets. The Gospel writers’ use of the Old Testament as a means of showcasing who Jesus is is well documented and must not be overlooked during any exegesis. In Mark, the writer has a formula for introduction when he is using the voices of the Prophets to introduce something which Jesus has done/is doing. The Evangelist used it least eight times, with a preference for Isaiah and the Septuagint. Knowing that, then, one must examine Isaiah 65.1-7 as a possible backdrop to Mark’s story of the demoniac.

On the surface, the two passages are similar. Gerasa was a Gentile city, which matches Isaiah 65.1c. Also of note is the imagery of living among the tombs and demons in Isaiah 65.3-4a while 63.4b speaks about swine’s flesh. Also similar is the warning of the people to the Lord in Isaiah of not to come closer which is similar to Legion’s plea with Jesus not to have anything to do with it. The pattern is between the two is familiar as well, with the Lord/Jesus coming to a people who didn’t want to see him and being met with the insistence to stay away. Further, as just noted, the imagery of the tombs plays a large part in both passages, although in Isaiah the scenery is filled with the images which accompany pagan sacrifices and the move from henotheism to monotheism (65.3b – ‘the demons, which do not exist.’). Finally, what is also present is the images of hills and mountains as well as the repayment for the deeds done by the people.

What is missing, however, is the Markan use of the phrase ὡς γέγραπται. Without that formula it is difficult to assume that Mark is using his story in 5.1-20 as an eschatological fulfillment of Isaiah 65.1-7 (LXX). While Mark shows that he is familiar with the Septuagint and the Prophets, especially Isaiah, we cannot easily assume that Mark is writing to show that Christ fulfilled the words of the Prophet Isaiah. If we do, we must assume then that the Evangelist is employing recent historical events in such a way that they themselves cause the situation in Isaiah 65.1-7 to take place so that Jesus as the Son of God can now fulfill them. As we have seen, the historical events which pre-dated Mark’s writing would have been prevalent in his mind, and if he was writing to counter, as Winn suggests, the rise of the Roman pretender to the Messianic throne then the author may well have seen the fulfillment of Isaiah’s oracle in Vespasian and thus would use mimesis to show that the mighty acts of Jesus were far superior to that of the Roman pretender.

1.2; 7.6; 9.12-13; 11.17; 14.21; 14.27

1.2; 7.6; 9.12-13; 11.17; 14.21; 14.27

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.