Jeremiah in Mark 1 and 2 — intertextuality and allusions as atmosphere

God reposing on Sabbath day. Illustration from...
God reposing on Sabbath day. Illustration from the first Russian engraved Bible. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the essential tools of mimetic criticism is the use of cues early in the text. We look for these as early as possible in the primary text so that as we read through, the secondary texts come through. This intertextuality is important — because it doesn’t just make cute allusions, but uses the previous text (preserving it, often times) to build an ideological (in our case, theological) aural atmosphere in which to read the text.

This is the case with the Gospel of Mark. If we miss these cues, we miss the points Mark is trying to make and make most often about Jesus. The entirety of the Gospel of Mark is a question — who is Jesus and what is Jesus doing? To get the audience to answer that, an answer Mark already knows, the author uses cues, tied to previous texts, to provide an interpretive framework.

Allusions do not mean Jesus is “fulfilling prophecy.” Mark is not proof-texting. Rather, these allusions and echoes point us to understanding Mark’s authorial intent — to understanding the early Markan message. He’s not writing biography, but rather, a memoir. 

One such cue I want to examine today is the use of Jeremiah in Mark 1 and 2 to further build up the high Christology in the Gospel of Mark, something many scholars fail to see in Mark’s Gospel.

The first cue is Jesus’s use of Jeremiah 16.16 when he calls Peter and Andrew. As I discussed in ]], Mark 1.16-17 is connected to Jeremiah 16.14-21, not in the least because of the various word-to-word connections. Rather, look at the entire scene. This is God coming back to Israel after a long absence to remove the idols (the demons, et al, Jesus has cast out) and free the people. The exile is no longer Egypt, but now a new land (the land of the North — sure, Babylon at the beginning, but now assuredly Rome).

There is a lot in this portion of Jeremiah we can discuss and apply to Mark’s context, but we won’t. That is for you to decide to do. The main thing, however, is to note Mark’s early use of Jeremiah.

The second blatant occurrence is in Mark 2.18-20 with the discussion of the bridegroom. This almost goes without saying, but Jeremiah is replete with references to God as the bridegroom. Just up from Jeremiah 16.16 is Jeremiah 16.6-10 in which God demands no one mourn or fast, etc… because the bridegroom will be removed.

Another one, in quick succession, occurs in Mark 2.21–22. Wineskins, I believe, point to Jeremiah 13.12-14.

And then, of course, we have the Sabbath day speech in Mark 2.23-28. While I believe there is an argument to be made that Mark is contrasting the Deuteronomic version of the Sabbath with the Exodus version of the Sabbath — and I do think that — we also find a reference to the Sabbath in Jeremiah 17.19-27.

I maintain the intertextuality shared between Jeremiah and Mark is meant to provide us a boundary for reading what Jesus is doing here. This atmosphere points us directly to a divine Jesus acting in the place of God, coming to Israel to not only end the Exile but to inaugurate something new. It presents a picture of a Jesus that cares very little for being perceived as angry but a Jesus that is dead-set to rid Israel of the collective oppression. And why? Because he is simply divine.

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3 Replies to “Jeremiah in Mark 1 and 2 — intertextuality and allusions as atmosphere”

  1. “There is a lot in this portion of Jeremiah we can discuss and apply to Mark’s context, but we won’t. That is for you to decide to do.”

    So, maybe a connection between Mark (a rather enigmatic verse), and Jeremiah?

    Mark 14:51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

    Jeremiah 13:10 (actually all of 13) This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own will and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.

  2. Especially in light of Jeremiah 13:1.
    13 Thus said the Lord to me, “Go and buy yourself a linen loincloth, and put it on your loins, but do not dip it in water.”

    No baptism? The author of Mark must have read Jeremiah 13, and said – “I just had an epiphany!”
    “Please pass me the new wine skins!”

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