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.)


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8 Replies to “Mark 1.1-11 – Jesus v. The World”

          1. I think we need a Martyn style commentary on Mark. What he did for John — with the 2-level reading — should be done for Mark.

            But it is difficult to get people to understand that you are not attacking the history of Jesus, the story of Jesus, and the such, but trying to bring out to the modern readers what the ancient audience may have heard.

          2. As far as John, the best thing I’ve read is Raymond Brown’s The Community of the Beloved Disciple. It really opened my eyes and introduced me to the world of Christian scholarship.

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