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.