Jesus as God in the Gospel of Mark?

Jesus as God in the Gospel of Mark? October 15, 2013

Michael Kruger wrote a blog post about Jesus as God in the Gospel of Mark. His argument is that, in the Scriptural citations towards the beginning of the Gospel (which the author of Mark, or the Greek text he draws upon, actually rewords), texts which in Isaiah and Malachi refer to the preparation of the coming of God are applied to John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. Thus, Jesus is God.

When I was a conservative Evangelical, I confess that I too made similar arguments, and never noticed how odd they are. Mark apparently believes that Jesus was God come in the flesh, and yet he expresses this not by saying it directly and expressing explicitly what a marvelous and astonishing thing this is, but by making it implicit in a few word changes in his quotations from the Jewish Scriptures.

Which seems more likely? That for the author of the Gospel, Jesus embodied the coming of God – but was not to be identified as God? Or that the author of the Gospel actually redefined what it meant to be a monotheist, a rather major development, and then decided to make the pointers to that meaning so subtle that it is not at all obvious the text is saying that?

It has also been suggested that the “one who is to come” about whom John the Baptist spoke was indeed God, and thus early Christians tweaked the wording of some of his preferred texts, not to identify Jesus as God, but to have Jesus be the one predicted by John the Baptist, who in turn proclaimed not himself but the coming of the kingdom of God.

What do blog readers think about this? I am working on a conference paper at the moment, precisely on the subject of how echoes of monotheistic Scriptures are used in the New Testament in relation to Jesus, although focused on Philippians 2:6-11 rather than the Gospel of Mark.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Andrew Dowling

    To me, the language about the “one to come,” and reaffirmed countless times throughout Mark in language and images, refers to Jesus as the suffering Messiah . . .not God himself.

  • Eric

    Is Mark hiding Jesus’ divinity like Jesus hides his own messiahship? . . . Probably not, but it would be an interesting parallel.

  • No_one_significant

    Mark certainly has a high view of Jesus (well, not high compared to the Fourth Gospel, or even Luke & Matthew, or later Christianity), but certainly higher than what would be normal in first-century Judaism regarding a prophet. Mark clearly shows Jesus to be greater than Moses, Elijah, Elisha, David, etc. which would be saying a lot. And Mark allows a few expressions (like 5:19) to be read as if Jesus is Lord, but never in a way in which it can only be read that way. When I read Mark, I wonder if Mark as a Jewish monotheist is trying to ascribe greater greatness to Jesus, but hesitant to overstep the OT theological boundaries and then be liable for the charge of blasphemy.

  • Marcus

    The most compelling argument I have read for Mark seeing Jesus as God is the Homeric parallels noted by Edward Dixon in his article in JBL “Descending Spirit and Descending Gods: A “Greek” Interpretation of the Spirit’s “Descent as a Dove” in Mark 1:10″ – though his stance does not serve the common evangelical interpretations very well.

    • Wouldn’t that more naturally lead to one viewing Jesus as one inhabited by (a) God, rather than himself (a) God?

      • Marcus

        Interesting suggestion. Possibly paralleled (if von Wahlde is correct) by the pneumatology and christology of the second edition of John.

        It is possible too that Matthew and Luke added their birth narratives as a “correction” of Mark.

      • Andrew Dowling

        It seems from Mark and its parallel passage in the 1st century Gospel of the Hebrews (which I believe is older than Matthew and Luke) that the “descent of the Holy Spirit” into Jesus is akin to language found in Jewish Wisdom literature (also found in Greco-Roman mythology) of divine Wisdom “resting” and inhabiting a mortal soul; in this case Jesus. So as James says, it is divine Sophia indwelling uniquely into a human being .. not making them equal to God, but certainly above regular humans.

  • If I suffered from theophobia after reading the OT, I would certainly be comforted when introduced to the Gospel of Mark. Immortal spirit becomes temporal flesh and back again. I like the Professor’s monotheism paradigm.

  • James Tabor

    My student Trey Gilliam wrote his M.A. thesis arguing for a “high Christology” of Mark, compared it to Gospel of John, etc. He has now finished his Ph.D. under Hurtado. He argued for an “implicit” deification, passages like, “Who can forgive sins but God…” etc. I was influenced by his work but not convinced. Overall I still agree with Jimmy Dunn…even on the Gospel of John. Two Powers in Heaven, Logos ideas, and even incarnation do not necessarily the One God idea. Paul makes it pretty clear in 1 Cor 8 as does John in chapter 17 in the Jesus’ prayer.

  • Jesus is Muslim

    Mar 13:32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

    God is omniscient, He knows everything, and Jesus acknowledges this to the Father. The Father is the only one who knows the hour neither Jesus nor the angels know about it. If Jesus doesn’t know the hour, then he is not omniscient, and since God is omniscient, then Jesus is not God.

  • Dan McClellan

    I think one of the most intriguing discussions of Mark’s christology I’ve ever read is MIchael Peppard’s The Son of God in the Roman World:

    In a nutshell, his thesis is that Mark presents Jesus as adopted by God according to an ideology of adoption based on that promoted at the time by the Romans. He is a divine figure as a result, but he is not God. Peppard takes some time to respond to Gathercole and others in early portions of the book. I recommend it.

  • the_Siliconopolitan

    It has also been suggested that the “one who is to come” about whom John the Baptist spoke was indeed God

    Well, we don’t know what John preached in the first place. We only have Mark’s word for it, and as pointed out that has already been tweaked from its source in Deutero Isaiah.

  • James Snapp, Jr.

    Briefly, I favor the idea that by the time Peter was preaching in Rome, he had realized that Jesus the Messiah was a pre-existent being, whose incarnation was congruent to the shekinah veiled in human form. Or something like that.

    • Thank you for your comment. Might I follow up by asking what in the Gospel of Mark conveys this to you?

      • richardrichard2013

        doctor James F M, can i ask your feedback on the following

        the pharisees say to jesus,

        “why this //man// this does SPEAK he blasphemies who is ABLE to forgive SINS if not one [that is] god?”

        jesus replies, “…. why THESE things REASON you in the hearts of you?”

        so the pharisees are thinking that jesus is DOING what ONLY god is ABLE to do and NO one else can DO WHAT only god is able to DO and if one claims to do what ONLY god is able to do then that is EVIL/blasphemy.


        “…some of the scribes said to themselves this [man] BLASPHEMES!”

        jesus’ REPLY, ” …WHY think you EVIL in the hearts of you ?”

        (on other occasions he says, ” how can SATAN cast out satan,” wouldn’t this have been a PERFECT time to reply with the words, ” how can god blaspheme AGAINST god”?)

        Short Definition: evil, bad, wicked
        Definition: evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful.

        so jesus thinks that the jewish thoughts are evil (i.e, who is ABLE TO forgive sins except god?)

        the jews are THINKING that what jesus IS DOING is EVIL/ blasphemy.

        the poor crowds went away home thinking that what the pharisees assumed was EVIL was in fact an authourity given to MEN FROM god .


        Short Definition: a man, one of the human race
        Definition: a man, one of the human race.

        blasphemy : Theology . the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.

        pharisee jews were told to reject flesh gods, idols and spirit gods, all these false gods were FOREIGN gods yhwh NEVER knew.
        how are thier THOUGHTS evil when an eating , breathing , drinking human CLAIMS to do what ONLY a god can? they had the RIGHT thoughts.


        Dr Mgrath, can an argument be made that jesus WAS NOT assuming to himself “the rights /qualities of God” and that the pharisee THOUGHT was INCORRECT?

        • Reading THIS is like hearing a BRAWDO ad.

        • Can you reword your comment so that it makes sense? It doesn’t in its present form. And it is not clear why it has so many words in ALL CAPS.

    • the_Siliconopolitan

      What makes you think Peter ever preached in Rome? 1 Clement doesn’t appear to be aware of such a tradition, and it’s the best placed to know.

  • Joseph Randall

    Jesus reads people’s minds (Mark 2:8)

    Jesus forgives sins (Mark 2:10) – only God forgives sins

    Jesus calms the wind and waves (Mark 4:35-41) – only God does this see OT

    He raises the death (Mark 5:40-43)

    He creates like God with He feeds the 5,000 and 4,000 (Mark 6:30 . . .and 8:1)

    He passed by His disciples – the text uses the same language as when God passed by Moses (Mark 6:48)

    He calls Himself: “I AM” – the very name of God (Mark 6:50)

    He knows the future over and over again (Mark 8:31ff, Chap. 11, Chap. 13)

    And yes, I find the opening word about John the Baptist a powerful point showing Jesus is God. The OT quotations from Isa. and Mal. are clearly about preparing a way for Yahweh – LORD. Yes John the Baptist comes preparing a way for Jesus. Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is LORD. Jesus is God. Jesus is Jehovah. And unless you bow to Him as Thomas did in John 20:28 and call Him “My Lord and my God” you cannot be saved.

    I urge you all to believe in God the Son today!

    • This is standard unpersuasive fare, and suggests that you are more concerned with upholding your own views than with careful and accurate study of the text. How is using the Greek phrase that means “It is I” an instance of Jesus calling himself “I AM”? You should compare the Gospel of Mark’s use of the Greek phrase with those in the Gospel of John. The depiction throughout Mark is of a prophet or agent of God, one to whom God has given great authority. See for a very clear example of this the way the Gospel of Matthew depicts the crowds responding to Jesus healing the man in order to demonstrate that “the son of man has authority on Earth to forgive sins” – they praise God for giving such authority to human beings.

      Seriously, when Deutero-Isaiah talks about the future and says “I am,” do you understand that author to be claiming to be divine?