Reading the Gospel of Mark (and its Christology) in Context

Reading the Gospel of Mark (and its Christology) in Context January 25, 2019

This is another blog post that existed as a draft for a long time. The earlier links that I placed in the draft were mostly about the Gospel of Mark, with several of them focusing on recent books about reading that text in context. The Zondervan blog had a post about one such book, and the Hendrickson blog had a post about another. I hope to get the chance to review the latter book at some point, and had already been meaning to review the former, and so decided to take the opportunity to do so now.

The book in question is Reading Mark in Context, and it is part of a series whose volumes all do something similar with the individual writings included in the New Testament that they focus on: relate them, section by section, to a particular other second temple Jewish text that either addresses the same theme or contemporary concern, interprets the same passage from the Jewish scriptures, or in another way show themselves to be connected and relevant to one another, sharing similarities as well as differences. The texts that are brought in in each of the book’s 30 chapters include various Dead Sea Scrolls, 1 Enoch, Josephus, 4 Ezra, the Mishnah, the Talmud, Psalms of Solomon, Testament of Solomon, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Philo, Tobit, Sirach, Jubilees, and Letter of Aristeas. The themes covered range across messianic ideas, interpretation and application of Torah, exorcism, purity, ethnicity, and much else. The chapters include charts that summarize key points about the relationship between the two texts, each of which is presented in turn. Each chapter concludes with recommended further reading in primary sources other than those which are the focus of the chapter, where to find editions of the text outside the New Testament that is highlighted in the chapter, as well as secondary resources written by scholars. This is obviously an important book for those studying the Gospel of Mark, the historical Jesus, and/or ancient Judaism, and the entire series is likely to prove equally valuable for those working on other texts.

The Dunelm Road blog offered posts about reading Mark in context, whether we have enough information to read Mark in context, and why we need to strive to do so nonetheless. They also presented the case for this kind of historical study of the New Testament more generally.

Larry Hurtado blogged about Mark in its Jewish context, Pete Enns offered five key points about Mark, Nijay Gupta wrote about anti-imperial polemic in Mark, and Christian Piatt wrote about Mark’s controversial message of religious and political defiance.

The spur to finish this post, in case you are wondering, was Steve Black’s post about the impression that the Gospel of Mark conveys about Jesus when it is read on its own terms. If we do that, Black argues, we would understand Jesus to be a fallible human being like ourselves who thus undergoes a baptism of repentance for the forgivemess of sins. A further corollary of this is that Jesus is not divine in Mark’s portrait. Do you agree? Read the entire post on the Broken Oracles blog and then let me know what you think. (You may also be interested in what Dale Tuggy has been writing and saying about this topic.)

Of related interest, Candida Moss explored whether the Gospels are finished works (Mark being the one that looks least like it was finished among those in the New Testament), Mike Bird offered a brief review of David Wenham’s recent book about the Gospels, and there was also interesting discussion that got this post started when I talked about Mark inventing the “Sea of Galilee” – the name, not the actual body of water.

I hope to explore more details about the view of Jesus found in Mark, and a key element of Paul’s theology, in another blog post. For today, though, hopefully the above has given you more than enough to think and talk about!


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  • Wishlisted. Thanks for calling the book to our attention!

    As to your question, no, I don’t think Jesus is presented as divine in Mark or any of the synoptics. John is a little different, although still debatable.

    • His divinity is clear in the synoptic gospels but you must understand Judaism of the day to get it. Edersheim is very helpful.

      • While I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, reading the gospels in the context of Second Temple Judaism is kind of a big deal to me and is a primary contributor to why I don’t see anything about the divinity of Jesus in the synoptics.

        • Edersheim was an expert and will show you if you want to learn. Also see Arnold Fruchtenbaum

          • Well, I also read other experts who have come to very different conclusions. I’m not sure Jewish people who convert to Christianity would be the most objective sources on whether or not the gospels present Jesus as divine. We’re talking about first century Judaism, here, and I don’t think either Edersheim nor Fruchtembaum were experts in that.

            Can you perhaps share some exegesis or argumentation from these sources that we could discuss?

          • Why would unbelievers be more objective? They have an agenda. Some points: Jesus’ claim to the authority to forgive sin was a claim to divinity as the leaders understood in Mark. His use of the Son of Man from Daniel was also a claim.

            Then there’s Matt 22:24 quoting the Psalm in which David refers to his son as Lord.

          • There are other options between “Jewish convert” and “unbeliever.”

            The authority to forgive sin was understood by the people to have been given to mankind. This is explicitly stated in Matthew’s account (Matthew 9:8) and implicitly stated by Jesus in Mark’s account when he says, “So you will know the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins.”

            The Son of Man in Daniel is not a divine figure in Daniel 7. The Ancient of Days is. The Ancient of Days bestows a kingdom on the Son of Man, who is identified in Daniel 7 as faithful Israel and later rabbinic writings postulate could be encapsulated in a single person who is likely the Messiah. In none of these writings is this figure given divinity.

            So, if this is the sort of thing those authors you mentioned are saying, I think I’ll pass. It’s just the same warmed-over evangelical arguments. If you can find something they’ve said that actually takes into account Second Temple or earlier Judaism and uses this as an interpretive lens to discern Jesus’ divine claims in the synoptics, I’d like to see them. The arguments you shared are perfectly modern Gentile arguments, and I find these very common in the Messianic Jewish movement.

          • The passage in Matt says the crowd determined that God had given a man the authority to forgive sin, but the parallel passage in Luke2:6 says “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

            The religious leadership thought only God can forgive sins. As for the figure in Daniel, you’re interpreting it from the perspective of the 21 century. But in Matt 26 the religious leaders interpret the Son of Man as divine because they use Jesus’ reference to that passage as evidence of blasphemy. If the Son of Man wasn’t divine and just an elevated human Jesus would not have been guilty of blasphemy. Had Jesus claimed to be Abraham they would have just thought him to be crazy. One of the primary principles of hermeneutics is to understand the passage from the cultural perspective in which it was written.

            Of course, after Christ many rabbis went back and reinterpreted the Son of Man as just an elevated human. They reinterpreted all of the messianic passages that rabbis before Christ had seen as messianic. They even forbid people to read Isaiah 53. What Edersheim and Fructenbaum do is sort out the earlier and later writings in the Talmud. Anyone who wants to know the truth will read opponents as well as supporters. I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand “progressive” theology, which is one reason I visit this site. To dismiss Edersheim and Fructenbaum because you don’t agree with them is sad. At least read them and then if you still disagree at least your arguments will be reasonable.

            Verses that show Jesus’ divinity in the synoptics:

            Matt 26:53. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

            Matthew 28:17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. (The Apostles considered him to be God.)

            Matthew 26:63–65 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

            Matthew 25:31–46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats….41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For iI was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

            Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

            Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

            Matthew 22:43 Jesus said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him Lord? For he says: 44‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet.”’ 45 So if David calls Him Lord, how can He be David’s son?”

          • You’re absolutely right. In Mark, the religious leaders believe only God can forgive sins and accuse Jesus of blasphemy. They do this -before- he does his miracle. The miracle demonstrates that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins – which is a pointless demonstration if the leaders assume “Son of Man” = God. They already know God can forgive sins.

            Matthew then tells us that crowd glorifies God that now a man can forgive sins.

            You seem to be adopting the belief of the religious leaders opposed to Jesus. “Only God can forgive sins.” Jesus forgave sins, ergo Jesus must be God. And if all we had were Mark’s account, that might be a viable, but debatable, understanding. But Matthew clarifies that God was glorified because He had given the authority to forgive sins to mankind – Jesus. Jesus forgives sins because he has received God’s authority.

            This is precisely the situation depicted in Daniel 7. The Ancient of Days takes his throne, destroys his enemies, then gives his kingdom to the Son of Man. The Son of Man -receives- his kingship from the Ancient of Days. He isn’t king because he -is- the Ancient of Days.

            In the Matt. 26 passage you mentioned, the High Priest does not accuse Jesus of blasphemy because Jesus said he was God, he accuses Jesus of blasphemy because Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah, God’s Son, and the Son of Man who will be seated at God’s right hand (note, this is differentiation – Jesus claims to be seated at God’s right hand) who will come with God’s presence in judgement. The blasphemy isn’t that Jesus is claiming to be God; the blasphemy is that this Jesus they hate so much will share God’s power and come in judgement, and the high priest will experience this.

            I am most definitely not interpreting Daniel from a 21st century perspective. This is early rabbinic literature that predates Jesus. In fact, interpreting the Son of Man as even a single figure was a later development, although it still predates Jesus.

            I don’t dismiss your authors because I disagree with them; I dismiss them because I don’t think they know what they’re talking about. Being a contemporary Jewish person does not make you an expert in Second Temple and pre-Second Temple Judaism. I asked you to give me examples of their arguments, and you did, and it seems like the same Christian apologist stuff you can read anywhere. I don’t have time to read two more books full of arguments I have already entertained and found unconvincing.

            The passages you listed do not establish Jesus’ divinity. They establish that Jesus is the Lord, and they establish that Jesus has received God’s authority from Himself, but they don’t establish that Jesus is God. In fact, if anything, they clearly differentiate between them.

            Take your Matt. 11:27 citation. The Father has handed over all things to the Son. The Father has all this authority, and the Father grants it to the Son. This is -exactly- the scenario in Daniel 7 with the Son of Man. The Ancient of Days is on the throne, and he hands the kingdom over to the Son of Man.

            Note, too, that Daniel -in that chapter- identifies the Son of Man as the saints of the Most High. Surely you wouldn’t consider faithful Israelites to all be God.

            What I have found is that the overwhelming majority of passages people summon to “prove” the deity of Christ either: A) apply just as well to other Spirit-filled servants of God, B) are titles that have nothing to do with being God and, in some cases, differentiate Jesus from God (e.g. Son of God), C) are illustrative of Jesus being able to do or receive things commonly associated with God, which is easily the case if God has given all authority and power to Jesus… as Daniel 7 prefigures.

          • The Matt account only says that the crowd thought that God had given man the authority to forgive sins. But the Mark account tells us what the leadership and Jesus were thinking. Jesus read their minds. He knew that they believed only God can forgive sins. The leaders understood Jesus to be saying that he forgave their sins, not that like a priest he could assure them their sins were forgiven, but the personally had forgiven their sins thus claiming that he is God. Clearly, the leaders thought Jesus was claiming to be God and Jesus intended them to think that. That seems to Marks point in reporting it. Mark thought Jesus is God.

            “the blasphemy is that this Jesus they hate so much will share God’s power and come in judgement, and the high priest will experience this.”

            The Sanhedrin would not have considered Jesus claiming to be the messiah to be blasphemy if the messiah was just another man.

            I shouldn’t have written that you were interpreting Dan 7 from a 21st century perspective. I’m sure you got that from rabbis in the Talmud. But the advantage of reading Edersheim and Fruchtenbaum is to separate writing before Jesus from those after Jesus. The rabbis after Jesus changed a lot of interpretations of texts like Dan 7.

            “passages people summon to “prove” the deity of Christ either: A) apply just as well to other Spirit-filled servants of God…”

            That would be true if you read only the rabbis who wrote after Jesus, especially those after 70 AD. That’s the point of reading Edersheim. You wouldn’t write that if you read the pre-Jesus rabbis. Edersheim is a masterpiece of apologetics, one of the greatest ever written. Unless you argue with him or Fruchtenbaum, you’re guilty of battling straw men.

          • But I told you my interpretations were coming from rabbinic literature that pre-dated Jesus. There are definitely messianic interpretations of many OT passages. In fact, there are passages that I never would have dreamed would have been thought of as messianic until I started reading the early rabbinic commentary.

            It also may be surprising that later rabbinic commentary was just as messianic if not moreso. I was translating the Ruth Rabbah not long ago, which was probably around the end of the 8th century, and one of the contributors pointed out a passage about Boaz that, he indicated, referred to David, Solomon, Israel, Hezekiah, and the Messiah (and Boaz). So, I think it’s a gross oversimplification to paint a picture of all these messianic rabbis pre-Jesus followed by a concerted effort to quash messianic interpretations after Jesus.

            I can appreciate that you’ve read these books, but I’m also asking you to appreciate that I’ve come to my conclusions after extensive interactions with primary source materials that cover wide spans of time.

            I asked you to provide me some representative arguments from your authors, and I understood you to have done so. Were your arguments from those books or not? If they were, then I don’t feel like I need to read those books. If they weren’t, could you give me a representative argument? What’s some pre-Jesus rabbinic writing they cite that proves the OT messiah is supposed to be identical with God, for example?

            You have to understand that, like you, I have read several arguments on these subjects, and if these books introduce something new to the discussion, I’m interested. But I don’t have the time or the interest to read yet another book that collates arguments like, “Here, the messiah is referred to as ‘Lord.’ Well, God is referred to as ‘Lord,’ so therefore the messiah must be God!” I’ve already been through all that.

          • I was hoping you would like to debate the best of your opponents. I was wrong.

          • I’m sorry; you have to demonstrate that these guys are the best of my opponents. I’ve asked you to do this several times. I’ve even given you an example of the kind of thing you could produce.

            Have YOU read these books?

            I’m not asking you to recreate their entire thesis, but if you could show me something that lets me know what kind of case they’re making. Maybe a quote? Maybe a pre-Jesus rabbinic writing they cite? Maybe an argument or a snippet of exegesis?

            I mean, you’re basically asking me to spend hours and hours reading books by these guys based on your recommendation for the sole purpose of coming back here and saying, “Yeah, I read them. Wasn’t convinced.” That’s not very fair. Give me a reason to interact with them.

            I mean, I could sling several books by Dunn or Sanders your way as well, but asking you to read books that I recommend doesn’t exactly move the discussion forward. Lots of people have written lots of material on all sides of this issue. What do your recommendations have to offer that changes the game, here?

          • Here’s an example:

            Thus, in its final, as in its initial,stage it was the
            establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth – brought about by the
            ‘Servant’ of the Lord, Who was to stricken humanity the God-sent
            ‘Anointed Comforter’ (Mashiach ha-Menachem): in this twofold sense of
            ‘Comforter’ of individuals (‘the friend of sinners’), and ‘Comforter’
            of Israel and of the world, reconciling the two, and bringing to both
            eternal salvation. And here the mission of Israel ended. It had passed
            through three stages. The first, or historical, was the preparation of
            the Kingdom of God; the second, or ritual, the typical presentation of
            that Kingdom; while the third, or prophetic, brought that Kingdom into
            actual contact with the kingdoms of the world. Accordingly, it is
            during the latter that the designation ‘Son of David’ (typical Israel)
            enlarged in the visions of Daniel into that of ‘Son of Man’ (the Head
            of redeemed humanity).

            -Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

            In this passage, which is part of a larger discourse about Israel’s role in the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, Edersheim points out how the Messiah who is Jesus is typological of Israel. As the mission and identity of Israel rolls out to the nations, this gives meaning to some the titles, in Edersheim’s opinion.

            So, “Son of David” describes Jesus as representative of Israel, moving into Daniel’s “Son of Man” which designates Jesus as representative of all redeemed humanity, not solely Israel.

            Leaving aside whether or not I agree with this line of reasoning, Edersheim clearly believes the “Son of Man” of Daniel 7 is a representatively human title, not divine. At least from this section of the book. Does he expand or overturn this, somewhere?

  • I assume that progressive Christians deny the miracles. They were the chief sign that Jesus is divine. How else is someone going to prove divinity? Yeah you could claim that someone was sinless, but then you would have endless debates about what constituted sin. Donald Trump thinks he is sinless. The Talmud attacks on Jesus never deny he performed miracles; they just attribute them to Satan. Without the miracle there is little reason to believe Jesus is divine. But if you interpret Mark as a first century Jew would and not as a 21st century atheist, then you would now that a lot of what Mark wrote indicates he thought Jesus is divine. For example, Mark credits Jesus with the ability to forgive sins and all Jews understood that only Jesus could do that.

    • Actually, no. Ancient Jews believed that prophets like Elijah and Elisha, as well as more recent figures, performed miracles without being divine. The power at work in them was divine, the power of the one God. And that is how the Gospel of Matthew depicts the Jewish crowd as responding to Jesus’ miracle in relation to his pronouncement of forgiveness of sin: God had given this authority to human beings.

      • That’s true. But Jesus relied on the greater quality and quantity of his miracles for proof of his divinity. Some of his miracles no one else had done. He told people to believe because of his works. Besides, he had nothing else to offer. There is nothing else he could have done. Mainly he relied on people responding to the Holy Spirit and the law and prophets. As he said in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, if they don’t believe the law and prophets they won’t believe even if someone comes back from the dead.

        • Jesus and his followers treat the power of God at work in and through him as evidence of his superiority to others. Where do you understand them to be pointing to miracles as evidence of his divinity (unless you mean by that what the Gospels say, that he is the Son whom God has sent)?

          • In John 10:38 and 14:11 Jesus says to believe him because of his works and he claimed to be divine. His title, Son of Man, comes from Daniel and the Sanhedrin understand that to be referring to his divinity at his trial. That’s why they accused him of blasphemy. He also claimed to forgive sins, which the Jews understood only God can do. And he pointed out the Psalm in which David calls the Messiah his Lord as evidence for his divinity. Also, the writers repeatedly refer to his fulfilling prophecy. So the miracles and the fulfillment of prophecies were intended to give credibility to his claim of divinity.

          • You are once again reading things into these texts that they do not say, and ignoring what they do explicitly say. When Rabbi Akiba purportedly interpreted the plural thrones in Daniel’s vision as “one for God and one for David,” was he viewing the davidic anointed one as divine? And when he was accused of “profaning the shekinah” by saying this, doew that confirm it, or is it more likely that Akiba’s contemporaries objected not to the idea that the messiah could occupy an exalted status, but Akiba’s view that Bar Kochba was the messiah?

            The Gospel of Matthew is very explicit about what the crowd understood Jesus to be claiming when he said that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins: “God had given this authority to human beings.”

            David calling the messiah “lord” acknowledges that he is greater, to be sure, but there is nothing that explicitly entails a claim to divinity.

            If you read the texts that Matthew’s infancy story says are fuflilled, such as Hosea 11:1-2, you will see that these were not predictions about the messiah in their original context. Matthew understands fulfillment to involve typology, not prediction.

          • I think you’re reading in things that aren’t there and ignoring the obvious. At his trial in Mark 14: Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

            62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

            63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

            So regardless of what Rabbi Akiba wrote, the Sanhedrin considered Jesus’ appropriation of the Daniel passage to be blasphemy in that he made himself equal to God.

            No, Jews never thought that God had or would give humans the authority to forgive sins. And I see nothing in Matthew that would suggest such. He did tell people to forgive others who had sinned against them, but that has nothing to do with the sins against God which have eternal consequences.

            As for fulfillment of prophecies, the original OT passages may not seem as prophecies to us, but the rabbis had already collected many verses that they viewed as prophecies about the Messiah before Jesus was born. Christians didn’t invent them. Jesus fulfilled them. Sound hermeneutics requires that you interpret the Bible in the context of the culture that existed when the literature was written.

          • In the Gospel of John, the accusation that Jesus is making himself equal to God is even more to the fore. The focus is on “making himself” – that a figure whom they regard as a deceiver is claiming an exalted status. They do not think it would be inappropriate for God to exalt the true anointed one to such a status, at God’s right hand, second only to God himself in authority.

            Matthew 9:8 is the verse that I wrongly assumed you would already be familiar with or could find for yourself.

            You want to appeal in a vague way to what rabbis did when you think it will help you, and to exclude rabbinic discussions when they undermine your case. You’re obviously free to do so, but hopefully you can understand why that will make your claims seem unpersuasive.

            Do you really want to claim that Hosea 11 is a prediction about Jesus?!

          • While the crowd might have thought that, there is no reason to think Jesus intended to give that impression or that the rabbis understood it like the crowds. The rabbis have many views. The great thing about Edersheim is he separates the older prechristian from the later anti-Christian writers to get at Jewish views in Jesus’ day. What does my view on Hoseiah matter? I only care about what rabbis on Jesus’ day considered prophesies. No I don’t agree that rabbis would have put a human at God’s right hand.

          • The passage in Matt says the crowd determined that God had given a man the authority to forgive sin, but the parallel passage in Luke2:6 says “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

          • Obviously anyone remotely familiar with the New Testament is aware of Mark’s version, followed by Luke more closely than by Matthew in the details that you mention. The question is why you draw the conclusion that Matthew misunderstood the significance of what had transpired. Even in Mark and Luke, it is clear that Jesus had told the man that God forgave him, and did not claim to be God forgiving him by saying “I forgive you for sinning against me.” Everyone was aware that one possible answer to the crowd’s question was “priests,” who could assure someone that God forgave them if they offered the required sacrifice. The issue here is that Jesus is claiming to have an independent authority, and whether Jesus had been given that authority. That is what Matthew highlights.

            Again, we see the same thing in John, where Jesus emphasizes that he does nothing of his own accord but only what he sees his Father doing, just as he speaks what the Father has told him. It is a matter of agency consistently throughout the Gospels.

          • Matt didn’t misunderstood the situation. He is reporting what the crowd said, not what the religious leaders said. He is talking about a different group of people. Mark tells us what the leadership and Jesus were thinking. Jesus read their minds. He knew that they believed only God can forgive sins. The leaders understood Jesus to be saying that he forgave their sins, not that like a priest he could assure them their sins were forgiven, but the personally had forgiven their sins thus claiming that he is God. Clearly, the leaders thought Jesus was claiming to be God and Jesus intended them to think that. That seems to Marks point in reporting it. Mark thought Jesus is God.

            Whether or not the Jewish leaders thought of those sayings as expressing agency or not depends on which rabbis you read. According to Edersheim the pre-70 AD rabbis would not have seen them as agency but as blasphemy. The post-70 AD rabbis worked very hard at changing the interpretations of scripture and events. I think Edersheim shows well that the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day would never have seen the claim of God as his father as just a matter of agency. They saw it as Jesus claiming to be equal with God. As happened at Jesus’ trial in Matt 26, the Sanhedrin would never have called Jesus appropriation of the “Son of Man” term from Dan 7 if they thought it was mere agency. For it to be blasphemy they had to understand it as claiming to be equal to God.

          • Why do you uncritically trust Edersheim in preference to current scholarship about ancient Judaism?

          • Mark

            The high priest isn’t worried about ‘messiah son of God’ since these are just royal epithets. He freaks over the ego eimi or the Danielic formula.

            Note that Jesus doesn’t use ‘I’ in the Daniel bit. In that sentence he just states that the priest will see whatever it is that Daniel saw. This is typical of Mark’s method of cultivating the uncanny and opaque and evasive.

            If the priest thinks Jesus is identifying himself with something divine, he has to think of ‘the one like a son of man’ as divine. But then, on the face of it, he’s the blasphemer, stuck with ‘two powers in heaven’, and he is rejecting Daniel’s own deflationary reading of the vision.

          • The miracle stories validate Jesus’ message, not his divinity. Read the context for your own passages. In John 10, Jesus is arguing that he is not blaspheming because he is claiming to be God’s Son. He doesn’t say he isn’t blaspheming because he really is God. He asks the crowd to believe the Father is in him and that he is in the Father and that he’s doing works that the Father is having him do. This is why a miracle can validate it. If God were not working through Jesus, he could not be healing and casting out demons.

            John 14 is an extensive passage of differentiation where Jesus actually says that he is producing no works or words on his own, but the Father is producing them through Jesus, and the miracles validate that. It’s actually the exact opposite of claiming divinity.

            If miracles validated divinity, the Moses et al would all be God.

  • John Purssey

    Whatever the symbolism of Jesus’ baptism in Mark, ISTM that the purpose of the narrative is to declare that Jesus is God’s (beloved) Son with whom He is well pleased. (There is also a sub-narrative with JtB , representing Jewish faith, being arrested and superceded by the Way of Jesus. Jesus is recognised as Son of God in other stories by demons and at the crucifixion by the Centurion.

    However, the disciples (who ISTM symbolise the intended audience of the Gospel and by extension us) have a great difficulty understanding who Jesus is and the story of the man who required two healings to be able to see clearly symbolises the common story of Christians for whom it is hard for God through Jesus to open their eyes.

  • Brien
    • These memes are silly. The discussion here is about history. No one here is likely to suggest that God exists or a superhero exists because a text says so. The question is what kind of texts we are dealing with, and what we know about them. The mere fact that you can mention a compilation of ancient letters and biographies in close proximity to a comic book does not demonstrate that one is like the other, much less that they are so similar that the comparison is meaningful. When historians study the Gospels, the letters of Paul, and other ancient Jewish and Christian literature, they are asking precisely what can be confirmed using historical tools, methods, and evidence, and which things are most likely false.

      • Brien

        Your texts – are proof of your texts – Only!!
        Your ‘holy’ books – as with all ‘holy’ books are proof of books – Only!!!

        Your gospels are hearsay! Gossip!!

        They prove the gospels exist – BUT not any gods [try some common sense – instead of twisting facts to suit your beleifs]
        You have no verifiable evidence of any god’s existence -= Just ‘faith’….

        [of course the memes are silly – we are still waiting for your proof – so we mock religion’s stupidity…]

        • Are you mistaking me for someone else with different views? Here I am interested in talking about history, and any views – religious or atheist – that are at odds with the historical evidence will be subject to criticism.

          • Brien

            Fine – then we are clear that all that is written on any jesus is hearsay and mythologised, and that there never has been any evidence to prove the existence of any gods – so debates on any jesus are simply rhetoric and philosophy….

          • You don’t seem entirely clear, which is not surprising given that you denigrate philosophy and rhetoric – thinking logically and communicating clearly and effectively. That the accounts we have about Jesus overlay mythology on the historical figure, and that investigating an ancient person does not and cannot demonstrate whether there are gods, is simply mainstream historical study. What makes you think these points are interesting?

          • Brien

            Denigrate ‘philosophy’??? How does one ‘denigrate’ a thinking process…?

            I do not find these points at all interesting – there is no relationship of philosophy with the facts, the fact that a god does not exist – at all! (this is the purpose of philosophy – to debate the thoughts and beliefs of men … not facts…!)

            [btw – how does one get to ”You don’t seem entirely clear” from ”which is not surprising given that you denigrate philosophy”….??? Is that the sort of causation you learn from philosophy…?

          • Brien

            Youy didn’t bring anything that resembled any evidence to prove the existence of any gods…

            …..I am not debating anything – that would be philosophy and rhetoric!!!



            Simple – so no gods here…!
            (just rhetoric!)

          • The virginal conception of Jesus has no basis in history, obviously. When someone circulates long-debunked misinformation in support of what otherwise would be a valid point, it only does harm and never benefits their case. What would it take to get you to fact-check the second meme?


        • Mark

          Texts are proofs that something caused them to be written, which must then be investigated. The account to accept is the one that gives the best explanation of the appearance of the text and its content.

          • Brien

            Wow – that is embarassingly dumdum….
            Of course – people wrote them down when they finally invented ‘writing’ –
            we learn all that in high school (at least in good schools – not Bable Belt schools)


            So – no gods here….

          • The only thing that makes a stance look more ridiculous and appalling than a troll does, is a troll who doesn’t even realize they are talking to people who do not hold the views the troll disagrees with.

          • Brien

            You all are talking as tho this jesus existed – debateable – and that a god has given some sort of authority…
            Do not even mention gods unless you have – First – proven that god exists….

            [and you use the word ‘troll’ as tho it were some sort of insult to be avoided:
            exactly as the religions have been doing!!

            For millennia….

            and we have been forced to listen to and see the crap from religions everywhere!
            [we hear the same crap over and over – the same unproven rubbish –
            for 2000+ years (usually at the point of a sword, or on the fire)]

            constant repetition of the same old lies!!!

            – in our courts
            – and in government meetings
            – and in our public schools
            and you try this hypocrisy – just pure arrogance!!!

            We will soon start arresting parents for child abuse when they tell these lies to children!!!
            {we already are imprisoning the religious parents for refusing medical help to children based on idiotic religious beliefs…}]

          • No one here is talking about gods, and so this comment seems to confirm that you are a troll. If you think that is an apt characterization and don’t bristle at it, I appreciate your honesty.

            I hope that one day you will choose to inform yourself about history from historians and scholars rather than laughable internet memes.

          • Brien

            You can quit trying to defend your historians and philosophers as they are irrelevant to the article about gods –
            the article is about gods and there is no evidence to prove a god!

            …and a frail attempt to insult by using the word ‘troll’??? Why??

          • Brien

            OK – so the bottom line is that there are no gods and you boys just want to philosophise on the silliness of beliefs – fine – go for it….
            ….just don’t be refering to these gods as tho they actaully exist….

          • Mark

            I’m not a believer any more than you are. But I would very much like to know what the Mark gospel was saying, and what its context was, and how such views came to be.

          • Brien

            Totally irrelevant!!
            Their discussions are of no import!
            I don’t read Superman comics anymore either….