Jesus and God in the Gospel of Mark: unity and distinction
Johansson, Daniel Lars Magnus
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This thesis examines the relationship between Jesus and God in the Gospel of Mark. Against the predominant view since the early 1970’s, it argues that the Markan Jesus is considerably more than a merely human Messiah; he is a divine figure. But he is not placed in a general, Hellenistic category of superhuman or divine beings, nor ascribed only a general transcendent status. Instead, Mark links Jesus directly and closely to YHWH, the one God of Israel. In contrast to many earlier studies of the christology of Mark, which focus on christological titles, this study is primarily concerned with Mark’s narrative and the author’s portrayal of Jesus. Assuming that Mark’s audience were familiar to varying degrees with different traditions of the Hellenistic world, the text is interpreted in its wider Old Testament/Jewish, Greco- Roman, and early Christian context, all the while remaining sensitive to intra-textual links. It appears that the Markan Jesus assumes divine attributes and acts in exclusively divine roles, that he fulfils Old Testament promises about God’s own intervention and coming, and that his relationship to people is analogous to God’s relationship to Israel. It is of particular significance that Jesus in several cases takes on roles which were used to demonstrate someone’s deity or, YHWH’s sovereignty above all other gods. The result is a surprising overlap between Mark’s portrait of Jesus and the presentation of Israel’s God in the biblical and early Jewish traditions and, in some cases, the divine beings of the Greco-Roman world. While early Jewish literature occasionally can ascribe divine roles to a few exalted figures, the Markan description of Jesus is unique in two respects: the majority of the divine prerogatives ascribed to Jesus are without parallel in any of the aforementioned texts, and the number of these is unrivalled. Such a portrait of Jesus may call into question both the true humanity of Jesus (Jesus is not fully human) and the monotheistic faith of Israel (Jesus is a second divine being alongside God), but it is clear that Mark maintains both. The christology of Mark represents a paradox in which Jesus is fully human and, at the same time, in a mysterious way placed on the divine side of the God-creation divide.