The Turning Point in Mark s Gospel: Peter s Confession, the Transfiguration or Both?

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1 Copyright by Gregg S. Morrison The Turning Point in Mark s Gospel: Peter s Confession, the Transfiguration or Both? Gregg S. Morrison The Evangelical Theological Society (Atlanta, Georgia) November 19, 2003 Webster defines turning point as a point at which a decisive change takes place; a critical point; crisis. 1 In the Gospel of Mark is there such a point, a pivot on which the entire narrative turns? And if so, what is it? Interpreters interested in the structure of Mark s Gospel have searched diligently for a coherent organizing principle from which to make sense of the narrative. Yet coming up with a conclusive outline or structure to the Gospel of Mark is difficult, if not impossible. 2 One reason may be the seemingly disjunctive manner in which Mark assembled the materials at his disposal. 3 Eusebius records that Papias claimed that Mark did not arrange the stories of Jesus in any particular order. 4 Toward the end of the 19 th century, Martin Kähler insisted that all the Gospels are passion narratives with extended introductions. 5 Accordingly, scholarly opinions regarding the structure of the Second Gospel abound. While it turning point. 1 Webster s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1994), s.v., turning point. 2 The late Robert Guelich (Mark 1:1-8:26 [WBC 34A; Dallas: Word, 1989] xxxvi) noted that [o]ne might well despair of finding any structure or outline for Mark s Gospel based on consensus. The suggestions are as diverse as the individual commentators. More recently, Joel Marcus (Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [AB 27; New York: Doubleday, 1999) 62] agrees: Of the making of many Markan outlines there is, seemingly, no end. 3 It is well known that the Gospel of Mark is anonymous. Determining the identity of the author is beyond the scope of this paper. For the various proposals, see Marcus, Mark 1-8, In this essay, I will simply refer to the author as Mark. Regarding pre-markan sources, including written and oral sources, see Marcus, Mark 1-8, Eusebius, Hist. eccl Martin Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964) 80, n. 11 (German original, 1896).

2 is possible to oversimplify matters, generally the Gospel has been outlined in one of four ways: (1) topographically, that is, along geographic movements in the Gospel, (2) thematically, such as Christology or faith, (3) rhetorically, namely, seeking some literary device by which to distinguish the material, or (4) topically, with Jesus healing and teaching ministry as the first major section and Jesus death and resurrection as the second. 6 Outlines and turning points, however, are two different things. For example, the United States military involvement in the Second World War could be traced developmentally along a temporal sequence, beginning with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and ending on V-E Day (May 8, 1945) or V-J Day (September 2, 1945). Or from a military perspective, the war could be examined in terms of major theatres of operation: for example, European, North African, and Pacific theatres, respectively. Or still, the conflict could be studied using the rubrics of ground war, air war, and sea war. Regardless of how one goes about 6 For a topographical outline, see especially Werner G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament (2d Eng. ed.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1986) 82-83; Bas M. F. van Iersel, Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary (trans. by W. H. Bisseherrux; JSNTSup 164; Sheffield; Sheffield Academic Press, 1998) ; and Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Indexes (London: Macmillan, 1963) For a structure based on Christology, see Jack Dean Kingsbury, The Christology of Mark s Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983); on the theme of faith, see Christopher D. Marshall, Faith as a Theme in Mark s Narrative (SNTSMS 64; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). From a literary standpoint, Francis J. Moloney (The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2002] 16-21) identifies four textual markers (1:1; 1:14-15; 8:31; 16:1-4) and structures the narrative plot along these lines. Ben Witherington (The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2001] 38) suggests a macro-structure of the Gospel corresponding to the questions in the narrative (1:27; 2:7, 15, 24; 4:41; 6:2; 7:5) culminating with Jesus question to the disciples in 8:27. The remainder of the narrative (8:27-16:8), for Witherington, seeks to answer those questions. Ched Myers (Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark s Story of Jesus [Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988] ) sees the three pillar stories of Jesus baptism, transfiguration, and crucifixion as anchors in Mark. For a an organizing principle that couples the topographical elements with literary devices, see Augustine Stock (The Method and Message of Mark [Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1989] 23-26), where he fashions the geographical elements into a chiastic structure, and R. T. France (The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text [Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002] 13-14), who after acknowledging the author s heading and prologue situates the gospel into three acts: (1) Galilee (1:14-8:21); (2) On the Way to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52); and (3) Jerusalem (11:1-16:8). See also, Marcus (Mark 1-8, 64). The vast majority of commentators outline the gospel along topical lines. For this treatment, see especially, Raymond. E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament [ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1997] 127); Eduard Schweizer (The Good News According to Mark [trans. by Donald H. Madvig; Richmond: John Knox, 1970] 7-10; William L. Lane (The Gospel according to Mark [NICNT 2; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974] 29-32; James R. Edwards (The Gospel according to Mark [PNTC; Grand Rapids/Leicester: Eerdmans/Apollos, 2002] 20-21; and John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington (The Gospel of Mark [SP 2; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2002]

3 trying to break the war into component parts, most historians agree that the major turning point of that war that is, the critical point that would determine the outcome of the war against Hitler s Third Reich was the Allied invasion at Normandy, which commenced on June 6, The issue at hand with regard to Mark s Gospel is, regardless of how one breaks the material into constituent parts, does the Markan narrative have a similar decisive turning point? I suggest it does. The final pericope of chapter 8 narrates the so-called confession of Peter: su. ei= o` cristo,j (8:29), followed by Jesus charge not to tell anyone about himself (8:30) and statements concerning the cost of discipleship (8:34-38). 7 The first pericope of chapter 9 narrates the transfiguration of Jesus, culminating in the Divine voice speaking from within a hovering cloud: ou-to,j evstin o` ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j( avkou,ete auvtou/ (9:7). In the transfiguration scene, there is likewise a charge by Jesus not to tell anyone about himself (9:9). Strategically located between Peter s declaration in 8:29 and the declaration of God in 9:7, there is another reference to discipleship not to its cost (as above), but to its benefits: avmh.n le,gw u`mi/n o[ti eivsi,n tinej w-de tw/n e`sthko,twn oi[tinej ouv mh. geu,swntai qana,tou e[wj a'n i;dwsin th.n basilei,an tou/ qeou/ evlhluqui/an evn duna,mei (9:1). With 9:1 serving as a hinge, the twin pericopae of Peter s confession (8:27-38) and the transfiguration of Jesus (9:2-13) serve in a Janus-like manner enabling the reader to see Mark s true intention: the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Man, and the Son of God and the significance of that reality to disciples. A critical question in this thesis is whether these two pericopae should be read together. If not, then, one is less likely to be able to provide sufficient evidence for the Janus argument. Yet I believe there is, in fact, 7 Defining the limits of these two pericopae is not an easy task. One of the issues is what to do with 9:1. As I see it (and will state below), 9:1 is a hinge passage connecting these two stories together. However, based on vocabulary and syntactical distribution, it also fits nicely with Peter s confession and the attendant discipleship material (8:26-38). So, when I refer to Peter s confession, I mean 8:26-9:1 (noting that 9:1 is a hinge passage). Similarly, when I refer to the Transfiguration, I mean 9:

4 sufficient evidence to make this assertion. I will argue based on linguistic and thematic grounds, that these two scenes are meant to be read together and that Mark has crafted this part of the story (within the larger context of the so-called blind miracles (8:22-26/10:46-52) specifically to point to other key events in the life of Jesus and the disciples, which reiterate and develop Mark s overall plot. A second important element in the argument will be to determine if (or how) this presentation of Jesus converges with the other aspects of Mark s complex and often confusing presentation of Jesus. In other words, if this Janus-like portrayal of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God is primary, then to what extent do other images and themes about Jesus (primarily Jesus self identification as o` ui`o.j tou/ avnqrw,pou 2:10, 28; 8:31; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21 [twice], 62) corroborate or detract from this presentation. 8 The assumption is: the greater the convergence, the stronger the thesis. But before embarking on those issues and concerns, let us first look at the mythological character Janus and how this image may be helpful in understanding the turning point in the Gospel. Facing Janus in the Markan Narrative 9 Janus is often known as the Roman mythological character that had two faces that is he was able to look in two directions at one time. More precisely, he was the god of door and gate at Rome and thus, like a door, faced both ways. Oxford historian Nicholas Purcell notes: More 8 Luke Timothy Johnson ( The Christology of Luke-Acts, in Who Do You Say That I Am? Essays on Christology [ed. Mark Allan Powell and David R. Bauer; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1999] 49-65, esp. 59) asks a similar question of his understanding of Luke s Christology, namely Johnson s portrayal of Jesus as Prophet. 9 The image of Janus (and more particularly facing Janus ) came to me by way of Steven J. Kraftchick in his essay entitled Facing Janus: Reviewing the Biblical Theology Movement, in Biblical Theology: Problems & Prospects (eds. Steven J. Kraftchick, Charles D. Myers, Jr., and Ben C. Ollenburger; Nashville: Abingdon, 1995) After commencing my research on this topic with the Janus motif in mind, I came across another Janus reference with respect to the Gospel of Mark. John P. Meier (A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus [3 vols.; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, ] ) sees the blind miracle of 8:22-26 as having a Janus-like quality. 4

5 generally he controlled beginnings, most notably as the eponym of the month January and was linked with the symbolism of the gate at the beginning and end of military campaigns. 10 As one might imagine given the cultural context, he was considered a god of considerable importance. 11 Applying this image to the two Markan pericopae under discussion, then, illustrates the function I suggest is present in this central section of the Gospel. The two faces Peter s confession of Jesus as o` cristo,j and the divine declaration of Jesus as o` ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j stand, as it were, back-to-back and look out over the narrative, the one backward the other forward. Peter s confession of Jesus as the anointed one looks backward to the opening line of the Prologue (1:1): VArch. tou/ euvaggeli,ou VIhsou/ Cristou/ Îui`ou/ qeou/ðå 12 This opening verse sets the agenda for the Markan narrative it shall present Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and why his life (and ultimate death) should be considered good news. Peter s unprecedented confession faces backward toward the Prologue and functions as a sort of mid-course conclusion to the narrative, reminding readers (and hearers) of what they have heard about Jesus and (like Janus) propelling them forward in the narrative. The declaration by God on the mountain of transfiguration faces forward and serves to introduce or foreshadow the end-course conclusion, that is, the centurion s climatic utterance from the shadow of the cross: avlhqw/j ou-toj o` a;nqrwpoj ui`o.j qeou/ h=n. 13 More needs to be said about these functions and, indeed, more will be Nicholas Purcell, The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3 rd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) Ibid. 12 The previous edition of Nestle-Aland (26 th ed.) chose to exclude ui,ou/ qeou/ based on MSS א * Q and 28. While the textual evidence for inclusion of the genitive description is strong א) 1 B D L W 2427), there exists the possibility of a scribal expansion of the title of Jesus. The editors of the 27 th ed. have chosen to include it in brackets. See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2 nd ed.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994) An argument could be made that there is really a double Janus effect in this passage: Peter s confession of Jesus as the Christ not only looks backward to 1:1, but forward to 14:61-62 where the high priest 5

6 said. However, first we must address the question of whether these two pericopae really are twins. Reading Peter s Confession and the Transfiguration Together I am using the Janus image heuristically, that is as a device to stimulate interest and as a means of furthering investigation into Mark s purpose in writing. If this device is to be successful, there must be some thoughtful connection between the two stories by Mark. In this section, I propose that there are strong links between the two scenes first in the use of similar vocabulary and syntactical constructions, and second in thematic parallels. Appendix A provides a chart highlighting the shared vocabulary and/or syntactical constructions. 14 One immediately recognizes the abundance of shared or similar vocabulary. Ignoring for the moment the shared proper names ( vihsou/j( vhli,aj( and Pe,troj), there are at least eleven words or phrases that appear in both stories (as summarized below): asks Jesus if he is the Christ, the son of the blessed one (su. ei= o` cristo.j o` ui`o.j tou/ euvloghtou/è), to which Jesus responds in the affirmative (evgw, eivmi). Likewise, the divine voice in 9:7 echoes the narrator in 1:1 (VArch. tou/ euvaggeli,ou VIhsou/ Cristou/ Îui`ou/ qeou/ð) and the voice from heaven in 1:11 (su. ei= o` ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j), while foreshadowing the centurion s statement in 15:39 (avlhqw/j ou-toj o` a;nqrwpoj ui`o.j qeou/ h=n). 14 I have not highlighted recurring Markan features, such as parataxis, the frequent verbs such as le,gw (except its syntactical use), or the use of the historical present. For discussion on these topics, see Robert M. Fowler, Let the Reader Understand: Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) and David Rhoads, Joanna Dewey, and Donald Michie, Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel (2 nd ed.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999)

7 Word or Phrase Confession 8:27-9:1 Transfiguration 9:2-13 evphrwta,w vv. 27, 29 v. 11 ei=nai vv. 27, 29 v. 5 avpokriqei.j v. 29 v. 5 auvtoi/j i[na mhdevni. v. 30 v. 9 o. ui`o.j tou/ avnqrw,pou vv. 31, 38 v. 9 polla. paqei/n v. 31 v. 12 avnasth/nai v. 31 v. 10 to.n lo,gon v. 32 v. 10 qe,lw vv. 34, 35 v. 13 e;rcomai v. 38; 9:1 vv. 11, 12, 13 le,gw u`mi/n 9:1 v. 13 One might argue that the vocabulary choices of an author alone do not provide sufficient evidence for maintaining an intentional linkage. I agree. However, there are a number of syntactical similarities to note: (1) once in each pericope evphrw,taw and some form of the verb le,gw is used (8:27; 9:11); (2) a personal pronoun is used in conjunction with the infinitive ei=nai in each pericope (8:27; 9:5); 15 (3) the pleonastic participle avpokriqei.j is used in conjunction with the le,gw (historical present) in 8:29 and 9:5; (4) the command to secrecy in each of the two pericopae (8:30; 9:9) have similar constructions (auvtoi/j i[na mhdeni.) though different main verbs (evpitima,w in 8:30; diaste,llomai in 9:9); and (5) the emphatic le,gw u`mi/n occurs in 9:1, 13 the first instance being joined with the veritable avmh.n (one of its fourteen uses in the Gospel). 15 In the first instance (8:27), syntax is confusing. The interrogative pronoun ti,na in the accusative is used in conjunction with the personal pronoun me. also in the accusative. In such an instance, the interrogatory pronoun serves as the predicate term, since lexically it fills the slot of the unknown, while the personal pronoun serves as the object of the predicate. In the second situation (9:5), the grammatical construction is that of a substantival infinitive. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 195, n. 71;

8 These similarities are striking, but every author tends to rely on an established set of vocabulary not to mention employing a comfortable writing style. What is more impressive in terms of connection between these two pericopae are the thematic links. First of all, in each of the two scenes, Peter is a main character (8:29, 32; 9:2, 5-6). On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples who do men say that I am? They respond (ei=pan) by saying some believe him to be John the Baptist, while others hold him to be Elijah or one of the prophets. But pointedly (the syntax here is reminiscent of 4:12 in the so-called parable theory ) Jesus asks them this question: u`mei/j de. ti,na me le,gete ei=nai. Peter responds with declaration su. ei= o` cristo,j. While Jesus does not expressly acquiesce or deny this recognition, he does command (evpeti,mhsen) the disciples not to tell anyone this and then goes on to predict his eventual suffering and death (8:31). 16 After this prediction, Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes (evpitima/n) him for such talk. Jesus turns to the disciples and harshly rebukes (evpeti,mhsen) Peter, calling him Satan (8:32-33). Peter, while the focal point of Jesus words, is not the only one who is supposed to understand the message the disciples also are meant to grasp this rebuke. In the next scene, Jesus takes (paralamba,nei) Peter to a high mountain, along with fellow-disciples James and John (9:2). Here Jesus is transformed before their eyes and appears with Moses and Elijah. In the Markan narrative, the first voice after this surprising sight is Peter s (9:5). Not knowing what to say (the narrator relates 9:6), he asks Jesus for permission to set up three shelters or booths one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah for he has decided that it is good for them to be there! Peter clearly has not fully comprehended what is going and responds in fear (e;kfoboi ga.r evge,nonto). As soon as Peter says this, a cloud envelops them after which 16 The word used here for command is evpitama,w, which could mean command, order, rebuke, or scold (see BDAG, s. v.). While I have interpreted it here as command, the stronger scold or rebuke could be in view especially in light of 8: If the latter is in view, then Jesus may in fact be denying (albeit implicitly) Peter s confession. 8

9 they hear the Divine voice summoning them to listen to Jesus. Peter is clearly a major character in both these stories. Second, as alluded to above, Peter was not the only disciple present in each of the two scenes other disciples were present also. We have already seen the disciples when Jesus looks at them to rebuke Peter and the presence of James and John accompanying Peter on the mountain of transfiguration. At the beginning of the first scene, these other disciples were with Jesus on the way (evn th/ o`dw/) to Caesarea (and eventually Jerusalem). While on the way, Jesus questions them (8:27), teaches them about himself and what he must face (8:31), and instructs them what it means to be one of his followers (8:34-38). The fact that Jesus called the crowd (to.n o;clon) along with his disciples in 8:34 strengthens this theme of disciples being present. The inside group (the Twelve; see 4:10-13) and those who perhaps desire to be on the inside (the crowd) are both present to hear the teaching of Jesus. Third, when Jesus asks the disciples who do men say that I am, they respond with John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets (8:28). While the Baptizer certainly has a role in Mark s Gospel (1:4-8; 6:14-29), it is Elijah and Moses who appear with Jesus on the mountain. 17 While Elijah and Moses presence in the transfiguration is curious indeed, my purpose in alerting readers to this at this point is to highlight their presence in both pericopae. To reiterate, the main players in both stories are similar: Jesus, Peter, other disciples, Elijah, and Moses. The concentration of these main characters does not happen any other place in the narrative. 17 Interpreters have been puzzled by the fact that Elijah precedes Moses in the Markan account (reversed in Matthew and Luke). One would expect the greater figure to be named first. However, as John Paul Heil ( A Note on Elijah with Moses in Mark 9, 4, Bib 80 [1995] 115) has observed, in Mark s Gospel the party mentioned second and introduced by the preposition su.n is the more notable figure. 9

10 Fourth, each story includes a secrecy motif (8:30; 9:9). The first command to silence occurs immediately following Peter s confession of Jesus as the Christ: kai. evpeti,mhsen auvtoi/j i[na mhdeni. le,gwsin peri. auvtou/. While the theme of secrecy has been prominent throughout the narrative thus far (1:25, 34, 44; 3:11-12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26), this is the only place in the Gospel where a specifically messianic secret is mentioned. 18 In 9:9 a similar command (kai. katabaino,ntwn auvtw/n evk tou/ o;rouj diestei,lato auvtoi/j i[na mhdeni. a] ei=don dihgh,swntai) is given to Peter, James, and John as they are descending from the mountain after having heard a voice from heaven declare Jesus to be ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j (9:7). In both cases, the command to silence appears on the heels of a revelation about Jesus true identity (8:29; 9:7). 19 The next major theme shared by these two passages is that of Jesus instructions to disciples. After predicting his suffering and death in 8:30 to his disciples, which itself can be considered discipleship material, he calls the crowd who were with the disciples (Kai. proskalesa,menoj to.n o;clon su.n toi/j maqhtai/j auvtou/ ei=pen auvtoi/j) and warns them about the cost of being a disciple. A disciple, if he or she really wants to be a follower of Christ, must deny oneself (avparnhsa,sqw e`auto,n), take up one s cross (avra,tw to.n stauro,n) and follow him (8:34). Similarly, whoever desires to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his/her life for Jesus sake (and the gospel s) will save (sw,sei% it (8:35). For, according to Jesus, what is most important is a person s yuch, (8:37). Discipleship language of this nature has not been seen heretofore in the narrative, presumably because it is only here (8:31) where the Son of Man s 18 France, The Gospel of Mark, 330. On the so-called Messianic Secret, see William Wrede, The Messianic Secret (trans. J. C. G. Greig; Cambridge/London: James Clark, 1971); Christopher M. Tuckett, ed., The Messianic Secret (London/Philadelphia: SPCK/Fortress, 1983); Heikki Räisänen, The Messianic Secret in Mark (Studies of the New Testament and Its World; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1990); and W. R. Telford, The Theology of the Gospel of Mark (New Testament Theology; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) The previous commands to silence were in response to Jesus deeds or actions (i.e., healing, miracle). In 9:9, the command is in response to words from God about Jesus. 10

11 destiny has been disclosed to the disciples. In 9:1, Jesus offers additional commentary for disciples (and perhaps would-be disciples), introduced by the familiar avmh.n (see also 8:12; 9:41; 10:15, 29; 11:23; 12:43; 13:30; 14:9, 18, 25, 30). This notoriously difficult verse (see below) appears out of place, but as the grammatical analysis shows (Appendix A), there are verbal links; and I would add that this statement is meant to speak not of the cost of discipleship, but of the benefits associated with being a disciple. In a way, it functions as a bridge between the pericopae because of the content of the instruction. The benefit of being Jesus disciple means that some (tinej) will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come (evlhluqui/an). Mark, I believe, is discreetly presenting a cost/benefit paradigm of what it means to follow Jesus the Christ, Son of Man, and Son of God. Another theme that will be discussed in more detail later, is that of Jesus passion/resurrection. Mark presents the first of three passion predictions at 8:31 (the others being 9:31 and 10:33-34). In this prediction Jesus teaches four things: (1) that o` ui`o.n tou/ avnqrw,pou must (dei/) suffer many things, (2) be rejected by the Jewish authorities, (3) be killed, and (4) rise again (avnasth/nai) after three days. Passing over the cryptic Son of Man label for the moment, the notions of suffering, death, and resurrection appear again in 9:9, 10, and 12. Is this convergence of themes a coincidence? The final joint theme almost needs no introduction: revelation of Jesus true identity. Peter boldly declared Jesus as o` cristo,j (8:29). For the characters in the story, this is the first notion of Jesus as the anointed one of God. 20 Readers, however, have read the Prologue, especially the opening line (1:1) and the closing voice of God (1:11), and therefore know that 20 It is important to keep in mind that the players in the story do not have access to the Markan Prologue (1:1-13). This revelation, therefore, should be viewed from two perspectives: that of the participants in the drama and that of the readers (or hearers) of Mark s Gospel. On this see Frank J. Matera, The Prologue as the Interpretive Key to Mark s Gospel, JSNT 34 (1988) 3-20; Moloney, Mark,

12 Mark is presenting Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. In this case, this is the first time in the narrative proper that the reader is reminded of Jesus identity. 21 This declaration is precisely the point where many interpreters inject the phrase turning point. Peter s confession of Jesus as o` cristo,j has enjoyed many labels by commentators: the decisive turning point in Mark s Gospel; 22 the great transitional scene; 23 a pivotal point; 24 a major break; 25 the beginning of a new epoch for the reader. 26 James Edwards summarizes the point: 27 Mark s story of Jesus reaches a climax in chap. 8, at the center of which stands Peter s declaration of Jesus as the Messiah (8:29). Peter s declaration at Caesarea Philippi stands at roughly the midpoint of the Gospel and, like a continental divide, separates the Gospel into two major watersheds. This confession is of great importance to the plot of the narrative and to the theological purposes of its author. Yet it is not the only Christological revelation present in this central section. The twin pericope of 9:2-13 sees the ominous voice from a cloud declare: ou-to,j evstin o` ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j( avkou,ete auvtou/ (v. 7). Similar to Peter s confession, something is going on regarding this declaration. Unlike the Messianic revelation uttered by Peter, this revelation has occurred previously in the narrative. In 3:7-12, Jesus withdraws with his disciples to the seaside. A great crowd (polu. plh/qoj) from Galilee and the surrounding area follows. In summary 21 Moloney (Mark, 165) observes that there has been a glimmer of recognition by the use of Isa 35 in 7:37. While he is correct, 8:29 is nevertheless the first explicit reference in the narrative. 22 Augustine Stock, Call to Discipleship: A Literary Study of Mark s Gospel (GNS 1; Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1982) Donald H. Juel, A Master of Surprise: Mark Interpreted (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994) 73. Witherington, The Gospel of Mark, Phillip Vielhauer, Geschicte der urchristlichen Literatur. Einleitung in das Neue Testament, die Apokryphen und die Apostolischen Väter (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1975) Rudolf Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition (trans. J. Marsh; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1963) Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark,

13 fashion, the narrator indicates that Jesus healed many and whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell face-down and cried out: su. ei= o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/ (3:11). Jesus orders them not to reveal his identity (kai. polla. evpeti,ma auvtoi/j i[na mh. auvto.n fanero.n poih,swsin) (3:12). Should the disciples be expected to believe the insights of unclean spirits? Readers, on the other hand, have been privy to this insight since (again) the Prologue Jesus baptism by John (1:11). In that scene, as Jesus was coming up out of the water, the Spirit descended upon him like a dove and a voice came from heaven and said: su. ei= o` ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j( evn soi. euvdo,khsa. Several features should be noticed when comparing 1:11 and 9:7. First, the syntax of the announcement is identical: o` ui`o,j mou o` avgaphto,j. Second, the voice from heaven addresses Jesus (and only Jesus) in 1:11 you are my beloved son, in you I am well-pleased, while in 9:7, the address is toward the disciples present: This is my beloved son; (you) listen to him. Finally, and perhaps most important, this presentation of Jesus as God s Son looks forward (hence the Janus motif) to a climatic moment in the narrative the crucifixion (15:33-39). After Jesus lets out two loud cries and dies, a centurion standing near the cross remarks: avlhqw/j ou-toj o` a;nqrwpoj ui`o.j qeou/ h=n (15:39). 28 Thus, the true (but not complete) identity of Jesus is revealed in both the confession on the way to Caesarea Philippi and on the mountain of transfiguration. With 9:1 acting as an appropriate hinge passage, the thematic links between the two pericopae can be summarized as follows: Much has been made of the anarthrous designation (a;nqrwpoj ui`o.j qeou/) in 15:39. For a useful discussion of this, see Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (New York: Doubleday, 1994) 2: Donahue and Harrington (The Gospel of Mark, 273) note that 9:1 serves as a bridge from the final (eschatological) saying on discipleship in 8:38 to the story of the transfiguration in 9:2-8. By placing it just before the transfiguration Mark has given an interpretation to both the saying and the narrative. Although I prefer the term hinge, I see no major distinction between the two terms. For a discussion of hinge transitions in Mark, see Augustine Stock, Hinge Transitions in Mark s Gospel, BTB 15 (Ja 1985) Stock does not consider 9:1 a 13

14 8:27-9:1 Peter s Confession at Caesarea 9:2-13 The Mountain of Transfiguration Peter as a main character (8:29, 32) Peter as a main character (9:2, 5-6) Other disciples present (8:27, 33-34) Other disciples present (9:2) Reference of Elijah/Prophet (8:28) Presence of Elijah/Moses (9:4) Charge to secrecy (8:30) Charge to secrecy (9:9) Instruction to disciples (8:31-32; 34-38) Instruction to disciples (9:1, 11-13) Cost of discipleship (8:34-38) Benefit of discipleship (9:1) Passion/Resurrection (8:31) Passion/Resurrection (9:9, 10, 12) Revelation of Jesus Identity (Peter) (8:29) CHRIST Revelation of Jesus Identity (God) (9:7) SON OF GOD It is worth noting that Matthew and Luke retain the essential elements of these two pericopae in this order. 30 In other words, whatever redactional freedom the other evangelists felt, they did not alter the compositional sequence of these two stories. I. Howard Marshall, in commenting on the Lukan transfiguration account, notes: The story of the transfiguration is so closely coupled to the preceding scene that we are justified in seeking some intimate relationship between them in the mind of the Evangelists. 31 Mark may have spliced together these stories from other, non-related sources, but if he did the authors of the other gospel accounts were unwilling to tinker with that arrangement. Up to this point, we have neglected one important element of the two passages the presence of the phrase o` u`io.j tou/ avnqrw,pou (8:31; 9:9), another declaration of Jesus identity but throughout Mark uttered only by Jesus himself. It is in this aspect of the narrative where the lines of evidence for the Janus treatment converge. hinge passage, but rather maintains that 8:22-26 is Mark s second major hinge transition (cf., 1:14-15; 10:46-52; 15:40-41). 30 See Matthew 16:13-28/17:1-9 and Luke 9:18-27/9: This, of course, assumes Markan priority. 31 I. Howard Marshall, Commentary on Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978)

15 Converging Lines in Markan Christology To this point in the essay, little has been said about the context in which these two great declarations are made. As Moloney has observed, a key element in this central section of the narrative is the three passion predictions (8:31; 9:31; 10:32-33), which are framed by two cures of blind men (8:22-26; 10:46-52), so that the following literary structure emerges: 32 8:22-26 The cure of a blind man at Bethsaida 8:27-33 The first passion prediction and the failure of Peter 8:34-9:1 The first instruction of the disciples: The cross and the disciples The instruction of the transfiguration Lesson of the boy the disciples could not heal 9:30-34 The second passion prediction and the failure of the disciples 9:35-10:31 The second instruction of the disciples: Service and receptivity as marks of a disciple The practice of discipleship 10:32-35 The third passion prediction 10:36-40 The failure of James and John/Instruction on the cross 10:41-44 The failure of the other ten/instruction on service 10:45 Christological motivation for the above teaching 10:46-52 The cure of a blind man: Bartimaeus It is precisely this analysis, first presented by Norman Perrin, which has caused some to see Mark s first major section in the Gospel to close at 8:21 or 8:30 instead of the more widely accepted view of 8: Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, The italics are in the original; I have, however, condensed Moloney s outline slightly. 33 Norman Perrin, The Christology of Mark: A Study in Methodology, JR 51 (1971) and idem., The Interpretation of Mark (ed., W. R. Telford; IRT 7; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) For a summary of major commentators and Mark s turning point, see Appendix B. 15

16 For purposes of this essay, what is important to note is that the twin pericopae of 8:27-9:1/9:2-13 surround the first passion prediction, where Jesus instructs the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer, die, and be raised on the third day. Let us return, then, to the narrative and focus specifically on the Christological designations of o` cristo.j( o` u`io.j tou/ qeou/( and o` u`io.j tou/ avnqrw,pou and attendant issues surrounding the identity of Jesus. Both the Hebrew root jvm and the Greek cristo,j mean anointed or when applied to a person, anointed one. 34 Because of the placement of the word in the Prologue (1:1), it must hold some priority for Mark. 35 Precisely how those in the first century world (particularly the first century Jewish world) conceived of messiah or a messianic figure is a thorny issue. First century Jews most likely expected some sort of royal figure who would be appointed by God as a political and religious leader of the people (Exod 29:7, 21; 1 Sam 10:1, 6; 16:13; 1 Kgs 19:16; Ps 105:15; Isa 61:1-4). This Messiah, it is generally believed, would come from the house of David (2 Sam 7:14-16; Ps 2:7; Isa 55:3-5; Jer 23:5-6). 36 Early Christians believed that Jesus was this long awaited Messiah of God and that his life and ministry was effective for not only Jews, but Gentiles as well (cf., Rom 1:16-17; 3:27-31; Gal 3:23-29). Recent discoveries in the Judean desert (Dead Sea Scrolls) now offer additional evidence as to what those in the first century may have thought concerning a coming Messiah. The Messianic Apocalypse found in Cave 4 (4Q521) notes that [heav]ens and the earth will listen to his anointed one (wjyvml) and that he will honour the pious upon the throne of an eternal kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twis[ted] And the Lord (ynda) will perform marvelous (sic) BDB, 603; BDAG, Other instances of the term in Mark include 9:41; 12:35; 13:21-22; 14:61; 15: On the many views of Messiah in the first century, see esp. James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (The First Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992). See also Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, 166, esp. n

17 acts such as have not existed, just as he sa[id]. 37 If this interpretation of Messiah is representative of a commonly held first century viewpoint, then is it any wonder that Mark appropriates this term cristo,j in reference to Jesus, given the manner in which he narrates the life and ministry of Jesus? 38 However, a puzzling feature of the use of the term in 8:29 is Jesus response to Peter s declaration. There is no blessed are you, Simon language in Mark (Matthew alone inserts that into his narrative). The Markan Jesus does not affirm or deny Peter s use of the title. What he does do, however, is immediately instruct them not to tell anyone this. Why would Jesus command this (and why would Mark choose to include this messianic secret language here)? If Peter s confession of Jesus as the Christ carried with it the overtones mentioned above (4Q521), then Mark s placement of Jesus command to silence at this juncture might be intended to heighten a reader s awareness of who Jesus is and what his mission on earth is really about. 39 That interpretation approaches the matter from a compositional or literary level on the historical level, such a charge would hush a crowd Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Grand Rapids/Leiden: Eerdmans/Brill, 2000) For a discussion on the concept of messiah in the Judean desert scrolls in general, see John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1995). 38 On the eternal kingdom, see 1:14-15; on the setting free prisoners, see 5:1-20 (?); on the giving sight to the blind, see 8:22-26 and 10:46-52; on the straightening out the twisted, see 3:1-6; on the marvelous acts, see (among many) 5: In October 1987, Princeton Theological Seminary hosted an international symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins. The symposium focused on Jewish, Christian, and other interpretations of Messiah. On the last day of the conference, a vote was taken of those present to determine if a consensus could be reached on certain issues. One issue where there was considerable agreement was the fact that there was no single, discernable role description for Messiah into which a historical figure like Jesus could be fit. Rather, each group (of scholars) which entertained a messianic hope interpreted Messiah in light of its historical experiences and reinterpreted Scripture accordingly (emphasis supplied). The papers presented at this symposium are published in Charlesworth, The Messiah (quotation p. xv). 39 Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (WBC 34B; Dallas: Nelson, 2001) The language here is stern: Jesus evpeti,mhsen (rebuked, reproved, censured, warned) them not to tell anyone about him. See BDAG, 384, s.v., evpitima,w. 17

18 Immediately following this charge to silence, Jesus explains his forthcoming suffering, death, and resurrection by indicating that the Son of Man must undergo these things. Some have suggested that Jesus response to Peter in 8:31 is meant as a corrective measure Jesus is correcting Peter s misunderstanding of the term o` cristo,j. 41 Perhaps. But I rather think that Jesus affirms Peter s confession, but just like the blind man in the previous pericope (8:22-26) gains partial sight, so too Peter (and the disciples) possess only partial sight into Jesus true identity. The deeper reality is that Jesus will not be a political revolutionary or even an exalted religious leader, but rather he will be a messiah who suffers, is rejected by the masses, betrayed by his allies, and eventually put to death. 42 Why, then, does Jesus employ this cryptic term o` u`io.j tou/ avnqrw,pou a term that is used in all three passion predictions? 43 Son of Man could be simply a modest way for Jesus to talk about himself. One can easily substitute the first person pronoun into any sentence containing the phrase and the sentence will work grammatically and syntactically. Of course, a popular notion of the phrase is to look at Daniel 7 and interpret the phrase in an eschatological/apocalyptic sense with Jesus being the fulfillment of the eschatological son of man. Yet in Daniel 7, the eschatological figure is presented as (ultimately) victorious, not as a figure who suffers. 44 According to Moloney, Jesus used the phrase to speak of the need to experience suffering, but those who are 41 Some scholars argue that by not explicitly condemning Peter s action, Jesus accepts the confession and simply begins to explain/teach another aspect of his messiahship, namely that of suffering (see Donahue and Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, 261). Others take a more tempered view (as do I); see Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, ; France, The Gospel of Mark, Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, A detailed discussion on the Markan conception of Son of Man is beyond the scope of this essay. See Morna D. Hooker, The Son of Man in Mark: A Study of the Background of the Term Son of Man and Its Use in St. Mark s Gospel (London: SPCK, 1967); Eduard Schweizer, Mark, ; and D. R. Burkett, The Son of Man Debate: A History and Evaluation (SNTSMS 107; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). 44 France, The Gospel of Mark, 334; Donahue and Harrington, The Gospel of Mark,

19 faithful in the midst of affliction will be vindicated by God (like the original context of Daniel 7). 45 If that is true, then Jesus expression of the need for suffering is critical in terms of interpreting the twin pericopae. As France has observed, this is a powerful new theme in the Markan narrative: death as the fulfillment of God s purpose. 46 If the Gospel had stopped at 8:26, Jesus would be a great prophet, teacher, healer, but he would not have been the crucified Messiah. 47 So Jesus modifies Peter s confession in terms of Son of Man in order to describe more accurately his true identity. 48 The most difficult verse to interpret within these two pericopae is, in my judgment, 9:1. Though the above analysis suggests that it fits nicely within the Markan narrative, its meaning in the context is highly debated. Two items should be noted that bear upon the convergence of themes in Mark s Christology. First, the verse should be considered a bridge or hinge passage. By that I mean that it serves a transitioning function within the narrative. This transition I suggested above is in the arena of discipleship. Where Jesus previously spoke of the cost of discipleship (8:33-38), 9:1 speaks of the benefits of being a disciple. The benefit of being a disciple of Jesus is that at some point one will enter the kingdom of God and thus be privy to Jesus in all his glory. Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of this glory on the mountain of transfiguration. Other disciples saw such glory (paradoxically) as Jesus was crucified and later resurrected. Still others must await the Parousia in order to enjoy the fulfillment of the promise Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, France, The Gospel of Mark, Kevin W. Larsen, Do You See Anything? (Mark 8:23): Seeing and Understanding Jesus: A Literary and Theological Study of Mark 8:22-9:13 (Ph.D. diss.; The Catholic University of America, 2002) John Painter (Mark s Gospel: Worlds in Conflict [New Testament Readings; London/New York: Routledge, 1997] 130) understands corrective Christology at work in 8:29, 31, and 9:7. Peter s confession of Jesus as Messiah is corrected by Jesus; God then corrects Jesus statement by the Son of God reference. While I do not agree with the overall tenor of corrective Christology, I do see a neatly packaged modification going on here. All three suggest something about the identity of Jesus and I believe strengthens the Janus motif. 19

20 of 9:1. Interpreters throughout the ages have insisted on choosing a horizon for which this verse must be fulfilled the immediate context (transfiguration), the resurrection, or an eschatological fulfillment. Is it not possible, especially in light of the narrative strategies Mark employs to his immediate readers (and by extension beyond the immediate community) that multiple horizons are in view here? Mark wants his community to grasp the significance of Jesus true identity exalted Christ, suffering Son of Man, beloved Son of God and the benefits of following him regardless of the cost, so he whets the appetites of the community with the transfiguration narrative, which as I have argued points beyond itself to the cross. Once at the cross, the narrative does not end, but closes enigmatically with the women standing in fear because Jesus body has disappeared. The women and the Markan community hope they will soon see Jesus. The extended Markan community, that is, the second and subsequent generations of readers/hearers share in the hope of seeing Jesus also, indeed, the glory of the Christ when he comes in (eschatological) power. In this way, 9:1 is the quintessential elastic verse it stretches across horizons fulfilling precisely its intended purpose. Second, the reference to h` basilei,a tou/ qeou/ in 9:1 should not go unnoticed. The kingdom of God is mentioned fourteen times in Mark s Gospel (1:15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14-15 [twice], [three times]; 12:34; 14:25; and 15:43). The first reference to kingdom of God occurs in 1:15, where Jesus declares his message: peplh,rwtai o` kairo.j kai. h;ggiken h` basilei,a tou/ qeou/\ metanoei/te kai. pisteu,ete evn tw/ euvaggeli,w Å The insider group (i.e., disciples) are given the mystery of the kingdom in 4:11. The other references in Mark 4 are in the context of parables about the kingdom ( the kingdom is like ). Several of the references (9:47; 10:14-15, 23-25; 12:34; 15:43) refer to either entering the kingdom or to being near or far from it. The penultimate reference (14:25 I will never drink of the fruit of the vine until the 20

21 day when I drink it anew in the kingdom ) seems to be referring to his death and, more importantly, that his death is necessary for the kingdom to arrive. With those references in mind, Morna Hooker has argued persuasively that references to h` basilei,a tou/ qeou/ occur at three strategic places in the narrative the beginning (1:15), the middle (9:1), and the end (14:25). These three references to the coming kingdom of God also occur in close proximity to disclosures of Jesus being as o` u`io.j tou/ qeou/ (1:11; 9:7; 15:39). Hooker s conclusion is that the kingdom of God and Jesus identity as Son of God go together. Her insight is worth quoting directly: 49 It has often been pointed out that these three declarations of Jesus as Son of God occur at three strategic points in the narrative that is, at the very beginning (1:1), at the turning-point of the Gospel (9:7), and at the moment of Jesus death (15:39). I am intrigued to discover that the three references to the future coming of the kingdom should also occur in very similar places: as Jesus first words in the Gospel (1:15), at its turning point (9:1), and as his final words at the Last Supper (14:25). I suggest, therefore, that for the evangelist Mark there is a very close connection between the coming of the kingdom and Jesus identity as Son of God. And like the parables, these crucial references to the kingdom focus our attention on the person of Jesus, who proclaims and embodies its coming. Hooker referred to Mark s so-called turning point twice, providing two different references 9:7 and 9:1 for support. Notwithstanding, in her commentary on Mark, she states: 50 The story of Caesarea Philippi is aptly called a watershed, for it is an important pivot in Mark s narrative, belonging as closely to the preceding paragraph [8:22-26] as to the one that follows [8:31-33], and we might well have made it the climax to the last division, rather than the opening of a new one So at this half-way point in the story, we have a reiteration of the truth about Jesus identity. 49 Morna D. Hooker, Mark s Parables of the Kingdom, in The Challenge of Jesus Parables (ed. Richard N. Longenecker; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 82 (emphasis mine). 50 Idem., The Gospel According to Saint Mark (BNTC; Peabody; Hendrickson, 1991) (emphasis and parenthetical material mine). 21

22 Peter s acclamation of Jesus as Messiah is then endorsed by a scene in which the divine voice again affirms that Jesus is the beloved Son. From now on, Jesus teaching spells out both the meaning of his own role, and what it means to be his disciple. These quotations illustrate the complexities involved in arriving at the turning point in the Gospel. In these two brief quotations, the notion of turning point is used of three passages: 8:27-30 (Peter s confession); 9:1 (the kingdom of God); and 9:7 (the declaration of Jesus as Son of God). Hooker s presentation (though unintentional) has set forth and confirmed my thesis: the twin pericopae of 8:27-9:1/9:2-13 do indeed go together and, as such, affirm Mark s fundamental purpose in writing the identity of Jesus. 51 The heuristic device of Janus illustrates this point precisely. From the very outset (1:1), Mark has his eye on presenting Jesus as both Christ and Son of God. In this crucial middle section, Peter s declaration and the Divine voice face in opposite directions in the narrative, affirming and foreshadowing, this overarching Christological presentation. The Son of Man language in 8:31 introduces how this Christ/Son of God will bring good news by his suffering, death, and resurrection. The suffering and death of Jesus, however, has a teleological goal: that a person will hear this good news, wisely calculate the cost/benefit ratio, and choose to follow (avkolouqe,w) him. Conclusion The thesis of this essay is three-fold: (1) that the twin pericopae of Mark 8:27-9:1/9:2-13 are meant to be read together and that verbal, syntactic, and thematic links prove this; (2) that these two stories are, in fact, the turning point of the Gospel and function in a Janus-like manner Peter s confession facing backward and affirming Jesus as Messiah, the Divine voice s declaration facing forward toward the cross and the centurion s confession of Jesus as the Son of 51 In this respect, I do not concur with Gundry (Mark, 1) who sees Mark s Gospel as an apology for the cross or Evans (Mark 8:27-16:20, xi) who is in essential agreement with Gundry s interpretation. 22

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