By Virtue Of The Absurd

So, in recent posts I’ve been talking a bit about the turning points of Mark and John as the events causing Jesus’s arrest: the temple tantrum in Mark and the raising of Lazarus in John.  We looked at the absurdity of the temple tantrum story.  Also, we began to think about the absurdity of the Lazarus story, which is the centerpiece of Jesus’s display of power in John although no previous writer had heard of the story!

Why are these absurd stories the turning points of the two gospels?  In order to think of this let’s turn to Kierkegaard’s analysis of Abraham and Isaac.  Kierkegaard pointed out that Abraham embraced the absurd by suspending his ethical obligation to his son in his willingness to kill Isaac.  Abraham embraces the absurd  because his act is unintelligible, and even contradicts what God has told him to expect as the father of a great nation: he acted “by virtue of the absurd.”

We saw that the gospels were written on a literal level, and a figurative one.  The absurdity of the temple tantrum pericope in Mark nudges us to the apologetic figurative meaning of God using the Romans as an agent to pass judgment on the Jews and destroy the corrupt temple.  This is similar to the earlier apologetic by the Old Testament of God using the Babylonians to pass judgment on the Jews and destroy the temple. Similarly, the absurdity of Jesus in the Gospel of John waiting to let Lazarus suffer and die before healing him because the healing is a greater sign of Jesus’s power that way (indeed Jesus’s greatest sign that is a catalyst for people’s belief) clearly points to the suffering and death of those who followed Jesus that would thereby testify to Jesus’s greatness: the martyrs.  One of the great arguments for the reality of the faith is that the followers were willing to suffer and die for what they believed.  However, if we question beyond this we have to ask if the Gospel of John has anything further to teach us about the honesty of the martyrs? To explore this, see my essay on the Gospel of John here: