Conclusion of my Scripture Studies Web Project: “TRANSITIONS PART 2, Goicoechea on Mark (Post 3/3)”

Well, I’ve finally come to the conclusion of my Scripture Studies Web Project! So let’s think one last time with Goicoechea, here on the Passion and Resurrection in Mark.



TRANSITIONS PART 2, Goicoechea on Mark (Post 1/3)

TRANSITIONS PART 2, Goicoechea on Mark (Post 2/3)

My thesis is that the 2 key items for Mark are going to be the crucifixion/resurrection, and the apocalypse. Mark inherited 2 key problems. One is that the disciples attacked the arresting party. It’s unlikely this was made up because Mark probably wouldn’t invent the disciples being violent. This is a problem because if the disciples attacked, it wasn’t on anyone’s radar that Jesus was supposed to die and get resurrected. The second issue is the well known point since Paul that Jesus was, 40 years later, a failed apocalyptic prophet, and so if he was wrong about such a central issue why take any of his theology seriously? In order to see how Mark resolves these issues, we need to understand the use of satire in the New Testament. I did 2 previous posts on Jesus and Satire here:

Jesus and Satire: A New Darth Harley Video!

Jesus and Satire (2/2)

So, Mark is going to have Jesus predict his death and resurrection 4 times, though no one will understand, as though its impossible to understand “I’ll be dead, then I won’t.” This absurdity culminates with Jesus in Gethsemane begging to be released from the contract, and so basically saying he can’t suffer for a few hours as any soldier might under interrogation to then be gloriously resurrected and placed at the right hand of God. Mark saturates his gospel with such satire, such as exaggerating the ridiculous illegality of the trial on multiple points to un-cover the hidden depravity of the world. In the end, God tells a noble lie (compare God in 1 Kings 22:21-22) to Jesus that Elijah will come rescue him (Elijah is prophesised to return and set things right at the end of days), to ease Jesus’ burden. Compare: Introducing the lie theme, Jesus ironically warns “Mark 13:5–7 by warning his disciples, Take care that no one deceives you. Many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and they will deceive many” when in fact Jesus will be deceived. In Gethsemane, Jesus says he will do God’s will regardless, but obviously prefers not to die. Jesus was wrong about the apocalypse, so Elijah doesn’t come, and so he screams out to God for mocking him with the lie (as the world mocked him) and abandoning him, but still proclaims underneath all that he trusts God. This proclamation is what converts the centurion at the cross.

So, if I truly love myself and love my neighbor even to the point that I will sacrifice myself for him or her then that is true love.  Goicoechea says

  • Many rich people were donating much money to the treasury but a poor widow came and gave two small coins the equivalent of a penny and Jesus said to his disciples In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on. Jesus admires this widow’s loving and caring heart but this is not really a lesson about giving beyond our reasonable means… But there is something more going on here for in the paragraph immediately preceding this one at Mark 12:38–40 Jesus condemns the Scribes for their self-centeredness and lack of altruism and he says that they “devour the property of widows.” So Jesus who in this part proclaims himself to be not only the Son of David but the Lord of David is revealing more and more of the Messianic Secret that the Son of God comes to die for all of us sinners and rise from the dead that we might also. This poor widow is like Jesus in that she is giving her all. (286)

So his eschatological discourse is about the fall of the temple and about the end of the world. Jesus tells his disciples that like him they will suffer much for the sake of the kingdom of love which they must preach and at Mark 13:9–10 we read: Be on your guard: you will be handed over to sanhedrins; you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as evidence to them, since the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations…Paul thought that the end of the world or the Parousia or the fullness of time would come in his own day, but Mark already sees that that is not the case and he is writing about taking the good news to all nations which of course, will take a long time…This apocalyptic chapter is meant to comfort people in times of distress for Jesus and the early Christians will be persecuted. This apocalyptic speech of Jesus as Dennis Sweetland writes in his book on Mark, From Death to Life on page 161, is divided into three parts: comments on past and present history (13:5b–23), the parousia (13:24–27), and the nearness of the parousia (13:28–37) Still in the first part after Jesus says that “the gospel must must first be proclaimed to all nations” he adds in Mark 13:11, And when you are taken to be handed over, do not worry beforehand about what to say; no, say whatever is given to you when the times comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; it is the Holy Spirit. So Jesus is telling his disciples that in the future the Holy Spirit will be there to guide them and to speak God’s word through them. But, herein comes the satire: Toward the end of the Apocalyptic Discourse at Mark 13:30–31 Jesus says, In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  Well, by the time of Mark this generation had passed away (there weren’t many people back then living to 70, as the average life expectancy at that time was 30 years).  Ironically, Mark has Jesus add “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Down through the ages Christian theologians have often stressed either an atonement justice theology or an incarnation love theology.  In Mark, Jesus preached childlike love of the daddy rather than the justice father.  The Messianic Secret is at the center of Jesus’ teaching and it has to do with the unconditional love of Jesus who will suffer and die especially for those who do not understand him.  This is because the death must be a reality (not just a prediction) for the dystopian world to actually be implicated in it.  And Jesus always does just that for even when Judas betrays him Jesus does predict it and he explains Judas’ betrayal as taking place to fulfill the scriptures thus forgiving him.  Sin is forgiven in Moral Influence Theology, as opposed to a God who can’t forgive with Penal Substitution theology, which is completely unbiblical because if there if one thing the God of the Old Testament can and does do is forgive. As a man on the cross Jesus will say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and yet with his unconditional love he will bring the centurion to say “In truth this man was the Son of God.”  Jesus suffers to teach us to imitate him. Goicoechea says

  • With his divine knowledge Jesus all along has been telling his disciples that he will die and then rise from the dead. Now he is in the agony of the Garden starting to focus on what he will go through out of love for sinners and he sees the scourging at the pillar and the crowning with thorns and the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion and he feels terror and anguish and this already is a great suffering. He will unconditionally do the will of his Father and in his childlike obedience he will suffer unto death out of love… Back in 10:41–45 Jesus told the disciples that among the gentiles those they call rulers lord it over the people but he tells his followers that if anyone wants to be the first among them that person must be a slave to all as Jesus is. In the Christian prayer life “The Stations of the Cross” have become a great devotion for most of all we might think of imitating Jesus by willingly carrying our own cross of trials… Mark’s gospel sees Jesus primarily as out of agape suffering and dying for us and that we his disciples will do this also. (300)

Christ as teacher/rabbi suffers to teach us to suffer for others. The Christ is now being revealed for here we see what the Messianic Secret was leading up to, namely Jesus’ suffering. If he were to come down from the cross maybe they would believe. But they would not believe in the agape of Jesus that suffers even unto death that many might really come to believe in him.  And, even though Jesus had foretold his resurrection four times and told them about the resurrection of the dead at 12:18 they do not know what it means.  The ladies must have heard from the disciples that Jesus gave his passion-resurrection predictions at (8:31; 9:31; 10:33)

In his book on The New Testament Norman Perrin on page 161 tells us how Mark’s gospel is concerned with the apocalyptic coming of the Parousia or end of the world: We are again dealing with special Markan material, and as we saw earlier in 16:7 … the movement to the parousia in “Galilee” and the situation of the women as representative of the situation of Mark’s readers. But look what Mark does! He negates the main apocalyptic announcement by saying: at Mark 16:8 “And the women came out and ran away from the tomb because they were frightened out of their wits; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” It is the fallibility of Jesus’ disciples in the gospel that prevents them from understanding the crucifixion/ resurrection predictions, but it is Jesus’s lack of understanding of the frailty of his female followers that is going to cause him to appear to a missing audience.

Regarding the crucifixion and the soldier, Dr. Ataie points out

  • Plutarch wrote a book of biographies called Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives at the beginning of the second century. It is considered a work of considerable importance, not only as a source of information and traditions about the individuals described, but also about the times in which they lived.   One of them, Cleomenes III, was a Spartan King and radical political reformer.  Cleomenes was stabbed in his side and his body was crucified around 220 BCE.  As he hung on the cross a snake coiled around his head and prevented the birds from mutilating him.  A group of women were watching this.  When the King of Alexandria saw this he was suddenly seized with fear.  Maybe this was a righteous man, beloved to the Gods.  So, he gave the women the rights to perform purification.  Plutarch then says the Alexandrians started to worship Cleomenes, and would come to the cross and address Cleomenes as a hero and son of the Gods   See Plutarch, “The Parallel Lives,” The Life of Cleomenes, section 39.

The sign is the sign of a righteous man.  In Mark, the sign was “When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land.”  This caused the centurion to be alert for signs of Jesus’ righteousness.  One interesting way is following the great New Testament scholar Adolph von Harnack that Jesus thought God mocked him, or as I say Jesus realized he had been lied to.  Harnack doesn’t provide a sufficient defense and so doesn’t have much agreement, but Harnack’s model fits in perfectly with my God’s noble lie model.  Ehrman outlines Harnack:

  • One of the most intriguing variations in Mark’s Gospel comes in the Passion narrative, in the final words attributed to Jesus in the Gospel.   Jesus is being crucified, and he says nothing on the cross until he cries out his final words, which Mark records in Aramaic:  “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”   Mark then translates the words into Greek:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”   Jesus then utters a loud cry and dies.  What is striking is that in one early Greek manuscript BREAK (the fifth-century codex Bezae — an erratic manuscript that nonetheless on very rare occasions preserves an original reading when all other Greek manuscripts say something else) and several Latin manuscripts, that often agree with it, Jesus’ cry is translated into Greek as:  “My God, my God, why have you mocked me?”  Whoa. Mocked me?  Could this be what Mark’s Gospel actually said?  One great scholar, Adolph von Harnack (arguably the greatest scholar of Christian antiquity of the 20th century), argued that this alternative reading was in fact original, that scribes changed it from “mocked me” to “forsaken me” because they did not approve of the theology involved with the idea of God mocking his son.  Moreover, since this “cry of dereliction” (as it is called) is a quotation of Scripture (Psalm 22:1), and the Hebrew of Ps. 22:1 (as well as the Greek) is clearly “forsaken” instead of “mocked,” then it is likely that scribes would have changed the original “mocked” in order to improve its theology and into line with how the verse is found in the Old Testament itself (and into line with how Matthew records the cry).  In addition, as Harnack pointed out, the word “mocked” fits the literary context of Mark very well.  In this scene, in Mark’s Gospel, everyone mocks Jesus:  the people passing by his crucifixion, the Jewish leaders, and even both criminals being crucified with him (15:29-32).   Now even God himself mocks him.  This was a very powerful argument by an unusually insightful and powerfully intelligent scholar.

Jesus thought God forsook Jesus in leaving him to die, and mocked him by lying to him.  Jesus needed to suffer and die to reveal the dystopia-ness of the world to inspire repentance, but had to die so he could be resurrected as “Christ in You” to booster people in their individual struggles with Satan. We can then connect this to “forsaken” and see why the centurion at the cross converted:

It’s close to Luke:

  • On the cross, Jesus stands in for us all. At some level, most of us have been taught this.  For instance, you may have been taught that when Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it is because He has been quite literally abandoned by God, because Jesus has taken on the sin of all humanity, and scripture assures us “God cannot look upon sin.”  What a monstrous thing to say about God. If that were true, God could never have reached out to us in the first place. If that were true, God couldn’t reach out to us NOW. Look at the problems the world has today: so many of them are human-made! God couldn’t look on us at all!  This is a position that’s been promulgated for centuries, but there’s no real scriptural basis for it…Jesus’ cry of despair is real. But it is also a profound cry of faith in God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the first line of Psalm 22. Jesus lived in an oral culture, and the Jews observing His death would know their psalms not by numbers, as you and I do, but by first lines, the same way scholars know the poems of Shakespeare or Donne or Emily Dickinson not by their numbers but by their first lines. But in those days, everyone would have know it, and they would have known immediately what psalm Jesus was referring to it, and they would have it memorized, and so immediately they would not only hear the words, but in their minds they’d run through the whole psalm. They’d note that the psalmist had said, “all who see me mock me; they make mouths at me and shake their heads and say, ‘commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver you!’” and then they’d note that Jesus is surrounded by mockers saying, “He saved others; now let Him save Himself, if He is the messiah, the King of Israel!” They’d remember that the psalmist says, “My enemies divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots,” and notice that the guards are gambling for Jesus’ cloak.  But they’d remember as well that the psalm doesn’t end on these dreadful, fearsome events, but that the psalmist refuses to give up on God. “God does not abhor the affliction of the afflicted,” he asserts. “God did not hide God’s face from me; He heard when I cried to Him.” And not only does God hear his cries in the midst of suffering, David asserts in the psalm; God also hears the cries of all in need. “The poor shall eat and be satisfied; all those who seek Him shall praise the Lord!” The world itself will be redeemed; “all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord.” And not only that—there is a powerful implication that the dead shall be raised: “all the who sleep in the earth shall bow down; before Him shall bow all who go down to the earth; and I shall live for Him.”  The psalm to which Jesus referred would have meant this to Jesus’ listeners: I am in a time of doubt, and of suffering, and of need and desperation and death, AND I STILL TRUST GOD. (Dr. Warner Bailey)

We have the absurdity of Jesus repeatedly predicting his death/resurrection, and then in Gethsemane he flips and begs to not endure a few hours of pain (as any captured soldier might have to) and then be gloriously resurrected!  Why did the soldier at the cross convert in Mark?  Romans valued warrior values like loyalty and bravery.  Jesus was fiercely loyal to God and humanity to the end, even though he thought the world and God were mocking him and forsaking him.  In terms of the historical Jesus, the Gethsemane prayer seems historical.  Jesus thought he would be flogged, then saved by Elijah.  The historical Jesus thought he would dis-close the world turning against God’s beloved agapetos, and so make manifest their hidden depravity, making repentance possible.  In Gethsemane, Jesus thought God would just have him suffer for a little while and God would send Elijah to save him, as Elijah was supposed to come before the end.  God agreed as a noble lie to ease Jesus’ burden.  Jesus needed to die to fully circumcise the most hardened hearts, and to become “Christ in you.” 

Regarding lying, with God, not as an authoritarian, punitive, spare the rod spoil the child Father, but as Abba Daddy as the New Testament calls him, we see sometimes it is better for a parent to lie to children to make the world seem more magical like with Santa Clause or The Easter Bunny, or to take the sting out of life, like saying the old, sick dog went to live with a wonderful family on a farm upstate; or, that the upside down fish is sleeping. This holds for adults too, and so a husband might say “no, you don’t look fat in that dress,” and a wife might say “no, size doesn’t matter.” It works both ways, lol. Consider this argumentum ad musicum (in elementary school I used to make up fancy sounding words and phrases to seem smart):

To explore the noble lie in antiquity and Christianity, see my Justified Lie Essay, which began this web project.

Mark inherited 2 key problems.  One, Jesus was a known failed apocalyptic prophet.  The solution, show for all Jesus’s wisdom and power he is still a fallible human prophet.  Two, the disciples attacked the arresting party, which means they didn’t know Jesus was supposed to suffer and die.  Solution?  The disciples are told repeatedly but satirically don’t understand.

THANKS FOR READING! Click on the “END OF PROJECT” image below to go to the Scripture Studies index. That’s my project. I hope some of it was helpful on your path! A professor told me once that if you don’t change your mind over the course of a project you’re not doing it right, so this project is not systematic theology. In Heidegger’s words, “not works, but ways.”