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Old 04-04-2001, 01:33 PM   #31
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Okay, then. I'll certainly try to get hold of the book, so thanks for telling me about it.

Just another question for you, while we're at it: Why was it important for Mark to show how powerful Jesus was?
 
Old 04-04-2001, 03:36 PM   #32
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Mendeh:
Okay, then. I'll certainly try to get hold of the book, so thanks for telling me about it.

Just another question for you, while we're at it: Why was it important for Mark to show how powerful Jesus was?
</font>
My apologies Mendeh. I forgot that I had other commitments last night, and did not get a chance to post. I did a bit of reading though, and it looks like I made a mistake.

Griffith-Jones focus' primarily on the first exorcism found in Mark 1, and a later one in Mark 9. He skipped the one you are talking about in Mark 5. I must have confused his argument with one offered by J.D. Crossan or Marcus Borg. I will look into this however, and let you know what I find.

In the meantime, you ask an excellent question about Mark's motivation and view of Jesus, and especially concerning His power. As I said earlier, Griffith-Jones goes into considerable depth on this point, and makes it fascinating at the same time.

I'll try to have something for you tonigt.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 04-05-2001, 11:16 AM   #33
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Okay, thanks, Nomad.

Hey, I've got something ironic for you. Remember our last marathon discussion, where you had to stop for a while due to a business trip? Looks like I'll be returning the favour - I'm flying off to Greece for a week tomorrow with my school's classics department, so I'm not going to be able to carry on this discussion until next Saturday (GMT). Thanks for your help so far, and I'll be sure to post to this discussion when I come back. Until then, adios!

Mendeh
 
Old 04-05-2001, 11:29 AM   #34
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Mendeh:
Okay, thanks, Nomad.

Hey, I've got something ironic for you. Remember our last marathon discussion, where you had to stop for a while due to a business trip? Looks like I'll be returning the favour - I'm flying off to Greece for a week tomorrow with my school's classics department, so I'm not going to be able to carry on this discussion until next Saturday (GMT). Thanks for your help so far, and I'll be sure to post to this discussion when I come back. Until then, adios!

Mendeh</font>
Alright, have a great time! At least this gives me some breathing room to do a bit of homework first.

Have fun on the trip, take tons of pictures, and I will talk with you when you get back.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 04-05-2001, 11:31 AM   #35
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Thanks, Nomad. Cheerio, then!
 
Old 04-10-2001, 07:49 AM   #36
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:


With howlers like this, it is not much wonder that Bishop Spong doesn't get much respect outside of liberal theological (and sympathetic sceptical) corners.

Just because some may like what the man has to say does not make him right. Not liking what he has to say doesn't necessarily make him wrong either. But based on many of the outrageous claims Spong makes, I think it is safe to confine him to the fringes of accepted and respectable sources.

Nomad
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Nomad,

Sorry for the delay in response. I went away on vacation, then I have been slammed here on work. You know, I have to say thank you for that link to that article. While I took issue to its author's conservative slant, and other times I think he totally missed the spirit of what Bishop Spong writes in some passages, it was the first article that really listed specific errors made by Spong. In particular, his errors with Greek.

I think that on the this board, from both the conservative and liberal sides, we need those specific examples before dismissing someone's comments or propositions. While two people when presented with the same data can come to separate conclusions, it is another thing when one person doesn't get the gathering data right in the first place.

I haven't had the time to read and analyze that article all the way through. but I will in the coming week. Thank you again for providing it.

-Spider

 
Old 04-16-2001, 10:26 PM   #37
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Mendeh:

Just another question for you, while we're at it: Why was it important for Mark to show how powerful Jesus was?</font>
This is an excellent question, Mendeh, and I hope that you do not mind if I take some time to answer it.

First, it is fairly easy to establish that Jesus’ power is the key trait (as opposed to wisdom or compassion) that Mark wanted to focus on. Almost half of all of the verses in the Gospel are related to stories of miraculous cures, exorcisms and demonstrations of Jesus’ mastery over nature. The “Q” sayings (i.e. Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, a number of parables) are completely absent (in fact, the definition of a “Q” saying is that it must be found in both Matt and Luke, but be absent in Mark), and Mark contains fewer parables than do the other Synoptics, and those that he does offer refer predominantly to the coming Kingdom of God, thus fitting in with his overall theme). At the same time, Mark alone presents Jesus’ power as a tangible quality that he possessed, something that He could not/would not use at various times (i.e. Jesus refused to use His power merely to show off, and He also said that He could not use His power where people lacked faith in God, as in His home town or region.). Mark also shows Jesus’ power as actually flowing from Him, seemingly without His knowledge or active will (Mark 5:25-34). Finally, and I will return to this point below, Mark wants to show that Jesus claims His power by His own authority, something that is completely unprecedented in Jewish thought.

I would like to focus, for the moment, on this last point, because it offers a key insight into how Mark answers the question posed by Jesus to His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Clearly for Mark, Jesus stands as a figure unique in all of history, the Messiah, but a very different Messiah than had been previously imagined (especially by the Jews). Unlike the prophets and healers that had come before Him, Jesus did not act in the name of God, but in His own name, and by His own authority! And Mark doesn’t waste any time demonstrating this point. Jesus first miracle (and while we are still in chapter 1) is the casting out of a demon, and He does this merely by ordering the demon to leave the man. Robin Griffith-Jones describes this scene dramatically:

“He (the demon possessed man) comes up to Jesus unbidden and cries out, “What is up between you and me, Jesus of Nazareth? You have come to destroy us. I know you, who you are: the holy One of God.” (Mark 1.24). To name a power is in magical technique to control it. But if the spirit expected to constrain Jesus’ authority by his declaration, he was deluded; Jesus sweeps him away… The battle is under way. God’s Anointed is armed and in action.”
(R. Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses, [HarperCollins, New York, 2000], pg. 73)


The “battle” that Jesus is waging is not terrestrial, but supernatural and celestial. This is in keeping with the Messianic expectations of many Jews by the 2nd and 1st Centuries BC, in that he would have to be some kind of supernatural (though human) being capable of wiping out all of the enemies of God’s people. The problem for Mark, however, is that this expectation included the destruction of the earthly oppressors of the Jewish people, namely the Romans (see M. Grant, Jesus, pg. 96). Clearly Jesus did not do this, and actually ends up destroyed by the Romans.

Mark responds to this challenge by showing that Jesus has no interest in ruling this world. His kingdom is not even of this world, but is, rather, the Kingdom of God. The proclamation of this kingdom is the first words out of Jesus’ mouth (Mark 1:15). Yet, this is not to say that Jesus is completely lacking in power here on earth. For Mark, the opposite is the case. As we see, He commands the demons, and can expel them with a word. This contrasts sharply with the elaborate exorcism rituals that were practiced in His day (and later). He is in full control over nature, commanding a storm to cease, and walking on water. Also affirming His unique power we then see Jesus healing many people of all kinds of ailments, and again He does this not by calling on the name of God (as we would expect a prophet to do), but again, by His own authority. Finally, and most astonishing of all, when Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees for letting His disciples to work on the Sabbath (to gather grain), Jesus responds with one of His most incredible claims in the Gospels:

Mark 2:27-28 The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

Thus Jesus is claiming for Himself divine authority, the ability to make or amend God’s own laws! The expression Son of Man is also revealing here. Griffith-Jones argues that Mark is referencing one of the Jews’ most famous apocalyptic writings, the book of Daniel.

Daniel 7:10, 13-14 As I looked, the Ancient of Days took his seat. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
In my vision, I, Daniel, looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all people, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.


Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God, and as Mark will show us, in the most astonishing of ways imaginable: not through military conquest or earthly power, but through His own death and resurrection.

Mark offers additional examples of Jesus’ power, often drawing on images from the Old Testament. He raises Jairus’ daughter because Jairus had faith, he continued to believe in Jesus (Mark 5:36). This echoes the reason Jesus gives for the healing of the woman found in verse 34. And when He walks on the water, like when He claims Lordship over the Sabbath, Jesus is being shown with powers available only to God.

”The sea was for the Old Order (Testament) the element of chaos: It was way beyond human control, an image of the fierce, shapeless mass that God reduced to order in creation. To walk on the waves is to subdue them-and this is prerogative of God: He alone, we read in the ancient book of Job, stretched out the heavens and walks on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8).
(Griffith-Jones, Four Witnesses, pg. 77).


For Mark there is no question that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David come to save the world. His Gospel opens with it (Mark 1:1). Peter confesses it (8:29b), the blind man proclaims it unbidden (10:47), as does a demon (1:24), the centurion (15:39), and if there is any remaining doubts, He forgives sins by His own authority! To do such a thing is nothing short of blaspheme, since God alone can do this, Mark knows it (2:7) and answers the charge as well (2:10). No one in the Old Testament, not even Moses or Elijah claimed such power for themselves. In fact, when Moses seemed to be taking the credit for the relatively minor act of bringing water from the rock in the desert, God punishes him, denying him the right to cross the Jordan River into the promised land (Numbers 20:9-12). Jesus not only is not punished for His claims, but God makes His power even more apparent (i.e. at the baptism, the Transfiguration, the tearing of the curtain in the Temple), showing that God Himself approves of, and blesses His Anointed one. And just to make sure that the readers understand that Jesus shares in God’s power, we have Jesus quoting from Psalm 110:

Mark 12:36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: "`The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."'

In fact, Jesus elaborates on and expands God’s laws on numerous subjects, again speaking by His own authority. The message is clear. Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and is entrusted by God with all things on heaven and on earth.

Thus, we can see that throughout his Gospel Mark is focusing on the message of Jesus’ power. There are a number of theories as to why he spends virtually all of his time on this point (even to the exclusion of many of Jesus’ sayings and acts of kindness we find in Matthew and Luke). Griffith-Jones makes the case that Mark wants to encourage his readers as they face persecution in Rome in the aftermath of the great fire of 64AD. Paul and Peter have been martyred in Rome, as have thousands of others. Rome’s power would have looked invincible, and like evil incarnate. The supernatural power of Jesus is contrasted with this awesome earthly power, and is seen as winning victory over it, and even over death itself.

The main problem with this theory is that it presupposes a late date for Mark, and while Mark may very well date from 66-70AD, this is neither certain, nor universally accepted. I would agree, however, that Mark is engaged in showing that Jesus absolutely is the long promised, and recognizes that in making this claim credible, he must show how Jesus fulfills this role. In my view, this is why the Resurrection (coupled with Jesus’ final words from the cross) colours his Gospel from beginning to end, because if Jesus does not triumph over death, then all Christian hope is lost, and Jesus cannot be seen as any more than a prophet (or worse). It explains why Mark spends so much time having Jesus telling His disciples not to reveal His true nature (generally called Markan secrets) to anyone outside of the Twelve. Jesus had no intention of fulfilling the Messianic expectations of the Jewish people of His day. His plan was so different from that expectation (one shared in the beginning by His Jewish disciples of course), that even when He told them what it was directly, they just couldn’t get it.

Mark 9:30-32 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

Each time the disciples miss the true message of what Jesus’ mission really is all about. Mark wants to make clear that no one knew Jesus’ plans (any more than we can know the mind and plans of God), and that if we are to have hope, then we must believe, and trust in Him alone, just as Jairus and the woman (and all who were healed by Him) believed in Him no matter what. So, in the end, when the disciples abandon Him (Mark 14:50), the reader is reminded to see him or her self in these men and their failings. They lost faith. Peter, chief of the Twelve denies Him (14:66-72). And on the cross He is alone, and abandoned, even by God Himself. Yet through it all there is a message of hope, even in Jesus’ dying cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(15:33). Jesus may be abandoned, but He remains true to His own faith, taking the cup because it is His Father’s will. Through His faithfulness our own faithlessness is overcome. Mark drives the point home by having Jesus quote from one of the most desperate Psalms of David:

Psalm 22:1-8 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

Mark confirms that he is thinking of this poem in other passages, telling us that the passersby mocked him and shaking their heads (Mark 15:29). Verse 24 (And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.) echoes Psalm 22:18 (They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.). But most importantly, Mark is also calling his readers’ attention to the hope filled ending of this Psalm:

Psalm 22:19, 22-31 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me…
I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him-- may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-- those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-- for he has done it.


Out of despair God delivers hope. We may falter, but He does not. Even in apparent defeat, He is victorious, and this victory is won by the sacrifice that only Jesus could pay. He alone would drink of this cup, achieving His victory and thereby giving us our salvation, allowing us to share in His glory. This is the message of Mark’s Gospel.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 04-17-2001, 04:03 AM   #38
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Ok, I am not going to argue in favor of Spong's point of view. (Personally, I have liked a lot of what he has written. While I have not agreed with all he has proposed, he has challenged me to re-think my positions.) He does make a strong case for the position that Judas is a literary figure and not a historical person.</font>
Hmmm, that's interesting that you say that. Several scholars disagree with Spong (a non-scholar) here. For instance,

James Charlesworth describes the betrayal by Judas as "bedrock historical fact".[J. H. Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1988) 14.]

John D. Crossan, certainly no friend to traditional Christianity, accepts "Judas as a historical follower of Jesus who betrayed him…Judas' existence and betrayal are historical because Christians would never have made up such a character [as a disciple of Jesus]…He is too bad to be false."[J. D. Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995) 75, 71.]

I was just reading a rigorous scholarly analysis of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas that also significantly strays from the traditional understanding, and here's what was said of Spong's work on the matter:

"Perhaps most insulting is his assumption that the 'midrashic' method is well-known and understood but that we need an Anglican bishop to help us read 'the Bible with Jewish eyes.' Ironical also is the fact that the leaders of the Jesus Seminar who pride themselves in their independence from all ecclesiastical authority are delighted to have a bishop in their midst. Spong seems to have said farewell to any concern about scholarly integrity, shows no awareness of the methods of research used to deal with an issue like the historicity of Judas (Vogler, Klauck, and Dieckmann do not appear on his horizon). Nor is any attention paid to manners in how one treats Jews as partners in dialogue. All in all a sad spectacle."[William Klassen, "The Authenticity of Judas' Participation in the Arrest of Jesus" B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 390-391 fn. 6]

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