Thursday, June 2, 2011

Christology and Authority in the Gospel of Mark

By coincidence I independently came across two articles by Daniel Johansson in the space of a few minutes. Obviously, a divine sign that I must share these articles both from the Journal for the Study of the New Testament:

Daniel Johansson,  "Kyrios in the Gospel of Mark",  Journal for the Study of the New Testament September 2010 33: 101-124.

He writes: "The thesis is, in short, that the ambiguous use of κυριος [in Mark] is intentional and serves the purpose of linking Jesus to the God of Israel, so that they both share the identity as κύριος." (102-3, emphasis in original.)

Against the common view that the title κύριος  plays a relatively insignificant role in the Gospel of Mark, this article argues that Mark uses κυριος to set out important aspects of Jesus’ identity. The first instance of κύριος, which refers to both God and Jesus (Mk 1.3), is seen as the key to Mark’s κύριος Christology. The difficulty of determining whether κύριος refers to God or Jesus in many of the following passages should be understood in light of this. Mark used κύριος ambiguously to link both God and Jesus to the title. While the evangelist maintains that there is only one κύριος , he also claims that Jesus shares the identity of being κύριος with the God of Israel.

Daniel Johansson  "‘Who Can Forgive Sins but God Alone?’ Human and Angelic Agents, and Divine Forgiveness in Early Judaism" Journal for the Study of the New Testament June, 2011 33: 351-374.

Was forgiveness of sins viewed as a divine prerogative, uniquely reserved for the God of Israel in early Judaism? While some scholars think this was the case, others have questioned or qualified such a view, arguing that other figures, such as priests, prophets, various messianic figures, or angels, could forgive sins in the place of God. This article surveys and critiques the main evidence that has been put forward to demonstrate this. The outcome is mainly negative. With the possible exception of one or two passages which may ascribe the authority to pardon sin to the Angel of YHWH, no firm evidence can be found which demonstrates that other figures than God forgave sins. Various strands of early Judaism conceived of human and angelic agents who interceded on behalf of others, expiated sin and mediated forgiveness from God, but they all seem to have shared the view that forgiveness is divine prerogative.


  1. The first article sounds very similar to Kavin Rowe's work on Luke's Christology. Any chance you could email me copies of both articles?

  2. If you're e-mailing copies of them anyway... :)

    But I did want to ask whether the article(s) that mention(s) "divine identity" simply take Bauckham as a given, or actually try to explain and clarify what this rather vague phrase actually means.

  3. The citation for the thesis statement was actually both Rowe and Bauckham. You can see the echoes of Bauckham quite clearly in application to Mark in the first article, although he does not go to any length to define what constitutes the unique divine identity. In his conclusion: "Mark actually identifies Jesus with ku/rioj (1.3) and throughout his narrative, by means of his ambiguous use of ku/rioj, links both God and Jesus to the ku/rioj title. Third, there is an overlap of identity between God and Jesus achieved by means of ku/rioj, which serves to unite God and Jesus. The ‘inseparability’
    is realized precisely through their shared identity as ku/rioj. Yet, at the same time, Mark maintains a clear distinction. Throughout most of the narrative two figures are linked to ku/rioj, and Mark never calls Jesus ‘God’ and ‘Father’. These are reserved for the God of Israel and separate Jesus from God... " (121)

    When I saw the second article title my first thought was to see it in terms of Bauckham - i.e. Jesus sharing in the unique role of God (creator, sovereign ruler and... forgiver of sins). While Johansson doesn't make this the main subject of the article, I believe that is where he is heading. (e.g. concluding statement: "Thus various strands of early Judaism conceived of priests, prophets, messianic figures or angels who were involved when sins of human beings were acquitted, but they all seem to have shared the view that ‘forgiveness is a prerogative of God which he shares with no other and deputes to none’"(370)

  4. Thanks for sharing - will follow them up