Monday, February 14, 2011

Christos in Mark 1:1

From my work-in-progress Jesus is the Christ: The Messianic Testimony of the Gospels:

Mark’s incipit begins, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah’.[1] Though several translations render 0Ihsou~j Xristo&j with ‘Jesus Christ’ (NRSV, NASB, ESV, CEB), the TNIV/NIV10 and NLT is probably correct to translate it as ‘Jesus the Messiah’. A titular meaning of Xristo&j as ‘Messiah’ here is not only possible, but preferable. Mark uses the name 0Ihsou~j some eighty-two times and Xristo&j is used sparingly only seven times, but on all but two occasions Xristo&j possesses the article and is clearly titular as designating the Messiah (Mark 8:29; 12:35; 13:21; 14:61; 15:32; cf. without the article 1:1; 9:41). The subsequent usage of Xristo&j eliminates a purely nominal meaning for 0Ihsou~j Xristo&j in the incipit. What seems more likely is that 0Ihsou~j Xristo&j stands as an honorary designation for the central figure in the following story. As Adela Yarbro Collins states: ‘The narrative of Mark as a whole evokes the titular sense, “messiah.”’[2] Similar is John Donahue: ‘The density of the key terms in 1:1 prepares the reader for the dramatic unfolding of the whole work, which revolves around the proper description of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God’.[3] Mark is not content to assert this title, but his subsequent narrative demonstrates precisely how Jesus is the Messiah and what kind of mission this Messiah will undertake.[4] Thus, the question that dominates Mark’s Gospel is: who is this Messiah and how will he be enthroned? There are cryptic hints along the way as to how this Messiah will be coronated. As the plot unfolds it becomes gradually clearer that the cross dangles over the head of this Messiah like a sword of Damocles, unbeknownst to the disciples, but privy to the reader.[5]

[1] On the secondary nature of ‘Son of God’ in Mark 1:1 see Peter Head.

[2] Collins and Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God, 126.

[3] Donahue, The Gospel of Mark, 60.

[4] Francis J. Moloney, Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 132; I. Howard Marshall, ‘Jesus as Messiah in Mark and Matthew,’ in The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments, ed. S.E. Porter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 121.

[5] See now Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel (NSBT; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004).


Jason B. Hood said...

Reminds me of John Collins: "Jesus is called Christos, anointed, the Greek equivalent of messiah, 270 times in the Pauline corpus. If this is not ample testimony that Paul regarded Jesus as messiah, then words have no meaning."
And Craig Blomberg, “There is no unambiguous evidence to demonstrate that ‘Christ’ in any of its 531 New Testament uses ever ‘degenerated’ into a mere second name for Jesus.” “The Messiah in the NT,” in Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the DSS, ed. Richard Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 141, emph original.

Mike Gantt said...

So glad you are emphasizing this. Alfred Edersheim needs heirs.