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What was Mark’s Understanding of Jesus’ Identity?

There has been a blog debate about Mark’s Christology going around Michael Bird, James McGrath, Dustin Smith, Daniel Kirk (quotations), Daniel McClellan, Joel Watts, Brant Pitre, and Anthony Le Donne. I had the opportunity to participate in this conversation at the last Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta in which I presented the thesis that Mark’s Gospel has Jesus elected as the Messiah in the royal line of David at his baptism and enthroned as king after Easter. I followed this up by looking at how some 2nd century Christians tried to distinguish the human Jesus from a divine being that they believed entered into Jesus at his baptism and abandoned him at his crucifixion (see Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.7), a view that I do not think was taught in the 1st century and that falls short of the Nicean confession that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. I want to distinguish how a historical critic reads Mark’s Gospel to ask how it might have been comprehended by a particular audience in a specific context and how a canonical critic reads Mark’s Gospel as part of a larger collection of Scripture alongside the Christian creeds, traditions, and community. I believe both approaches are valuable but ought not be confused. In the next post, I will engage Brant Pitre’s interpretation of Jesus walking on water.

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