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Reading Mark’s Christology Canonically

Throughout the series on the Christology of Mark’s Gospel, I have argued again and again that humans could:

Readers may wonder why I am harping on human parallels. After all, if one just reads Mark 1:2-3 or the Sea miracles, it could easily be concluded that Mark has a fully divine Christology. But in Mark’s narrative as a whole, it is God that anoints Jesus for his royal office, empowers him with the Spirit to undertake his ministry, and exalts him to rule over creation. Likewise, Jesus prays to and obeys his heavenly Father’s will, even when it goes against his personal desires or leaves him feeling abandoned on the cross, and does not have access to the same information about the final day or hour of judgment.

Christians need to listen to Mark’s contribution to develop a robust theology of Jesus’ full humanity and, indeed, of anthropology in general as the goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ. However, in the end, Christian readers do not read Mark’s Gospel alone.

Mark is included in a canon of four Gospels. Mark’s baptism narrative is read alongside the Virgin birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 and the pre-existence of God’s Word that was made flesh in John 1. Jesus last words on the cross is no longer a cry of despair as in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46, but go on to speak about his assurance that he will die in the Father’s care (Luke 23:46) or has completed his divine mission (John 19:30). The hints that the disciples will meet the risen Lord in Galilee in Mark 16:7 is documented in Matthew 28 and Luke and John have the famous stories of Jesus eating or showing his crucifixion wounds when he appears in Jerusalem. Matthew ensures that readers of Mark do not get the wrong impression that Jesus needed John’s baptism (Matthew 3:15-16), was limited by the faith response of others (Matthew 6:5-6; see Mark 6:5-6), or did not share in divine goodness (Matthew 19:16-17; see Mark 10:17-18).

Irenaeus of Lyons was the first writer to explicitly write about the Christian use of four Gospels. He had the theological sense to suggest that schismatic groups preferred to take a single Gospel in isolation, but he asserted that the practice of the “universal” church is (or ought to be) to have the four Gospels read together in unity (Against Heresies 3.11.7-8). In this way, Christians have a more rounded picture of Christ’s humanity and divinity.

 

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