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Mark’s Ambiguous Christology?

As this Christology conversation has unfolded, there are a few areas that all sides are in agreement. For instance, we are all clear that John is far more explicit about Jesus’ divine identity and that we should not force Mark to be just like John. Chris Keith, Michael Bird, and Doug Chaplin have appealed to the fact that Mark is purposefully ambiguous or enigmatic – there may be a general lack of an explicit high Christology but there are hints and scriptural echoes for the reader able to move beyond the surface level.

I will make a few brief replies. It is true that Mark’s Jesus speaks to the crowd in parables so they neither perceive nor understand (Mark 4:11-12), but Jesus goes on to elucidate the meaning of the parable and openly reveal the mystery of the kingdom for his circle of disciples as well as for the reader hearing the parable explained along with them. Again, with the exception of Peter’s momentary insight that Jesus is the Messiah which he followed up by misunderstanding Jesus’ mission of suffering (8:27-33), the disciples are generally in the dark about Jesus’ messiahship. Yet Mark forthrightly tells the reader that Jesus is the Messiah from the opening verse (1:1) and the reader has access to the vision at the baptism where the heavenly voice confirms Jesus’ divine sonship (1:9-11). Finally, I agree that there is still something enigmatic about the miracle stories. The disciples’ hearts are hardened in response to Jesus’ sea and feeding miracles (6:52; 8:17-21), much like Pharaoh’s heart in response to the miraculous feats of Moses. Could it be that the disciples failed to grasp that Jesus is inaugurating a greater exodus – the return from exile announced in 1:2-3 – and Jesus was calling for them to follow when he went ahead of them at the Sea and provided food for them in the wilderness yet their hearts were too dull to recognize what was happening?


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