I was sitting at work this morning thinking about Mark’s prologue and began reflecting on the creation theme that’s present. Mark begins with a “beginning,” an αρχη just as LXX Genesis does. We also see God speaking from heaven as his Spirit descends over Jesus’ baptismal water (Mark 1:10-11). This is reminiscent of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2 and the creative voice of God that follows. And at once Jesus is sent into the wilderness (and let’s not forget that John the Baptist was in the wilderness preparing the way) with wild animals (Mark 1:12-13). So we have in Mark’s prologue the following:
- God speaking from heaven (cf. Gen. 1:3-29)
- The Spirit over water (cf. Gen. 1:2)
- Gathered Water/Jordan River (cf. Gen. 1:9)
- Dry Land/Wilderness (cf. Gen. 1:9)
- Bird/Spirit descending like a dove (cf. Gen. 1:20)
- Wild animals (cf. Gen. 1:24)
I’ll have to go back and reread Sean McDonough’s Christ as Creator because I know he had plenty to say about creation themes in the Synoptics. I’d like to see what he said about Mark’s prologue.
More thoughts on Mark to follow…
I neglected to mention that when I got home Friday night I found my copy of Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative waiting for me. I tracked the package the day before and wasn’t expecting it until Monday but it got here early. Nothing wrong with that!
Eerdmans sent along a copy of Serge Frolov’s Judges in the Forms of Old Testament Literature series. This is my first look at any of the volumes in this series and it looks to be quite different from any of the commentaries I already own. Should be educational!
The WTS Bookstore is having a sale for the next week on Sam Storms’ new book Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative. It retails for $29.99 but they’re selling it for $15. I had some WTS gift certificates laying around so I took full advantage. For the record, I’m a staunch premillennialist, but I always enjoy reading alternate points of view.
When Mark identifies John the Baptist as the preparing messenger, he thereby also identifies him as the eschatological Elijah (cf. also Mk 9.11-13). In Mal. 4.5, God announces that “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” This announcement matches the prophecy regarding the messenger in Mal. 3.1. In the context of the book of Malachi, the messenger and the prophet Elijah are therefore one and the same. This prophecy forms the basis for a Jewish expectation of an eschatological Elijah. A number of Jewish eschatological texts refer to the coming of Elijah (e.g. Sirach 48.10-11; 4Q558 1.ii.4). According to many scholars, Elijah was expected to be a forerunner of the Messiah. However, none of the pre-Christian texts describe him as such. We cannot conclude that he was a forerunner of the Messiah just because he would appear in the end times. Jesus and the Gospels identified John the Baptist as Elijah, and since Christians saw Jesus as the Messiah, they concluded that Elijah was a forerunner of the Messiah. But the reason that Elijah was seen as Jesus’ forerunner was that he was the one who would prepare for the coming of God himself.
Christology in the Synoptic Gospels, 38.
I was very pleased to get home from work and find a copy of Scott R. Swain’s The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology waiting for me courtesy of IVP Academic. I’m very much looking forward to working through this with Jenson’s Systematic Theology nearby.
Read Tom’s testimony here.
Apologetics gets a bad rap from various sectors. Scholars indebted to historical criticism often see apologetics as the antithesis of scholarship. One cannot be a scholar and an apologist at the same time according to many. Atheists very often view apologetics as little more than fideism; blind faith; indoctrination. And then there are those Christians who say that they wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and in doing so are willing to live with all the messy bits and tensions. They view apologetics as a misguided attempt to smooth out what’s meant to be rough.
I’d disagree on all fronts. Some of the finest scholars I’ve had the pleasure of reading are apologists and use their scholarship in the service of the church and the Christian faith. I think of folks like Darrell Bock; William Lane Craig; and John Frame to name a few from varying backgrounds. And good apologetics is the opposite of fideism. It’s a presentation of all the many reasons for the Christian faith. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a bunch of bad apologetics floating around—there is—but the scholarly kind of apologetics usually has plenty to back it up.
But it’s the critique of the last group that irks me the most. I get that historical critics and atheists are working with completely different presuppositions but Christians who claim to believe that the Scriptures were given by inspiration of God shouldn’t be quite so hostile to apologetics, assuming that they’re good apologetics, not bunk. It seems to be a position born out of arrogance. The idea that nobody can make sense of certain things or resolve things that seems at odds because you can’t is the height of hubris, or at least appears to be. Yet that seems to be the attitude I see reflected in much writing on the subject.
Question: What if the tension appears to be there because certain folks are poor interpreters? Did they ever consider that? Did they ever consider that perhaps there are folks out there who have labored over the texts as much or more than them and have found them to make sense and not be at odds? Have they considered that there are myriad good explanations for the portions of Scripture that they consider hard to swallow (e.g., the command to slaughter Midianites; regulations on slavery)? Has it ever crossed their minds that a willingness to live with alleged contradictions doesn’t actually honor Scripture but rather subverts it?
Ponder that for a moment. Seriously think about the attitude toward Scripture that says, “If God said it; that settles it.” Is that really as naive as it appears on first glance? Or does it evince an attitude of humility? An attitude of submission to the word of God? When I think about how Jesus is depicted as handling Scripture I don’t come up with a picture of someone willing to live with hopeless tensions; or as someone who thought the OT authors got it wrong and needed correcting. I see someone who took God at his word and argued based on the authority of that word. Ladies and gentleman, Jesus was an apologist. Paul was too. And they were both unapologetically apologetic as were all of the NT authors.
So to the apologists I say, thank God for you; keep up the good work (assuming it’s good work)! The is much better with you than without you and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
I noted this on Twitter the other day but neglected to mention it on the blog, but my Amazon order arrived. I got:
Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an
I had tracked the package a few days before it arrived and was dismayed to see that it had left a sorting center in Kentucky. That meant that it shipped from the Lexington warehouse, which is notorious for poor packing methods that result in damaged goods. I’ve received numerous damaged books and even video games from this particular warehouse (see here for details).
In the most recent instance I was quite pleased to see that nothing was damaged, but not for lack of trying. The books were packed in a box that was larger than it needed to be and there was no bubble wrap or even styrofoam peanuts in the box. There was one un-inflated packaging cushion in there. Ridiculous!
It’s only by the grace of God and the tender-loving care of the USPS that these books were not dented and creased! Something needs to be done about this particular shipping hub. We must rise up against poor packaging methods; especially since we’re paying good money for new books! Who’s with me?!!
Eerdmans sent along a copy of Francis Watson’s Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective for review. Looks awesome! It’ll be a little while before I get to it but I can hardly wait.