Great Minds…

Rob Kashow recently posted a nice rant against ignorance concerning the Trinity.  Interestingly enough, I was going to post something today or tomorrow along similar lines, only I was going to deal with a specific essay written by Robert Oerter, the physicist who sparked all the recent debate about credentials.  As Matthew (here, here, and here as well) and James so aptly noted, we should judge a person’s work by its content and not by the person’s credentials.  So I started to read Oerter’s essay “Promoted to God” which addresses the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and not very far into it I spotted a number of things that were simply wrong. 

For example, Oerter asserts that because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul don’t record Jesus’ statements in John 10:30 & 12:45 that “We can only conclude that Jesus made no such claim.”  No, we can only conclude that the Synoptic writers and Paul didn’t record those two statements. We cannot conclude that the Synoptic writers didn’t record such a claim though.  Darrell Bock notes concerning Mark 14:62 that “The self-made claim to sit at the right hand and ride the clouds would be read as a blasphemous utterance, a false claim that equates Jesus in a unique way with God…”1  And this wasn’t the first time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus was accused of blasphemy for saying or doing something that the Jews understood as being a unique prerogative of God (see Mark 2:5-7).

Oerter makes a common claim when he says: “Later generations of Christians read the New Testament books through the lens of their theology and interpreted them in trinitarian terms.”  Okay, well and good, but how did the earlier Christians read the Bible and arrive at a Trinitarian understanding of it?  It’s all too easy to say that we read the Trinity into the Bible nowadays, but what of yesteryear before this claim was possible?  This is one of those commonly parroted statements that don’t seem to receive much thought.

Of Matthew 28:19 he says: “At first glance this verse seems to be a clear statement of trinitarian belief – the Father, Son and Spirit placed on equal footing. In fact it is no such thing. The passage in question doesn’t declare the three to be equal, and it doesn’t declare Jesus to be divine – the relationships between the three are not explained in any way.”  Well, not really, their relationship is explained in some way in that at the very least they share one name.

Concerning the Johannine Comma he says: “The word “trinity” actually does not appear anywhere in the New Testament. There is only one verse (1 John 5:7) that apparently declares “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit… are one.” That phrase is absent from every one of the ancient Greek manuscripts of 1 John, however.”  That all depends on exactly what is meant by ‘ancient.’ As Bruce Metzger notes, “The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except eight, and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate.”2  So it does appear in some Greek manuscripts even though there is little doubt that it is a later addition. 

Concerning the title “Lord” Oerter says: “Similarly, for a first century Jew, “lord” would connote divinity when applied to God, but when applied to a human it would not.”  Not really.  Lord would connote lordship no matter who it was applied to.  “God” connotes divinity if applied to the true and living God.  This post is already long, and the examples can be multiplied exponentially (to include a few typos as well, e.g., misspelling Rudolf as Rudoph for Bultmann’s first name!).  These few examples came in the very early stages of my reading and I have marked half a dozen more, not getting even halfway through the essay!  I think perhaps some of the problem here can be attributed to the sources Oerter used in producing this essay.  They seem to be very one-sided (e.g., Dunn, Casey, Rubenstein, Ehrman).  Had perhaps he consulted a broader array of scholarship he’d be in a better position to say something on the matter, but as it stands, I think in this case he should stick with physics. 

B”H

__________
1 Darrell L. Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge Against Jesus in Mark 14:53-65 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000), 203.

2 Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 647.

 

38 thoughts on “Great Minds…

  1. “We can only conclude that Jesus made no such claim.” That’s pretty ridiculous logic. I suspect this is what the historical Jesus mentality does? Because I’m into a different discipline I’m not up much on the historical-Jesus, though I’ll be digging in more probably this year.

    For me, it’s fine if you believe in a heretic argument as long as you provide sound reasoning for it. Often, however, this is not the case.

  2. Rob: Only one branch of historical Jesus scholars would reason like that. The more ‘conservative’ types are much more thoughtful.

    And like I said on your blog, I’m used to interacting with learned Unitarians who at least have some kind of rationale behind what they believe, even if it’s flawed at every turn.

  3. Hey Nick, I notice you have Quasten’s Patrology on your shelf. As you may or may not know, I’ve been blogging through Quasten, and what strikes me is how some pretty prominent figures did not agree with the sort of Trinitarianism of the Nicene Creed. Or let me rephrase that: their points of view differ from what came out of the Nicene Creed, either after or during their time. Quasten says Tertullian presents the logos as having an origin, and he refers to Eusebius’ semi-Arianism.

    Do you accept this version of events? And, if the church was unanimous in the first century about the Trinity, why was there so much division or different interpretations of Jesus after that time (if you agree that there was)?

    Also, are you planning to review James McGrath’s book in the future? (I’ll hit myself if you already have.) As you probably know, he tries to explain Jesus’ “divinity” (or divine name attached to him, or whatever) in a non-Trinitarian sort of way.

  4. If a later account adds important details to a story that are missing from earlier accounts, that would be enough to cast doubt on the credibility of the person adding the detail in any court of law. I would not go so far as to say it’s the only possible conclusion, but the logic is certainly not “ridiculous.”

    As far as Jesus’ enemies interpreting his statements in the Gospel of Mark as blasphemy, how much weight does that really deserve in determining what Jesus intended by his statement? Weren’t they just trumping up charges to get rid of him?

  5. James: Well, Tertullian precedes Nicene Christianity so he couldn’t have agreed with something that didn’t yet exist. That being said, Tertullian made a distinction between the λογος ενδιαθετος and the λογος προφορικος (as I believe Quasten notes). He sees the logos in terms of ‘Reason’ as having always been with God, and ‘Reason’ as preceding ‘Word.’ In Adversus Praxean 5 he says:

    For before all things God was alone—being in Himself and for Himself universe, and space, and all things. Moreover, He was alone, because there was nothing external to Him but Himself. Yet even not then was He alone; for He had with Him that which He possessed in Himself, that is to say, His own Reason.

    But I don’t see too much of a fundamental difference between what Tertullian says and the later articulation of the Father’s monarchy. And Quasten is correct about Eusebius. Eusebius tried to straddle the fence between the pro-Nicenes and Arians although he came down closer to Arianism.

    I am indeed planning on reviewing James’ book. It will probably be a little while before I do so because I’m giving it a very careful reading and I have quite a few books ahead of it.

    Vinny: We’re not in a court of law. And John recorded different accounts. While you might not find the logic ridiculous others do. To each their own. Concerning Jesus’ statement, the reaction of his accusers carries a lot of weight because if you recall, they didn’t have a reason to convict him until he said that, no matter how hard they tried to manufacture one. The trumped up charges failed, this was the one that didn’t.

  6. Right, that’s why I said, “Or let me rephrase that: their points of view differ from what came out of the Nicene Creed, either after or during their time.” The point I was trying to make was that, according to Quasten, some of the church fathers held a view of Christ that wasn’t exactly like the Nicene Christianity that came later.

    On Tertullian, I’m mulling over Quasten’s quote (pp. 326-327). He says:

    “‘Hence it was then that the Word itself received its manifestation and its completion, namely sound and voice, when God said: Let there be light. This is the perfect birth of the Word, when it proceeds from God.It was first produced by Him for thought under the name of Wisdom, The Lord established me as the beginning of his ways (Prov. 8, 22). Then he is generated for action: When he made the heavens, I was near Him (Prov. 8, 27). Consequently, making the one of whom He is the Son to be His Father by his procession, He became the first-born, as generated before all, as only Son, as solely generated by God’ (Adv. Prax. 7). Thus the Son as such is not eternal (Hermog. 3 EP 321)…”

    That seems to me to be saying that the logos endiathetos was produced in the mind of the Father as a thought, then it was released or generated by the Father as the logos prophorikos. But I’m not sure if “produced” can occur eternally (like eternally begotten).

  7. I don’t think it is a case of “to each their own.” Ceteris paribus, earlier is better whether the method of inquiry is legal or historical. You are welcome to deem it “ridiculous” if you so desire, but I doubt you can find a scholarly principle by which earlier statements are not to be preferred to later ones.

    The fact that his accusers who were also his judges thought that blasphemy provided a sufficient excuse to sentence him to death would not seem sufficient to me to prove that they had correctly understood him to be equating himself with God or that Mark, in recounting the story, understood that Jesus had equated himself with God. In the previous chapter, Mark recounts Jesus admitting to his ignorance of when the end of the world would come which would suggest to me that Mark did not think Jesus was claiming to be equal to the Father.

  8. James: Sorry, I misread your restatement. I thought you were referring to Nicene and Post-Nicene theologians. What Quasten says about the Son not being eternal is technically correct since Tertullian’s conception seems to move from Ratio to Sermo to Filius. Athanasius would come to later reject such distinctions but for Tertullian it seems that the Ratio was instrinsic to God. I don’t think in saying ‘produced’ (or ‘formed’) that he conceives of God as ever being without his Ratio since God is eternal.

    Vinny: Your talking apples and oranges. None of the earlier statements preclude the statements in John’s Gospel. So we can prefer all of the earlier statements that we’d like, they still don’t negate what John says, and as you’ve already admitted it’s not the only possible conclusion that Jesus never said these things. And for the record, I’ve not called his reasoning ridiculous, I’ve just said he’s wrong.

    With regard to Mark, again, apples and oranges. You’re well aware that Christians believe Jesus to be both God and Man. That Mark records Jesus being human is quite natural and to be expected since Jesus was human! That’s beside the point. That Mark also records Jesus doing/saying things that God does/says is also to be expected and he does just that (see e.g., Mk. 4:35-41 cf. Ps. 65:7; 89:9; 107:23-30). Mark also applies OT YHWH texts to Jesus (e.g., Mk. 1:7 cf. Is. 40:3). So his recording and understanding Jesus’ claim in 14:62 as a unique equation of Jesus with God is not out of the realm of possibility, in fact it’s highly probable.

    Michael: Conservatives need ’em! Without liberals who would they argue with? ;-)

  9. Norelli,

    Is it implausable, do you think, that Mark 12:35-37 could be understood as a statement of deity? I believe that is Mark’s intention. The statement is not answered and is left tantalizingly hanging, which might be a literary or authorial intention pointing to Jesus’ deity.

    That might be seen as one approach if searching for Trinitarian evidence in the (supposed) earliest gospel. The Pauline witness is understood to be earlier than the gospels though and it is far easier to see Trinitarian witness in Paul. Does Oerter not interact with Paul?

    Thoughts?

  10. Michael: I don’t think it’s implausible at all, especially given the way in which Mark builds his Gospel. As I noted above, in chapter 1 John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus taking over Isaiah’s statement concerning the way being prepared for YHWH, in chapter 2 he forgives sins (as God does), in chapter 4 he rebukes the waves and wind (as God does), in chapter 6 (which I neglected to mention) he walks across the sea and comforts his disciples (cf. Is. 43; Ps. 77-16-20), in chapter 12 he speaks of himself as being greater than David, implying that his messiahship is much more than earthly, and it culminates in chapter 14 with his claiming to sit at God’s right hand and to return in judgment (taking up the same psalm as well as Daniel 7).

    Oerter does interact with Paul, although I’m equally as unimpressed. Like I said, what I pointed out in this post were from the very early portions of the essay.

  11. Nick, until WP adds a feature that allows me to follow without commenting, I’ll have to keep leaving comments!

    I find Oerter’s logic a bit off, and would shorten the Gospel accounts dramatically if we removed bits and pieces which didn’t correspond in other NT writings.

    Further, his claim about later generations of Christians is a tad off as well, considering that we have the testimony of the Apostolic Fathers who clearly envisioned Christ, without the aid of the Canon, as deity.

    Concerning Tertullian, I rather find him one of the most logical theologians around – now that I ‘get’ him.

  12. Michael: I’ve read Hurtado’s commentary on Mark in the NIBC series but not really any other books specifically devoted to Mark. I have found Rikk Watts’ commentary in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament to be very helpful as well Donald Juel’s Messianic Exegesis: Christological Interpretation of the Old Testament in Early Christianity. Both volumes do a very good job at dealing with the sort of question you were asking.

    Polycarp: Comment away! I’m with you on Oerter. I find the whole paper inadequate, but again, I think it’s only as good as its sources which aren’t necessarily the best that are out there and certainly don’t represent the wide spectrum of though on the subject. As far as Tertullian goes, I like him very much, although at times it seems as if he contradicts himself.

  13. The question isn’t whether anything in Mark logically precludes or logically contradicts the statements that John attributes to Jesus. The question is why John makes Jesus’ divinity and his claims to divinity so explicit while Mark does not. John clearly wants his readers to understand in no ambiguous terms that Jesus was the eternal God and that Jesus proclaimed himself as the eternal God. If Mark in fact believed that too, he doesn’t seem to care whether his readers understand it or not.

    If as some tradition has it, Mark wrote his gospel in Rome after Peter died, he must have expected it to be read by pagan converts as well as Jewish converts, perhaps even primarily by pagan converts. If he thought that Jesus was God in the same sense that John did and that Jesus had proclaimed himself to be God in the same sense, wouldn’t he want the pagan converts to know that? If he knew of the statements that John had recorded, wouldn’t he have included them rather than relying on the ability of pagan converts to figure out the significance of the “son of man” reference?

    When two different people give two different versions of events, I think the most probable case to be that they understood the events differently, not the same.

  14. Vinny, why is it that the authors differ and not the audience?

    Could it not be that Mark was writing to a different community than John, who wrote much later? By Tradition, John wrote his blessed gospel later than Mark. The audience’s context changed a bit by the time the aged Apostle wrote his gospel, long after the other Apostles had departed.

    While Mark was recording Peter’s preaching to Jews, John was writing, by that time, to a broader audience, far removed from the contexts of the first Gospels and oral traditions.

  15. In his prologue, John unambiguously identifies Jesus as God and he quotes Jesus as unambiguously claiming that he and the father are one. Mark on the other hand quotes Jesus as telling the priests “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

    I suppose that I cannot eliminate the possibility that Mark’s audience would have understood what he wrote as meaning the same thing that John’s audience would have understood him to mean, but I don’t think I have ever seen anyone argue that.

  16. I’ll have to check into Hurtado’s work. I haven’t read anything by him yet. I have France, Guelich, Evans, and Lane on Mark. Would make for fun reading right now. Oh the mitigations!

  17. Vinny: Being that we’re neither Mark nor John we’ll never know the ‘why’ of it all so I’ll leave speculation aside. But it is your understanding (which is obviously not universal) that Mark was unclear. I happen to think that Mark was quite clear throughout his Gospel concerning Jesus’ deity. I also think that Mark shows Jesus’ opponents as understanding things that he said and did as being claims to deity. Of course you’re free to doubt this or believe that Jesus’ accusers trumped up his charges or that Mark misunderstood, but your understanding is not everyone’s.

    I also find it somewhat ironic that you think that John’s prologue is unambiguous in proclaiming the deity of Jesus. I can point you to a number of Unitarians (of the Socinian variety) who think different. They don’t see any clear reference in John’s prologue or chapter 10 (or 8) to the Son being God. The irony is that I’m making the same argument for clarity in Mark that you’re making for John. As far as what Mark wrote meaning the same thing as what John wrote, that’s not entirely the case. We have different stories of different events with similar results. John 10:30 has Jesus claiming to be one with the Father with regard to saving the sheep (i.e., God’s elect). Mark 14:62 has Jesus claiming divine enthronement and judgment, especially over his accusers. But both accounts end with accusations of blasphemy because his opponents understood him to be making uniquely God-like claims.

    Michael: Hurtado is the best in the business in my opinion. I like him better than Bauckham and Fee who I’d place in the same camp. But if you have Evans then read him immediately. I’ve heard him speak about Jesus’ trial in Mark 14 and if memory serves he gave it considerable attention in his essay in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity. He’s very much in line with Bock who I quoted in the post.

  18. Was Mark as clear as John? Doesn’t having Jesus say “I and the Father are one” make the nature of Jesus’ divinity much more clear than having his opponents accuse him of blasphemy based on God-like claims? Couldn’t they have been accusing Jesus of blasphemy because he falsely claimed a unique and special relationship with God?

    Would all of Mark’s first century Jewish readers have agreed with Jesus’ opponents that Mark 14:12 constituted a God-like claim? Were there none who thought that the Messiah would still be a man rather than a divine being even though he would be anointed and empowered by God?

  19. Vinny: Yes, Mark was as clear as John. The question you need to ask of John 10:30 is “one how?” The answer is “one in saving God’s elect.” The Jews heard that and screamed blasphemy because salvation was God’s job. Now, when Jesus claims that he’ll return enthroned to judge (which is what he did by alluding to Dan. 7 and Ps. 110) the high priest screamed blasphemy because judgment was God’s job. But doesn’t your question apply equally to John 10:30 as it does Mark 14:62? Couldn’t they have accused him of blasphemy because he falsely claimed a unique relationship with God? It boils down to you personally thinking one clearer than the other, nothing more. And the messianic expectations of first century Jews are beside the point. Nobody expected a divine Messiah, yet Jesus claimed to be exactly that which was perceived as blasphemous.

  20. If I were to ask that question, I would look to the rest of John to see whether he provides any insights into Jesus’ divine nature in order to understand what meaning John intended 10:30 to communicate. I suspect I would be drawn to 1:1 which seems to me a pretty explicit statement that the “Word was God” (no offense to your Unitarian friends).

    It seems to me the very fact that you described Mark 14:62 as constituting a “uniquely God-like claim” shows that you understand it to be a less explicit claim than the one’s that John records. In fact, now you seem to be clarifying it further in that Jesus’ blasphemy was not in claiming to be God, but in claiming to have the authority to do a job that belonged to God.

    The answer to your question about John 10:30 is “No, they couldn’t have been accusing Jesus of blasphemy because he falsely claimed a unique and special relationship with God.” We know this because in John 10:33 they explicitly state that they are stoning him because he claimed to be God.

  21. Vinny: While I certainly would suggest looking at all of John, the pericope in question is quite capable of providing the answer, which I’ve given numerous times already.

    I don’t know how anything ‘seems’ any kind of way to you, but does ‘less explicit’ still mean ‘explicit’ and if ‘explicit’ then what’s your point? And did you not read the post? I originally said:

    We cannot conclude that the Synoptic writers didn’t record such a claim though. Darrell Bock notes concerning Mark 14:62 that “The self-made claim to sit at the right hand and ride the clouds would be read as a blasphemous utterance, a false claim that equates Jesus in a unique way with God…”1 And this wasn’t the first time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus was accused of blasphemy for saying or doing something that the Jews understood as being a unique prerogative of God (see Mark 2:5-7).

    I don’t see how I was any less clear in saying that than I have been in dialogue with you in the comments. I don’t think I’ve clarified anything so much as restated (ad nauseum at this point) the same thing.

    And yeah, they could have accused him for claiming a unique and special relationship with God in John 10:30. They didn’t accuse him of claiming to be God because he claimed to be the Father, but because he claimed to be one with the Father. It’s still his claimed relationship with the God the Father (in the act of saving the elect) that occasioned the charge of blasphemy. Now I personally don’t think your argument works for either text, but it can be applied to both equally.

  22. And yeah, they could have accused him for claiming a unique and special relationship with God in John 10:30.

    Sure they could have Nick, but they didn’t. Isn’t it what they actually said what matters?

    By the same token, Mark could have had the priests accuse Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to be God, but he didn’t. Unlike John, Mark doesn’t have the priests explain why they found his statements to be blasphemous. They might have thought that Jesus was claiming to be God or they might have thought that Jesus was usurping God’s prerogatives or they might have thought that claiming to be God’s anointed one was blasphemous given that he did not fulfill the expectations they had for the Messiah. Unlike John, Mark does not make the reason for the blasphemy charge explicit.

  23. Vinny: In both instances (as I keep repeating, and this will be my last time) Jesus makes claims that are understood to be claims to deity and thus he is charged with blasphemy. In neither account did Jesus say, “I am God” as you seem to think was said in John 10:30 (you argue like a fundamentalist on this point which is kind of weird, you also seem to want to take his opponents’ understanding in John 10 at face value but not in Mark 14, why? One is what it is and the other is trumped up charges, why? — Rhetorical questions, please don’t answer because I won’t be responding, just give it some thought for your own edification). Again, go back and read John 10 and see that it was his claimed relationship with the Father that occasioned the charge of blasphemy and the reaction that he was making himself God. Mark is just as explicit in the reason for the charge of blaphemy. Jesus’ statement that preceded it was the reason for the charge! This is what I suggest if you’re actually interested in this subject: check out the Bock book I referenced in the post and brush up on what constituted blasphemy. As it stands you seem to think that just anything could constitute blasphemy and that’s just not the case (e.g., claiming to be the Messiah, even falsely, was not blasphemous). Alright, I’m done. Thanks as always for the conversation.

  24. Here is a rhetorical question for you Nick:

    If it is so clear why the priests considered Jesus’ statement in Mark 14:62 to be blasphemous, why did it take Bock 285 pages to explain it?

  25. Vinny: Read the book and find out. ;-)

    Michael: Definitely. Let me know how the commentary is overall (you have his WBC Mark commentary, right?).

  26. Hi Nick,

    My inter-library loan request for Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism came through yesterday and I have been looking it over. I understand Bock’s position to be that first century Judaism understood that certain unique individuals, e.g., Enoch and Moses, had been exalted by God in the past and that the Messiah might be so exalted in the future. Such individuals were nonetheless still humans rather than God even though they might receive authority from God to do certain God-like things. According to Bock, the priests viewed it as blasphemous for a Galilean peasant to make such a claim about himself.

    I haven’t seen anything that suggests Bock thinks that this was the equivalent of Jesus’ claim in the Gospel of John to being “one with the father” or that the priests in Mark understood Jesus to be claiming to be God as his opponents in John did.

    BTW, what’s with Bock’s quoting German scholars in German?

  27. Vinny: I’m glad you’re getting a chance to read the book. You’ll learn a bunch from it. You’ll notice that Bock’s claim (along with Evans, Gundry, & Hengel) is that Jesus’ claim to sit at God’s right hand and return on the clouds to judge the world (i.e., the juxtaposition of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13) was perceived as blasphemy because he claimed prerogatives unique to God, and that he set himself as judge of his accusers (this in addition to what you’ve summarized above). He also doesn’t want to isolate the trial and disregard Mark’s overall presentation of Jesus, although he of course focuses on this pericope.

    As I quoted in this post itself, Bock says that Jesus’ claim was seen as him equating himself in a unique way with God. You’ll get to that on p. 203. Oerter (whose paper inspired this post) suggests that because the Synoptists don’t record Jesus’ claims in John that he made no claims to deity. I disagree based on the trial in Mark and I quoted Bock in support of this. But this is all just rehashing things we’ve been over in the comments already.

    And it’s a scholarly monograph so untranslated German quotations are quite common, even if wholly annoying for those of us who don’t read German and are forced to go to Google Translator to figure them out. I wish he would have at least provided translations in the footnotes or an appendix.

  28. I will concede that you have accurately quoted Dr. Bock on page 203 of his book, but standing alone I don’t really think that sentence fairly reflects his argument that he has made. Whenever Bock speaks of Jesus claiming God’s prerogatives, he makes it clear (as he does in the next couple sentences on page 203) that first century Judaism understood God to have delegated these prerogatives in specific situations to certain unique humans, i.e., exaltation. In doing God-like things, these humans acted as God’s agents but were nonetheless distinct from God and subordinate to God.

    I think Bock lays this out pretty clearly in his summary on page 236:

    Jesus’ blasphemy operated at two levels. 1) There was a claim to possess comprehensive authority from the side of God. Though Judaism might contemplate such a position for a few, the teacher from Galilee was not among the luminaries for whom such a role might be considered. As a result, his remark would have been seen as a self-claim that was an affront to God’s presence. 2) He also attacked the leadership, by implicitly claiming to be their future judge (or by claiming a vindication by him). This would be seen as a violation of Exod. 22:27, where God’s leaders are not to be cursed. A claim that their authority was non-existent and that they would be accounted among the wicked is a total rejection of their authority. To the leadership, this was an affront to God as they were in their own view, God’s established chosen leadership.

    I would also note that Bock acknowledges the possibility that Jesus was speaking of his vindication by the Son of Man in Mark 14:64 rather than identifying himself as the Son of Man. Although he finds this to be a less likely reading of the passage, in that case the blasphemy is found in the insult to God’s priests rather than in a claim that Jesus makes about himself.

    Contrast this with the statements in John. “I and the father are one” and “he who has seen me has seen the father” don’t seem to have any parallels in the exaltation traditions that Bock describes.

    In short, I don’t think Bock’s work can be used to support the proposition that John and Mark are communicating the same information about Jesus’ nature. The claim in Mark is one that the priests understood to be a claim that a human being could make in special circumstances. The blasphemy charge in Mark 2 also can be read as an issue of exaltation in light of Jesus’ reference to “authority on earth” in his response. I think the transfiguration account also points to Mark understanding Jesus as a human exalted by God. John’s accounts of Jesus’ claims, on the other hand, don’t seem to put Jesus into any of the recognized categories of exalted humans and his opponents understood it as a claim to personal deity.

  29. Vinny: We’re going to have to disagree about the usefulness of Bock’s work for understanding Jesus as making a claim to deity. If you re-read his summary point #2 on pp. 234-35 you’ll see that he closes it by saying: “In the exceptionally rare cases of those who get to go into God’s presence, those who go there are divinely directed there. It is not a role one claims for oneself.” Jesus, as divine, claims this role for himself. Also, right after your quotation Bock speaks of “Jesus’ claim to possess comprehensive independent authority,” which I don’t recall him suggesting of any of the mediator figures from the other Jewish literature.

    Also, I’m not sure what you mean when you turn to talk of John and Mark “communicating the same information about Jesus’ nature.” What do you mean by “same information”? We have different accounts. We have different claims to possess divine prerogatives. And we have different accusations of blasphemy based on said claims. Similar as all this is, and while the conclusion is that Jesus is equating himself with God, I’m not sure that I’d suggest (or have suggested, in fact I pretty much said the opposite and have just repeated it) that Mark and John are “communicating the same information about Jesus’ nature” unless of course you mean that we can reach the conclusion from both counts that Jesus made claims to deity.

  30. The ultimate question that I am trying to get at is whether Mark has the same understanding of Jesus’ divinity as John does or, stated differently, whether the Gospel of Mark reflects the same understanding as the Gospel of John.

    I am not sure that a self-claim of exaltation is comparable to being “one with the Father,” but I don’t think that we even have to reach that question. I think this is a point where we need to distinguish the understanding of the priests from the understanding of Mark. The priests may have understood Jesus to be blasphemously arrogating God’s prerogatives, but Mark’s readers would have known that they were wrong on that point. The reader would have known from Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration that it was God who had exalted Jesus, not Jesus who had exalted himself.

  31. To the extent that Mark understands Jesus as divine, is it not consistent with the concept of exaltation as divine authority that is conferred upon a human by God? Does it any way require equality rather than agency?

    Put another way, if Dr. Bock is correct that first century Jews would have understood that God could in his infinite wisdom exalt certain unique human beings and grant them authority to execute certain divine functions on His behalf and that these individuals nonetheless remained human beings, is there anything in Mark that points to some other understanding of Jesus as divine?

  32. Vinny: Great question! I’m a bit bogged down with some stuff right now but I’ll try to set aside some time tomorrow to answer it and offer some reading suggestions as well. Maybe I’ll turn it into a different post and we can move the conversation over there. We’ll see what happens.

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