06 Jan 2013 
#29 Another Markan problem: “Mark” and Jesus as “the king of the Jews”

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Did “Mark” invent Jesus as believed by some contemporaries to be (or will be) “the king of the Jews”? And for his gospel audience which appears to be mostly Gentile?

In gMark, Jesus is not acclaimed as “king (of Israel)” when approaching Jerusalem, even if the crowd seems to indicate that by its (alleged) shoots:

"Blessed is he [Jesus] who comes in the name of the Lord [God]" and "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David"(11:9b-10a).

Furthermore, prior to that, Jesus is said to mount a young colt, “which no one has ever ridden” (11:2).
The story seems unrealistic: would it be inserted in order to suggest the crowd associated this with the (unmentioned) prophecy in:
Zechariah 9:9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey."
and from that, sees Jesus as king over Jerusalem?

But the first time Jesus is called “king of the Jews” comes much later, during the (made up) trial:
"Then Pilate asked Him, "Are You ["do you want to become" would be a lot more realistic] the King of the Jews?" He answered and said to him, "It is as you say" [but implied as a no-reply according to the next three verses "... But Jesus still made no reply..."]." (15:2).
Did “Mark” feel the need to have Jesus accept tacitly the charge (in order to explain the later sign on the cross) but, at the same time, rejected Jesus conceding it? It seems to me “Mark” tried to have it both ways: a public admission by Jesus but interpreted (by the author) as null, that is cancelling Jesus' avowal.

Earlier, "Mark" alleged Jesus is sent for execution by the Romans because of his claim to be the Christ, the Son of God & the future heavenly Son of Man (14:61-64) and nothing else.
Once again, it appears that “Mark” showed some significant reluctance relative to Jesus called “king of the Jews” and crucified under this charge.

Later in the gospel,
"[the chief priests and teachers of the law] "Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, [which he does not, proving them wrong!] that we may see and believe." [but only if Jesus would escape from the cross when still alive!]" (15:32a). That would demonstrate Jesus could not be a (temporal) king of Israel, which, again, is likely what “Mark” wanted to show.

Of course, in these days, the ideal “king of the Jews” was thought to be also “Son of David” (Mk12:35). But, according to “Mark”, Jesus does not claim to be one of those:
“David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”” And anywhere else in the gospel, Jesus is said to be Son of David, except earlier in 10:47-48.

Here Jesus is called
“Jesus Son of David”, then “Son of David”, but it is only at the second time that Jesus acknowledges the caller (a blind man). Of course, that comes only from one man, not necessarily representative of the opinion of many. Maybe “Mark” included this story (true or invented) in his gospel just to explain how this “Son of David” attribute started.

In conclusion, it seems “Mark” and his community inherited of Jesus as “king of the Jews” because that was known to be believed by some contemporary Jews in Jerusalem while he was still alive and written on a sign affixed to the cross. Then the author had to include that in his gospel, even if he disliked it.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Crucifixion} {king of the Jews} {historical Jesus} {Mark's gospel}
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