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The Messianic Secret In The Doctrine Of Mark The Disciple

All through the Gospel of Mark, and much more prominently in this Gospel than in any other, we are presented with numerous points at which the identity and activity of Jesus is attempted be kept secret. Because the publication of Wrede’s ‘epoch-making[1]’ work on the subject, scholars have come to refer to the pervading sense of Jesus’ concealment using Wrede’s own term: ‘The Messianic Secret.’ Nevertheless, although most do recognise that such an air of secrecy does prevail, there continues to be disagreement relating to the all round centrality of the messianic secret and the part which it fulfils in Mark. In this essay I will seek to sustain the line of argument that the sheer frequency with which secrecy is alluded to in the Gospel acts as a clear indication of the theme’s import for the writer. Even so, even though we may possibly be capable to deduce that the notion is important in some way, the specifics are highly ambiguous. When examining the theology of the gospel, we have to contact into query how far the messianic secret is a purposeful theological addition to the text, as opposed to just a historical documentation or an inheritance of an concept or a collection of suggestions from an earlier tradition. Exactly where affirmation of the 1st of these choices would potentially point to the centrality of the messianic secret to the overall theology of the Gospel, affirmation of the latter two would lessen the extent to which we could claim its theological value.

Prior to engaging in an exploration of the significance of the Messianic secret to Mark’s Gospel, it is maybe worth outlining the textual proof we have for the notion of secrecy it is clear from the number of references that secrecy is one thing which the writer of Mark deemed in need of reinforcement. As Strecker maintains, ‘The motif of the messianic secret appears really often in a assortment of approaches. This indicates that we ought to acknowledge the basic significance of the motif for the interpretation of the complete Gospel[2].’ It is also worth highlighting that Wrede’s coinage ‘The Messianic secret’ was not basically intended to denote elements of secrecy which specifically refer to Messiaship, though this is what the term immediately implies ‘the phrase ‘messianic secret’ has become a quasi-technical term to designate a cluster of phenomena in the Gospels, specifically in Mark. Neither ‘messianic’ nor ‘secret’ conveys precisely what Wrede intended, he used ”messianic” not only to connote messiahship strictly defined but as a general term to designate Jesus’ religious status as a divine becoming or person endowed by God with transcendent energy, and Geheimnis has the connotation of “mystery” as effectively as “secret”.[three]’ The diverse approaches in which claims about Jesus are silenced in the Gospel are often categorized for ease of referral for example, the category of commands to silence directed towards any person who recognises Jesus’ identity. In these cases, Jesus himself requires the initiative to actively keep his identity disclosed[four]. For instance, we are told that Jesus ‘cured a lot of who were sick with different ailments, and cast out many demons and he would not permit the demons to speak, simply because they knew him[5].’ We see this silencing of the demons once more at 3:12. Jesus seeks discretion from these he has healed for instance, following the raising of Jairus’ daughter, ‘ He strictly ordered them that no 1 ought to know this.[six]’ Commands of this nature can be observed at 1.43-45, 7.36, and 8.26, Jesus demands the silence of the disciples at eight.30 and 9.9. In addition to these quite a few explicit demonstrations of the secrecy theme, we can see Mark suggesting Jesus’ desire for privacy when he retreats from the crowd to teach the disciples in isolation (four.34 7.17-23 9.28 eight.31 9.31 10.32-34 13.3), an implicit suggestion of mystery and concealment. Jesus’ want for privacy becomes manifest elsewhere in the text also Boring refers to the notion of the ‘Incognito Christ’: ‘The Markan Jesus seeks privacy he wills to stay unknown and unrecognized. Right after the “day of the Lord” of 1:21-34, when every person was looking for him, Jesus avoids publicity and goes elsewhere (1:35-38). This pattern is repeated (six:31-32, 7:24, 9:28-32)[7].’ Numerous would also see Jesus’ speaking in parables as a method by way of which to prevent understanding of his teaching. It is clear, then, that the idea of secrecy is one nicely established within the text, it is clearly of some significance to the writer of Mark. The nature of this significance even so, has been extensively debated.

Prior to the operate of Wrede, and certainly, soon after it, numerous critics of Mark’s Gospel believed an historical reading of the text was the clear approach as Tuckett notes, ‘the earlier studies of Holtzmann and other people had convinced the majority of scholars of the literary priority of Mark’s Gospel. Nevertheless, this was then frequently taken as an indication of Mark’s historical reliability[8].’ Under this interpretation, he query with regards to secrecy became a query of the reasons why the historical Jesus might have wanted to conceal his identity. A common conclusion was that Jesus understood his personal Messiahship very differently to the way he believed other individuals would he concealed his identity in an try to escape the misinterpretation of the term which would inevitably stick to. Jesus’ contemporaries may possibly have understood Jesus’ Messiahship as a political a single, a ‘claim to political kingship.[9]’ Forbidding the Messianic proclamation until soon after his death and resurrection would signal that Jesus was not this earthly, political Messiah[10]. Numerous recognised a gradual disclosure of Jesus’ Messiahship which allowed for the right interpretation of his function to slowly create. It is not challenging to envision other sensible motives behind Jesus’ secrecy the crowds, for instance, may possibly have turn out to be burdensome- we can already see this flagged as a slight issue earlier on in the text (3:9). Alternatively, we might envisage Jesus not wanting to detract attention from his preaching about God which Messianic claims may well have done.

Nevertheless, the problems with this historical line are evident. Firstly, as Hooker points out, the historical approach does not clarify why Jesus would want to confuse his disciples concerning his understanding of his Messiahship. In addition, the strategy presumes the reality of ‘unclean spirits’ and, further, presumes that witnesses to Jesus’ exorcisms would not notice the Messianic proclamations of these spirits[11]. In addition, it mustn’t be forgotten that the messianic secret is a purely Markan addition- Jesus’ identity is proclaimed freely throughout the other Gospels. Matthew and Luke, for instance, depict magi and angels as identifying Jesus correct at the starting of their Gospels[12]. The Fourth Gospel explicitly rejects notions of secrecy, Jesus claims he has ‘spoken openly to the world…I have said nothing in secret[13].’ Wrede rejected the historical approach totally claiming that conclusions about the historical Jesus from Mark had been drawn to too hastily ‘the essential had to be sought in the believed-planet of Mark, not in the history of Jesus[14].’

Wrede, himself, took on an entirely new method to the idea of secrecy in the Gospel. He viewed all of the different strands of secrecy within the text as a entire and concluded that the notion stemmed entirely from Mark’s tradition. He noted that the early church recognised that Jesus had been created Messiah by God at his resurrection his life was not deemed to be Messianic. Only later in the history of the tradition, did the belief commence to emerge that Jesus’ life had been Christological. Wrede concludes that the messianic secret was, consequently, a ‘transitional notion and it can be characterised as the after-effect of the view that the resurrection is the beginning of the messiahship at a time when the life of Jesus was already being filled materially with messianic content. Or else it proceeded from the impulse to make the earthly life of Jesus messianic, but 1 inhibited by the older view, which was nevertheless potent[15].’ So, if one particular had been to adopt Wrede’s viewpoint, to what extent could we claim that the notion of the messianic secret was theologically critical to the Gospel? We can, at least, claim that this viewpoint allows far more space for secrecy obtaining theological significance than the historical approach if the events had been basically an historical account of genuine events, then we maybe cannot claim any amount of theological interpretation for the Gospel. But, if Mark’s concepts stemmed from the brewing Christologies around him, then we can maybe only claim that the secrecy theme is either an try to appease these distinct Christian groups or an attempt to represent them. Would we regard this is a strong theology? ‘ The concept of Mark as an independent theologian is not entertained by Wrede at all[16].’

Nonetheless, a lot of have located fault with Wrede’s rather uncomfortable interpretation. Hooker, for example, notes that Jesus was put to death as a ‘Messianic pretender[17]’ inquiries about his messiahship need to currently have been getting asked even if Jesus was reluctant to answer them. She maintains that ‘Jesus acted with authority and believed himself to have been commissioned by God: it is challenging not to use the term ‘messianic’ to describe such authority[18].’ Moreover, she notes that had the church intended to place forth a messianic interpretation, some thing clearer than the messianic secret would have emerged. Aside, from Wrede’s view, even so, others have place forth reasons for the secrecy theory which stem far more from an agenda than a theological strategy. For instance, the apologetic interpretation regards the messianic secret to be a Markan technique to clarify the factors why Jesus was rejected by the Jews. If it could be claimed that Jesus was intending to keep his messiahship concealed e.g. by means of speaking in parables, then it is far more understandable that he wasn’t much more embraced.

If we were to assert that the messianic secret was central to the theology of the gospel, we would have to argue that it did in truth have a theological purpose, that it was intended to communicate anything Christologically about Jesus. In order for this to be asserted, I consider 1 would perhaps have to view the messianic secret as a narrative device. When study in the light of this interpretation, numerous potential narrative motives for the inclusion of the secrecy theme start to emerge. Even so, it is usually needed with this approach to view the situations of secrecy as separate events in spot for separate factors, as opposed to a Wrede-like notion that they all serve the very same purpose. Many have noted that the theme of secrecy could potentially be a approach utilized by Mark in order to illustrate how amazed Jesus’ contemporaries have been by his miraculous actions it is usually the case that even following becoming explicitly commanded to act with discretion, Jesus’ followers simply cannot aid but proclaim what they have knowledgeable. With regards to Jesus talking in parables, it has been suggested that this, becoming the only way in which humans would understanding Jesus’ teachings, expressed the ‘fundamental inaccessibility of God: only in a parable, only in a image can we comprehend him at all, not in direct speech[19].’ It could also potentially be recommended that the messianic secret assists to establish a reliance or trust in the disciples’ preaching about Jesus, given that they had been privately taught by him. As Boring notes, ‘Despite his concentrate on the cross and resurrection, continuity with “the life and teaching of Jesus” is critical for Mark. The neighborhood can rely on the revelation that has been mediated to it by the apostles. This, too, is an aspect of the messianic secret[20].’ Maybe, also, it might be the case that Mark is attempting to stay true to the historical events of Jesus’ life whilst independently telling the reader that he is and was the Messiah this arguably establishes a dramatic irony which enables Mark to tell the story of Jesus secure in the information that the reader is aware of Jesus’ messianic identity. This would explain, for instance, the silencing of the demons.

It is clear that throughout Mark’s Gospel, we are presented with numerous instances of secrecy concerning Jesus’ identity and a sense of mystery surrounding his teaching. The frequency of these occurrences is enough to assert in a extremely common way that the concept of secrecy was critical to the writer of Mark. Nevertheless, beyond this broad assertion, the specifics are rather ambiguous. I feel that when examining the theology of the gospel, we should call into question the extent to which the messianic secret is a purposeful theological addition to the text, as opposed to simply a historical documentation or an inheritance of a collection of suggestions from Mark’s contemporary audience. The adoption of any of these options would alter how we view the Messianic secret and its fundamental centrality to the theology of the Gospel of Mark.



[1] Georg Strecker, The Theory of the Messianic Secret in Mark’s Gospel, in The Messianic Secret, C. Tuckett (ed.) P.49 [two] ibid. p.53 [three] Boring, M. Eugene. Mark. Louisville, KY, USA: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2006. ProQuest ebrary. Web. [four] ibid. [5] Mark 1:34 [six] Mark 5:43 [7] Boring, M. Eugene. Mark. Louisville, KY, USA: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2006. ProQuest ebrary. Web. [8] Christopher Tuckett, The Dilemma of the Messianic Secret, in The Messianic Secret, C. Tuckett (ed.) [9] Morna Hooker, The Gospel according to St. Mark [ten] Boring, M. Eugene. Mark. Louisville, KY, USA: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2006. ProQuest ebrary. Web. [11] Morna Hooker, The Gospel according to St. Mark [12] Boring, M. Eugene. Mark. Louisville, KY, USA: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2006. ProQuest ebrary. Internet. [13] John 18:20 [14] H. Raisanen, The Messianic Secret in Mark’s Gospel [15] William Wrede, The Messianic Secret, p.229 [16] H. Raisanen, The Messianic Secret in Mark’s Gospel [17] Morna Hooker, The Gospel according to St. Mark [18] ibid. [19] Eduard Schweizer, The Question of the Messianic secret in Mark, in Messianic Secret, C. Tuckett (ed.) [20] Boring, M. Eugene. Mark. Louisville, KY, USA: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2006. ProQuest ebrary. Internet.
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