Did the Author of Mark NOT Believe in Jesus’ Divinity?

The original version of the Gospel of Mark may have ended at Mark 16:8. This point is not disputed by Christians as multiple versions in English of Mark’s Gospel explicitly state that the earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20. Atheists use this point to claim the author of Mark did not believe Jesus resurrected. They also note that many theologians (including Christians) believe the Gospel of Mark was the first of the four Gospels to be written, so the “addition” of the resurrection in later Gospels was an embellishment by the other authors. Yet evidence all throughout the Gospel of Mark contradicts their claims.

Below I have quoted an atheist called Jim Majors who was once the president of the Atheist Republic, which apparently has 2.2 million followers. On social media, I asked Jim whether the Gospel of Mark provides sufficient evidence of Jesus’ divinity. He responded as follows:

“I don’t believe so. Jesus, like John the Baptist, seems to be an apocalyptic prophet who believed the end was imminent, hence the ‘son of man’ references. He could only be argued as going as far to say that he’s the son of man, but he doesn’t seem to make the distinction that it is him in the textual tradition. Mark 8:38, for instance, says: ‘For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels.’ It seems that the Christology implied by Christians was a later Hellenistic influence. He doesn’t want Peter telling anyone that Jesus is the Messiah, or the anointed, which was most likely being intended in the Jewish messianic political sense. The author of Mark also doesn’t seem to understand the prophecy and traditional perceptions of Zechariah, surrounding the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He begged God to take the cup from him. He didn’t want to die. We also don’t have any accounts of the risen Jesus before 16:9. Additionally, there seem to be several issues in the early textual history of Mark 1:1 and the claim of Jesus being the Son of God.”

Mark 16:1-8

Atheists often ignore the information provided in the final verses of Mark when making the claim that Mark’s Gospel excludes Jesus’ resurrection.

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.”

The other three Gospels and the addition at the end of Mark tell us that Jesus appeared initially to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the tomb and then to the women after they had left the tomb.

Matthew 28:8-10 says, “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.’”

The other Gospels explain the “rest of the story,” yet even if we didn’t have them, we have other evidence within Mark’s Gospel of Jesus’ divinity.

Fulfillment of the Prophecies

As prophesied by Daniel (9:24-27), the “Anointed One” would appear at a particular time, which (as I have noted in multiple blog posts) was 483 360-day years after the Decree of Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. on Nisan 10 (March 30th).

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.” (Daniel 9:25-26)

This suggests the Anointed One would be revealed and crucified during the Passion Week in 33 A.D. One reason Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone about his divinity even after Peter declared him to be the Messiah (Mark 8:27-30) was the truth of his identity foretold by the prophets was not yet to be revealed to the public.

Hoehner (1977, p. 91) outlines the Passion Week as follows:

“A few days before the final Passover, Jesus drew near to Jerusalem (John 11:55), arriving at Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1), namely the Saturday before the Passion Week. That evening, Jesus was anointed at Simon the leper’s house (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8). On the next day (Sunday) there was a great crowd that came to Bethany to see Jesus (John 12:9-11). The next day (John 12:12), Monday, was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9); Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19), his visit to the Temple (Matthew 21:10-11; Mark 11:11), and then his return to Bethany. The day of the triumphal entry would be Nisan 10 when the lamb was selected for the Passover. Hence, the triumphal entry was the day when Christ presented himself as Israel’s Paschal lamb.”

Note that Jesus’ triumphal entry was prophesied by Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus’ appearance in the Temple was prophesied by Malachi 3:1. The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans.

Malachi 3:1 “’I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Jesus calms the storm

Pastor Mike Winger pointed to other interesting evidence to support Jesus’ divinity based on the time when Jesus calmed a storm.

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you have no faith.’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.’” (Mark 4:37-41)

No prophets in the Old Testament had the capabilities to change the weather. Further, in the Scriptures, only God has that power. Examples include Job 5:10, Psalm 78:26, 135:7 and 147:8, Jeremiah 10:1 and 10:13, and Jonah 1:4 and 4:8.

“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storms to a whisper. The waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:29)

Jesus’ apostles were likely well aware of the Scriptures indicating this, so when they asked one another about Jesus’ identity, they undoubtedly knew the implications of Jesus’ actions. Jesus was revealing his identity to them gradually through his many miracles and signs.

“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you? Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” (Mark 8: 27-30). It was not yet his time.

Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, he portended his death several times. “‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’” (Mark 10: 33-34.

Note that Jesus referred to himself in the third person, as the events he portended were (obviously) about him.

“Then the high priest stood before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus, ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They ALL condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards took him and beat him.”(Mark 14:60-65).

The significance of this event was two-fold. For one, the Sanhedrin knew that Jesus was directly referring to a prophecy from Daniel about the Messiah (7:13). Secondly, Jesus’ crucifixion was based on a charge of blasphemy. They had no other allegations against him.

Jesus referred to himself as the “Son of Man” fourteen times in the Gospel of Mark (and 81 times in all four Gospels). Sometimes he spoke in the first person and sometimes he spoke in the third person. One needs to read the full passages to determine their meanings.

“‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’ If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’”

Note that in the very next passage, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain where they witnessed his transfiguration. “And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (Mark 9:9).

Referring to himself as “I am” and as the “Son of Man” had significant implications to the Jews of his time. “Jesus’ use of the more potent Son of Man was subtle yet at the same time actually quite direct. As we have discovered, this phrase alone supremely reinforced the claim of deity as does 1 Enoch. Son of Man alone would have been sufficient for the Sanhedrin to declare blasphemy. Yet Jesus continued. He looked Caiaphas and the Council right in the eye and said, in essence, “I am God.” Like a good rabbi Jesus included all elements of the Divine Messianic package in his short answer. He neatly combined the more potent Son of Man phrase (that virtually says it all) with several super-charged rabbinic phrases. By linking Daniel 7 into his reply he includes: the son of clouds; the Shekinah glory; the Word (memra) who created all things; the right hand of the Ancient of Days; at eternal Dominion (Kingdom); glory and kingship; and, all the kingdoms and nations of the world will (pelach) serve-worship him. Jesus could not have been rabbinically clearer.” (Tribelhorn, 2015, p. 116)

Did early followers of Jesus believe he is God?

Jesus is referred to as God in writings by Ignatius (105 A.D.), Clement (150 A.D.), Justin Martyr (160 A.D.), Irenaeus (180 A.D.), Tertullian (200 A.D.), Origen (225 A.D.), Novatian (235 A.D.), Cyprian (250 A.D.), Methodius (290 A.D.) Lactantius (304 A.D.) and Arnobius (305 A.D.) (Tribelhorn, 2015). Note these were all prior to the Council of Nicene, when some skeptics (such as Dan Brown in the DaVinci Code) make a claim that it was first determined Jesus is divine.

A Sanhedrin to the rescue! How embarrassing!

If the Gospel authors were merely fabricating their stories, including numerous examples of embarrassing testimonies seems unlikely. Mark reported that his friend Peter denied Jesus three times after Jesus had been arrested (Mark 14:27-31). Mark reported that Jesus’ mother and brothers tried to stop him (Mark 3:31-35). Mark also reported that Jesus was without honor in his home town and among his relatives and in his own home (Mark 6:4) and that Jesus couldn’t perform miracles in his home town (Mark 6:5). But the story of Joseph of Arimathea may be one of the most embarrassing testimonies.

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.” – Mark 15:43-46

In just a handful of verses, we learn much about Joseph of Arimathea. For one, he contributed to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (53:9), which was written around seven hundred years earlier:

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”

We learn that Joseph was a prominent man in the Sanhedrin and the Sanhedrin had voted in favor of Jesus’ condemnation. And we may assume that his guilt of association may have led to his desire to give Jesus a proper burial. In Romans 2:15, Paul tells us that our consciences will convict us, so we do what we can to make amends. Joseph did what he could to make amends for the actions of the Sanhedrin. He had not consented to their decision (Luke 24:51).

Furthermore, women followed and witnessed Joseph of Arimathea’s actions and Jesus’ burial in Joseph’s tomb. Jesus’ family and his apostles were poor and likely had no tomb of their own to give Jesus a proper burial, so God intervened by working through Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus’ male apostles were not present during this period. They were in hiding. They only came out from hiding when the women, including Mary Magdalene, reported that the tomb was empty (in all four gospels). Women were the first to encounter Jesus after He resurrected. This is notable since women were not regarded as the sources of valid testimonies during that time. (See Josephus).

Conclusion

In summary, I have presented evidence to refute the claim that the author of the Gospel of Mark had any questions about Jesus’ divinity. If we only had Mark 14:62, we have a revelation of divinity, yet we have so much more.

References:

Hoehner, H.W. (1977). Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Corporation.

Tribelhorn, T.B. (2015). Opening the Rabbinic Doors to the Gospels. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press.

 

 

 

2 Replies to “Did the Author of Mark NOT Believe in Jesus’ Divinity?”

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