we meet Jesus of Nazareth at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, almost surely the oldest of the four, he’s a full-grown man.He comes down from Galilee, meets John, an ascetic desert hermit who lives on locusts and wild honey, and is baptized by him in the River Jordan.Tags: Short Essay On How I Spent My Summer VacationMulti Step Problem Solving 4th GradeWhat To Write A Cause And Effect Essay OnOf Mice And Men EssaysPython Homework AssignmentsAp Biology Essay QuestionsCritical Thinking App
Kermode considers Mark to be, as the French would say, a text that reads itself: the secret it contains is that its central figure is keeping a secret that we can never really get. The fine English actor Alec Mc Cowen used to do a one-man show in which he recited Mark, complete, and his Jesus came alive instantly as a familiar human type—the Gandhi-Malcolm-Martin kind of charismatic leader of an oppressed people, with a character that clicks into focus as you begin to dramatize it. He likes defiant, enigmatic paradoxes and pregnant parables that never quite close, perhaps by design.
It is an intentionally open-ended story, prematurely closed, a mystery without a single solution. What seems new about Jesus is not his piety or divine detachment but the humanity of his irritability and impatience. He gets annoyed at the stupidity of his followers, their inability to grasp an obvious point. A story about a vineyard whose ungrateful husbandmen keep killing the servants sent to them is an anti-establishment, even an anti-clerical story, but it isn’t so obvious as to get him in trouble.
Mark invents the idea that Jesus’ secret was not that he was the “Davidic” messiah, the Arthur-like returning king, but that he was someone even bigger: the Son of God, whose return would signify the end of time and the birth of the Kingdom of God.
The literary critic Frank Kermode, in “The Genesis of Secrecy” (1979), a pioneering attempt to read Mark seriously as poetic literature, made a similar point, though his is less historical than interpretative.
If one thing seems nearly certain to the people who read and study the Gospels for a living, it’s that this really happened: John the Baptizer—as some like to call him, to give a better sense of the original Greek’s flat-footed active form—baptized Jesus.
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They believe it because it seems so unlikely, so at odds with the idea that Jesus always played the star in his own show: why would anyone have said it if it weren’t true?In his latest installment, “Jesus, Interrupted” (Harper One; .99), Ehrman once again shares with his readers the not entirely good news he found a quarter century ago when, after a fundamentalist youth, he went to graduate school: that all the Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death; that all were written in Greek, which Jesus and the apostles didn’t speak and couldn’t write (if they could read and write at all); and that they were written as testaments of faith, not chronicles of biography, shaped to fit a prophecy rather than report a profile.The odd absences in Mark are matched by the unreal presences in the other Gospels.In Mark, for that matter, the two miraculous engines that push the story forward at the start and pull it toward Heaven at the end—the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection—make no appearance at all.The story begins with Jesus’ adult baptism, with no hint of a special circumstance at his birth, and there is actually some grumbling by Jesus about his family (“Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house, is a prophet without honor,” he complains); it ends with a cry of desolation as he is executed—and then an enigmatic and empty tomb. The Greek word , long taken to mean “carpenter,” could mean something closer to a stoneworker or a day laborer.Book after book—this year, ten in one month alone—appears, seeking the Truth.Paul Johnson has a sound believer’s life, “Jesus: A Biography from a Believer,” while Paul Verhoeven, the director of “Basic Instinct,” has a new skeptical-scholar’s book, “Jesus of Nazareth” (Seven Stories; .95).(The view that the search for the historical Jesus is like the search for the historical Superman—that there’s nothing there but a hopeful story and a girlfriend with an alliterative name—has by now been marginalized from the seminaries to the Internet; the scholar Earl Doherty defends it on his Web site with grace and tenacity.)The American scholar Bart Ehrman has been explaining the scholars’ truths for more than a decade now, in a series of sincere, quiet, and successful books.Ehrman is one of those best-selling authors like Richard Dawkins and Robert Ludlum and Peter Mayle, who write the same book over and over—but the basic template is so good that the new version is always worth reading.(It’s left to the Roman centurion to recognize him as the Son of God after he is dead, while the verses in Mark that show him risen were apparently added later.)The intractable complexities of fact produce the inevitable ambiguities of faith. (One thinks of the similar shadings of a word like “printer,” which could refer to Ben Franklin or to his dogsbody.) If a carpenter, then presumably he was an artisan.If a stoneworker, then presumably he spent his early years as a laborer, schlepping from Nazareth to the grand Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, nearby, to help build its walls and perhaps visit its theatre and agora.