Friday, March 12, 2010

NT Pod Extended Episode 4: The Messianic Secret in Mark

This is the fourth extended episode of the NT Pod. The topic is the Messianic Secret in Mark and it is a slightly edited recording of a lecture given as part of my Introduction to the New Testament course at Duke University on 15 February 2010.

It is 48 minutes long.

NT Pod Extended Episode 4: The Messianic Secret in Mark (mp3)

NT Pod Extended Episode 4: The Messianic Secret in Mark (mp3) (Alternative location)

If you would like to follow along, the class handout (PDF) is available here.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Thanks for all your efforts to make this podcast possible. And, thanks especially for the extended episodes. These are particularly helpful.

  2. Indeed, thanks for making this available.

    I like the "cosmic dramatic irony" language! Jesus' confession as the Messiah immediately before his death (as you pointed out) is yet another weakness of Wrede's construal of the Messianic secret. It makes good sense that Mark is trying to tie the themes of Messiah and suffering together in a concatenated relationship.

    Additionally, this would seem to dovetail nicely with what Mark seems to be doing with the disciples. The call to follow Jesus—in Mark—is a call to suffer.

  3. If events like Jesus' donkey-back entry into Jerusalem weaken the case for Wrede's explanation of the Messianic Secret, how does it interact with your proferred explanation involving the Jesus self-proclamation leading directly to the Crucifixion? A broader question for me is why Jesus keeps telling people (and demons!) to keep his secret and yet no one ever seems to? Either they go off and tell everyone (the leper in Mark 1:43), they identify the Son of God publicly (those demons again) or there is no way that Jesus actions could possibly stay secret (Jairus' daughter). Just what is the evangelist up to?

  4. I see I ought to have listened to this Extension before commenting at pod27. Thanks again.

    I’m seeing a lot of Peter’s influence in Mark and Mark’s “secret.” Recall the tradition that Mark was associated with Peter as ‘translator’ at some time contemporary with his commission to organize his record.


    If we can believe Acts 2:14ff, it was the “impetuous” Peter who at Pentecost jumped head-first into preaching a crucified Messiah to the Jews. When this guilt-motivated preaching “proved itself” by the winning of souls, did it become the new Good News? Do preachers stick with what works?

    Peter does seem to kick off the new church without public mention of the divinity of the Son (so as not to offend his Jewish hearers?). The dichotomy between the divine Son’s Galilean Gospel and the Apostle’s Jerusalem (mega)Church of the Messiah might well have necessitated a later device like Mark’s “secret” when the record was published.

  5. Thanks -- all interesting comments.

  6. Nice surprise! Another extended episode. :) One question: Where is Jesus crucified as a λῃστής ("robber")? If I remember correctly he is crucified together with two robbers. The only other instance I can think of is in the garden where he reproaches his attackers that they are coming for him as if he were a λῃστής. But λῃστής means robber, not insurgent, as it is sometimes falsely translated in modern English bibles. So I'm a bit confused. Martin Luther even wrote "murderer". Although… Luther's variant makes kind of sense, because the attackers are like assassins, carrying knives/daggers (μάχαιρα) to "lay hands on him" (συλλαμβάνω).

  7. Good points. What I said was something of a short-cut.

  8. Or asked differently: Would a Messianic claimant (cf. the accusers' exaggerated testimonies during the trial) be viewed as and approached like a common criminal, a lestes?

  9. Ah, post overlap. ;)

  10. There's one more thing. At the end you say that Jesus says "I am" when asked during the trial if he is the Christ (Mk 14:62). Although the churches decided that this is supposed to be the correct reading, it is not sure at all, because there are five MSS plus a few minor MSS (plus a corroboration by Origen) where this is not what Jesus said. Instead it reads: συ ειπας οτι ἐγώ εἰμι ("Thou sayest so that I am"), which corresponds to Jesus' "Thou sayest it" when confronted by Pilate (Mk 15:5). So in these MSS Jesus doesn't say anything, doesn't give any information himself; only the other people speak in his stead. So it's possible that in reality the Messianic secret was upheld even during the trial and before Pilate.

  11. Wrong quote: It's not Mk 15:5 but Mk 15:2. (In any case, Jesus' silence in Mark after the capture is very striking.)

  12. I've really enjoyed the extended episodes. Hope to hear more in the future.

  13. Thanks. I have one more in the can, on Mark's Passion, and plan more in due course.

  14. I realise this podcast and discussion is quite old now, so apologis for returning to it.

    Recently during my spare time I;ve started mapping the occurrences of Jesus' instructions to secrecy in Mark, both geographically and according to their position in the narrative (with an indication of some other factors such as whether there were public crowds and/or religious leaders present).

    At the moment, I'm not convinced that the healing of the leper in Mark 1 fits the "secrecy" bill, becasue the "leper" is explicitly instructed to tell certain people - the religious leaders what has happened.

    It seems to me that the first actual instructions to secrecy are placed immediately/soon after Mark 3:6, where the religious and political leaders are now introduced as mortal enemies of Jesus.

    It is from this point that Jesus begind to encourage more careful public relations. It seems that even Jesus' family are now concerned about his actions (drawing crowds) with their apparent interruption of his house-meeting in 3:7.

    The story seems to be mapping out a trajectory from 1-3 where Jesus first explicity turns to the religious leaders for confirmation of who he is (by his instructions to the leper), through to the "behind his back" murmurings in early chapter 2, direct questioning in later chapter 2, attempts at entrapment in early chapter 3, plotting to kill in ealry-mid chapter 3. The explicity fear/concern from his followers in mid 3.

    I'm inclined to represent the data on a kind of tension v timeline graph. I think the arrangement of the incidents in Mark quite clearly demonstrates this rise in tension from chaptres 1-3 at least.

    I'm yet to see if there are any geogrpahic factors that come into play (my background is in geogrpahy, so this kind of thing always interestst me). But I'm collecting the data, so we shall see.

  15. Thanks for the interesting observations, z.