Volume 48 - Issue 1

Seeing Is Not Believing: Apocalyptic Epistemology and Faith in the Son of God in Mark’s Gospel

By Hallur Mortensen


Following recent discussions on the nature of apocalyptic, this article argues that apocalyptic primarily has to do with revelation of hidden things. This means that at the core of apocalyptic is epistemology, and it is thus argued that the Gospel of Mark is apocalyptic essentially in its epistemology rather than eschatology. Mark’s parable theory, and hence the responses to Jesus, is examined in this light. The question as to why some respond in faith in Jesus as the Son of God, while others respond with fear, hardness of heart, and unbelief is answered by Mark’s apocalyptic epistemology: Jesus’s divine sonship must be revealed in order to be believed.

The question of Jesus’s identity is central to the Gospel of Mark and the author has structured his Gospel along the three statements of Jesus’s divine sonship at the baptism (1:11), the transfiguration (9:7), and the crucifixion (15:39).1 While this has often been noted, how this is connected with the widely acknowledged inability of Jesus’s disciples—as well as others—to understand and believe in who Jesus is, is nonetheless frequently left unaddressed.2 To frame the question differently: why do some people quickly demonstrate faith, while others—even after repeated encounters—fail to believe and recognize Jesus’s divine sonship? The answer, I will argue, lies in the apocalyptic epistemology of Mark’s Gospel, the hermeneutical significance of which has been under-appreciated.

1. Mark’s Apocalyptic Epistemology

To describe the Gospel of Mark as apocalyptic is not uncommon. For instance, Perrin and Duling state concerning Mark: ‘in many respects this gospel is an apocalypse’ or an ‘apocalyptic drama’.3 In N. T. Wright’s view, ‘Mark’s whole telling of the story of Jesus is designed to function as an apocalypse’,4 while Crispin Fletcher-Louis calls it ‘thoroughly apocalyptic’.5 However, while each of these uses the label ‘apocalyptic’ what they mean exactly is not necessarily identical. While Mark 13 is often considered the apocalyptic section of Mark par excellence,6 it will instead be argued that Mark’s Gospel is apocalyptic particularly in its epistemology rather than in its eschatology.

Before proceeding it is necessary to briefly delineate what is meant by ‘apocalyptic’ and especially ‘apocalyptic epistemology’. There is much that could and has been said about apocalyptic, apocalyptic eschatology, apocalyptic worldview, and apocalypticism, and only a fraction can even be mentioned here. There was such a variety in the usage of the word ‘apocalyptic’ by 1970 that Klaus Koch could write a book with the title Ratlos vor der Apokalyptik.7 After this, significant definitional work was done by, among others, Paul D. Hanson,8 the SBL Apocalypse Genre Project9 and the Uppsala colloquium.10 Subsequently, it became common to distinguish between (1) apocalypse as a genre, (2) apocalyptic eschatology and (3) apocalypticism as the social setting where the apocalypses originated.11

While the genre ‘apocalyptic’ may be established, though fuzzy on the edges, it is more precarious to speak of apocalyptic elements outside of the apocalypses proper—such as ‘apocalyptic worldview’ or ‘apocalyptic eschatology’. Christopher Rowland showed that it is problematic to deem ‘apocalyptic eschatology’ as core to apocalyptic as in the SBL ‘apocalypse’ Genre Project, and he argued that such eschatology is neither unique to the apocalypses nor consistently present.12

Rather, foundational to the meaning of apocalyptic is the notion that the apocalyptic seer is revealed things hitherto unknown and unknowable by regular human sensory perception and reason.13 As Rowland writes, ‘Apocalyptic seems essentially to be about the revelation of the divine mysteries through visions or some other form of immediate disclosure of heavenly truths’.14 In apocalyptic, the revelation of divine mysteries is a constant, but the content and the modes revelation are varied.15

This view of apocalyptic accords with the usage of the word in Revelation 1:1 as well as other NT texts (1 Cor 14:26; 2 Cor 2:10; 12:1; Gal 1:12, 16; 2:2).16 In Revelation 1:1, the Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is used as a title and content description of the book and refers to the revelation from God given to Jesus to show his servants and which then comprises most of the remainder of the book.17 This also seems to be the usage in the title and postscript in the oldest manuscript of the Protevangelium Jacobi (Bodmer Papyri V, 3rd or 4th century) which reads ΓΕΝΕCIC ΜΑΡΙΑC ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΙC ΙΑΚΩΒ.18 Here ‘Birth of Mary, Revelation of James’ is used as a title instead of the usual History of James. Although this proto-Gospel has nothing to do with eschatological violence, it is still called an ἀποκάλυψις. On the contrary, there is a consistent theme of angelic revelation: to Anna (4:1), to the high priest (8:2–3), to Joseph (9:1; 14:2), to Mary (11:1–3), to the Hebrew midwife (19:2), to the three wise men (21:4) and to Symeon (24:4). Furthermore, the angelic revelations are called ‘mysteries’ in 12:3 and Joseph has a vision in which he glimpses the vault of heaven and the earth from afar and sees everything in the state of motionlessness (18:2). This indicates that in the earliest Christian centuries ἀποκάλυψις referred in essence to a mode of knowing divine mysteries, rather than the specific content of the revelations given, let alone the eschatological catastrophic end of the world.

The essence of apocalyptic is the revelation of divine mysteries. Rowland explains, ‘Truths which are beyond man’s capacity to deduce from his circumstances are revealed directly by means of the manifestation of the divine counsels’.19 This being the case, what then are these ‘divine secrets’? According to Rowland, the content can fall into the four categories prohibited in Mishnah Hagigah 2:1: ‘Whoever reflects upon four things would have been better off had he not been born: what is above, what is below, what is before, and what is beyond. And whoever has no concern for the glory of his Maker would have been better off had he not been born’.20 Rowland argues that the mysteries that are above include the heavenly world of God and his angels, the exalted figures such as the Son of Man and Melchizedek, as well as astronomy. The mysteries below concern especially the position of man. The past mysteries cover the history of Israel, the history of the world, and protology. Finally, the eschatological events, the end of the present age, and the coming of the messiah constitute the future mysteries.21 A similar conclusion was also reached by Martin Hengel, who argued, ‘The epistemological basis of apocalyptic is the notion of the “revelation” of special divine “wisdom” about the mysteries of history, the cosmos, the heavenly world and the fate of the individual at the eschaton, hidden from human reason’.22 Apocalyptic is thus concerned with both the horizontal and the vertical dimension of reality, with the past and the future, especially as it impinges on the present.23 The conclusion is, therefore, that the essence of apocalyptic is the revelation of secret mysteries, which means that apocalyptic is epistemological at its core.

If then the core of apocalyptic is the revelation of things hitherto kept secret, this has ramifications for calling elements of non-apocalyptic texts apocalyptic. For instance, Benjamin E. Reynolds argues that the eschatological definition of apocalyptic has precluded the identification of the apocalyptic flavour of the Gospel of John.24 While Rudolf Bultmann argued that ‘revelation’ is foundational to the Gospel of John—though arguing for a Mandean origin25— Reynolds rather argues that this has a ‘close affinity’ to the Jewish apocalypses.26 Though not an apocalypse, he calls John an ‘apocalyptic’ gospel,27 being a ‘Gospel in genre but apocalyptic in mode’.28

The Gospel of Mark is also ‘apocalyptic’, not so much as pertains its eschatology but rather its epistemology. But what is the content of this revelation? As argued elsewhere in more detail, the Gospel of Mark reveals the elusive identity of Jesus’s divine sonship, both to the human characters in the narrative and to the reader; with the baptism episode, the transfiguration, and the Centurion’s confession as key apocalyptic moments.29 In Mark, Jesus is both the revealer and the one revealed; both proclaimer and the one proclaimed.30 As shall be seen, there are many witnesses who see Jesus’s extraordinary deeds, yet did not perceive. Without using the category of apocalyptic Martin Dibelius hence called Mark ‘a book of secret epiphanies’.31 The hidden identity of Jesus is revealed in such a way as not to be perceived.32 As J. P. Davies writes, ‘Mark’s apocalyptic epistemology underlines the importance of revelation and the insufficiency of human cognition alone’.33 The recognition, or lack thereof, of Jesus’s true identity demonstrates the apocalyptic epistemology of this Gospel.34

2. A Key to the Parables (Mark 4:11–12)

In the first extended teaching block in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus himself gives the epistemological key for understanding his parables, and by implication the rest of his teaching. This whole section includes the Parable of the Sower (4:3–9), its explanation (4:14–20), the Parable Theory (4:11–12), and the Parable of the Lamp (4:21–25). This early collection of parables, sayings, and explanation, provides the key for understanding the epistemology of Mark’s Gospel, and elucidates why some understand and believe, while others simply look without seeing.35

Of special importance are verses 11–12, which introduce the so-called parable theory, and many suggested solutions to the perceived difficulties of these verses have been offered. For example, scholars have argued that ἵνα in verse 12 is a mistranslation of the Aramaic de,36 that ἵνα introduces a citation,37 that the emphasis is on ‘result’ rather than ‘purpose’,38 or that the Greek has obscured the original Aramaic which meant that for outsiders ‘everything is obscure’ rather than ‘everything is in parables’,39 or finally that Jesus is here simply being sarcastic.40 Notwithstanding these difficulties, Mark 4:11–12 states that there will be many who will hear Jesus’s parables, but still fail to understand. The reason being that they have not been given the secret of the Kingdom of God. Thus 4:11–12 evidently distinguishes between two groups of people, those to whom the mystery has been given (τὸ μυστήριον δέδοται τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ) and those from whom the divine mystery of ‘perceiving’ has been withheld. The latter are further characterised as ‘those outside’ (ἐκείνοις δὲ τοῖς ἔξω). Mark 4:12 alludes to Isaiah 6:9–10;41 although in abbreviated form, and as Andrew Johnson rightly notes, the Isaiah 6:9–10 passage and thus Mark 4:11–12 on its own is epistemologically pessimistic.42 This passage illustrates the operating epistemology: that rightful knowing is given by God, and if no insight is given one will look without seeing, and listen without understanding. This is also indicated by the passive construction of δέδοται (‘given’) in 4:1143 and by the negative counterpart given in 6:52: ἀλλ᾿ ἦν αὐτῶν ἡ καρδία πεπωρωμένη (‘but their hearts were hardened’). Thus, according to this saying, one cannot simply decide to hear, since revealing and concealing are the activities of God.44 In Mark’s apocalyptic epistemology, the perception of the gospel, the coming of the kingdom of God, and the true identity of Jesus all depend on divine revelation. As Joel Marcus states, ‘to recognize vital truth, an act of God is necessary’.45

The difference between seeing and perceiving is the faith of the beholder. Thomas R. Hatina rightly points out that in 4:11–12, βλέπω (‘see’) and ἀκούω (‘hear’) are contrasted with ὁράω (‘perceive’) and συνίημι (‘understand’). Συνίημι is used only five times (4:12; 6.52; 8:17, 21; 7:14) and is a ‘more profound or deeper understanding of a given event or saying’46 while ‘ὁράω refers to a higher level of comprehension which is commensurate with faith’.47 Thus William Lane was on the mark when he stated that here ‘Jesus called attention to the contemporary situation of belief and unbelief, of revelation and veiledness’.48 How this relates to faith in Jesus will be examined below.

3. The Hidden Lamp (Mark 4:21–22)

If understood in isolation, Mark 4:11–12 should be understood pessimistically and as referring to two irrevocable or predestined groups. However, these two groups are not necessarily hard and fast, and even the disciples are perilously close to be among those ‘outside’ (8:17, 21);49 who are by definition seeing without perceiving.50 In this first extended teaching block of this Gospel, 4:11–12 is closely connected to 4:21–22, which follows immediately after the explanation of the Sower parable.51 That this is a parable of the epistemology of the kingdom becomes clear by the similarities of the strangeness of speaking in order that the listeners will not understand and of hiding something in order for it to be revealed.52 These two texts need to be taken together, so that the pessimism of 4:11–12 is not allowed to stand alone, but is modified by the logic of 4:21–22; that the light will not be hidden indefinitely.53

These verses begin with μήτι ἔρχεται ὁ λύχνος ἵνα… ‘Does the lamp come in order to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light’. This apparently odd expression ἔρχεται ὁ λύχνος is often masked by the rendering Is the lamp brought54 However, in this context this saying is about the hermeneutics of knowing; in other words epistemology. But how shall this lamp that is coming be identified? It could be the secret of the kingdom of God as argued by R. T. France and Ernst Lohmeyer,55 or as Camille Focant argues, the lamp could be an allusion to the ‘word’ which is sown in the previous parable; and thus possibly an allusion to the ‘word’ being a ‘lamp’ in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps 119).56 In Mark, however, it is always Jesus himself who is the subject of the lemmata φανερὸν and φανερόω. When the unclean spirits declare openly his divine sonship in 3:11–12, Jesus commands them not to make him known (φανερὸν), while in 6:14 it refers to Jesus’s name having become known.57 Furthermore, as James R. Edwards points out, the ‘reference to the lamp coming (Gk. erchetai) is more suitable of a person than an object’. 58 This suggests that the lamp 4:21–22 is not simply the word about Jesus, or even the kingdom, but Jesus himself.59 Thus, as Edwards adds, ‘Jesus is the lamp of God who has come to bring light and revelation’.60

Richard Hays thus rightly notes that in this context the parable of the lamp ‘is surely to be understood as a figurative discourse about the hermeneutics of hearing and understanding the word’.61 Jesus’s proclamation of the kingdom is for all (1:15) and while his identity is hidden and unperceived, the hiddenness is not intended to be permanent.62 As argued above, the core of apocalyptic is epistemology, meaning the hiding and revealing of divine mysteries.63 However, in apocalyptic, the purpose of secrets and mysteries is that they are eventually revealed through a chosen medium, and the revealed content is generally the content of the apocalypses. In Mark 4:21–22, Jesus is the lamp that is hidden, but hidden in order to be revealed in the proper manner and at the right time. As Hays comments, ‘the hiddenness somehow belongs to the revelatory purpose, or even promotes the revelation’.64 While the ‘full disclosure will occur only in the age to come’,65 as Marcus points out, the disciples oscillate between understanding and failure, until the final turning point at the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus.66 Thus the text itself contains a trajectory from hiddenness to full revelation, and the narrative demands an epistemology which is not entirely pessimistic.

This is also the point of 4:24–25, which begins with the admonition to pay attention to what one hears: Βλέπετε τί ἀκούετε. Why? Because to the one who has, more will be given. But to the one who does not have, also that which he has will be taken from him. The subject of these verses is not material wealth, but rather epistemology. If one receives the revelation, more revelation will be given, however, if one will not receive it, further blindness will ensue, for the rejection of the words of Jesus will mean rejection from God.67 Thus while Marcus correctly states that ‘people will receive insight according to the measure of their attentiveness’,68 it needs to be added that it is not simply a matter of paying attention, but especially of responding in faith. To this point we now turn.

4. The Disciples’ Failure

There some who are ‘outside’ and to whom is not given to see the divine mystery of the coming kingdom of God in Jesus. The resistance of the Pharisees is attributed to their hardness of heart (3:5), for they have both seen and heard with neither perceiving the true identity of Jesus nor responded in faith. Also, when the people of the Gerasenes reject Jesus after his setting free the demoniac, their dismissal is attributed to their fear of him (5:15). Furthermore, when the people reject Jesus in Nazareth, Jesus is amazed at their unbelief (6:5–6). In this final example, it is prima facie unbelief in the ability of Jesus to heal, even after they have seen him performing miracles. However, their unbelief in not restricted to this particular point, for in the wider context of this Gospel, his identity as the Son of God is also in view, for they recognize him only as the ‘son of Mary’ (6:3) and not as the Son of God, which is how God identifies him (1:11; 9.7). Their unbelief in his ability is connected with their lack of perception of Jesus’s divine sonship. The implication is that Jesus’s true identity is not perceivable by sight alone, including miracles, but only by revelation and a faith response.

But in Mark’s Gospel even the disciples themselves are in danger of being included in the category of those who will indeed listen but will not understand, and who will look but not perceive (4:12). Throughout the Gospel, the failure of the disciples is a running theme,69 and their failure is described as hard heartedness, fear, lack of understanding, lack of perception, and unbelief.70 As Michael Bird states, ‘The misunderstanding and failure of the disciples are narrative devices in Mark about epistemology and discipleship’.71 Most illuminating is Jesus’s critique of his disciples in 4:40: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ They have just witnessed Jesus command the wind and the waves (4:39), but rather than faith, they had fear, which in Mark is frequently contrasted with faith. Likewise, the synagogue leader in 5:36 is admonished to have ‘faith’ not ‘fear’ (μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευε).72

This is not the only epiphany on the sea in Mark’s Gospel, for in 6:47–52 the disciples again struggle in the boat, but this time Jesus is not with them. When he comes to them walking on the water, he intends to pass them by; an inter-textual reference that suggests an epiphany.73 The disciples’ lack of perception has up to this point been described as lack of understanding, fear, and lack of faith. But in 6:52 they get the same diagnosis as the Pharisees in 3:5: their hearts are hard. The concluding comment that they failed to understand about the loaves (6:52) shows that they have indeed been seeing, but still they have not perceived the truth about Jesus, echoing the epistemological key given in 4:11–12. They have already witnessed much, but their faith did not correspond to what they had witnessed (cf. 4:24–25).

This same epistemological dynamic is found in 8:17–18, 21, where Jesus rather mysteriously warns them of the bread of the Pharisees and of Herod (8:15), and asks his disciples whether they have eyes, yet do not see, and ears and yet do not hear, and have hardened hearts and thus still do not understand. These are the identifying characteristics of those outside (4:11–12). This question is prompted by their discussion of having no bread (8:17), even after Jesus had just previously fed both the 5,000 and the 4,000.74 They still (οὔπω, vv. 17 and 21) do not understand who Jesus is. At the first sea crossing (4:35–41) Jesus also criticizes the disciples for still having no faith (v. 40: οὔπω ἔχετε πίστιν). Although it has been argued that they should have had faith to command the wind themselves,75 or should be less concerned about what to eat, it seems rather that in the context of both 8:17–18 and 4:40–41, the real issue is their lack of perception and faith in who Jesus actually is (4:41). Rather than being a memory lapse, their failure to understand about the bread is attributed to hard hearts and lack of faith. ‘Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?’ (8:17b–18).

Therefore, the disciples who have witnessed not only healings and the casting out of demons but also the two sea epiphanies, have seen without perceiving. Their failure is due to a lack of faith resulting in hardness of hearts. These events are not just examples of the disciples’ mental bluntness in the face of an epiphany, but an outworking of Mark’s apocalyptic epistemology.76 Each of the three sea-crossing episodes in the Gospel (4:35–41; 6:47–52; and 8:14–21) serve as illustrations of this epistemology in relation to Jesus’s identity. In each of these episodes there is a spectacular failure to recognize who Jesus truly is—the Son of God.

Thus, while according to Frank Matera ‘the root cause of the disciples’ incomprehension is hardness of heart’,77 it seems that this is not the whole story since ‘fear’ and ‘lack of understanding’ and especially ‘unbelief’ are important factors which cannot be separated from the former, and indeed even precede it. Both the disciples and the synagogue leader are admonished to have ‘faith’ rather than ‘fear’ (4:40; 5:36 μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευε). Similarly, in hearing the parable of the vineyard, the chief priests, scribes, and pharisees respond in ‘fear’ (12:12) rather than ‘faith’ after Jesus refers to himself as the υἱὸς ἀγαπητός of the Lord (κύριος. 12:6, 9) in the parable. Thus, although they did ‘hear’ they did not ‘understand’ (4:12) and by not believing they positioned themselves with those ‘outside’.

5. Faith and the Revelation of Divine Sonship

But what is this faith that the disciples lack? Is it simply a lack of faith in Jesus’s miraculous ability to heal? Or in his proper understanding of the Scriptures?78 Is this belief, as Loader argues ‘less focused on his person than on his power’?79 In this Gospel that commences with the statement that Jesus is messiah and Son of God (1:1),80 where Jesus is identified with the Lord in the opening Isaiah citation (1:2–3),81 and which then moves swiftly to the baptism where Jesus is identified as the Son of God, it seem unlikely that his power can be separated in any meaningful way from his person and identity. Thus, when Jesus stills the storm, the demonstration of his power leads unavoidably to the question, ‘who is this?’ (4:35–41). Faith in his ‘power’ cannot be disassociated from faith in ‘who he is’. Therefore, when Jesus demonstrates his healing power by healing the paralysed man, the climax of the narrative concerns Jesus’s ability to forgive, and particularly what that means for his own identity (2:5) vis-a-vis God.

Why then do people not recognise Jesus’s divine sonship, even when given abundant evidence? The epistemological principle of 4:11–12 has already been noted: those outside will look, but not perceive, for to them the secret of the kingdom of God has not been given (4:11–12). The repeated passive voice—‘be disclosed’, ‘will be measured’, ‘will be added’, ‘will be given’, ‘will be taken away’ (4:21–25)—indicates that this is the work of God .82 However, revelation and insight will also be given in accordance with the axiom that the lamp comes in order to be seen and to give light (4:21–22), and with the reciprocal response principle of 4:24–25, that those who look without perceiving have not responded appropriately to the light that they have received. The ‘hidden lamp parable’ thus reveals a trajectory from hiddenness to revelation; from unbelief to faith. The narrative itself also demands an epistemology which is not entirely pessimistic. There are those who against the odds do perceive and understand because they respond in faith.83

The secret of Jesus’s identity as Son of God84 is not penetrated unless and until it is revealed by God and apprehended by faith. As Matera writes, ‘Hardness of heart paradoxically points to God’s revelation which cannot be grasped apart from divine assistance’.85 The passive givenness of revelation in 4:11–12 is mirrored by the passive hardness of hearts in 6:52 and 8:17. Matera adds, ‘Hardness of heart is a situation in which human beings find themselves in face of God’s revelatory action if God does not provide assistance to comprehend it’.86 The key for understanding the epistemology is introduced in 4:11–12 and modified by 4:21–25: some will be given insight but this insight will have to be responded to by faith.

While one could argue whether the hardness of heart and unbelief is the work of God87 or Satan,88 in Mark’s Gospel Satan is clearly an opponent who interferes with the revelatory process. After the exchange following Peter’s confession of Jesus’s messiahship, Jesus speaks the startling ‘get behind me, Satan’ (8:33) because he does not ‘think the things of God’ (but of man). Likewise, in the parable of the Sower (4:1–20), the failure of the seed/word to grow is attributed to three varying factors, including Satanic opposition which is the first to be named (4:15). There is thus human failure to understand that is, at least partly, tied to satanic interference.

The command to faith is the central message of Jesus: ‘repent and believe in the good news’ (1:14–15). The ‘good news’ which is to be believed concerns Jesus himself—who he is as well as what he does. It is not simply a message about his powerful deeds. However, witnessing the deeds of Jesus should lead to a faith response, but as has been seen, one can easily see with neither perception nor faith. The disciples, the Pharisees, and the crowds who are witnesses to both his miracles and his teaching may get a ‘general understanding’ of him, but this is not perception, especially if the response is hardness of heart or fear. One could ask why the onlookers in 3:11–12 do not recognise Jesus’s divine sonship after the demons had declared it openly, or why the religious elite do not believe when they hear his parable of the vineyard (11:27; 12:1–12) where he refers to himself as the ‘beloved son’, or even why the High Priest, who clearly knows what had been claimed of Jesus, fails to believe in him (14:61). As Eugene Boring notes, ‘The identity of Jesus is a matter of revelation, not deduction’.89 Morna Hooker also pointed out concerning the ‘confession’ of the evil spirits, ‘no one in the story hears them, the truth they utter remains hidden–as it must, to all whose eyes and ears have not been opened: their words are intelligible only to those who already believe that Jesus is what they declare him to be–the Son of God’.90 Although the claim of divine sonship has been both made and heard, it is still shrouded in secrecy. It remains undisclosed. If it is not grasped by faith, it is not grasped at all.91

On the topic of apocalyptic epistemology in 2 Corinthians 5:16–17, J. Louis Martyn argues that the believer undergoes an apocalyptic epistemological crisis, so that believers no longer see in the old way of seeing based on sense-perception, while rather in a new way based on revelation.92 This is also what happens in the Gospel of Mark to those who have faith. In Mark there is not a straight link between seeing and believing. Jesus warns in 13:21–22 about belief which is based on seeing alone and which can only result in faith in false christs. This is also the problem of the request at the cross in 15:32, when the chief priests and scribes demand a miracle before they will believe: ‘Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe [ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμεν].’ As Voelz points out, ‘In this strange and perplexing Gospel, seeing is not believing; on the contrary, seeing follows from believing’.93 In Mark there is no perception without believing.

The revelation of divine sonship is most clearly expressed by the centurion who confesses ἀληθῶς οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος υἱὸς θεοῦ ἦν (15:39). On a narratival level, a human being finally perceives the true identity of Jesus as the Son of God.94 Some have argued that the centurion’s conversion is too unrealistic,95 but this is missing the point, for in Mark seeing and perceiving have been contrasted, while faith and revelation are companions. The centurion has no good reason to confess Jesus’s divine sonship and does not appear to see the tearing of the veil from top to bottom.96 Here many see the same event, but the centurion sees it differently, with insight, with revelation, and thus ultimately sees with faith.97

In Mark’s Gospel revelation thus requires a response in faith. Jesus’s divine sonship must not only be revealed in order to be believed, but it must also be believed in order to be revealed. This accords with the reciprocal response principle of 4:25; to the one to has more will be given. As Marcus states, ‘In Mark there is a ‘mysterious interpenetration’ between faith and the grace shown in revelation’.98 Faith and revelation belong together, and thus a mere statement of Jesus’s sonship is neither faith nor revelation. Thus, in Mark’s narrative many have heard and even been witnesses to the secret of Jesus’s divine sonship, yet have failed to perceive it, for revelation is only given to those who respond in faith.99

6. Conclusion

This article argues that Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is especially identified as the Son of God, and that this identity remains hidden from human perception unless it is revealed. This revelation is not based on a particular seeing alone but needs to meet a faith-response. This dialectic between hiddenness and revelation, has its roots in Mark’s apocalyptic epistemology, which is most clearly seen in 4:11–12. Resistance to faith and revelation is characterised as a lack of understanding, fear, unbelief, and hardness of hearts. However, the epistemological pessimism of 4:11–12 is moderated by the promise of 4:21–25, which states that the light does come in order to be revealed. Those who respond in faith even to the little they have received will be recipients of further revelation.

[1] Hallur Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode as Trinitarian Narrative: Proto-Trinitarian Structures in Mark’s Conception of God, WUNT 2/535 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020), 139, 147; Richard Bauckham, ‘God’s Self-Identification with the Godforsaken in the Gospel of Mark’, in Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 263–64. Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988), 390–91.

[2] Suzanne Watts Henderson, Christology and Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, SNTSMS 135 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 205–9; Frank J. Matera, ‘The Incomprehension of the Disciples and Peter’s Confession (Mark 6,14–8.30)’, Bib 70 (1989): 153–72; Camille Focant, ‘L’Incompréhension des disciples dans le deuxième évangile’, RB 82 (1975): 161–85.

[3] Norman Perrin and Dennis C. Duling, The New Testament: An Introduction, Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History, 2nd ed. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982), 233, 237–39. For Perrin, this is because there is an imminent climax of history on the horizon.

[4] N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God 1 (London: SPCK, 1992), 395.

[5] Crispin Fletcher-Louis, ‘Jesus and Apocalypticism’, in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, ed. Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 2882; Cf. Christopher Rowland and Christopher R. A. Morray-Jones, The Mystery of God: Early Jewish Mysticism and the New Testament, CRINT (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 99; Adela Yarbro Collins, ‘Apocalypses and Apocalypticism: Early Christian’, in ABD 1:289; Burton L. Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 325–31; Howard C. Kee, Community of the New Age (London: SCM, 1977), 64–76; Elizabeth E. Shively, Apocalyptic Imagination in the Gospel of Mark: The Literary and Theological Role of Mark 3:22–30, BZNW 189 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012), 5, 21; N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God 3 (London: SPCK, 2003), 620; Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 390–96; On the contrary, Mark is ‘deeply anti-apocalyptic’ according to Siegfried Schulz, ‘Mark’s Significance for the Theology of Early Christianity’, in The Interpretation of Mark, ed. William R. Telford (London: SPCK, 1985), 166.

[6] Benjamin W. Bacon, ‘The Apocalyptic Chapter in the Synoptic Gospels’, JBL 28 (1909).

[7] Klaus Koch, Ratlos vor der Apokalyptik (Gütesloh: Mohn, 1970). Although the English edition is rendered The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic, more literally ‘ratlos’ means ‘helpless’ or ‘perplexed’.

[8] Paul D. Hanson, The Dawn of Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975).

[9] See John J. Collins, ‘Toward the Morphology of a Genre: Introduction’, Semeia 14 (1979): 1–20.

[10] David Hellholm, ed. Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August 12–17, 1979, 2nd ed. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1989).

[11] Paul D. Hanson, ‘Apocalypses and Apocalypticism: The Genre’, ABD 1:282.

[12] Christopher Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1982), 23–37.

[13] Rowland, The Open Heaven, 75; Cf. Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 115–19.

[14] Rowland, The Open Heaven, 70; Cf. Gunther Bornkamm, ‘μυστήριον in the New Testament’, TDNT 4:815: ‘The disclosure of divine secrets is the true theme of later Jewish apocalyptic’.

[15] Rowland, The Open Heaven, 71. See also C. K. Barrett, ‘New Testament Eschatology’, SJT 6 (1953): 138.

[16] Cf. Crispin Fletcher-Louis, ‘Jewish Apocalyptic and Apocalypticism’, in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, ed. Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 1588.

[17] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 183; David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, WBC 52A (Dallas: Word, 1997), 12; Craig R. Koester, Revelation, AB 38A (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 222; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, revised ed., NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 40; Wilfrid J. Harrington, Revelation, SP (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008), 43.

[18] See image at

[19] Rowland, The Open Heaven, 17; Cf. Rowland and Morray-Jones, The Mystery of God, 5, 108; Ithamar Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 44–45, 52.

[20] Translation by Jacob Neusner, cited in Rowland, The Open Heaven, 75.

[21] Rowland, The Open Heaven, 75–189; Cf. Michael E. Stone, ‘Lists of Revealed Things in the Apocalyptic Literature’, in Magnalia Dei, the Mighty Acts of God: Essays on the Bible and Archaeology in Memory of G. Ernest Wright, ed. Frank Moore Cross (New York: Doubleday, 1976), 414, 418; Rowland and Morray-Jones, The Mystery of God, 5.

[22] Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), 1:250. Cf. Joel Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12 and Marcan Epistemology’, JBL 103 (1984): 558 n. 4; Lorenzo DiTomasso, ‘Apocalypses and Apocalypticism in Antiquity (Part 2)’, CurBR 5 (2007): 408, emphasis original; J. P. Davies, Paul among the Apocalypses? An Evaluation of the ‘Apocalyptic Paul’ in the Context of Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature, LNTS 562 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 39.

[23] Cf. Rowland, The Open Heaven, 2; Barrett, ‘New Testament Eschatology’, 138–39; Fletcher-Louis, ‘Jewish Apocalyptic and Apocalypticism’, 1577; John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to the Jewish Matrix of Christianity (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 6, 23; Rowland and Morray-Jones, The Mystery of God, 5.

[24] Benjamin E. Reynolds, John among the Apocalypses: Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition and the ‘Apocalyptic’ Gospel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 30–31.

[25] Reynolds, John among the Apocalypses, 4.

[26] Reynolds, John among the Apocalypses, 14–15, 35.

[27] Reynolds, John among the Apocalypses, 120–29, 137–42.

[28] Reynolds, John among the Apocalypses, 20.

[29] Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 147, 139; See also Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 393–96. Michael F. Bird, ‘Tearing the Heavens and Shaking the Heavenlies: Mark’s Cosmology in its Apocalyptic Context’, in Cosmology and New Testament Theology, ed. Jonathan T. Pennington and Sean M. McDonough, LNTS 355 (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 53; Grant Macaskill, ‘Apocalypse of the Gospel of Mark’, in The Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition and the Shaping of New Testament Thought, ed. Benjamin E. Reynolds and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017), 77; Fletcher-Louis, ‘Jesus and Apocalypticism’, 2882; Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 563.

[30] At the baptism, Jesus both received a vision and is the content of the vision. Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 178; Macaskill, ‘Apocalypse of the Gospel of Mark’, 76; also Leslie A. Baynes, ‘Jesus the Revealer and the Revealed’, in The Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition and the Shaping of New Testament Thought, ed. Benjamin E. Reynolds and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017), 15–16, 30. Bultmann wrote in a different context: ‘He who had formerly been the bearer of the message was drawn into it and became its essential content. The proclaimer became the proclaimed’. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (London: SCM, 1952), 1:33, emphasis original.

[31] Martin Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (Cambridge: James Clark, 1971), 230, emphasis original; See also Richard J. Dillon, ‘Mark 1:1–15: A ‘New Evangelization’?’, CBQ 76 (2014): 18; Lamar Williamson Jr., Mark, Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox, 1983), 35; Ludger Schenke, Das Markusevangelium (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1988), 109. I argue elsewhere that the whole baptismal episode is also an ‘epiphany’ (for the reader) and a ‘hidden epiphany’ (for the story’s characters) in Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 123–24, 146.

[32] See also Williamson, Mark, 35; Schenke, Das Markusevangelium, 109.

[33] J. P. Davies, ‘Apocalyptic and the History of God: Possibilities from Mark’s Epistemological Inclusio’, in One God, One People, One Future: Essays in Honour of N. T. Wright, ed. John Anthony Dunne and Eric Lewellen (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2018), 521–22.

[34] J. P. Davies, ‘Apocalyptic Topography in Mark’s Gospel: Theophany and Divine Invisibility at Sinai’, JTI 14 (2020): 147.

[35] Birger Gerhardsson rightly stresses that the parable of the sower is hermeneutically fundamental in ‘The Parable of the Sower and its Interpretation’, NTS 14 (1968): 165. Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 557; Thomas E. Boomershine, ‘Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages in Paul, Jesus, and Mark: Rhetoric and Dialectic in Apocalyptic and the New Testament’, in Apocalyptic and the New Testament: Essays in Honor of J. Louis Martyn, eds. Joel Marcus and Marion L. Soards, reprint ed., LNTS 24 (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 158–59.

[36] E.g., T. W. Manson, cited in Joel Marcus, Mark 1–8, AB 27 (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 299.

[37] E.g., Bruce Chilton mentioned by Marcus, Mark 18, 299. See also discussion in R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002), 199.

[38] As argued by Peisker, cited in Marcus, Mark 18, 299.

[39] Joachim Jeremias, cited in Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to St Mark, BNTC (London: Black, 1991), 128.

[40] Noted in Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 167.

[41] E.g., Aage Pilgaard, Kommentar til Markusevangeliet (Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2008), 144; France, Mark, 199–201; Hooker, Mark, 127.

[42] While the allusion to Isaiah 6:9–10 in Mark 4:12 is typically discussed, the allusion to Deuteronomy 29 is less frequently noted. Andrew M. Johnson has pointed out that the only two texts in the Old Testament that have this connection between heart, ears, and eyes are Isaiah 6:9–10 and Deuteronomy 29:4 (MT 29:3). The ‘unique coupling’ of κρυπτός and φανερός only appears together once in the entire Old Testament (Deut 29:29 [MT 29:28]); and in New Testament they only appear in Mark 4:22 (and its parallel, Luke 8:17). The two texts also make use of the phrase ‘ears to hear’ (ὦτα ἀκούειν). It is noteworthy that when Paul uses the same motif in Romans 11:8 he clearly alludes to Deuteronomy 29:4. Andrew M. Johnson, ‘Error and Epistemological Process in the Pentateuch and Mark’s Gospel: A Biblical Theology of Knowing from Foundational Texts’ (PhD thesis, University of St. Andrews, 2011), 138–47.

[43] Hooker, Mark, 128. Marcus, Mark 18, 298; Macaskill, ‘Apocalypse of the Gospel of Mark’, 65.

[44] Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 562, 566; See also Bornkamm, ‘μυστήριον in the New Testament’, TDNT 4:818.

[45] Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 559.

[46] Thomas R. Hatina, In Search of a Context: The Function of Scripture in Mark’s Narrative, JSNTSup 232 (London: Sheffield Academic, 2002), 221.

[47] Hatina, In Search of a Context, 221.

[48] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 159; cf. Boomershine, ‘Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages’, 158–59.

[49] C. F. D. Moule, ‘Mark 4.1–20 Yet Once More’, in Neotestamentica et Semitica: Studies in Honour of Principal Matthew Black, ed. Earle E. Ellis and Max Wilcox (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1969), 99.

[50] Moule, ‘Mark 4.1–20’, 100.

[51] Various structures of Mark 4:1–34 have been proposed, but Camille Focant—relying on Joanna Dewey, B. Standaert, and Jan Lambrecht—shows that vv. 21–25 stand at the structural centre of this whole discourse. Camille Focant, L’évangile selon Marc, Commentaire biblique Nouveau Testament 2 (Paris: Cerf, 2010), 156.

[52] Marcus, Mark 18, 318.

[53] See e.g., France, Mark, 208–9; Mary Healy, Mark: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 89.

[54] E.g., ESV, NRSV, NASB95, NET, CSB, NIV, NASB20; Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), 100–101.

[55] France, Mark, 208; Ernst Lohmeyer, Das Evangelium des Markus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1957), 85. Cf. Lars Hartman, Markusevangeliet 1:1–8:26, KNT 2A (Stockholm: ESF, 2004), 156.

[56] Focant, L’évangile selon Marc, 176–78. Cf. Marcus, Mark 18, 318.

[57] In the longer ending of Mark (16:12, 14) it is Jesus who appears (φανερόω) to the disciples.

[58] James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 139.

[59] E.g., Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark (London: SPCK, 1970), 100; Hays, Echoes of Scripture, 100–101. Healy, Mark, 89; Lane, Mark, 166–67; C. E. B. Cranfield, Gospel According to Saint Mark, CGTC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), 164–65; Hooker, Mark, 133–34.

[60] Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, 139.

[61] Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 100.

[62] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 356; Hatina, In Search of a Context, 229; Joachim Gnilka, Das Evangelium nach Markus 1: Mk 1–8.26, EKKNT (Zürich: Benziger Verlag, 1978), 180.

[63] Cf. Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 560.

[64] Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 100.

[65] Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 567.

[66] Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 569–72.

[67] Hatina, In Search of a Context, 229; Larry W. Hurtado, Mark, Understanding the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 76.

[68] Marcus, Mark 18, 320.

[69] For more extensive explorations on this theme see Theodore J. Weeden, Mark: Traditions in Conflict (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971); Ernest Best, Following Jesus: Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, JSNTSup 4 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981); Ernest Best, Disciples and Discipleship: Studies in the Gospel according to Mark (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986); John R. Donahue, The Theology and Setting of Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1983).

[70] Gregg S. Morrison, The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Markan Christology (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014), 8: ‘When one understands the identity of Jesus properly, the natural response is to follow in discipleship’.

[71] Michael F. Bird, ‘Mark: Interpreter of Peter and Disciple of Paul’, in Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts and Controversies, ed. Michael F. Bird and Joel Willitts, LNTS 411 (London: T&T Clark, 2011), 34, emphasis mine; cf. David E. Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987), 56.

[72] In Mark ‘fear’ needs to be qualified, however, for in 5:33 when the woman with haemorrhage touched Jesus’s cloak, fear is associated with faith.

[73] Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 70–73.

[74] Joel Marcus called the feeding of the 4,000 ‘a secret epiphany’ in Mark 18, 497. Cf. Larry W; Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 286.

[75] See David Rhoads and Donald Michie, Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), 90.

[76] J. P. Davies rightly argues the same in relation to the disciples’ response to the transfiguration. Davies, ‘Apocalyptic Topography’, 143.

[77] Matera, ‘Incomprehension of the Disciples’, 157.

[78] Mary Ann Beavis, ‘Mark’s Teaching on Faith’, BTB 16 (1986): 139–42; William Loader, ‘The Concept of Faith in Mark and Paul’, in Paul and Mark: Comparative Essays Part 1: Two Authors at the Beginnings of Christianity, ed. Ian Elmer, David C. Sim, and Oda Wischmeyer (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014), 429, 433–34.

[79] Loader, ‘The Concept of Faith’, 436, emphasis mine.

[80] The originality of ‘Son of God’ in 1.1 is textually disputed. See further discussion in Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 186–87 n. 209.

[81] Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 82–92; Joel Marcus, The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 39; Christian Rose, Theologie als Erzählung im Markusevangelium: Eine narratologisch-rezeptionsästhetische Untersuchung zu Mk 1,1–15, WUNT 2/236 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 84–85; Simon Gathercole, The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 244; Rikki. E. Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark, BSL (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997), 87; Sigurd Grindheim, Christology in the Synoptic Gospels: God or God’s Servant? (London: T&T Clark, 2012), 97–98; Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 63–64.

[82] There a number of places in Mark where God’s action is accomplished by a divine passive. Gustaf Dalman, The Words of Jesus: Considered in the Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and the Aramaic Language (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 224–26; Marcus, Mark 18, 320; Cf. Joachim Jeremias, Neutestamentliche Theologie: Erster Teil, Die Verkündigung Jesu (Gütersloh: Mohn, 1971), 20–24. John R. Donahue, ‘A Neglected Factor in the Theology of Mark’, JBL 101 (1982): 566 n. 15.

[83] Apocalyptic epistemology is not necessarily mutually exclusive to other sources of knowledge, such as evidence, scripture or wisdom. It is often unnecessarily supposed, especially in relation to Paul, that apocalyptic and salvation-history are mutually exclusive conceptions. Davies, Paul among the Apocalypses?, 40–63, esp. 55; Davies, ‘Apocalyptic and the History of God’, 519–26; Fletcher-Louis, ‘Jewish Apocalyptic and Apocalypticism’, 1577; Markus Bockmuehl, Revelation and Mystery in Ancient Judaism and Pauline Christianity, WUNT 2/36 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1990), 1, 26–27; Shively, Apocalyptic Imagination, 21–26, 37; Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, 251; N. T. Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 52; Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 281.

[84] On ‘the secret of divine sonship’ vs ‘the messianic secret’ see Mortensen, The Baptismal Episode, 183–89.

[85] Matera, ‘Incomprehension of the Disciples’, 158.

[86] Matera, ‘Incomprehension of the Disciples’, 158–59; Cf. 162. See also Joel Marcus, Mark 8–16, AB 27A (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 609 (on 8:33).

[87] Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 561; Ira Brent Driggers, Following God through Mark: Theological Tension in the Second Gospel (London: Westminster John Knox, 2007), 2.

[88] Walter Wink, ‘The Education of the Apostles: Mark’s View of Human Transformation’, RelEd 83 (1988): 284.

[89] M. Eugene Boring, Mark: A Commentary, NTL (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), 46.

[90] Hooker, Mark, 67.

[91] Bornkamm, ‘μυστήριον in the New Testament’, TDNT 4:818. Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, WBC 34A (Dallas: Word, 1989), 410.

[92] J. Louis Martyn, ‘Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages’, in Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), 95–96, 108. In the context of Galatians, Martyn argued that the old way of seeing kata sarka contrasts with the new way of seeing which is not simply kata pneuma, but kata stauron. The failure of the Corinthians is a ‘failure to view the cross as the absolute epistemological watershed’; Cf. Douglas A. Campbell, ‘Apocalyptic Epistemology’, in Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination, ed. Ben C. Blackwell, John K. Goodrich and Jason Maston (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016), 78.

[93] James W. Voelz, Mark 1:1–8:26, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 2013), 55, emphasis original.

[94] It has sometimes been argued that the text should be translated as ‘a son of God’ or ‘a son of a god’ because the Greek lacks the definite article and that this indicated a Gentile and incomplete perception of Jesus’s identity. Rudolf Pesch, Das Markusevangelium, HThKNT (Freiburg: Herder, 1977), 2:500; Earl S. Johnson Jr., ‘Is Mark 15.39 the Key to Mark’s Christology?’, JSNT 10 (1987): 3–22; Whitney T. Shiner, ‘The Ambiguous Pronouncement of the Centurion and the Shrouding of Meaning in Mark’, JSNT 22 (2000): 3–22. E. C. Colwell argued, ‘Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article’. Though, if context demands it such words can be understood as indefinite. E. C. Colwell, ‘A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament’, JBL 52 (1933): 20–21; Cf. Johnson, ‘Is Mark 15.39 the Key to Mark’s Christology?’, 6–7. Note, for example, the absence of the article in 1:1. Cf. Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 766. Adela Yarbro Collins, ‘Mark and His Readers: The Son of God among Greeks and Romans’, HTR 93 (2000): 93.

[95] Johnson, ‘Is Mark 15.39 the Key to Mark’s Christology?’, 13.

[96] As in Matt 27:54. Cf. Brian K. Gamel, ‘The Centurion’s Confession as Apocalyptic Unveiling: Mark 15:39 as a Markan Theology of Revelation’ (PhD diss., Baylor University, 2014), 98, 100; C. Clifton Black, ‘The Face is Familiar—I Just Can’t Place it’, in The Ending of Mark and the Ends of God: Essays in Memory of Donald Harrisville Juel, ed. Beverly R. Gaventa and Patrick M. Miller (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005); 43.

[97] Cf. Gamel, ‘The Centurion’s Confession’, 167. On Peter’s confession as revelation see Marcus, Mark 916, 612.

[98] In Marcus, ‘Mark 4:10–12’, 562 n. 20. Cf. 558–59; Christopher D. Marshall, Faith as a Theme in Mark’s Narrative, SNTSMS 64 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 234.

[99] Hooker, Mark, 67.

Hallur Mortensen

Hallur Mortensen completed a PhD at Durham University and currently works with Operation Mobilization in Japan.

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