How the Gospel of Mark Retrofitted Jesus into a Pre-Existing Christ Idea

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by Neil Godfrey

The background to the following post is The Gospel of John as  a form of Jewish Messianism? (Part 2). It presumes some awareness of how in some Jewish quarters Daniel 7’s Son of Man was being interpreted in a way that led to controversial Jewish texts like the Similitudes of Enoch and the Gospel of John.

In my view Jesus was entirely unnecessary for the formation of Mark’s Christology, as he is the fulfillment, not the provocation of that Christology. — Boyarin, 354

Before the Gospel of Mark was written, even possibly before the figure of Jesus was existed in anyone’s mind, there were Jews who interpreted Daniel 7 to claim that the Messiah, the Christ, would be divine human and known as the Son of Man. Again on the basis ultimately of Daniel 7 those Jewish sectarians believed that the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of Man, would be a divine human with the “Father God” (“Ancient of Days”) having granted him total sovereignty on earth. The author of the Gospel of Mark was one of those who embraced this belief about the messianic prophecies. He chose to fit Jesus into that divine Son of Man messiah or christ template in his gospel.

(This notion of Christ was not the same as the one advanced by Paul. Paul never spoke of the messiah as a Danielic Son of Man figure. Perhaps the author of the gospel acquired the Danielic view of the Christ after Paul had done his work.)

Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, is the about the Messiah as a divine human (which is not to deny a Markan contribution to the development of such ideas). This article, in its present form, is intended as an answer to the question of “how the ‘Son of Man’ . . . came to appear on Jesus’ lips in Mark’s Gospel, or for that matter in the tradition as a whole.” My simple answer is that the “Son of Man” was on Jesus’ lips, because he was a first-century, Palestinian Jew, and “Son of Man” was the name that these Jews used for their expected divine-human (Christological!) redeemer. (354)

What evidence for this view can be found in the Gospel of Mark?

Mark 2:5-10

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins“—he said to the paralytic—

Boyarin argues that Mark 2:10 is meant to recall Daniel 7:14.

20 Indeed, even were it possible (which it is not) to entertain Vermes’s suggestion on
philological grounds, it would be excluded here. If Jesus is not identifying himself by a known title, then his claim to be the one (the only one) who has authority to remit sins would be unrelenting personal arrogance and indeed blasphemy. For this point, see Μ. Hooker, The Son of Man in Mark: A Study of the Background of the Terms “Son of Man” and Its Use in St Mark’s Gospel (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1967), 84.—22 See too, “In claiming this divine prerogative Jesus classes himself as the Son of Man into the category of the divine, and his superhuman act of healing is the sign for this claim. So already in 1927 O. Procksch suggested that here ‘the Son of Man’ stands for the Son of God,” S. Kim, “The ‘Son of Man’ as the Son of God” (WUNT 30; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1983), 2.—24 J. Marcus, Mark 1—8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 530. See too Kim, “The ‘’Son of Man’,” 90.

But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” This verse is the crux. Once we have excluded the possibility of “the Son of Man” being simply, another way of saying “I,” then I think it must be conceded that it is a title, here.20 The Son of Man has authority (obviously delegated by God) to do God’s work of the forgiving of sins on earth. From where could such a claim be derived if not from Daniel 7:14, in which we read that the One Like a Son of Man has been given, “authority, glory, kingship;” indeed an “authority that is eternal that will not pass away”? The term that we conventionally translate as “authority” in its New Testament contexts, έξουσία, is, of course, exactly the same term which translates Aramaic שלטן (compare Strong’s #7985) in the Septuagint, so what Jesus is claiming for the Son of Man is exactly that which has been granted to the (One Like a) Son of Man in Daniel. Given the meaning of the Aramaic Vorlage in Daniel, “authority” strikes me as a rather weak rendering; “sovereignty” would be much better. Sovereignty would surely explain why the Son of Man has the power to remit sins on earth. According to this tradition, then, there may be no question; this Jesus claims to be the Son of Man to whom divine authority on earth, “under the heavens” (Daniel 7:27) has been delegated. In contrast to most interpreters, I would argue, moreover, that this One to whom authority has been delegated, as a divine figure, is a redeemer king, as the Daniel passage clearly states, and thus ripe for identification with the Davidic Messiah, if not always clearly so identified.22 I thus here directly disagree with Yarbro Collins’s assumption that the title “Son of Man” conceals as much as it reveals or that we cannot understand that the audience of Mark already understood the epithet. I find much more compelling in this instance the statement of Joel Marcus:

This conclusion [that the “Son of Man” in the Similitudes is pre-Christian] is supported by the way in which Jesus, in the Gospels, generally treats the Son of Man as a known quantity, never bothering to explain the term, and the way in which certain of this figure’s characteristics, such as his identity with the Messiah or his prerogative of judging, are taken for granted. With apologies to Voltaire, we may say that if the Enochic Son of Man had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent him to explain the Son of Man sayings in the Gospels.24

I would only shift the terms of the last phrase to indicate that what this means is that the usage of the Son of Man in the Gospels joins with the evidence of such usage from the Similitudes to lead us to consider this term used in this way (and more importantly the concept of a second divinity implied by it) as the common coin — which I emphasize does riot mean universal or uncontested — of Judaism already before Jesus. (359 f)

For an explanation of the relevance of the Similitudes of Enoch refer to the earlier post, The Gospel of John as a form of Jewish Messianism? (Part 2).

If we follow through on the above interpretation of the Son of Man having the Danielic sovereignty to enable him to forgive sins then it is “entirely plausible that he would claim sovereignty over the Sabbath as well” — as we read subsequently in the same chapter.

Mark 2:23-28

23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; 28 so [ώστε] the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.”

[T]he Markan Jesus is making precisely the same kind of claim on the basis of the authority delegated to the Son of Man in Daniel as he does in 2:10. (361)

An objection:

On the basis of Genesis 1 it has been countered that the sabbath is not “under the heavens” — and Daniel 7:27 proclaims the power of the Son of Man is given over all that is “under the heavens”. Daniel 7 is clear: the power given the Son of Man by the Ancient of Days is over all that is “under the heaven”.

A response:

I wish to suggest that this objection is entirely answered by the statement that the Sabbath was made for the human being; consequently the Son of Man, having-been given dominion in the human realm, is the Lord of the Sabbath. It is actually a necessary part of the argument that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, for if the Sabbath is (as one might very well claim on the basis of Genesis 1) in heaven, then the claim that the Son of Man who only has sovereignty on earth can abrogate its provisions would be very weak. Given the absence of verse 27 in both synoptic parallels, moreover, it might very well be a secondary addition in the Markan tradition, precisely to answer such an objection, while Matthew and Luke carry forward an earlier Markan tradition in which the Son of Man is declared Lord of the Sabbath without the Sabbath for Man logion. I think that this explanation of the connection between verses 27 and 28 answers many interpretative conundrums that arise when 27 is read as a weak sort of humanistic statement. We can now understand precisely what the entailment implied by ώστε is. It is precisely because the Sabbath was created for the human and is therefore part of the human world that the Son of Man has sovereignty over it; it is not in heaven. In my view, this passage can only be understood if this manner, for, otherwise it leads us into interpretations, hardly plausible, that would have Jesus claiming that any human being can abrogate the Sabbath at will or that he can abrogate the Sabbath because of his human nature and not because of his commission as ruler of the sublunar world. What may have been a traditional Jewish saying to justify breaking the Sabbath to preserve life is, in the Markan Jesus’ hands, the justification for a messianic abrogation of the Sabbath. (361)

Finally, Boyarin draws attention to the comparison in the gospel between Jesus’ and David’s actions. That comparison may be interpreted as evidence that the Son of Man redeemer of Daniel 7:13-14 was further understood to be a messianic King, and hence son of David. Just as David had the authority to violate a particular law when he and his followers were in need, so “the new Davidic, the Son of Man with respect to his disciples.”


I will post separately on Boyarin’s case against Geza Vermes’ argument that “Son of Man” in the Gospel of Mark was a mere circumlocution for “I”, the speaker.


Boyarin, Daniel. 2010. “The Sovereignty of the Son of Man: Reading Mark 2.” In The Interface of Orality and Writing: Speaking, Seeing, Writing in the Shaping of New Genres, edited by Annette Weissenrieder and Robert B. Coote, 353–62. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.







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33 thoughts on “How the Gospel of Mark Retrofitted Jesus into a Pre-Existing Christ Idea”

  1. But is Daniel itself purely Jewish? Daniel stories are widely known to be multicultural. Just outside Israel (Persia? during the captivity?) there are known Daniel stories that are not found in Jewish literature.

    Daniel was taken from Israel as a slave, to foreign lands. Jews presume he taught foreigners many things, like science (Dan. 1.4-15 KJE). However, countless scholars have suggested the reverse; in foreign lands, Daniel learned many new things. Which were henceforth patriotically asserted to have been from Israel.


    1. Hellenistic Influence On The Idea Of Resurrection In Jewish Apocalyptic Literature by Stephen J. Bedard

      Related to being transformed into a god is the idea of becoming a star, sometimes called astral immortality. Wright points out that this was an ancient belief going back to Pythagorean philosophy and Orphic
      religion, as well as Babylonian and Egyptian sources.39 One of the best examples is from Plato’s Timaeus where the ideal destiny of the dead is described: ‘He who lived well during his appointed time was to return and dwell in his native star, and there he would have a blessed and congenial existence.’ For those who lived extraordinary lives, death was not a shadowy Hades to be dreaded, but an eternity to be enjoyed either as a star or as a god. But does this have anything to do with the Jewish apocalyptic view of resurrection? One of the earliest and clearest descriptions of the
      resurrection in Jewish texts is from Daniel: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to
      everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12.2-
      3).The parallels with the Greek beliefs are obvious. Not only are the people who experience this transformation called ‘the wise’, exactly as Plato would expect, but the image is that of being transformed into stars forever, just as some Greeks believed. However, this reference to ‘stars’ is not just a connection to Plato’s Timaeus. In Daniel an identification of stars with angels is implied and as John Collins comments, ‘it is quite clear that to “shine like the stars” is to join the heavenly host’. The image of resurrection given at this defining moment in Jewish apocalyptic
      literature is that of becoming like the stars, of becoming angels. If Daniel was indeed composed in the wake of the struggles with Antiochus IV, there is a sense of irony in that those who resisted the Hellenizers and held true to the Torah would in fact receive the ideal Hellenistic afterlife.

      Despite the best efforts of scholars such as N.T. Wright, foreign influence on Jewish theological development cannot be denied. The fact that Greek language was being introduced into the Jewish religious world such as by the translation of the Septuagint, required an influx of other Greek concepts. As Adela Yarbro Collins states, ‘One does not learn and use a language without being influenced by the culture of which it is a part.’ The only reason to deny Greek influence, as
      Wright attempts to do, is the mistaken notion that Jewish equals truth and Greek equals falsehood. Ironically, the Apostle Paul, with all his Jewish training and background, would likely have seen Greco-Roman apotheosis as being closer to his understanding of resurrection, as described in 1 Corinthians 15, than the pessimistic view found in
      Jewish texts such as Eccl. 3.19-21. The Jews, who had a less than fully developed doctrine of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible, looked for means to express and develop that which had long been dormant. The source of their inspiration was Hellenistic culture, that mixture of Greek, Persian and Egyptian ideas that flooded Israel after Alexander the Great with a force so strong that even the fiercest foes of the Hellenizers could not fully escape.

      The Quest for Mark’s Sources by Thomas P. Nelligan

      The degree to which Judaism became Hellenized makes difficult the assessment of texts from the perspective of Jewish literary practices alone. By the Hellenistic period they had become so thoroughly meshed together that to treat them separately would be to provide an improper and incomplete study of a particular text.

    2. The Book of Daniel was written in the second century BCE. The story of the character Daniel being taken captive is part of the fictional narrative written in the Hellenistic era. The Book of Daniel has been accepted into the Jewish canon so whether it was written by an Edomite pretending to be a Jew or an Aramaean work stolen and adapted by Jewish scribes makes no difference to its various places in Jewish religious culture.

      The Gospel of Mark clearly draws heavily throughout its chapters on Daniel.

      1. When an idea from one culture, is adopted by another, a wide range of odd things can happen. Among other things, consider the American adoption of Australia, as “Crocadile Dundee.” Or America’s adoption of Chinese food. What happens is that 1) typically, bits of the original are lost. So at times, the American copy is not as good as the original.

        So in cross-cultural borrowings, sometimes ideas are partly assimilated; but in a way that loses some of the sense of the original.

        Relating to this, 2) often old elements remain. But they are garbled. They are not adequately understood. Since the original context of their production was lost.

        For that reason, when looking at cross-cultural borrowings, cultural diffusion, it is useful to look at the original.

        And in fact, this is one of the main reasons we study History; to better understand the origins of present day thinking. And how some ancient ideas were perhaps improved; but some were perhaps garbled. Or inadequately assimilated and only half understood.

        In such cases therefore, we need to look at not one, but two cultures. At the present day adaptation. But also at the original, as well. Especially when we want to understand History and cultures.

        1. We are not interested in “the original”, as you put it, if that “original” is not related to the culture or time of the text and ideas we are examining. If we want to understand Judaism in the Second Temple era then that’s what we study. When we see how different cultures influenced a literature or idea in another culture, we are not looking at “garbling” or “corruption” but we are looking at the creation or birth of a new idea that is meaningful for that culture, say Judaism, — there is no corruption. There is change, evolution, a new creation if you like, for a new culture. We don’t judge anything in Judaism as “inferior” to a culture it borrowed from.

          If we want to understand different cultures that had contact with each other then we seek to understand each in its own right. We do not say one of those cultures is inferior or wrong in some way because it adapted and changed what it borrowed to suit better with its own ways.

          That’s a sort of imperialist view of history that is no longer with us, hopefully. It’s the sort of history that judged colonial nations as inferior to the mother country because they did not replicate exactly the ways of the founding country. And of course it spills over into racist history, too.

  2. Jean Magne thinks that the Son of Man tradition in Enoch and Mark was anti-Gnostic propaganda insofar the Son of Man figure, by definition of Son OF MAN, makes the human image that he is supposed to have as one worthy of divine reverence, pace the Gnostic contempt for the man as image of the demiurge, per Gen 1:27 :

    So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them

    1. We see gnosticism coming not from Israel or Palestine, but from surrounding alien territories. Especially the Greek empire, which after c. 330 BC overlapped with Israel (Tyre, etc.). And which with Rome, dominated Egypt too, after Alexander, Titus, and Caesar.

      Christian historians are often not good at philosophy, which they regard as secular, and not religious. However, those who read Plato – his implied Theory of Forms, and especially the simpler Parable of the Cave – should be able to see the roots of Gnosticism there especially.

      Platonism is widely acknowledged to have been very influential in spiritual Christianity. I regard it as the main origin of gnosticism and marcionism. c. 350 BCE.

      Roughly Plato’s most relevant idea was that things here in this material earth, are just pale “copies,” or imperfect “shadows,” of their godlike original “models,” or firms. Which live invisible to us in presumably, the heavens.

      This same language can be found, vividly, in Paul (Hebrews?). The concepts are also very gnostic.

      Israelites like to suggest, judeocentricly, that their culture, their God, was the center, the origin, the pinnacle, of all things. But history tells us that say,
      Egypt , Greece, and Rome were far bigger, far more powerful, and far more technologically advanced. These empires and others in fact, overran and destroyed N.Israel, and Judah, over and over, dozens of times. And there is considerable evidence that philosophical ideas from these invading, conquering nations were the origin of much of allegedly native Judaism, Gnosticism, and then Christianity.

      1. Regarding Daniel’s Son of Man? The phrase was said by Casey and others, to just mean a “mortal.” A son of men, more than of gods. One day we are supposed to realize that men, not gods, were the origin of many ideas, even religious ones. A prophesy that seems fulfilled in, ironically, humanism and finally atheism.

        There were hints of this from ancient civilizations around Israel, including Babylon and Persia.
        Which are associated with the origin of Daniel narratives, and which had overrun Israel and Judah. Leaving behind many cultural elements.

        Specifically, technology in such surrounding empires was more advanced than in Israel. And with higher technology came a kind of simple science, empirical experimentation

        Which did not emphasize gods. As much as men, working with nature.

        Much of Daniel and gnosticism still picture this in religious terms. But we often see early humanistic language and concepts there, too.

        1. As I mentioned in the last line of the post I will be posting soon (I hope) on the fallacies in Casey’s and others’ arguments that “Son of Man” simply means a mortal.

          Also in the post above I have included detailed arguments why such an interpretation makes no sense in the case of the “son of man having authority to forgive sins” and the “son of man being lord of the sabbath”.

          1. I remain a loyal fan of Vridar of course. Though I’d present the defense that Roman, human lords were willing to assert that they were lords over even the Temple, and in effect the Sabbath. Their placing the Roman eagle on the temple though, to be sure, starting the Jewish insurrection.

            And as atheists know, it was mere human priests, not gods, who rule, govern religions generally.

            Finally of course, human rulers typically often have some power to prosecute or forgive some trangressions.
            Forgiving debts, notably.

            So I’m still holding loyally, respectfully, to the older Vridar position. That Christianity is largely the product not of a hypothetical pure, Judaism, or of gods, but of a multicultural – largely Greco-Roman and ANE and Jewish – nexus.

            1. I’m not sure that I’ve changed any position on Christian origins. I’ve been using a lot of Boyarin lately but there are others who address and make the same or very similar points, and I have covered some of them in the past, and am thinking of posting on another scholar making similar presentations soon.

              What we are looking at is the Jewish background to early Christianity. (That does not mean we toss out other influences, just that we are examining the Jewish matrix at the moment.)

              In the Gospel of Mark we have to be guided by the message the author is conveying in his narrative: he is clearly indicating, surely, that Jesus claiming to have the “authority” to forgive sins is considered blasphemous by the “teachers of the law” in his audience. There is no comparison with Roman emperors but only with God. That’s the message of the gospel: that Jesus claims to have the authority to do something that can only come from God himself, and indeed as per Daniel we do know that the Son of Man was given such authority by God.

              And the Gospel of Mark hews closely to the Book of Daniel in other chapters, too — especially from the time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem through to his death.

              I’m not sure what you mean by “hypothetical pure Judaism”, sorry. I don’t think I have ever thought any such thing existed. For many years now I have understood the Second Temple era best depicted as containing many “Judaisms”, not a single one. I may be misunderstanding your point.

    2. The main problem was the invisibility of The Father (as opposed to the demiurge) and the necessity to explain how the archons were able to imitate what they could not see. Therefore, a visible image of the invisible god (the ideal man) was devised to serve the archons as a model for the construction of the inferior Adam of Genesis. This is best preserved in NHL texts such as the Apochryphon of John.
      Jesus as the visible image of the invisible god is still described in Colossians 1:15.

  3. I think first we can say that the association between Jesus and the “one like a son of Man” in Daniel is a Markan invention. This doesn’t exist in any context prior to Mark. The second issue is whether Mark knew Enoch or not. Mark’s use of “son of Man” is very similar to how it was used in 1 Enoch, but I don’t see any other direct evidence that Mark was using 1 Enoch (maybe there is but I’m not aware of it?). There is evidence that Matthew used 1 Enoch, but as far as I know, not Mark.

    Interestingly, Mark is highly influenced by Paul. Most of the scriptural references in Mark are derived from scriptural references in Paul’s letters, even potentially Mark’s use of the Elijah/Elisha narrative was inspired by Paul. But Mark’s use of Daniel doesn’t have Pauline precedent as far as I know.

    So this could certainly represent an addition to Pauline teachings by Mark. It is noteworthy that the teaching regarding the Sabbath is part of a Pauline reference, i.e. the teachings regarding the Sabbath is derived from the Pauline letters, so in that case specifically the author is joining Pauline teaching to the son of Man.

    I think determining if Mark knew 1 Enoch would help to understand how and why Mark was using Daniel. It is known that Daniel was a highly popular work at this time, so it could just be that Mark was using Daniel because of that.

    1. Mark? Enoch looks quite oriental, Persian. Daniel looks like a crosscultural mix, including Persia, Greece

      Today a comparative anthropology, comparative religion, is prohibited by new dogmas that demand that all Christianity must derive from the New and Old Testaments. But I regard this as a residual, quasi, crypto religious dogma. Churches often insisted that Jesus was that he result, the son, only the Jewish Old Testament and its god. But an analysis of a son of “man” figure, surely requires a broader look at man. And a comparative anthropology. Multicultural analysis.

      Israel was at the intersection of two or three continents. And therefore, countless cultures.

      1. By the time of Daniel and certainly Mark, and the time of powerful Romans, there was a widespread sense that men, mortals, were increasingly powerful. And that even our gods were often based on human lords.

        So the ANE world wanted a more “incarnational” theology; a religion of man, as much as a son of the gods. Though it then had to deal with the embarrassing fact that powerful human beings were mortal, and died.

        To deal with that apparent shortfall in humanism, many cultures built up, or marginally retained, some old religious myths. That suggested there could be some kind of immortality even for men.

        Sirach more rationally suggested that we live on, in that our “name” or reputation or ideas live on. To reappear in some future man, particularly. Like the resurrected or reincarnated dying Jesus. An immortal son of men.

    2. I don’t think Boyarin claims Mark knew and used 1 Enoch; in fact I think he says there is no evidence for such a view. He is talking about ideas that were extant and that we find in both Enoch and Mark.

      What is not a Markan invention is the idea that the Christ would be a divine man, would be THE “Son of Man” as per Daniel, with sovereignty over all. That idea was not Mark’s. That idea was floating around before Mark wrote. What Mark did was to apply that pre-existing idea to Jesus.

      1. So we agree there. I’m just specifying where these general ideas came from. In part, the Daniel stories coming from growing early confidence in , ironically, not divine but human powers. Occasioned by the first civilizations and great empires. Like Babylonia and Rome.

        Daniel is a resourceful young man, filled with practical knowledge, and even science (Dan. 1.4-15 KJE). Thanks to the growth of knowledge and technology in the ANE.

      2. Basically agreed. I’m saying Mark is the first place we see the term applied to Jesus. However I’m not sure it was clear what “Son of Man” meant, or that it had a universal meaning. Daniel’s “one like a son of Man” clearly seems to be talking about a heavenly being who appears in human form. The being, however, clearly is heavenly in origin and descends from heaven.

        1 Enoch appears to be the first instance where the term “Son of Man” is applied to a man who becomes divine. In 1 Enoch, Enoch is the human scribe of the heavens who is transformed into a divine being, which is quite different than the usage in Daniel, but also clearly building on the idea from Daniel, just applying it differently.

        The usage of “Son of Man” is one of the most novel aspects of Mark. Almost every other element of the Markan narrative is derive from the letters of Paul. It makes me wonder why this unique element was introduced and if it points to another source (other than Daniel). Hebrews is possible, but not necessarily the answer.

        1. Daniel links to dozens of other cultures, sources, in the ANE. Mark could have picked up hints of these.
          Either 1) through Daniel. Or 2) directly from exposure to other sources. Or for that matter? 3) It could have been independently re invented, rediscovered, and inserted by Mark, in an enlightened moment. Or 4) by his unscrupulous editors, redactors.

          At some point, when Jesus died, and did not resurrect, or return to deliver the full kingdom promised, there would be a tendency to add that apparently Jesus was in some way, mortal, like ordinary men. And to even very faintly hint, at times, that he might not be totally divine, or one and the same as a God. That he – or his successor, second coming – might be a mortal. Though still some kind of special mortal perhaps. Son of Man capitalized.

          1. Notoriously, the short extension (Mark 16.8+), or then the longer ending of Mark (16.9-20), that suggest a godlike resurrection, are thought to be a pious priestly interpolation.

            And earlier, any future son of Man for that matter, is not unequivocally specified to be Jesus.

        2. Mark’s Jesus as Son of Man is also clearly heavenly. His claim to soon ride on clouds is a clear sign that he is to be understood as a second God figure. That messianic secret was to be revealed at the end of the story.

          There were “human figures” in heaven apart from the “Son of Man”. Some Jewish ideas held that, for example, Jacob existed in heaven before being born on earth. The Son of Man figure in the Similitudes was a divine man before Enoch “entered” him and also “became identified” with him.

          Christian texts also taught that the Son of Man descended from heaven to earth, some apparently fully formed as an adult, others through a womb.

          Daniel’s “one like a Son of Man” is applied to represent the human martyrs and, and as a rider on clouds is a “divine human”, or at least Daniel turns him into a symbol; it appears prior to Daniel, and certainly after Daniel, he was understood to be a literal divine human.

          Mark elsewhere demonstrates a very strong interest in the Book of Daniel. His Jesus just appears from nowhere and is off to meet Satan in the wilderness soon afterwards. His Jesus arguably demonstrates all the powers and workings of God from the beginning and throughout.

          1. Jesus indeed first appears 1) as godlike as any Roman emperor or Pharaoh or Enoch. Or even slightly more. But then? He does an in some ways, ungodly thing: 2) he gets executed.

            If a god, then some other god outvoted him. Perhaps making him, showing him to be, mortal.

            So the Bible goes back and forth on his divinity, in at least one important way: like any mortal, he at least appears, for a second, to have died.

            Similarly, Daniel appears to be the devotee of an immortal, supernatural God, floating in the clouds. But then Daniel begins to outline a materialistic science (Dan. 1.4-15 KJE).

            Where did he get that interest? There were any number of places he could have gotten such interests.

            So for these and other reasons, the more liberal churches have developed a common if daring sermon. One that stresses not Jesus’ godhood; but his humanity. Or human-ness.

            So, oddly, there are at least tiny elements of a post-religious, humanistic, scientific, even atheist view, hidden deep in religion. Very, very subtly to be sure.

            See (Peter?) Enns; his human, “incarnational” view.

            1. Joseph — have you commented here before under another name?

              It is nonsense to suggest that in the Gospel of Mark Jesus “first appears as a Godlike Roman emperor… or even slightly more,… etc” No-one reading any of the gospels, not merely the Gospel of Mark, can surely say such a thing.

              To say, then, that he then does an “ungodly thing, getting executed”… is again in violation of all that we know of Second Temple Jewish and even pagan ideas.

              And what is this business about “materialistic science”? Where is that coming from?

              Please inform us of your identity, background, and if you have appeared here under other names, and what your primary interest in these questions is all about.

              1. Yes, I occasioally post in various blogs under various names. My present interest is in showing likely human, not divine figures, as major (if not the only) inspirations for the Jesus figure.

                At times he looks quite human, equestrian. When Jesus rides into town on a donkey. Not on a cloud.

                This rather pedestrian, rather normally human side to Jesus, suggests that in spite of August and divine titles and trappings, the story of Jesus is in part borrowed from dozens of men. Some if whom, like emperors, claimed divine status. But who were subsequently found to be all too human., mortal.

                So the story of Jesus is in part about the vanity of men. With grand pretensions. Or who were subsequently thought by others to be gods. But who are exposed as merely human, for some. And it is especially the death of Jesus, that exposes his mortal status.

                Which gives the Son of Man title a different reading. Here, Jesus is seen as a pretentious man, who dies.
                He is shown to not have been a God, to one critical audience. The one that noted he could not save himself. And therefore could not be God.

                And if he or someone like him eventually triumphs? The earlier death, and the title “Man,” assert subtly that it will be an at most divine seemingman, or mankind, as much as or more than God or gods, that finally triumph.

                Reading out all the many divine trappings, as supernatural nonsense”chaff,” leaves this curiously coherent humanist theme.

              2. I don’t know of any serious study in the sources for the gospel narratives that would support your analysis. The evidence that we have for the source of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is OT messianic prophecy. And the donkey (as distinct from a war horse) indicates humility, not pretentiousness. If you have been following what I have been posting on the scholarship you will surely see that the humanity of Jesus is not necessarily incompatible with his divine or heavenly origin at all. It is useful to read what the scholarship has to say about the gospels. I know we can be critical of much scholarship but only where we find good reason to be so, and even then we try to do a bit more digging around just in case we find we have misunderstood something and are the ones who are wrong.

  4. I agree that Jesus is a fiction. He is however, “realist” fiction; fiction portrayed with a realistic look. Like say, Charles Dickens’ characters.

    Jesus is myth historicized. Or made to look real.

    But those “realistic” elements, as in Dickens, while attached to a fictional character, do tell us things about real life. If not an historical person.

    In regards to Daniel’s son of Man, in Mark? I’d agree it seems plausible. But what interests me are the realist elements in the two. Which I believe are Greco Roman. And not distinctively Jewish.

    The gospel stories like Mark, are full of magical supernaturalisms. But they are presented often in the style of Realism. Which is the chief, distinctive attribute of Greek, but especially Roman art. The Greeks made realistic-looking statues of their gods. And the Romans got even better at that, than their Greek predecessors.

    And interestingly, the realistic style of parts of the gospels, tells us many real things; if not about any real, historical Jesus.

    1. “But those “realistic” elements, as in Dickens, while attached to a fictional character, do tell us things about real life. If not an historical person.”

      I wonder if there are elements of Simon bar Kokhba in the NT Jesus character (we have excerpts of

      letters by him


      “In regards to Daniel’s son of Man, in Mark? I’d agree it seems plausible. But what interests me are the realist elements in the two.”

      the Son or Man‘ as apposed to ‘a son of man’ is a distinctly Christian thing. As Simon Gathercole outlines in the following 2004 article and concludes,

      “.. in the course of the narrative in Mark’s Gospel the Son of Man gathers additional scriptural material which clarifies his identity and role. In the beginning the Danielic background is there but it becomes much clearer as the narrative progresses, as well as accumulating additional biblical language from Isaiah 53 and Psalm 110.

      “.. Mark 2 strongly emphasizes the Son of Man’s self-revelation as authoritative .. he came to serve, and to accomplish atonement. Only later, at the very end, will that authority be vindicated and established. The narrative pattern which holds the Son of Man sayings together is: the authoritative Son of Man revealed – the authority of the Son of Man rejected – the authority of the Son of Man vindicated.”


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