Salvation as Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark -- By: Brenda B. Colijn
ATJ 30 (1998) p. 11
Salvation as Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark
Dr. Colijn (Ph.D. Cornell University) is Assistant Professor of Theology at A.T.S.
Scholars have often said that the Gospel of Mark has no real soteriology.1 They commonly identify Christology as Mark’s central concern.2 Although the Evangelist certainly does focus on Christology, as befits his heading in 1:1 (“the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”), he presents Christology as inseparable from soteriology. In Mark’s Gospel, understanding who Jesus is and why he came entails acknowledging his claim upon one’s life. Mark’s characteristic model of salvation is discipleship.
Ernest Best, who has written a great deal about discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, notes that everything in the central section of the Gospel (8:22–10:52) relates either to the meaning of Christ or to discipleship. He declares, “Understanding of discipleship and understanding of the death of Jesus go hand in hand.. .. [All] understanding of discipleship begins with the cross and it never moves to any other point of orientation.”3 As Robert A. Guelich has observed, by placing discipleship pericopes at pivotal points in Jesus’ ministry, “the evangelist...indicates the integral relationship for him of Christology and discipleship. This interplay of Christology and discipleship offers one of the central themes in Mark’s Gospel.”4 Thus, while the Gospel contains very little direct teaching about salvation, it shows salvation in action as Jesus calls human beings into a relationship of discipleship to him. In what follows, after discussing the coming of salvation, I will focus on what that salvation means for human beings.5
Much in the Gospel of Mark is preparatory to salvation in its full theological sense. Through most of the Gospel, salvation has not yet been accomplished; it awaits Jesus’ death on the cross and his vindication through the resurrection. The Gospel concerns itself more with the coming of the day of salvation and the presence of the bearer of salvation than with how individuals participate in that salvation. Nevertheless, it has significant soteriological content.
The Greek word group for salvation (sozo) is not the main term used by the Evangelist to express salvation. The noun form, soteria, is absent from both Mark and Matthew. It is rare in Luke and John, occurring in ...
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