Jesus’ Paradoxical Teaching in Mark 8:35; 9:35; and 10:43-44 -- By: Narry F. Santos

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 157:625 (Jan 2000)
Article: Jesus’ Paradoxical Teaching in Mark 8:35; 9:35; and 10:43-44
Author: Narry F. Santos


Jesus’ Paradoxical Teaching in Mark 8:35; 9:35; and 10:43-44

Narry F. Santosa

Three related instances of verbal paradox in the Gospel of Mark include 8:35 (“whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it” and “whoever loses his life … shall save it”); 9:35 (“If any one wants to be first, he shall be last of all”); and 10:43–44 (“whoever wishes to become great … shall be your servant” and “whoever wishes to be first … shall be slave of all”). These statements occur within the context of Jesus’ three Passion predictions (8:31; 9:30–31; 10:32–34), the disciples’ misunderstanding of His passion predictions (8:32; 9:32; 10:35–41), and the ensuing three discipleship discourses of Jesus (8:34–9:1; 9:35–50; 10:42–45). This article seeks to “unpack” the meaning of these three paradoxical statements by Jesus, using Fowler’s method of “transfiguration” in understanding them. This “transfiguration” is the rhetorical process of transforming verbal paradox into metaphors.0 It makes the paradox more understandable so that readers can see its relevance to discipleship and its application to their own lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

Verbal Paradox

A paradox is an apparently self-contradictory statement, containing truth that reconciles conflicting opposites. The English word comes from the Greek word παράδοξος.1 It is a combination of

the preposition παρά, which can mean “contrary to,”2 and the noun δόξα, which means “opinion,”4 producing in its earliest stages the meaning of “contrary to opinion or expectation.”5 Since the eighteenth century the meaning of paradox has been extended to denote a concept, proposition, or statement that seems to be self...

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