Jesus’ Philosophy Of Ministry: A Study Of A Figure Of Speech In Mark 1:38 -- By: Dennis O. Wretlind

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 20:4 (Dec 1977)
Article: Jesus’ Philosophy Of Ministry: A Study Of A Figure Of Speech In Mark 1:38
Author: Dennis O. Wretlind


Jesus’ Philosophy Of Ministry: A Study Of A Figure Of Speech In Mark 1:38

Dennis O. Wretlind*

Figurative language is one of the more troublesome aspects of Biblical exegesis. How easier it would be if all of language were one-dimensional! Since this is not the case, however, the Biblical scholar is obligated to grapple with figures of speech in order to disclose meaning.

Although figurative language poses problems even to the most diligent students of Scripture, it can also provide a key to unlock truth and radiate light. Mark 1:38 contains such a figurative expression. From it we conclude (1) that Mark 1:21–45 is a unity, (2) that Christ had a well-defined philosophy of ministry, and (3) that Christ was in a constant fight to maintain his philosophy of ministry.

Jesus’ use of the word translated “I came out” (exēlthon) in Mark 1:38 is an example of amphibologia. Bullinger defines this figure of speech as “a statement which… has two meanings, both of which are absolutely true.”1

The first meaning of exēlthon in Mark 1:38 is contextually clear. The word is in an explanatory clause highlighting the preaching purpose for which Christ had come. Jesus was sent on a divine mission, as Luke’s parallel narrative emphasizes: “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).2

The second meaning of exēlthon is also contextually clear, but the context includes vv 21–39. Within these verses are three distinct peri-copes. First, vv 21–28 describe Jesus’ Sabbath ministry in the synagogue at Capernaum. Central to this pericope is Jesus’ teaching (vv 21–22, 27). The focus might well be the exclamation of the people: “A new teaching with authority!” (v 27).

Second, vv 29–34 narrate Jesus’ activities on the same day. Jesus is expected to heal Peter’s mother-in-law and the ill people of the city. He did so without hesitation.

Third, vv 35–39

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