The Authority Of Jesus In The Gospel Of Mark -- By: James R. Edwards

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:2 (Jun 1994)
Article: The Authority Of Jesus In The Gospel Of Mark
Author: James R. Edwards

The Authority Of Jesus In The Gospel Of Mark

James R. Edwards*

* James Edwards is professor of religion at Jamestown College, Jamestown, ND 58401.

Current scholarship is increasingly characterized by a quest for a nonmessianic Jesus. According to this perspective the significance of Jesus can be accounted for within the religious, social and political categories of first-century Palestine. The options are many and varied: prophet, rabbi, “divine man,” social reformer, political revolutionary, mystic, magician, example of authentic existence, and so on. In some instances such investigations provide helpful insights, heretofore unseen or unappreciated, into the gospels. Nevertheless the program as a whole is largely determined by the modern west’s dismissal of the categories of God, Satan, and the supernatural as meaningful or even necessary explanations for the universe. Nearly a century ago Albert Schweitzer concluded his massive study of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century lives of Jesus by revealing how strongly they were influenced by the rationalism, liberalism and historicism of the scholars who wrote them.1 George Tyrrell’s oft-quoted observation that nineteenth-century liberalism peered into the well of history to see Jesus but saw only its own reflection is increasingly apropos today. “We are again on the way,” writes Helmut Koester, “toward a human Jesus who is just like one of us, one who holds values that are very close to our ideological commitments, … a Jesus who, as a real human person, can stand as an example and inspiration for worthy causes.”2

I should like to test the validity of the drift toward a purely human Jesus by examining the one characteristic that left the most lasting impression on his followers and caused the greatest offense to his opponents—namely, his exousia, his sovereign freedom and magisterial authority. Recent interest in literary approaches to Biblical texts recognizes that the crucial message in a text often can be grasped only if it is implied or even unspoken. Mark in particular operates from the literary axiom that the more significant a truth, the less openly it can be declared. Each of the gospels is designed not only to transfer a quantum of information about Jesus but also to impart to the reader an impression of him.

In this study I should like to suggest that the essential and distinctive characteristic of Jesus is to be found in his exousia and that his authority

is perhaps the most significant example of implicit Christology in the gospel tradition. Specifically I would assert that ...

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