Defining The Titles “Christ” And “Son Of God” In Mark’s Narrative Presentation Of Jesus -- By: Herbert W. Bateman IV

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:3 (Sep 2007)
Article: Defining The Titles “Christ” And “Son Of God” In Mark’s Narrative Presentation Of Jesus
Author: Herbert W. Bateman IV

Defining The Titles “Christ” And “Son Of God” In Mark’s Narrative Presentation Of Jesus

Herbert W. Bateman IV

Herbert W. Bateman resides at 4078 Oldfield Drive, Leesburg, IN 46538. He first wrote this article while participating in the University of Notre Dame’s Visiting Scholar Program (2001–2002).

In Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code Teabing, a fictional character presented as a world-renowned historian, states quite emphatically that “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”1 As twenty-first-century readers of Brown’s book, we know Teabing has questioned, along with the historical events of the Nicean Council, the deity of Jesus. In fact, Bart Ehrman, a present-day historical theologian, clearly understands the meaning of Teabing’s assertion and counters accordingly in his evaluation of Brown’s portrayal of the events at Nicea. “It is absolutely not true,” says Ehrman, “that Jesus was not considered divine until the Council of Nicea, that before that he was considered merely as ‘a mortal prophet.’ The vast majority of Christians by the early fourth century acknowledged him as divine.”2

My point is not to evaluate Brown and his factious theory concerning Christianity. It is, however, to point out our predisposition about Teabing’s statement. Without even thinking about it, we automatically and rightly concluded that it challenges our belief that Jesus is God. Granted, the

Nicean Creed, a creed that correctly presented Jesus to be ontologically and functionally the second person of the Godhead, was and remains correct. Yet to what extent are we conditioned to think in certain theological categories about Jesus due to centuries of theological dialogue and debate? Let me reframe the question with a more specific focus: “Have the church’s creeds, confessional statements, and later systems of theology concerning the deity of Jesus clouded our ability to make unbiased interpretations of an earlier and not-so-developed usage of the titles ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’ in a NT book such as the Gospel of Mark?”

This article explores Mark’s use and the plain meaning of the titles “Christ” and “Son of God” as they appear in Mark’s first-century narrative story about Jesus. Naturally, Mark’s title “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, the son of God” (᾿Αρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ)

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