Darkness Over The Whole Land: A Biblical Theological Reflection On Mark 15:33 -- By: Dane C. Ortlund

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 75:2 (Fall 2013)
Article: Darkness Over The Whole Land: A Biblical Theological Reflection On Mark 15:33
Author: Dane C. Ortlund

Darkness Over The Whole Land:
A Biblical Theological Reflection On Mark 15:33

Dane C. Ortlund


G. K. Beale

Dane C. Ortlund (Ph.D., Wheaton College) is Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway in Wheaton, Ill.

G. K. Beale is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:33).1 What is the significance of this three-hour darkening as Jesus suffers on the cross? Many writers have investigated the geo-physical explanation for the darkness; fewer have wrestled with the biblical theological and intracanonical dimensions to it. This article suggests that the darkness from noon to three o’clock p.m. culminates a biblical theological trajectory that begins in Gen 1:2–3 and, more specifically, that this three-hour period represents not only divine judgment but also the inauguration of the latter-day new creation. When scholars do reflect on Mark 15:33 through the lens of biblical theology, they tend to connect the darkness to divine judgment while overlooking any new creation or eschatological aspect to the text. By “eschatology” in this article we refer to the dawning in the middle of history, especially through Christ’s death and resurrection, of all that the OT writers hoped for at the end of history.2 Thus, for the purposes of this article eschatology refers not primarily to an ending but to a new

beginning; it is not so much the doctrine of last things as it is the doctrine of last-things-which-have-become-present.

We begin by considering the current state of scholarship on Mark 15:33. This will include a brief treatment of a handful of relevant OT texts that carry along the biblical trajectory of darkness. Secondly, we consider nine reasons why Mark 15:33 ought to be seen as eschatologically charged, specifically in underscoring the inauguration of the longed-for new creation. We close by raising and answering an objection to our thesis.

I. Scholarship On Mark 15:33

Much of the attention devoted to Mark 15:33 is weatherman-like ruminations on what might have ca...

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