But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 'We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'

-Matthew 11:16-17


Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.

-Luke 6:21

I am big; I am small; I contradict myself'

- Walt Whitman


Monday, November 19, 2012

Do You Not Understand This Parable ?

Do You Not Understand This Parable ?

        Mark’s Recursive Paradoxes as Key to His Gospel

                                                            © Jiri Severa, 2012

                                                                   Only drowning men could see him.

      Leonard Cohen


It may be surprising news to many but it appears that the literary classing of the canonical gospels revolves around the interpretation of a single verse in the gospel of Mark.  In the key two questions in 4:13 Jesus asks : “ Do you not understand this parable ? How will you then understand all the parables ?”[1]   The conventional scholarly reading of the verse is that ‘this parable’ (αυτη η παραβολη) refers to the story of the sower sandwiched around the mysterious quibble in 4:10-12 whereby Jesus restricts access to the mystery of the kingdom.  However, this unanimity may be an example of Bertrand Russell’s maxim that when all the experts agree on something, we should be suspicious.  In the upstaging of Mark,  both Matthew (13:10) and Luke (8:9)  deposited Jesus’ explanation for speaking in parables explicitly in the disciples.  This makes Mark 4:13 redundant in their versions of the gospel, as the sharp dividing line called faith that separates the disciples from the mystical, invisible body of Christ in the earliest gospel had lost meaning in their communities.  

In Mark, however, it is a primary datum that informs the plan of the narrative .  The lament in 4:13 I will argue in this paper, actually refers back to the quibble, and not to the sower parable which Jesus explains fully in the verses that follow and Mark uses as a bait to befuddle the unsuspecting outsider.

The first thing that needs to be grasped firmly is that 4:13 addresses a different audience than the three preceding verses.  Jesus evidently is not talking to those who are privy to the secret of the kingdom, when he agonizes ‘how will you know all the parables’ ? ( πως πασας τας παραβολας γνωσεσθε)   Unlike those who have access to Jesus when he is alone, the addressees of this verse do not possess the gnosis to grasp the meaning of Mark’s mystery tale.  The narrator does not tell us who it is that Jesus is talking to in 4:13 but the exasperated tone of the address is analogous to other speeches to his disciples[2].  The problem is the disciples were not present when Jesus reveals the rule of access to the mystery in  4:10-12.  How can Jesus ask them if they understood the parable they did not hear ?  What is going on ?

Mark’s Quibble

                The three verses inside the sower parable have exercised exegets since William Wrede who pointed out the strange intent of Mark’s Jesus to speak to outsiders in riddles so as to deny them grace. It is from the founder of modern Markan scholarship that came the bitter complaint about this feature of Mark:  “Blessed are the ones of plain speech, for they shall be understood”.   Wrede put the finger on the facet of the earliest gospel that became its chief attraction but quickly also its undoing.  Brilliant as the writer known to us as Mark was, he was not accessible by design to most readers outside a group of mystics whom he most likely led personally and within which group he animated the spiritual mystery of Jesus.  Matthew seized on the intellectual conceit of Mark and deflated his exceedingly clever but condescending and convoluted tale to a simpler one, taking out most of the persistent opacity[3], and offensive jesting which included affectation of ignorance and unschooled style of presentation.  He added a wealth of new material and a sprinkle of condescension and opacity of his own.  The immediate effect of Matthew’s re-write of Mark was likely a rapid coalescence of the two traditions and defections to the newer version of the gospel in the groups where Mark was not personally dominant (if he indeed was alive when Matthew’s text began to spread).  And the effect was to be lasting; the gospel of Mark was thoroughly overshadowed by the gospel of Matthew.  In the later church, and for most of the Christian history, the earliest gospel by and large was not seen more than an abridged version of the work of its rival. Mark was not to be rediscovered as a unique and original work until modern times.

             In terms of social psychology, Mark was writing a classical cultic material, dense, close to impenetrable, full of mysterious allusions purposely to mislead outsiders.  The gospel addresses two groups of outsiders separately:  one is a group of a different Jesus tradition[4] to whom he offers the salvation through Pauline Christ  on condition of their converting to the cross.  He savages and ridicules the pharisaic Jews of his time by having Jesus defy the law and giving either himself or through Jesus,  misleading  references  to the Torah (1:1-3, 2:26, 9:12-13, 10:19, 14:21, 14:49).  Mark’s quibble addresses all three groups:  

(4:10)  And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables.

I have called the three verses a ‘quibble’ because they declare a mystical plot which cannot be deciphered grammatically. The first verse sets up a quiz about who it is that is asking Jesus the question.  Jesus is said to be κατα μονας,  and yet there are  οι περι αυτον  who are making inquiries. This blatant contradiction is being excused in most translations as a slip, or a clumsy construction and interpreted as something akin to ‘when he was alone with the twelve and some other disciples’[5].  It looks however it is not that and going to the later synoptics for clues does not help.  As I have hinted already, Matthew and Luke do not recognize access to Jesus, or knowledge of him, by other agents than the physical entities of Jesus’ own historical timeline[6]. I believe that one cannot read Mark reduced in that manner and grasp the essence of his tale.  Take for example the syntactic difference between Mk 4:10  and Luke’s 9:18, in which the praying Jesus is said to be alone with his disciples (…κατα μονας συνησαν αυτω οι μαθηται).  In Luke, the identity of those with Jesus alone is revealed, thereby modifying grammatically the extent of Jesus aloneness.  But Mark 4:10 intentionally conceals the object.   Oι περι αυτον cannot qualify κατα μονας because the presence of an unknown collective flagrantly contradicts the adjective μονoς.  I assume that if Mark wanted to write και οτε εγενετο κατα μονας συν τοις μαθηταις αυτου..[7], he would have.  But evidently he did not.  He must have had something else in mind. ‘There are three kinds of people’, said someone in a flash of discovery,  ‘those who can count and those who can’t’. 

      The second  important item of 4:10 is the position of the Twelve vis-à-vis the petitioners.  Clearly, the two groups are separated, and the Twelve are not the ones asking the question. Why are they mentioned in the verse then ?  What was the intent behind that ?  

         The origin of the Twelve and their function in Mark’s gospel is a large issue and an extremely important one.   As their presence looms large in the exegesis of the relevant recursions in Mark, I will outline my approach to the problem. 

           It is my considered opinion that the Twelve came into being as Mark’s original design and the collective was not meant to designate an inner group of disciples.  The disciples led by Peter, and the Zebedees  appear to have been converted  into the twelve apostles by Matthew and later re-imported into Mark  in the manipulations of the text[8].   That the Twelve were Mark’s own interpretive device, is argued for by the finding that the group is introduced in the narrative in anarthrous form (3:14), the only such description of the apostolic body in the New Testament[9].  This group seems to have been conceived as haggadic midrash to the twelve founders of the tribes of Israel, as is strongly suggested by the LXX  speaking of Jacob’s sons as “in all twelve”[10].  That the single acting member of this body in Mark,  Judas Iscariot, coincides in name with Judah, the brother who would sell Joseph to the Ishmailites (Gen 37:27), so his brothers’ hand would not be upon him, suggests too much an integral plot of the paschal drama to have been history.  Even after the Matthean recension of Mark,  Judas remained the only named member of the Twelve who was assigned a role in the script.  Unlike the disciples, the Twelve, as they were originally conceived, knew the spiritual dimension of Jesus since their ordination, and they, like the unnamed body of petitioners in 4:10, had privileged access to him.  They were a mystical collective, symbolizing the twelve tribes of the house of Israel that Jesus called to proclaim, and testify about, the kingdom. In the plot, Judas Iscariot’s delivering Jesus up[11], divides the Twelve and thus the kingdom,  fulfilling earlier Jesus’ saying[12] which points to the devastation of the war of CE 66-73 and the loss of Jerusalem.   An important internal proof that the Twelve were not meant to refer to the disciples, is that the Transfiguration was made known only to a selected group of them. If Peter, John and James were of the Twelve, and the demonstration (which failed: see ahead) was specifically made to them as the members of that group – the apostles - then Mark’s tale is inaccessible.  Where did the other nine get to know the transfigured glory of the risen Christ ?  The original version of the gospel did not feature posthumous appearances.   

       Finally, there is the form of the question itself:  ‘they asked him about the parables’ (ηρωτων αυτον….. τας παραβολας).   The query comes in the middle of Jesus’ metaphoric discourse on the fate of faith in different human characters. Given that a single narrative thread was woven for nine verses, and dealing with a single parable, the question Jesus is asked looks contrived. The parable of the sower is lucid,  making a consistent point about the loss of the sown seed in unfriendly soil, and to competing vegetation, until it finds ground where it prospers and multiplies. There is nothing mysterious about what Jesus says, whether or not the crowd which he addresses would make the connection between the seed and the word of faith.    Later in 4:33, the narrator explains, seemingly contra what is presented in the quibble, that the word was understood by some hearers, even though it was delivered  as parables[13].  So the intent of the question in 4:10 could not be said to have been provoked by some confusion Jesus caused by speaking in parables.   Note also that the petitioners do not ask Jesus directly, as Matthew’s more focused disciples do : ‘why do you speak to them in parables ?’[14].   In comparison, the question of Mark’s mysterious beings with Jesus when he is alone looks distinctly hallucid.  But it need not be; it may be a clever way for Mark to explain the referencing rule concerning the parables.

(4:11) And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables;

The exegesis of this verse firmly hinges on the ability to identify those who are questioning Jesus and to answer the apparent lack of agreement between the singular “secret” and the plural “parables”. Mark ties the two with an enigmatic  τα παντα,  everything”.  What is everything ?  Is it everything about the secret of the kingdom of God ?  Apparently, yes.   But then how does that everything relate to parables  ?

Naturally, this kind of exegetical problem does not exist for Matthew and Luke, who it appears solved the mystery by cutting through the Gordian knot.  The  unio mystica asserted in Mark’s quibble is removed, and replaced by Jesus telling his disciples, ie. those on whose apostolic authority the emerging church would rely,  that there was not one big secret of the kingdom,  but multiple smaller ones individually revealed through parables spoken by Jesus.

However,  the disciples counting among  οι εξω seems an important design element in Mark, as I have already noted. Verse 4:13 turns to them via the proxy of followers in Mark’s time and tells them in not so many words they cannot understand this parable.  Whether Jesus refers to the parable of the sower (which would be easy to grasp even to Peter, I am sure) or to something else, there is a contradiction : whoever it was with Jesus in 4:11, to them the secret of the kingdom was granted[15]. They are the knowers of the secret.  By the rules of Mark’s mind games, it cannot be the disciples.   Mark’s story seems at times impossibly self-contradictory but it does have rules.  They may not be simple but they are internally consistent. Whatever one may say about Mark’s off-the-wall antics and his perhaps excessive disparaging of the proselytizing rival Jesus traditions, his committed viewpoint can hardly be questioned. 

Paula Fredriksen wrote that the earliest gospel operates with a kind of stereoscopic vision, in which events taking place “ostensibly” in the historical timeline of Jesus have eyes fixed on  Mark’s own community as the Jesus’ elect.  In other words, there is a dual trace of CE 30 and Mark’s own time cca 70 CE., the time of the gospel writing[16].  This perspective is in tune with modern Markan studies.  It comes very close to my own, except that I see the 70CE track in the gospel more as a generalized sensation of cosmic eternity[17] whereby the community or sons endowed with the Spirit, actually present themselves inside the story and liberally interact with Jesus, and the disciples.  The writer, I believe,  thought of the spiritual faculty as something outside of the spatio-temporal frame.  Mark is certainly not a conventional story-teller, and to class the work simply as fiction is to miss the uniqueness of the genre by a country mile.  The hypnotic tale of Mark covered thirty modern pages with ink. On these thirty pages, he  conjured a persona that would dominate Western civilization for seventeen hundred years and the world for three centuries.   There is nothing in the history of literature that even remotely compares to the effect of the explosion caused by this short text, probably known at the outset simply as the parables of Jesus.      

         The plot of Mark’s parabolic divination of Jesus revolves around the competing visions of Jesus’ messiahship. When Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ at Caesarea Philippi, he of course sees him as the classical Davidic king, who will conquer Jerusalem and restore God’s rule in Israel.  This is still the hope of the disciples when they enter the city, despite Jesus’ teaching them something else and agonizing over their lack of grasp of his mission.  (This however does not prevent the same Jesus to egg them on by staging the triumphal entry prophesied by Zech 9:9 as a way for Mark to thicken the plot.)   But they are not the only ones misled about the messianic identity of Jesus.  When the high priest asks at the trial: “Are you the Christ, son of the Blessed”, Jesus replies in the affirmative, which settles the issue for the Sanhedrin: he must be admitting to being a false pretender to David’s throne[18].  But Mark’s Jesus and the community to which he ministers know as one body he is not that Messiah; those in communion with Jesus Christ know that the perishable will not inherit the imperishable.   Mark tells his readers with a poorly disguised glee that that type of Messiah did not exist in Jesus’ time, in something like, “psst, don’t tell anyone about me, I have not yet been evangelized by the apostle !”[19]  

The gospel evidently classes Paul’s letters as belonging with scripture (hence αι γραφαι in 12:24, 14:49[20]), and inserts them as prophecies to be fulfilled by the narrative to enhance its paradoxical effect. Mark asserts gospel events that historically precede Paul’s blueprint  which  shapes them theologically.  The disciples don’t get it; on terms of the narrative they are foolish (even if apparently devoted) idolators unable to grasp God’s plan for Jesus in tearing the heavens and sending the Spirit into him[21].  This is the underlying motif of  the messianic secret, at the practical end of which, the knowing reader is supposed to realize that Mark fully intended to hoodwink the outsiders[22], and the gospel text itself is the proclamation of the message that the disciples failed to deliver – Christ crucified who has risen !   The glad tidings of Jesus’ rising get out through Mark’s parabolic allegory of Paul, not the preaching of the disciples.  

         Mark’s community plays part in the gospel drama as the crowds who follow Jesus, who are fed by him collectively and cured by him individually. They are the demoniacs whom Jesus restores to human dignity. They are the mystics who have been touched by the Spirit and know the gospel story as  personal experience.  They know Jesus intimately as they are the body of Christ. In 4:10 they are not asking Jesus a question; they are staging a revelation.  They know the messianic secret,  and they know there really is no way Christ can impart the gnosis[23] of himself except by faith.  To those on the outside everything is in parables.  

(4:12) so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven."

There are no tricks, no sleights of hand by Mark in this verse.  The shocking effect of Jesus denying the grasp of his teachings to outsiders is a function of three things which in the final analysis have little to do with the text of the earliest gospel.  One, most of New Testament scholars accept the account of Acts of the Apostles as the guarantee that a single Christian faith existed at the time of Mark’s composition.  The appearances or visions of Jesus to his disciples immediately after his death are taken as an unquestionable premise even to the most rational, dispassionate investigators, who assign them to psychological effects of shock and bereavement. The founding of the church, it is believed, reflects the historical faith in the reality of Jesus resurrection formed at the very beginning, with the doctrine of crucified Messiah that was preached first in, and from Jerusalem, as salvation to all. 

                Two,  apostle Paul was converted to this teaching, and became a missionary agent of the Jerusalem assembly.  Again, this appears an unchallengeable datum to most scholars.  When Paul says “but we preach Christ crucified”, few question the identity of the first person plural. And that with even such difficult verses as Rom 2:16, where Paul proclaims the pending judgment of men through Jesus Christ κατα το ευαγγελιον μου (by my gospel).  This, it would be argued, signifies only that Paul was converted to the theology of crucified Messiah and adopted it as his own. But that is highly improbable. And the improbability is twofold: even if we allow for the sake of argument that a suffering, dying messiah could have been present in cultic Judaism as a model before the time of Jesus[24], there is nothing (that I have found) that indicates the concept of resurrection,  a messianic promise fulfilled by God as preached by Paul, had any sort of traction before his epistles started to circulate.  The idea of spiritual metamorphosis, and resurrection in bodily life beyond God’s creation on earth[25], seems to have been unknown in Judaism before Paul and would have likely been rejected by most Jews out of hand as self-described lunacy[26].  The other large dissenter to the thesis of a single church and an early harmony is Galatians. Specifically in Gal 5:10, Paul expresses faith in the Lord that his converts will not accept any other view than his[27], and those who trouble them would face his eternal damnation, whoever they are.  

           Finally,  the third constant conspiring against major exegetical discoveries in the reading of the earliest gospel is the implicit view that the first Jewish war did not substantially change anything on the development of the Christian faith. In other words, there is no symbolic connection between the tearing of heavens at Jesus’ baptism and the tearing of the curtain in the Temple after his expiry on the cross.  There is no reason, some would say,  why this symbolic imagery could not have been present in a text written, say, in 66 CE.   True, theoretically there is not, but such dating will surely miss on Mark’s passion play riot around the semantics of ‘king’, ‘messiah’, ‘temple’ and ‘body’.   

4:12 argues with all these exegetical starting points. Markan community, by all appearances, does not yet know  the recognizable Christianity of the following gospels. It is a society led by Christ mystics, who are guarding Paul’s teachings (which they adapted somewhat: see ahead) against incursions of the judaizing Jesuine exiles from the war likely proselytizing in its immediate neighbourhood.   They consider themselves called upon to protect the treasure of Paul’s letters which they value as scripture written expressly for them.  

           Whatever the actual circumstance of Mark’s writing, the author appears to copy Paul’s concerns over the possible misuse of the writing he sends out.  The letters were confidential, written to  select groups of those who are mature (1 Cor 2:6), called to be saints (1 Cor 1:2, Rom 1:7), the elect (η εκλογη -Rom 11:5,7 οι εκλεκτοι – Rom 8:33), to those who possess the Spirit and are thus equipped to understand spiritual truths (1 Cor 2:13-14).  The last formula is especially of interest as it articulates a restriction in a direct parallel to Mark’s quibble:  The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.[28]

           Much as the verse shocks those who believe that Jesus, in the spirit of God, could not admit to misleading his listeners, there it is, and one cannot do more than interpret it.  Isaiah 6:9-10 (Rom 11:8) may be unattributed, but Mark evidently deployed the saying(s) as a fully intended proselytizing formula  that leaves open the alternative of the reader refusing, or misapprehending, the offer of salvation.  The gnosis necessary to grasp the meaning of the gospel is supplied by familiarity with ecstatic psychic phenomena, faith in their being of divine origin and training in the interpretation of sacred texts.  By all appearances, this is what Mark’s community believed.


The riddle that explains the quibble

The verse 4:13 puts everything in perspective.  I have already begun to argue that this parable does not refer to the simile of the sower. It is apposite to the sower, by the subject of faith. But that parable is to be fully explained to the disciples in the following verses.   This would make the first question in 4:13 redundant and argue for the congenial idiocy of Jesus’ followers.  Neither, I venture, was intended.   Cognitively, the second question depends on the first:  the adverb  πως (how, by what means) suggests to the point of excluding alternatives that without the correct grasp of this parable one cannot understand all the parables, meaning the gospel as a whole. The perception of which parable then  determines the grasp of all the others ?  Outrageous as it will seem to some, there is not much else in the text neighbourhood beside the sower than the three-verse quibble just preceding.   But that cannot be; those three verses have Jesus talking, so how can they be said to be a parable ? 

         Very well, the process of referring to an object or event in a manner that re-references it and  produces an indeterminate result is called recursion[29].  In Mark, 4:13 confirms that the parables told  by Jesus are wrapped in the parables about Jesus.  παραβολες in 4:10 probably is a veiled allusion to παραβολες του Ιεσου, a pun on the double meaning of the genitive.  It refers to all events of the gospel, not just parabolic material spoken by Jesus.

           I have shown one recursive brain-teaser :  ‘there are three kinds of people, those who can count and those who can’t.’  See how this statement refers to the ‘three kinds’ in naming just ‘two kinds’ in favour of the assertion that some people can’t count? Formally, of course, the statement is self-contradictory, but most people will (sooner or later) re-create the complementing subtext that gives the statement the intended meaning.  The riddle is explained when we realize the speaker wishes to make us believe in jest she can’t count to three.     

           In analogy, Mark drew a paradoxical scene where Jesus was alone and yet there were those around him who asked him about the parables.  He tells them “you already know the secret” but  to those on the outside (of the current fully initiated audience) everything is in parables. The intent here is to create a recursive pointer  identifying  the question-and-answer exchange as ‘this parable’ to the outsiders. Mark’s Jesus then turns (parabolically, again) to his not-so-smart disciples who do not have access to the pneuma and asks: do you understand  this self-referencing style of discourse ? And if not, how will you then get the meaning of the whole gospel ?  An important point to grasp in this is that 4:13 does not intend to address the disciples inside the story but  those who follow their traditions in Mark’s time, i.e. the Petrine group of Jesus witnesses.      

           The paradoxical recursion tricks were known in antiquity since Homer. Odysseus introduces  himself as “Nobody” to the Cyclops Polyphemus and then blinds him as a way to escape his imprisonment. When the Cyclopes friends whom he calls for help, ask the blinded giant who injured him, he replies “Nobody”.   And they leave the cave cursing him.  Odysseus then manages to save his men, and on parting shouts to Polyphemus from the boat: ”You have Nobody to blame, nobody but yourself, that is”. 

Paul’s Connection to Mark

Evidently, not all readers of Mark are fazed by the forbidding density of his hypnotic tale:  Frank Kermode asks pointedly: if so many causes act in concert to ensure that texts are from the beginning and sometimes indeterminately studded with interpretations; and if these texts in their very nature demand further interpretation and yet resist it, what should we expect when the document in question denies its own opacity by claiming to be a transparent account of the recognizable world ?[30]  Kermode then goes on to illustrate his point by the scene of the crucifixion in John which bears unmistakable sign of story-telling combined with the text’s “urgent demand” that it is taken as factual reporting.  But John is a later version of Jesus divination in a later version of a Christian church.   In Mark the suggestion of Jesus’ authority and compassion is far more subtle as he artfully, movingly, manages the vulnerable human side of Jesus, in passing from an unchained force dominating everyone and everything to a pitifully disarmed, ridiculed and tortured prophet, forsaken by everyone, and in all appearance, by the one who sent him, a prophet destined to fail and to be crucified alone, in weakness.  

          When the shrewd Wrede scoffed at the liberal historicizing of Jesus, he said that all interpretations of Jesus begin with the discovery of something Jesus-like (etwas Jesu-ähnliches) in ourselves.  But this process of course did not start in 1860’s.  Mark’s original narrated suggestion of a man who had the holy dropped in him was designed to do precisely that:  to excite that jesuslike thing within the listeners and readers, and to have them identify themselves with Jesus by introjecting the suggestion of Jesus as the supreme authority.   Those who know this and learn to resist the temptation of the libido dominandi are the ones who grasp the gospel. They are the ones whose messianic mania is eventually cured by Jesus, or rather by the communal property of the gospel where he personifies the Lord’s Spirit.   

     The difference between the mystics in Mark’s church and the liberal theologians from the time of Victoria to Elizabeth II. is that the former had insight into their personal tête-à-tête with Jesus. They were at the source and the gospel was animated to them by the life and values of the community.  By contrast, modern historical quests for Jesus  are predicated by naïve interpretation of the gospel at the text level (usuallly by individual isolated effort in an academic setting), and the deluded assurance that flows from it, that it provides a historical portrait of one’s own superior morality in Jesus.  By design, such reading misses the mystical in Mark,  the disguised carving  of the figure of a beauty of a man and its placement in the Lord’s house as a model to emulate.  The subtext of Mark’s story reads:  ‘If you do not get the gospel it is because you are being fooled by your imagining something that is not there’.   The incredulity of some exegets that Mark intended to exit, or as I believe recurse, at 16:8  best illustrates Mark’s deep insight into human psyche.  No greater homage could have been paid to the man who wrote the story of Jesus for the delight of his community than that its forged version became canon.  

        Mark achieved the desired effect by having the narrative soaked in scriptures (ie. the tanakh and Paul)  interact with its reader, Jesus with the story, and the narrator (on behalf of his community) with Jesus.  When Frank Kermode says in the quote above from the beginning, he is not wasting words.  Already the first word of Mark’s writ is a mystery:  αρχη, pointing strangely to itself, and suggesting an Augustan incipit.  But if one has read the gospel already and knows its polymorphic feel, a question will obtrude at once:  Does αρχη allude to the beginning of the gospel, its origin, its master design, or perhaps, can it be pointing to its master designer ?   I propose Mark used the same sleight of hand in 1:2 as in 4:13: feigning a forward reference, when in fact he intended to assert something about the statement immediately preceding. The answer he says is written in Isaiah the prophet, and it is evidently not (only) Isa 40:3 shown in 1:3.  The hiding of the Malachi 3:1 attribution (which I will show was intentional) suggests that the master verse in Isaiah that identifies the αρχη of the gospel is also cryptic material.  

      Professor Aichele noted that the phrase αρχη του ευαγγελιου is present in Philippians 4:15, and specifically alludes to the beginning of Paul’s missionary activity[31].  He however does not think that the finding has significance for Mark 1:1.

      Such verdict would have been surprising if he or his sources had assessed the likelihood of the strong association of Paul and the word ‘gospel’ and found little or no connection. But the problem is that the novel mytho-poetic reach of the word ευαγγελιον very likely did originate in the apostle’s head[32].   The shock of the loss of Paul would have no doubt accelerated the copying and distributing of his letters and supplying them to the communities as Paul’s moral guidance in the impending collapse of heavens.  It is reasonable to hold then that the word ‘gospel’ in the years immediately after his death would have become associated with Paul even to a greater degree than during his life, and the faith in the reputed power of the cross in Paul’s guide to, and insight into, the unio mystica with the Lord, would have been strengthened.   It is hard to imagine that the author of Mark, writing perhaps within a dozen years of Paul’s death  – even if he was a leader of his community - could have appropriated the sacralized word without at least indirectly acknowledging Paul. But he appears to have done much more than pay Paul ex obligatio in the enshrining of his gospel in the first verse of the new text. Mark’s allegorical narrative is a vibrant exposition and resounding justification of Paul, even if admittedly conceived in ways that the apostle might have had great difficulty with.  Be it as it may,  αρχη transparently acknowledges Paul as the builder of the faith and specifically his understanding of himself as the founder of a new movement :  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder (αρχιτεκτων) I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it.[33]   The Isai’an prophecy of Paul as the architect of the Lord’s mystical temple is 44:13:     

The builder (τεκτων) stretches a line, he marks it out with a pencil; he fashions it with planes, and marks it with a compass; he shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. [34]

The extent of Paul’s influence on Mark has been widely debated for well over a century. Most of the academia has taken a negative view, and the majority case is still referred to a 1923 monograph by Martin Werner[35], which vigorously denied any debt of Mark’s gospel to Paul. However, from the times of Gustav Volkmar and Alfred Loisy, this position has had strong dissenters. In a 2000 paper titled “Mark – interpreter of Paul”[36], Joel Marcus, a NT professor at Duke University, severely dented the existing consensus around Werner. Marcus sees direct correlation between Paul’s theology and Mark in the use of the word ευαγγελιον, in the messianic and atoning significance of the cross, in Jesus’ death as victory over demonic powers, in Jesus as divine blessing and fulfilment of prophecy, the incorporation of Gentiles in the plan of salvation, and in the negative views of Peter and the apostles. 

 In another closely related development, since the mid-20th century Markan scholars following Willi Marxsen, have challenged the historicist underpinnings of the Markan hermeneutics, focusing instead on structural literary elements of composition which promise much better grasp of Markan goals and his modus operandi[37].  There is a limited yield in the historicist speculations which depend on the dubious reality of textual sources earlier than the gospels.  In the end, many feel, the quests will prove futile, as they will produce nothing of a lasting value.   James G. Williams wrote wisely: 

 Attempts to find a foundation for faith in discrete historical events, whether the approach is liberal or conservative,  is a positivism which finally founders on two scores:

1)      The impossible task of apologizing for the gospel text or any hypothetical strata thereof as a source of detailed historical information in the face of modern canons of historical criticism (see Van A. Harvey The Historian and the Believer,N.Y. Macmillan, 1966, ch 2).

2)       The untenable conviction that God’s acts in history are demonstrable from derived sense perception in the web of historical and natural events.

The question for the theologian is not whether God acts in human history but how God acts in it.[38] 

There is an important secular complement to this for those students of the texts who are not particularly animated by a need to find plausible new forms of theodicy.  When Williams asks for a form of faith that does not offend reason, or requests it deny a claim on any part of human history including the history of religious ideas and movements, he is also making a case for a civil society that is tolerant of a variety of expressions of human spirituality. 

     For the new hermeneutics, the writer of Mark is emerging more and more as the implied author[39] of the earliest gospel.  Naturally then, the question of his resourcing comes to a sharper relief in assessing the logic and techniques of the narrative structure. If, as I perceive, Mark is essentially an authored allegory and not a redacted collection of traditions about a minor Jewish prophet (though some may have been co-opted), then the extent of Paul’s influence needs to be understood in much more focused terms.  The connection to Paul’s text is hugely important in assessing and testing Mark’s recursive narration. I will therefore outline my findings briefly.

 In one of the more striking example of the insistent coiling of the narrative thread, the parable of the Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod,[40]  one sees the pericope introduced by a narrative element: the companions  had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had but one loaf (ει μη ενα αρτον ουκ ειχον) with them in the boat. The implication here is that the one bread was not supplied by the forgetful disciples. Jesus admonishes them en passant of the yeast of his adversaries, and they reply with a seeming non-sequitur, responding not to Jesus but to the object of the narration, i.e. the supply of bread.  The story-teller then explains cryptically that Jesus is aware of this and scolds them for questioning the provision. Then comes the refrain of the quibble (4:12),  and a test of the number of broken pieces in baskets after the mass feedings. The disciples answer correctly, giving the numbers of which symbolize the Twelve (tribes of Israel) for those five thousand fed on the Jewish side, and the number of days of unleavened bread at Passover for the four thousand fed on the Gentile side[41] of the sea of Galilee.  Apparently, Jesus remains unconvinced the disciples get him.        

       The cognitive effects of this parabolic unit are extremely interesting. The fascinating issue here is not as much Jesus reading the mind of the disciples, but his reading the mind of the disciples as it exists in the mind of the narrator.  What Mark is saying in effect is that Jesus in launching the recursive referencing of ‘unleavened bread’ to himself, is aware of the eucharistic interpretation of such a figure to the hearer or  reader of the story. Mark however is also saying that such view of Jesus was unavailable to his disciples (and the uninitiated), and despite Jesus perceiving it, he deplores it as unfaith.   This finding has an enormous implications for interpreters.  How would Mark justify such overwrought melodrama ?  By what authority (of his time) would his Jesus chastise and ridicule those who follow him ?

      It seems a foregone conclusion that it would not be on the strength of pre-existing historical traditions about the Nazarene Jesus. There may be some historical background to actual happenings in the parabolic chain of events  but that would be mostly to enhance the appeal of the gospel to the Jesuine Nazarenes as prospective converts.      

       So what is the extent of the one known authoritative Christology available at the time of the earliest gospel playing part in it ?  I dare say it is much greater than is generally admitted.  Overall, Mark appears to have written a thesis about the Risen One, disguised as an allegorical, fast-paced thriller taking place on earth in a historical time-frame.  In this particular story Mark transparently animates two Paul sayings from 1 Corinthians: first the argument about the missing bread alludes to 10:17 :   Because there is one bread (οτι εις αρτος), we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread, and Jesus’ saying about the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod  paraphrases Paul’s leaven of malice and evil in 5:8.     

      The letters of Paul make themselves felt on several distinct levels. As professor Marcus argued, all the major theological points of Paul and his posture to the rival Jesuine tradition are present in Mark: the cross as the atoning death of Christ, the overriding importance of faith, victory of Christ over forces of darkness and death, Jesus as the fulfilment of prophecy, the inclusion of Gentiles, Paul’s distrust of and hostility toward the Jesuine traditions of the Jerusalem Nazarenes. 

      There is much more than Joel Marcus perceives as Paul’s imprint in the earliest gospel: Mark’s legal and ethical base coincides almost entirely with Paul. This is partly obscured by the long held,  nearly universal,  belief that the historical Jesus preached agape, giving to the poor, rendering unto Caesar, restricting the right to divorce, calling God ‘Father’, relaxing food laws, and seeing himself as first in being last and the servant of all.  All of these facets of the Christ persona that have been with us for two millennia are firmly associated with Jesus of Nazareth as the model of a perfect human.  Nonetheless, they were first formulated in the letters of Paul as attributes of his spirituality as he received them in his intimate dealings with the oracles of the Risen One.         

        Paul’s mystical union with Christ may be unspoken in Mark but underlies the narrative framework, from the appearance of the Spirit at the Jordan[42] and descending into Jesus to its mysteriously disappearing on the cross, and morphing into Mark’s community in the mystical Galilee as the body of Christ.  The two baptisms, at the beginning by John and at the end by the neaniskos in the tomb, serve as the allegorical vault to interpret Romans 6:3-6:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.     

            The verses touch on the next overarching facet of Paul’s teaching in Mark, the imitatio motif, which comes to the sharpest relief in 8:34’s “let him take up his cross and follow me”.  That those who assign this saying to Q do not see Paul’s “be imitators of me as I am of Christ[43] as the community background for the verse seems strange. On the other hand, their subscribing to the ‘cynic-stoic’, or the ‘deuteronomic’ origin of the saying[44] may signify not more than that they overlooked the telling signature (οπισω μου) present in all the canonical variants of the maxim.  I venture that the exhortation does not originate in any putative Q script any more than Hamlet’s assessment of Yorick tracks to Danish royal court’s personnel records.  In Mark’s plan of the gospel, the saying is to be played out in the ascent to Golgotha, where not Peter but another Simon will follow carrying his cross. Note also the strong parallel between Paul’s confession of Christ in 1 Cor 1:18-31 (especially in 25-28) and Mark’s frank portrait of Jesus as resembling a demoniac to those without faith in the Spirit.  

             I have touched already in the interpretation of 4:12 on the next element of the Paul-Mark agreements, the sense of a special status or election that Paul promoted among his followers. The Acts, and to a degree the later Pastorals, portray the apostle as a more or less indiscriminate proselyte reaching out wide and up into the ruling class of his day.  The corpus, on the other hand, seems by and large innocent of such ambitions. Indeed, in one of the key passages, 1 Cor 1:18-31, Paul says plainly that not many of his flock were wise or powerful by the worldly standards, and that God chose what is (or, generally held to be,) low and despised in the world.  It is those who appear foolish to the outsiders that God calls and into whom he deposits the great wisdom of the crucified Christ.  Mark’s Quibble fully reflects this sense of being especially chosen and living apart from the mundane society.  The election is affirmed by the suffering that the mystics experience which Mark interprets after Paul as a sign of superior character that will become manifest in the judgment (1 Cor 3:12-13, Mk 9:41-49).           

        Finally, Paul’s suggestion of the Eucharist forms a sustained theme by Mark in the stories of the feedings and the Paschal meal.  As we saw above, the theme of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod and the reference to one bread are supplied directly by 1 Cor 5:8 and 1 Cor 10:17.[45]

            I have asserted that Paul’s conceptual framework animates Mark’s passion plot.  Paul’s ideas of one’s body that one does not own, a temple in one’s body[46], his concept of an universal, cosmic Redeemer, contrasted with a parochial yearning for a shepherd king to restore the old kingdom, and finally Paul’s church as the spiritual successor of Israel supply the interpretive material for the narrative.   There is a strong allusion to 1 Thessalonians in the Little Apocalypse (Mk 13:27, 1 Th 4:16-17), and more pointed ones in Gethsemane. Jesus reproachfully waking Peter (14:37) references Paul’s maxim to watch (1 Th 5:6) for the coming of the Lord.  The arresting party coming for Jesus, reverses ironically the saying in 1 Th 5:2.  The two-part trial Jesus follows Paul’s two part-script in 1 Cor 1:23, Jesus as offense to the Sanhedrin and folly to Pilate.  Jesus expiring with an anguished cry of abandonment fulfills Paul’s maxim of Jesus crucified in weakness (2 Cor 13:4). 

            Outside of theological concepts, maxims and larger parabolic themes, Mark alludes to Paul subtly: Jesus’ being observed as out of his mind (εξεστη) follows Paul’s frank admission of same (2 Cor 5:13).  Like Paul, Mark’s Jesus is not ashamed of the word (Rom 1:16, Mk 8:38).  Paul says Cephas stood condemned (Gal 2:11); Jesus leashes out at Peter as “Satan” (Mk 8:33).  Paul alludes to the missions from James wanting to glory in the Galatians’ flesh only so they are not persecuted for the cross of Christ (Gal 6:12).  The disciples in Mark run away from Jesus when he is arrested and Peter denies him three times.  There is even a good chance that Petros, the Hellenized renaming of the historical Cephas, is also Mark’s invention that dramatizes Paul.  Petros looks like a pun on petra in Romans 9:33: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense (και πετραν σκανδαλου), and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. (NKJV)”.  I do not believe these parallels can be dismissed as fortuitous, or explained as the flow of dominical traditions with which Paul was putatively familiar but failed to acknowledge as coming from teachings of Jesus while on earth.   Wernerian objections like Vincent Taylor’s that ‘Pauline ideas are wanting in Mark, or are differently presented’ and that where their ideas agree ‘the traditions consist of primitive Christian ideas[47] strike me as missing an important point. If Mark was adapting Paul allegorically, the affinities would often appear as thematic and symbolic, i.e. as cognitive figures that we would not expect to produce significant verbal agreements. Even less so if Mark was writing a mystery which assumed familiarity with Paul’s letters to be decoded. In some instances, the asserted Pauline motifs may seem difficult, as e.g. the two-tiered ‘trial’ of Jesus which just magically happens to agree proleptically with Paul’s dictum that Christ crucified was a scandalous idea to the Jews, and folly to the Gentiles.  The bemusement of Pilate at the nastiness of the Sanhedrin is hard to credit as having historical roots.  Within the narrated framework there is no rational explanation for the rulings and actions of the Roman prefect[48], yet they fit neatly the prophecy fulfilled in the messianic mystery which confirms Mark’s community election.  

       Last but not least, there is the mystery of Mark’s style. Many commentators have expressed incredulity that Mark’s writing should often be so poor and seemingly illogical and at the same time executing complex plan with patterned structures which bespeak of great skill and discipline, and generally of the presence of formidable intellect. This discrepancy becomes even more acute when one examines the seeming “errors” of  Mark and Jesus when the gospel has him quoting the scriptures.  The text quotes Malachi and attributes the saying to Isaiah (1:2-3). Jesus also seems aware of the discrepancy in the relationship between Ahimelech who is father to Abiathar in 1 Samuel, but said to be his son in 2 Sam 8:17. Mark 2:26 appears to switch the identity of the two in Jesus recounting the story of the bread of the presence in 1 Sam 21.  And surely Jesus was informed there was nothing written of the Son of Man suffering and rejection (9:12, 14:49) except in the scripture written by Mark. And if the mangled tenth commandment in 10:19 does not convince the reader that the gospel plays tricks on the learned scribes of Mark’s time, then nothing probably will. “Do not defraud” (μη αποστερησς) does not come from Moses[49], but Paul 1 Cor 7:5 (!), where the apostle admonishes married couples in his flock not to deprive without cause each other of sex, and thus give cause to Satan to tempt them with covetousness against the last proscription of the Decalogue. Oh come, surely, Jesus knew that!   It is for this and other reasons stated here that I hold Mark was dissembling lack of scriptural knowledge likely to get the Pharisee readers worked up at such barbaric renderings of the Torah.  Perhaps, in choosing his style of tale-told-by-a-fool, Mark intended to illustrate Paul’s 1 Cor 1:20: Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?      

          I do not deny there is a debit side of the ledger in arguing Paul as the prime source material to Mark. Of course, there is.  It has been more or less conceded that Paul knew, or rather, recognized, only  the risen Lord.  The idea that Jesus of Nazareth possessed the qualities of the Lord in his earthly career does not look very Pauline; indeed it goes against one of the basic tenets of his theology.  Paul proscribed the Jesuine traditions of his time and would not hear of other Jesus Christ than the one crucified (1 Cor 2:2). He evidently knew the controversies around the Nazarene, and the ‘other Jesus’ (αλλος Ιεσους) in 2 Cor 11:4 may relate to stories about Jesus before his crucifixion.  Paul’s revelations about Christ would not change the factual base of what he knew: it was simply that he believed he received directly and independently a spiritual understanding of the meaning of the Nazarene’s purpose and death (2 Cor 5:16). Through his own experience of depressive psychosis he was made to understand that Jesus looked like sin but he knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21)[50].   

         Indeed, it is hard to tell how Paul would have reacted to Mark’s creative allegorization of his teachings. Perhaps he would have embraced the narrative as true to his theology, and accepted the hyperbole of the Nazarene martyr as fully matching the holy spirit of the risen Lord as he received it.  It is however just as possible that Paul would have been upset at Mark’s community breaking his taboo on telling stories about the Lord’s paradoxical abasement in human existence.  It is a tough call to make. 

            One thing seems clear; Mark might have followed Paul’s theology faithfully but temperamentally the two men were of a different stock.  Paul sought to dominate through self-discipline and impossibly high moral standard, and he no doubt found it hard to assert himself in that manner with mostly urban audiences.  Mark, on the other hand, presents himself in his writing as a natural leader, a man of prodigious, commanding intellect and a more subtle insight into human characters than Paul. He appears to have possessed a gift of spontaneous, generous conviviality and a wicked sense of humour.  The idea of Jesus relaxing (κατακειμαι) with tax collectors and sinners would have probably caused Paul great distress as his rules of conduct and association were quite rigid. The pleasure-seeking Corinthians gave him fits (1 Cr 5:9-10, 6:9, 15:33).  Mark’s clowning, distractions and pranks on the outsiders that were no doubt cherished by his pneumatic friends, would probably also have not impressed Paul.  The apostle, though no stranger to irony and putdowns himself, was dead serious in his purpose.  Mark’s fooling around the request of Joseph of Arimathea for the ecstatic body (σωμα) of Christ misapprehended by Pilate to mean Jesus’ corpse (πτωμα)[51] might have made his mentor turn colours at the impiety.   

            It has also been pointed out that Mark’s use of ‘Son of man’ is unknown to Paul.  The designation  would have come from the Jerusalem side of traditions, and was shunned in Paul’s lexicon as coming from a different spirit than he knew. Mark, on the other hand, likely adopted the title in his mission to wow and woo the Nazarenes to the cross. An apocalyptic term they were familiar with deployed as a Christological title would bridge the gap in naming of the objects in the eschatological panoply of the two groups. Jesus referring to himself in this manner would also help to enhance the illusion of actual events, if the figure of the Nazarenes by tradition had invoked it.

            The war of 66-73 CE war likely changed a lot of things for the Christ professing communities in near Diaspora. In the defeat of the Jewish rebels, the mayhem and the suffering, the Gentile Christian communities would have seen a strong vindication Paul’s cross as the symbol of Messiah’s fate and power on earth. The arriving colonies of the other Jesuine believers naturally created an opportunity to strengthen the numbers for the existing Pauline churches. One gets the sense from Mark that his community wanted to patronize the new Jewish exiles, and shield them from the wrath of the Phariseic mainstream which blamed their messianic fervour for the war and its terrible harvest.  In this they would have followed Paul also as he considered his growing church to be an expression of the Lord’s approval and guarantee of his apostolic status[52]. The problem was that the helping hand had a proselytizing agenda which was deeply resented by the new arrivals[53].  Mark found a formula for a merger based firmly and exclusively on Paul’s theology but the text triggered a wave of counter proselytizing with roots in the undisputed physical proximity of the original Jewish disciples to the historical founder.   The process of consolidating the new faith was far from over. Jesus appearing after his crucifixion in (the much deplored) flesh to his earthly disciples was just about to be written up by Matthew. Christianity would be built on that kind of fantastic foma.  The hard core of Paul’s following would bolt to Gnostic cults.         


The Parables of Jesus as a Healer

Mark’s text is extremely slippery because its frames of reference are movable.  In 15:21 he introduces Simon of Cyrene, as a passer-by compelled by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross. Except Mark does not say that nor – I contend - does he intend to say that. He changes the ‘they’ meaning the ‘soldiers’ to ‘they meaning Mark’s community. They compel (αγγαρευουσιν - present tense, started in the previous verse) Simon (likely Mark himself), a passer-by to bear his cross.  The passιng by (παραγοντα) may indicate that Simon joined them from a Thomasian group[54], something argued also by the complements of low Christology in  Mark’s narrative and by what appears to be his therapeutic aims.  The abrupt switching of references is a characteristic technique in building up the gospel figures and makes them often hard to read. In this instance, the switching of tenses bespeaks of the gospel’s intent to crucify Simon alongside Jesus as one of the robbers.  His cross I interpret as Simon’s cross, as per the exhortation in 8:34, not Jesus’!

  I have already shown this technique in the verse that forms the object query of this essay, 4:13.  I have also shown the recursive turning in 8:34 in Mark setting up a plot to proclaim Jesus as the unleavened bread of the Eucharist.  There is a recursive reference in 3:20-21, in the relatives of Jesus pointing to the lack of appetite in his followers as a sign of Jesus being out of his mind.  This is again a disguised invocation of the unio mystica: Jesus and his true followers are one, or conversely, Jesus is the composite portrait of the believer community as a model to emulate.   

      A bizarre incident at the raising of the Jairus daughter is another example of Mark’s recursive liberty with the text and “rapid switching” of references; a group that weeps over the loss of the little girl (5:38)  breaks out into inexplicable laughter when Jesus reveals she is only sleeping (5:40).  This may be, as e.g. Joel Marcus believes, a laughter of derision of those who know ‘full well that the girl is dead, and that dead people don’t come back to life !’[55]. It may. But the elementary problem with interpreting the verse after Matthew in this manner is that humans in situations like this would not switch from wailing to laughing on a verbal cue, nota bene one uttered in earnest by someone brought to the scene as a miracle worker.  This is not consistent with emotions that fit a scene of an apparent loss of life and a hope for it rekindled by the presence of the salvific spirit.  Whether the mourners were ‘professional’ or not, they are not portrayed as Jesus’ adversaries (though they are not οι μετ’ αυτου).  I prefer to look at the incident as another example of Mark’s  gamesmanship in having Jesus take everyone out of the parable and going back to the sick girl only with those who would play along.  The recursion clue here is in Jesus throwing everyone out, not just those mocking Mark or an assigned actor in one of the staged enactments of a Jesus parable.    

         A number of Jesus’ cures afford us a glimpse into the life of Mark’s spiritual community (likely a colony akin to the Therapeutae) in the mythical Galilee[56] where Jesus Christ lived.  In the first medical intervention, Jesus cleansing a man of leprosy (1:40-45), he charges the patient to tell nothing of his cleansing, only to show himself to the priest.  But the man goes away and rants about this everywhere, so much so that Jesus cannot go back to town but has to retire in the country.  This story fascinates because it simply cannot be decoded at the text level. It yields very little that is meaningful when isolated from other parables of healing by Jesus. Yes, the command for the man to go and show himself to the priest follows the traditional protocol for lifting the communal banishment on the leper.[57]  Within the parable, the cleansing is asserted as real.  But beyond that the story is cryptic. Despite assurances that the lectio difficilor οργισθεις at 1:41 is explainable as a traditional thaumaturgical posture, Jesus on a short fuse[58] is not all that easily disposed of.  The disobedience of the cured man is embarrassing, and the effect of the cure baffling, causing Jesus to withdraw to the countryside.  This ironic twist of the story is in that the man speaking of Jesus in torrents of public praise achieves the opposite effect that the healer intended, i.e. the re-integration of the man in the community. Worse still, Jesus himself now has to avoid appearing in town. How does that follow the news of a talented healer (with the Jewish theological implications of holiness) coming to practice in the neighbourhood?   This story would have been received in roars of laughter by the initiated pneumatics who would have understood at once what Mark was getting at, if indeed one of them did not think of it herself.   A similar, and even more provocative, incident of truculence by those following Jesus comes after his cure of the deaf man with speech impediment in 7:32-35. There, it is not the subject of the cure but the ones who observe its effect who wilfully disobey Jesus: ‘And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it (7:36).  The two stories transparently comment on the effects of the spirit, known as pressure of speech and glossolalia. Jesus as the personified spirit can do nothing to stop the praise and visions of himself, as they themselves are απο κυριου πνευματος (2 Cor 3:2).  There is even some chance that Mark was poking fun at Paul’s lack of largesse, in trying to regulate the tongue-speaking pandemonia breaking out in his solemn gatherings[59].   

       Stories of the rising of the paralytic[60], Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood, cleansing of the leper, and the cure of the deaf and dumb, all describe via recursive parable the healing nature of the Spirit, as experienced by the members of Mark’s colony. The landscapes of Galilee are borrowed for asserting the cures by the Holy Spirit, parabolically personified by Jesus.  The frame of reference for these gospel events relates too closely cognitively to known positive effects of manic excitation[61] than to be a purely coincidental by-product in the recall of actual happenings.  Even more so, as the cures form only a small part of Mark’s mimesis of the spirit which includes pressured speech (as noted), subjective acceleration of time (asserted by hyper frequent use of  ευθυς and the ‘shortened days’ for the elect -13:20) , insomnia ( proclaimed by Jesus sleeping only twice in the gospel - both times rising early, by ordering a night-time journey to Bethsaida in 6:45, by the night setting of Jesus’ trial[62]), short term memory loss (10:46, 11:11-12),  psychomotor agitation (2:4, 3:9, Bartimaeus tossing his cloak), alimentary dysregulation (alluded to in 3:20, 5:43, 6:36, 8:1, and both mass feedings[63]), sexual dysfunction (12:20-24), manic fugue and spatial disorientation (asserted in the aimlessness of the Galilean ministry (7:31) and especially in the thrilling voyage to Bethsaida which ends up with Jesus on board in Gennesaret (6:45-53).  The Jesus saying to the rich man in 10:21, also relates to a standard item on the diagnostic sheet for the people of the spirit: impulsive generosity and spending.  Mark was not a modern psychiatrist, but he had an amazingly keen eye and a healer’s deep insight into the perplex of God and man as one, observed whenever the spirit was ablaze among brothers and sisters, or in retrospect, in himself.  His Jesus showing temper evidently comes from seeing a lot of that among the former bad copies of Christ who were being reformed to become a part of a dignified community witness of him instead.      

                In Mark’s idiom then, the cures the spirit of Jesus performs are allegorical ciphers of the known beneficial health effects of a sudden mood conversion (from depression to manic excitement), ones we may safely assume were observed in antiquity by those who had the challenge and those around the visionaries who either were fearful of them, or amused by them or – much less frequently - believed in the divine status, or in the reality of their connections to the highest places the suffering mystics claimed for themselves.  

That Paul refused to be ashamed of the gospel  i.e. by the humiliating external view of his own bipolar challenge[64], was a great inspiration to Mark in his role of therapōn, a communal therapist. His purpose was to focus the friends who were ill on the positive blessings of their condition.  Robert M. Price observes the parabolic nature of the gospel healings. He asks smartly: ‘what are we to make of the fact that Jesus healing miracles fall well within the range of known somatization disorders, presumably susceptible to psychosomatic healings ? Does it mean that , having modern medical analogies, they do not rest simply upon myth and fiction ? If there had not been some kind of a reality check, wouldn’t the scope of Jesus’ miracle stories be much wider than it is ?[65]  

I would reply that the cures in Mark are by and by a limited license because they are the things that the spirit actually does; real cures that the breakout of madness, so despised by most people, actually brings to the sufferer. Anyone who observes florid manics will be at once struck by the enormous amount of physical energy they are capable of generating. Anyone who wrestles with them knows they are veritable God's dynamos. And their bodies really are being healed by the strange excitement the spirit brings. Not just figuratively! Eczemas and other skin conditions (which were conflated with Hansen’s disease as λεπρα in antiquity) disappear on short order, as many of them are simply physical manifestations of depression. The revved up cardio-vascular system takes care of many ailments, even serious medical conditions which may have been present for years. There is also a tendency in manics to wander around (fugues), which takes them out of environments which may have caused, or contributed to, their poor health. Another well-known effect of manic excitement is that the subjects experience a greatly elevated threshold of pain. This is the ‘authority to tread on serpents and scorpions’ that Jesus confers on his disciples (in Luke 10:19). The later annex to Mark records the picking up snakes and immunity from drinking ‘any deadly thing’ (Mk 16:18) based on the gift of disappearing pain and greatly improved immune system. Naturally, there is a bit of a poetic license about the 'any deadly thing', that one may drink, but it is not altogether a tall tale either, as the difficulty with putting down the shamanic Rasputin with just a horse dose of potassium cyanide well illustrated. In ordinary bipolars, being distracted by the spirit, means above all that they are no longer consumed by minor aches and ailments, which are imaginary, or real but out of proportion to the severity of the underlying physical problems.

The uncanny resistance of ecstatics to pain was a well-observed fact in antiquity, which among other things, tempted authorities to go to extremes in their curiosity to find out the level of discomfort that would make a furiosus come to his senses. Josephus recounts the bloody scourging of Jesus ben Ananus by Albinus, in which the prisoner’s ‘bones were laid bare’. And, ‘yet he did not make any supplication for himself or shed any tears but,…at every stroke of the whip his answer was, ‘Woe, woe to Jerusalem’’[66].

The healing of the paralytic in Capernaum (2:3-5) and the narcoleptic Jairus’ daughter (5:38-43) are examples of rapid remission of depressive stupor. The girl prior to being raised by Jesus, would be in a state of spiritual death analogous to the one described by the Thanksgiving Hymn (1QH) at Qumran:

My spirit is imprisoned with the dead
for (my life) has reached the Pit;
my soul languishes (within me)
day and night without rest[67]

But this state of almost total helplessness also bespeaks of the things just just about getting out of control on the other end. Emil Kraepelin, the German psychiatrist who in  the early 20th century  described diagnostically major mental illnesses  observed  what he called manic stupor as the phase of the episode which immediately precedes a sudden switch into madcap cheer[68]. The  modern compendium on  Manic-Depressive Illness discusses the severe psychomotor inhibition which the patient exhibits during this period of deep mourning:

The patient, usually, is confined to bed, is mute, inactive and uncooperative. His bodily needs require attention in every way; he has to be fed, washed and bathed. Precautions have to be made to prevent the retention of faeces, urine and saliva. In some cases all attempts at movement are strongly resisted. In other cases the muscles are more flaccid, and the body and limbs can be molded into any position. On the surface it may seem as if there was a total absence of feeling and emotions, but that is often more apparent than real, for after recovery many patients give a vivid account of the distress they have experienced. The idea of death is believed by some to be almost universal in stupor reactions, and may be regarded as a form of expiation for the wickedness for which they hold themselves responsible…..[69]

Not all cures were constructed by Mark with the sole focus on the beneficial nature of the Spirit. Some contain, or simply are, theological arguments his community had with the Pharisees and the Petrine Nazarenes.  In the restoration of a withered hand (3:1-6), Mark asserts the right for Jesus contra  Pharisees to perform cures on Sabbath[70]. Naturally, if in the gospel idiom the physical restoration was a direct act of the spirit’s grace[71], then it could not be constrained by the law. It effectuates at a time of its own choosing.  Similarly, in the healing of the epileptic boy (9:14-29), Jesus confidently asserts against the gathered scribes, that faith may cure even ailments known empirically to be intractable.

             The two sight restorations were not cures at all.  The gift of sight to the blind man in Bethsaida, is another example of a mean Markan trashing of the group’s proselytic rivals.  In the narration, the incident comes after the second feeding of the multitude which the disciples do not get – yet again[72]. Mark devises a two-stage cure of a blind man, who after the first phase, which is an allegorical restoration of physical sight and was devised only to make a point about the second. After the Nazarene idol[73] does his part in the two-step cure, the afflicted man can only see ‘men’, who ‘look like trees, walking’. This ridicules the Nazarenes’ lack of spiritual insight, which of course has to be corrected by the proper medicine of Jesus as the Spirit of the Lord, in augmenting the initial procedure. Many exegets express incredulity at the imperfection of the first step in the cure. The gradualism does not seem to agree with their jesuslike thing.  But as I have outlined above in the comment on 4:12  they have fallen into the trap of reading the fifth-century Vincent of Lerins’ maxim into Mark[74].   The one-church-one-faith dictum will forever struggle with the text propagating freely and shamelessly the idea that the disciples, and by extension, the heirs to Peter after 70 CE, were scattered sheep without guidance and in need of gospel.   An exegesis proceeding from the premise of pre-existent common traditions will surely miss the tree metaphor as belonging to the Isaiah’s hidden prophecy of Paul as the builder of the gospel  in which the carpenter is said to cut down cedars (Isa 44:14) for his carving work.   Let it be said plainly:  Paul and Mark were not singers in the church choir; they were the choir’s first composers.       

In my reading of the battle of the first two gospels[75], this story infuriated Matthew, who saw in it a mean-spirited assault on his own traditions, an exhibit of Pauline insufferable arrogance.  He would prove to Mark that he and his mocking troopers owned no monopoly on the spirit. His Jesus bores into Mark for the Bethsaida blindness cure: (KJV) ‘How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye?’ Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye[76].'    Matthew won hands down.  If he did not in fact, the Jesus of the Q sapiential stratum could not have said it any better.

        Bartimaeus, in my estimate, is another significant anti-Petrine sketch. Dressed up as a  blind beggar cure, the parable delivers a hard beating on the Nazarenes in the generous offer to accept them as converts to Paul’s Christ after repenting their sin of being the other-Jesus idolators. 

             The place is Jericho, the oldest town in Judea. The conquering Joshua is now a stand-in for the Apostate. The destitute man is blind the same way as the one at Bethsaida. In his spiritual blindness, he begs Jesus, Son of David, and is rebuked not by the disciples but some obscure gentile hoi polloi who are offended by the wrong messianic title[77]. He repeats it. Jesus calls him, asks him what he wants, and Bartimaeus asks for the gospel.  Jesus recognizes his faith, and gives him not the Apostate’s corpus but parables that mean nothing to the uninitiated and tells him to go away.  The converted Bartimaeus stays.  The beggar allegory sets off Jesus on the Mount, in dealing further with Mark’s blindness cures:

                  Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

                Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?

                  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts (δοματα αγαθα) to your children,

                  how much more will your Father who is in heaven

                  give good things to those who ask him![78] 


Beholding the Glory of the Lord

          We learn through the re-writes by Matthew and Luke of the Transfiguration story that they saw  recursion in it.  After their expert manipulation, Mark’s intent to abduct the  οφθη αυτοις in 9:4[79]  has become for all intents and purposes invisible to exegesis.   Again, a difficult pair of verses has caused all sorts of misses in understanding Matthew’s and Luke’s comprehension of Mark. Both go to some lengths to assure the readers of their gospels that Peter, John and James received the vision. Why would that be necessary with 9:4 and 9:8[80] of Mark in place which seems to say that plainly ?  Why would the artless impostor in 2 Pe 1:16, writing perhaps a century later, need to forswear, “we have not followed (εξακολουθησαντες) cunningly devised fables (KJV)”  when all  the synoptics apparently agreed Peter received the vision of Christ’s majesty ?  (There is of course another question, which does not exercise us here:  why would he need to argue that he, as Peter, heard God talk through the clouds to Jesus, when in fact the gospels agreed the voice was addressed to the disciples ?)   

To Mark and the later Gnostics, the disciples were οι πσυχικοι unable to discern things spiritual. Both overt manifestations of Jesus as the Spirit of the risen Lord, i.e. the metaphors of Jesus walking on the sea of Galilee and Jesus transfigured, are received by them as disturbing anomaly in the sensorium, of which they frighten and from which they instinctively want to flee.   

The common reading of Mk 9:4 (and 9:8)  among the pneumatics would presumably have been that the Moses and Elijah’s  being seen by the three disciples was meant as ironic description of their incapacity to see them.[81] Peter interprets Jesus’ addressing Elijah and Moses as being directed to him (9:5-6) and in his fear and confusion he offers to build the booths.  What is going on ?  

In the Transfiguration parable, Mark transparently alludes to the peaking pneumatics’ sensing of light in their bodies[82], and the not uncommon tendency to hallucinate the presence of great sages as witness to their grandeur.   For example, Muhammad, in his mystical al-Isra wal-Mi’raj  overnight journey to Jerusalem, was engaged by Isa and Yahya (Jesus and John the Baptist) prior to mounting his buraq.   The common belief among the spiritualist subjects (whether celebrated Godheads of history or regulars on psychiatric wards in this day and age) is that the sensation of inner light and other paraphernalia of their distinction and election are observable externally[83]. But witnesses who have no idea what is going on inside the excited head of a visionary would see nothing.  They would hear gibberish in which they would barely recognize the invoked names of prophets and then perhaps s see their leader disengage completely and fall momentarily into a cataleptic stupor.  The fear of Peter and the Zebedees relates to their imagined observing their leader out of control, not his glorious transfiguration[84].  And with this innocence of the inner sensation of eternity by his disciples, Mark’s Jesus – when he recovers his senses - commands them not to speak of what they had seen (the writer being fully aware they saw nothing), until the Son of Man rises from the dead.  Faithful to the script, the three do not ask Jesus but argue about what the rising should mean, as they are unfamiliar with Paul’s resurrectional schema[85].  Jesus answers their timid question about Elijah’s coming with a typical Markan panache referring recursively to his own text as the scriptural source for both, the saying about the Son of Man (9:12) and Elijah (9:13), transparently alluding to the story of John the Baptist as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Elijah’s coming.

Matthew would have none of this.  If Jesus took his most senior disciples to reveal himself in his spiritual majesty of resurrection, he would darn do it and they would doggone get it.  Strictly speaking, the Transfiguration looks pointless in Matthew since the disciples receive the resurrectional manifest in the Easter post-crucifixion appearance of Jesus.   But there was probably a number of good reasons why Matthew felt it prudent to address the happening on the mountain.  Most importantly, it was an opportunity  to further assert the disciples’ pneumatic capacity. Matthew’s Peter obtains Jesus’ blessing for his confession at Caesarea Philippi[86], the wording of which is to confirm that he is an apostle who has received independently the gift of the Spirit which enables him to recognize Jesus as not only the Davidic Messiah but also the spiritual one of the Paulines (if they want to insist there is a difference).  In the ensuing event on the mountain, Peter, John and James receive the vision of Jesus and hear the voice from  heaven:   they react to the shekinah by hyper-staged mechanics (Mt 17:6-7)  which are to assure the reader the disciples did hear the voice and therefore the sorry part they played in the passion was assigned to them by God, and without effect on their capacity to receive the resurrection.    

Luke was evidently unhappy with Matthew’s Transfiguration solution[87].   That Peter should have been invested with Paul-like mystical insight was not acceptable to Luke’s Pauline constituency.  His gospel needed to devise a compromise formula.  There was of course no question in Jesus blessing Peter and entrusting the church to him, nor would the Lukan elders agree to a Jesus proclaiming observances.    A large concession was made only for the historical claim of primacy of the earthly witness of Jesus, in agreeing to the merger of the disciples with the Twelve effected by Matthew (assuming Luke had access to the original Mark’s text without the apostolic inventory in 3:17-19).  This would have been consented to in observing that much of the disciples’ witness remained within the Markan gospel parameters.  The formula allowed the disciples receive the appearances the risen Christ, but only after he was made himself available to the two proto-Pauline figures on the road to Emmaus[88].  For this reason, when the transfigured Jesus on the mountain discusses his “departure in Jerusalem”  with Moses and Elijah, Luke has the disciples asleep.      

As for Jesus’ nocturnal hydropatesis on the lake, Mark does not lay claim to a miracle.  Quite the contrary, the story was told to lampoon miracle-mongering (1 Cor 1:22, Mk 8:12), and the mistrust of pneumaticism among  the disciples.  The spirit of Jesus intends to walk by their boat on a stormy sea to pilot them and encourage them by his presence, but the sight of him causes panic among the crew.   This would be again a story that would send Mark’s connoisseurs into paroxysms of laughter. Mark’s comrades would have had hard time to contain themselves when reading or hearing of the men crying out in terror at the sight of Jesus as a phantasma, as it changes the direction of its progress, and as it assures the panic-stricken followers, that despite lacking flesh it is he, and whatever they experience as him is real, and there is nothing to fear. It is clear that Jesus’ εγο ειμι was not meant to deny that Jesus for the purposes of this parable was a phantasma;  the gospel agrees he was, in order to ridicule the disciples’ fear and misapprehension of psychic events which lie beyond the realm of ordinary sense perception.  Despite the assurance and Jesus’ presence in the boat, the men do not recover their composure and land way off the planned target. By contrast, the town folk at the new destination have no problem recognizing Jesus and finding their uses for him.

A small anecdote will perhaps illustrate the deep chasm between pneumaticism and naïve idolatry which has existed in Christianity (and doubtless in other religions) since its (their) inception[89].  In an incident recorded by Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Carmelite mystic, her confessor seemed to have been at a loss to grasp her saying she sees nothing during her visions of the Lord.  “Since you see nothing”, she was asked by the incredulous father, “how do you know that it is Our Lord ?”  Teresa, writing of herself in third person singular answered

that she did not know, that she saw no face and could add nothing to what she had said; that she knew it was Our Lord who spoke to her, she did not hear them when she willed but at other times when she was not think about them and when it was necessary….One sees nothing, either within or without, but while seeing nothing the soul understands what it is and where it is more clearly than if it saw him….the soul hears no word, either within or without, but understands quite clearly who it is and where he is and sometimes even what he means to tell. How, and by what means, it understands it does not know, but so it is; and while this is happening it cannot fail to know it.[90]   


Mark’s Circular Gospel Plan

Heikki Räisänen is among those who struggle with the notion of ‘top-down’ exegesis of Mark. On the one hand, he sees a structural approach in reading Mark that attempts to see the gospel as a whole to be an imposition on the text. There will inevitably be structural correlations, says  Räisänen , that are imported into the text by the reader.  On the other hand, he seems to agree that without a bird’s eye view of the gospel whole, the analytical tools one deploys  will forever struggle with ‘the final product’. [91]  It is a fix, I agree.  In the academic culture of the NT studies, the default theoretical framework is still supplied by the vague consensus that the gospel happenings are historical events, even if coloured and at times overwhelmed by religious imagination.  This holds especially true of the Easter events. The belief, which in many cases has confessional background, that the Jesus trial and execution in the gospels are essentially historical accounts, holds strong.  To construct a competing general viewpoint is to run the risk, if not of condemning oneself to eternal hellfire, or the sight of the Inquisition’s torture implements, then at least to being looked down by the peers’ collective nose as an eccentric oddball. At the same time, scholars approaching the subject with a critical eye see a myriad of contradictions that simply cannot be reconciled within the traditional historical schema.  One can beat around the bush all one wants, but if Mark’s text exits with the women running away from the tomb without telling anyone anything - as is plainly intended - then the disciples did not get the news of Jesus rising until it was proclaimed by the gospel of Paul parabolized by Mark .  The risen Christ was not seen by them until Matthew (or the spurious passage in 1 Cor 15:3-11, which it seems paralleled or preceded his gospel) argued against Mark some fifty years after Jesus’ death that not Paul but the disciples (as apostles) proclaimed Christ crucified first. What it boils down to is that there was no assembly in Palestine before the Jewish war that worshipped Jesus as the crucified Messiah. It is a legend[92] born of a later quest of the Christian church to become the legitimate successor of Judaism which laid claim to Jerusalem as its historical ground zero.

                If Mark’s gospel is an allegory then the all-important question is: allegory of what ?  It does not suffice to say that Mark allegorized Paul or created a connected narrative of haggadic midrash figures. This appears to beg the all-important question:  a connected narrative of what ?  

In my understanding of the gospel semantics, Mark’s messianic secrecy motif[93]  specifically references the transitory and cyclical nature of the spirit manifestations and experience.  I have proposed that many of the miraculous happenings in the gospel are mimesis of the pneuma which today would be recognized as familiar effects of psychotic states, especially in a common disorder which returns the subject to a semblance of normalcy, usually in  a matter of weeks or months.  Mark seems to try his utmost to make the common symptoms of an ecstatic state of mind accessible to a reader familiar with the associated phenomena, if he or she has re-acquired the ability to reflect  on one’s goings and doings while non compos mentis. The gospel was  to provide guide and higher understanding of states in which one’s control over actions and expression has been mysteriously diminished and one has become a stranger to oneself.  Mark’s insight into the manic-depressive cycle is deep.  Even though the illness has often a specific course, and acquires over time a great variety of rapidly changing symptoms, manic episodes tend to a statistically significant model of progress.  

According to Godwin-Jamison[94], there are three distinct stages of a manic episode. Initially, in Stage I., the mood is euphoric (sometimes markedly irritable if demands not satisfied !). In cognition, expansiveness, grandiosity, overconfidence prevail, and racing thoughts appear. Even though the subject is coherent, he/she is often tangential[95], and religious (or sexual) themes dominate the discourse.  Psychomotor activity greatly increases. Stage II. is characterized by increased dysphoria, anger and delusions.  Pressured speech intensifies, occasional assaultive behaviour is typical[96]. In Stage III. the subject as a rule becomes panic- stricken, completely disorganized and hopeless.   

  Mark’s narrative appears to follow closely this observed pattern. As noted, Jesus dominates everyone and everything in the first half of the gospel. As Paula Fredriksen put it, Mark’s Jesus is a man in a hurry dashing through the Galilee in rapid, almost random motion, from synagogue to invalid, from shore to grain field to sea, casting out demons and amazing those who witness him. The spare prose and stacatto cures create a mood of nervous anticipation. The times must be fulfilled[97]              

 During the Galilean fugue, Jesus becomes known to everyone and is followed by a multitude which – unbeknownst to the uninitiated reader – is hallucinated.  Whatever the circumstance of the historical Jesus, there were no large crowds following him in his time; it is a deliberately conjured fantasy to excite that which I have called here the jesuslike thing. It serves as an interpretive tool the purpose of which was designed to control delusions of grandeur in excited pneumatics. In the therapeutic process devised by Mark, the visiting spirit which initially seduces the subject into believing he or she is the promised Godhead (and everyone knows it), was to be defused by transferring the grandeur to Jesus.  The tripping brother or sister were then led from being the Christ him- or herself to a competent member in the communal witness of the mysterious drama of the passing of the Lord’s spirit. The community knowledge of the spirit’s phases, i.e. the initial surge of energy, vistas of limitless mastery and vast knowledge of all, being replaced by terrific, visceral suffering and an unfathomable sense of persecution, had a great therapeutic value.  The cycle was predictive[98]. The great mission to save the world would end with the spirit languishing and with its expulsion in the terrors of the cross.

That the crowds in Mark were not real but allegorical  props to counter the associated paranoid  aspects of the manio-depressive psychosis, is best attested by their sudden turning hostile to Jesus[99].   In a detached view of a therapist, one would be hard pressed to read Mark’s story another way without impugning both the author and his historical protagonist as seriously mentally incompetent persons, and the gospel as outrageous nonsense.  And this is why:  if Jesus had  great success as a healer and exorcist in his lifetime, it is just plain insulting to human intelligence, whether ancient or modern, to proclaim  he managed to escape the enduring love and respect for his care and successes in bringing continued relief and happiness to thousands.  His generation would have not been just faithless, not just morally revolting, but simply not human. Individually, perhaps, there could have been ingrates. But not many if his skills were said to touch whole villages and towns and his fame spread quickly over the districts.  People would not have been just all amazed at Jesus’ prowess as a healer; they would have not just glorified God for it, they would have – first and last - deeply bonded with it. They would have appropriated Jesus as treasure and would have protected him ferociously. Reciprocity is the basis of human interaction.  And if this bond is expressed by the throng in the cries of Hosanna on his entry into Jerusalem, then the crowd turning on him during and after his trial is not explicable.  Now, if the theologian wants to argue that this was ‘end times’ it only makes matters worse. The end times did not come.  And why would Jesus preach the end times in the first place if his cures worked ?  Would his cures have not been prima facie proof that God loves his creation in a sensible way, and that he sent his son to assure those who needed such assurances that his creation was still good ?  Oh, they had no faith, you say !  But where on the planet would humans not have faith in Jesus if he was for real and headed their way preceded by a reputation of being a great healer ?  Doesn’t the spread of Christianity itself argue  violently with such notion ?

No, the abrupt change in the crowd’s disposition appears given by the community’s knowledge of the Spirit in which the elect experience themselves as the incarnation of a God-like power but which their brain eventually unmasks as a delusional mirage, frequently  through horrific bouts with acute panic followed by a lingering sense of shame. The therapeutic suggestion that they are not multiple Christs but chosen witnesses of God’s gift to humanity would have (typically) a significant compensating effect in re-building self-esteem and in helping to reduce their anxiety and suffering.

Jesus fulfilling the scriptures in dying an ignominious death confirms the effects of the manic cycle.  At the end of the episode,  the pneumatic would be returned to his or her right mind, most of the time.  The excitement would disappear but may be immediately followed by a depressive mood swing.   A narrative that could explain the strange loss of one’s self through a complex metonymy of a witness to the rising of Nazarene Jesus at John’s baptism, would have had a dramatically positive impact on many intelligent sufferers, and strengthen their ability to deal with their bipolar challenge.    

Some people may feel that the metaphoric crucifixion with Christ  proclaimed by Paul and written into his parabolized gospel by Mark (the two robbers being a cipher for the two lawless  proclaimers of Christ crucified, i.e. Paul and Mark a.k.a Simon[100]), is too melodramatic to have caught on a large scale. I agree to a point. A free, unstructured  communion with the Saviour could not have been sustained in building a large church, which impulse won the day over the desire to restrict the access to the mysteries to those deemed spiritually competent to receive them.  Nonetheless, for some period in the beginning, there evidently existed proto-Christian communities where this ethos prevailed.  As for the reality of the suffering that gave rise to the crucifixion parallel, it is perhaps best attested by Emil Kraepelin, the psychiatrist who first described the bipolar process medically: ‘ Very commonly it is asserted’, he wrote  of the illness, ’that the disease is a greater torture than any other and that the patient would far, far rather endure any bodily pain than disorder of the mind’.[101] 

You have seen my assertion that the opening and closing scenes of the gospel are allegorized, two-pronged baptism into Jesus Christ, following Paul’s dictum in Romans 6. Those baptized into Christ are baptized into his death. This is why the gospel exits abruptly with the women, unable to cope with the spiritual supra-reality proclaimed by the gospel fleeing the place where they expected to find the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth.  To an initiated reader, one who knows Paul’s scripture and who experienced the spirit cycle within him- or herself this figure would have a clear and un-ambivalent meaning. The last verse at 16:8, simply confirms the parabolic nature of the gospel and the interpretive rule of the quibble in 14:10-12,  confirmed in 4:13 as the key with which one unlocks the secret.  The messenger, in whom the community delights, announces that Jesus of Nazareth has risen, is to be found in Galilee and that this should be made known to his disciples.   However, the women do not understand resurrection, just as the disciples did not understand the allusions to it made by Jesus. They frighten and run away without saying anything to anyone.  There is nothing more to add.  If the reader does not understand, he will be compelled to return to the beginning of the text in search for the meaning of the gospel. If the gospel fast gained in some quarters the reputation as a life-saving revelation about the Son of God, the search would likely be frantic.  More so, as the reader would have been made captive by Mark’s jesuslike thing.   The provocative, unexpected ending was designed to make the desire to grasp the meaning of the tale more acute. 

Robert Fowler suggests  the conjunction γαρ in 16:8 is analogous to musical notation of  a ‘coda, which signals to the musician a return to marked passage, and to keep on playing’[102].  I am very much on side with this hypothesis, and in fact the idea of the text returning to the beginning has occurred to me independently. It is given by the tight coupling of the two baptismal scenes, at the start, by John the Baptist and at the end by the neaniskos, which I am persuaded were composed as a single unit ahead of time. Note that in the recursing narrative, the hidden paraphrase of Mal 3:1 in 1:2 of Mark becomes ambivalent on the second pass through the text.  Behold I send my messenger now refers to both baptizers, not just John, something I believe can be demonstrated quite easily, if one reflects on the whole  of  Malachi 3:1: 

(NRSV) Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek (κυριος ον υμεις ζητειτε) will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

 Mark deliberately concealed the reference to this verse as it forms part of the gospel mystery. His gospel starts and ends with a baptismal scene and a messenger sent before the Lord.    The ‘Lord whom you seek’ is transparently returned by the messenger in the tomb at 16:6 when he tells the women ‘you are seeking Jesus the Nazarene’ (Iησουν ζητειτε τον Ναζαρηνον). You will also note that the baptizing neaniskos is first introduced at the scene of the arrest of Jesus, fleeing in the terrors of the Lord’s day ( Mk 14:51 cf. Mal 3:2).   The body of Christ[103], created as a spiritualist pun in 4:10, is now in Galilee manifested in the community of Mark. 

And that is how I understand this parable.



[1] all quotes in the essay are from Revised Standard Version except as indicated.
[2] To wit  8:18 as a paraphrase of 4:12
[3] For example, Matthew cleverly resolves  the koan of Mk 4:10-13, “whenever two or three are gathered in my name I am in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).  The saying is no longer “baked into” the narrative itself as in Mark.    
[4] Mk 9:38-40 evidently relates to Mark’s own time and inter-communal issues of tolerance.
[5] After William Wrede writing that the disciples received the explanation alone (The Messianic Secret, tr. By JCG Greig, London 1971, p.61)  a number of exegets, among them R.H. Gundry, J.C. Meagher, H. Räisänen argued along these lines.
[6] For Matthew this holds absolutely; Luke appears to admit access to the Easter events  from a timeless plane.
[7] in 8:34 Jesus summons τον οχλον συν τοις μαθηταις αυτου
[8] To begin with, both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus repeat the appointment made in 3:14 with the aliasing of Peter in 3:16. The dative Σιμονι in Mk 3:16 makes his renaming  unrelated to the repeated ordination, and thus the appended alias of Zebedees with the inventoried apostles (all accusative) immediately suspect. The ‘assurance’ of the two oldest known manuscripts at 3:14  και αποστολους ωνομασεν suggests that in the evolving redactions of Mark the idea of naming of the apostles  came first as a license for its effectuation. (the phrase is missing in Alexandrinus). Οι δεκα, in 10:41 is most likely a harmonizing gloss (Mt 20:24), to fix the numerical discrepancy which would have arisen with the inclusion of the Zebedees in the twelve. Mark identifies Judas in 14:10 as ο εις των δωδεκα making the introduction of the character in 3:19 improbable.  
[9] The strange creedal manifest of Paul in 1 Cor 15:3-11, looks like an early interpolation, an attempt to indict Mark as unfaithful to his own teacher in claiming his gospel was the first witness to Christ’s resurrection. For analysis of the passage as post-Pauline insert, see  Robert M. Price, Apocryphal Apparitions, in The Empty Tomb, ed R.M.Price, J.J. Lowder, N.Y. 2005, Hermann Detering Tradition oder Interpolation http://www.hermann-detering.de/1kor15.pdf
[10] Gen 49:28: Παντες ουτοι υιοι Ιακωβ δωδεκαIf the OT Joshua was from the Josephan tribe of Ephraim, the number twelve then agrees with the number of tribes if Twelve in Mark registers Manasseh.  
[11] Rom 4:25, 8:32
[12] Matthew 12:25 makes Mark’s reference in 3:24 more strongly suggestive of the mayhem of the war.
[13] 4:34 is generally thought of as Mark’s redaction but it looks interpolated, as it forces an interpretation on the preceding verse.  Like the longer endings of Mark, it appears to have been written up to contradict the intent of the previous passage, in this case Jesus’ saying in 4:11 that to those present, the secret has been given, i.e. if it were the disciples nothing needs to be explained to them. Not only χωρς δ παραβολς strangely echoes what was written in the preceding verse, but it attempts to resolve the issue of the disciplies’ incomprehension of Jesus, which becomes glaringly self-contradictory after they have been absorbed into the Twelve. But in the original plot of Mark, the disciples not getting Jesus, was exceedingly important, and asserted consistently.  The verb επιλυω is a hapax in Mark.     
[14] Mt 13:10
[15] The perfect indicative δεδοται speaks of the grant of understanding the mystery to the hearers as having occurred already.
[16] Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, Yale U.P., 200, p. 185
[17] via known neurophysiological effects of temporal lobe dysfunction. See Michael Persinger, Religious and mystical experiences as artifacts of temporal lobe function: a general hypothesis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6664802
[18] Mark is probably correct in guessing that the Jesus would have been condemned for blasphemy,  if he placed himself as the (apocalyptic) Messiah/Son of man at the right hand of power (Exd 15:6). The gospel explicitly rejects Jesus’ Davidian descent, in the reaction of the πολλοι to blind’s Bartimaeus  address (10:48) and in arguing via David’s psalm in 12:36-37 for a non-Davidic messianic identity.   
[19]  H.Maccoby asks: …”which is more likely, that Jesus’ closest disciples failed to understand his most important message, or that Pauline Christians, writing gospels about fifty years after Jesus’ death, and faced with the unpalatable fact that the ‘Jerusalem Church’ was unaware of Paul’s doctrines, had to insert …denigratory material about the Apostles in order to counteract the influence of the ‘Jerusalem Church’ ?” 
Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, N.Y. 1986, p. 129 
[20] The shortened descriptor γραφη (singular) likely derived from γραφη θεου (Ex 32:16) referring to Moses’ tablets. Whether the plural of the word was commonly used before Mark is questionable. It does not come from LXX.  Paul’s referring to scriptures comes invariably in passages suspected of being later interpolations.      
[21] The disciples of course could not get it but Matthew appears to have clued on. He outs the recursive tricks of Mark in 26:68, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?" i.e. expanding  Mk 14:65 to comment sarcastically on Mark’s  asserting  Paul’s cross theology ex vaticinium eventu. 
[22] Dissimulation and deception are known  tools to protect sacred beliefs. Perhaps the most best known is the common practice of takiyya or kitman in Islam.
[23] 2 Cor 12:4
[24] The import of Daniel 9, the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, or the Melchizedek Scroll (11Q13)  on the formation of the cross theology is an unknown at this time.
[25] as apprehended eg. in 1 Thess 4:16-17, 1 Cor 15:44
[26] This is not the same belief as one in the immortality of the soul which was probably common among the Jewish Greek speakers. Nor does  it duplicate a belief in eschatological re-incarnation as revealed in Josephus, Wars 3.8.5 
[27] ουδεν αλλο φρονησετε… strengthens the reference to the preceding nine verses which it can be little doubt express Paul’s unique view.  That he was at loggerheads with Jerusalem missions of James regarding his cross theology is given by  Gal 4:23-4:31 which purposely contrast Paul’s vision of a ‘spiritual’ Jerusalem.
[28] One possible origin of the text is that the gospel was composed as an allegorical letter and sent to the Nazarenes who requested Paul’s corpus from Mark’s community.
[30] Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy,  Harvard U. Press, 1979,  p.102
[31]  George Aichele, The Poetic Function and the Gospel in/of Mark: a Post-Canonical Reading, 2003 (Published on Marc Goodacre’s NT Gateway: http://www.ntgateway.com/gospel-and-acts/gospel-of-mark/books-and-articles/
[32] Paul’s neologism apparently proceeds from the verb ευαγγελιζω  derived grammatically from Isaiah’s 52:7 participle reproduced in Rom 10:15 (οι ποδες των ευαγγελιζομενων). 
[33]  1 Cr 3:10
[34]  It was the mystical οικος/οικια that led this analyst to Isa 44:13.  The verse supplies the meaning to the otherwise obscure terms in  2:1, 2:15, 3:20, 7:17, 7:24, 9:28, 9:33, 10:10, 13:34-35.  Οικια in 6:4 relates to the re-referencing of Jesus as τεκτων in the preceding verse.
[35]  Martin Werner, Der Einfluss paulinischer Theologie im Markusevangelium,  Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Beih. I, 1923
[36] New Testament Studies vol. 46, (2000) pp. 473-487
[37] Count here Norman Perrin, Werner H. Kelber, Norman R. Petersen, John R. Donahue, Theodore M. Weeden, Mary Ann Tolbert, Robert R. Fowler, George Aichele, Donald H. Juel. 
[38] James G.Williams,    Gospel Against Parable   JSOT Press,  Sheffield, 1985, p.14
[39] D.H.Juel, A Master of Surprise: Mark Interpreted, p. 24  (attributed to Norman Perrin)
[40] NRSV heading for the Mk 8:14-21
[41] Werner H. Kelber, Mark’s Story of Jesus, Philadelphia, 1979, pp 40-41
[42] The baptism by John appears to be a midrash on the investiture of Joshua, in Jos 3:2-11.  In relation to Paul, it is  important to note is Mark’s description of the invasive nature of the spirit descending into Jesus (εις αυτον, Mk 1:10) mirroring Paul’s articulation of receiving the Son in him (εν εμοι, Gal 1:15).
[43] 1 Cr 11:1
[44] Q 14:27
[45] I do not believe that 1 Cor 11:23-25 is from Paul’s hand. Mark was the originator of the Last Supper allegory, inspired by  Paul’s 1 Cor 10:16-17. Matthew and Luke adapted it from Mark.  The improbability of  1 Cor 11:23-25 being genuine Paul is that the verses effectuate the 1 Cor 10:16 rhetorical questions, which indicate that the Eucharist tradition was not known in Paul’s time. Second, the verses mimic too closely Luke 22:19-20.  Third, Paul does not recognize but Christ crucified, and does not present ever the intimations of the Lord as a source of information on historical events. 
[46] Even if some of the metaphoric figures do not originate with Paul, they were likely known to the believer communities through Paul’s writing.
[47]  Vincent Taylor’s assessment of Pauline influence on Mark in The Gospel according to St.Mark, London, 1959, pp.125-129
[48]  The Barabbas story protests too much the folly of crucifying Jesus. Pontius Pilate would immediately expose himself to the charge of maiestas minuti populi Romani in freeing an enemy of Rome on the whim of the mob.
[49] LXX. renders the Ex 20:17 commandment as do not covet as οκ πιθυμσεις. 
[50]  There are strong indications in the writing of Paul that he thought of the Nazarene Jesus exclusively in terms of  human  typology (Rom 5:14).  His refusal to credit anything Jesus was reported as saying and doing follows his own experience of the Spirit.  One loses one’s identity and cannot be held responsible for one’s actions. One does and says what the Spirit commands.  Paul evidently believed that Jesus was executed justly under the law, (Gal 3:13, Rom 8:4) hence his idea of the superiority of faith to written code.
[51] Paul Nadim Tarazi, The New Testament Introduction: Paul and Mark, St.Vladimir Seminary Press, 1999, p. 230.  Tarazi interprets Αριμαθαια as standing for Har-rimmat(h)aim , Hebrew for 'mount of decay'.
[52] 1 Cr 3:8-10, 1 Cor 9:1-2, 2 Cor 10:15-18
[53] The close of the Sermon in Matthew, (ch 7) I read as a passionate rebuke to  Markan Paulinism.  ‘Judge not’ is likely reference to Paul’s 1 Cor 2:15, and the conceit of the ‘Christ-imitating’ pneumatics who dominated the churches. ‘Their scribes’ in 7:29 would be Paul and Mark, appearing also as the two demoniacs, two blind beggars, and two asses on whose backs Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem, in the new edition of the gospel.           
[54] GThomas (42), “Become passers-by”.
[55] Joel Markus, Mark 1-8, p 371.
[56] As some of the geography of the narration seems to be alluding allegorically to temporary events, Mark’s community would have likely been located in the region of Decapolis or southern Syria.  And as the text appears to be defending  a set of values against a Jerusalem based Jesuine tradition that was migrating, it is probable that Mark’s community was settled in the region prior to the new arrivals.  
[57] see Robert H. Gundry, A Commentary on His Apology of the Cross, 2005, Grand Rapids, v.1 p. 102
[58] See also 3:5, 5:30, 8:33, 10:14, 11:14
[59] 1 Cor 14:23
[60] Mark at times creates paradox by reversing the attributes of the subject and object in his narration; in the story of the paralytic, the descent of the patient to Jesus in the house inverts the descent from heaven of the healing spirit into the man.
[61] Bi-polar disorder would have been probably the most common background to pneumaticism and apocalypticism , although the new creed likely was informed also by struggles with postictal psychosis in temporal lobe epilepsy and remitting schizophrenias.   
[62] The distress of Jesus in Gethsemane, and the night session of the Sanhedrin may be another clue that Mark was familiar with the sayings of Thomas. GT(69): ‘Blessed are they who have been persecuted within themselves; it is they who have truly come to know the Father’.   
[63] The incident with the disciples of John and the Pharisees in 2:18-20, points to the other extreme of the observed dysregulated eating in manics – it is “feast or famine”.  “Loss of water and lack of nourishment” is cited as typical for manic reactions, A.H. Maslow, B. Mittelmann, Principles of Abnormal Psychology, Harper 1978, p 510.   
[64] The assessment of Paul as suffering from manic depressive illness is based on his description of the bipolar nature of his Christ experience in 2 Cor 12:2-9.  Further diagnostic clues are to be found in :  1 Th 2:18, Cor 1:8-9,  (depression) , 1 Th 5:2, 6  2 Cor 11:27 (insomnia), 1 Cor 2:1-4, Gal 4:13-14 (depressive psychosis), Gal 1:15-16 (euphoric grandeur), Rom 9:1-2, 2 Cor 2:4 (anxiety, depression) , 2 Cor 4:10, Rom 6:3-6 (self-interpreted bipolar states), 2 Cor 8:2-3 (compulsive generosity), 2 Cor 11:22-28 (persecutory mania, anxiety),  Phl 3:8 (depression), 1 Cor 15:32, 2 Cor 5:13 (psychosis). Paul’s antinomian verve and creative semantics also fit a typical bipolar personality profile.   
[65] R.M.Price The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, NY, 2003,  p 152
[66] Josephus, Jewish Wars, 6.5.3
[67] Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin, 1987, p 189
[68] Emil Kraepelin, Manic Depressive Insanity and Paranoia, tr. R. Mary Barclay, Edinburgh, 1922,  p. 106
[69] Frederick K.Goodwin- Kay Redfield Jamison, Manic Depressive Illness, Oxford U. Press,  p. 40
[70] Under James’s leadership in Jerusalem, Mark’s Lord-of–the-Sabbath argument likely would not have gained acceptance. The Nazarene exiles after the war however were presumably open up to some of Paul’s antinomian sentiments, especially those pointed against the Pharisee puritanic interpretation of the halakha . The incident with Cephas at Antioch in Gal 2 testifies probably to a relaxed form of observances among the original disciples.
[71] The miracle duplicates the restoration of the withered hand of king Jeroboam in 1 Ki 13 by a nameless “man of God”.
[72] Mk 8:22-25
[73]  The Paulines had no regard for the Nazarene ‘Jesus’ traditions; they had no confidence in what the missions asserted about Jesus as they did not respect them.  
[74] Teneamus quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est. Let us hold onto that which was believed always, everywhere and by everyone.  
[75] My perspective is buoyed by Mary Ann Tolbert’s approach:  But suppose Matthew and Luke, for different reasons and in different ways were attempting not to clarify and extend Mark’s vision but to refute and undermine it.    Sowing the Gospel: Mark’s World in Literary-Historical Perspective, Berkeley 1996, p 28. 
[76] Mt 7:4-5, note Matthew’s clever twist to Mark’s  διαβλεπω (Mk 8:25) which was rhetorically returned as the result of a two-step process, much like Mark’s 4:12 μηποτε επιστρεψωσιν in the saying about the pearls before swine. 
[77]  It is unlikely that the Paulines associated Christ with David. I do not believe Rom 1:2-6  comes from the same hand as 1 Cor 1:18-31.  The issue here is that the former seems innocent of Paul’s ‘imitatio’ which lies at the core of the teachings. Εκ σπερματος Δαυιδ κατα σαρκα in 1:3 also contradicts directly 2 Cor 5:16
[78]  Mt 7:9-11
[79] The repeated passive aorist  οφθη is in 1 Cor 15:5-8 is probably one of the features in the passage that point to it as referencing the earliest gospel.  The writer of the passage probably did not realize Mark meant it sarcastically. The other ones are εγηγερται τη τριτη ημερ, κατα τας γραφας, ειτα τοις δωδεκα, the first one likely attempting to correct Mark’s ‘after three days’ in 8:31, 9:31, 10:34.      
[80]  Mk 9:8 may have been interpolated to assert specifically the three received the vision.  Mark’s most common adverb ευθυς  is here replaced mysteriously by a hapax εξαπινα.
[81] Mark evidently uses ironic reversals to enhance the feel of mystery for his tale. Thus the observed penchant of demoniacs to abuse verbally figures of authority is reversed  to assert Jesus’ control over them,  the classical visualization of restoring spirit descending into the patient is reversed in story of the paralytic, the day of the Lord coming as ‘a thief in the night’ is asserted as a party arresting Jesus  as if a ‘robber’, and finally the absurd Pilate’s decision to release a violent criminal who by definition was an ‘enemy of Roman people’ in place of Jesus.    
[82]  That the sensing of inner light projects externally and is seen by kindred souls was known in later Christian mysticism. See e.g. the story told of St. John of the Cross, in R.M. Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness, Citadel 1961, p. 120  
[83] Kraepelin reports photism phenomena in his manic patents,  op. cit. 9
[84]  The figure  transparently alludes to Paul’s 2 Cor 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed (μεταμορφουμεθα) into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  
[85] the fear of the disciples to inquire about Jesus’ resurrection is also featured in 9:32, and by Peter ‘not hearing’ Jesus saying that he will precede the disciples to Galilee in 14:28.  
[86] Mt 16:17
[87] That Luke knew Matthew flows from their apparent collaboration on two large amending formulas against Mark’s gospel:  1) the investiture of the disciples with apostolic insight and authority, and 2) the bodily rising of Jesus and the appearance by him to a group of the disciples.   In both instances, Luke appears wishing to reduce Matthew’s upset of the Markan gospel plan. Luke’s nativity story also seems unlikely to have been constructed independently, given the alternative genealogy which looks  too formulaic to have originated in lore. If one looks for a ‘smoking gun’, Lk 4:22  would do it.  Luke’s incredulous residents of Nazareth, ask “isn’t this Joseph’s son” against Matthew’s “isn’t this the carpenter’s son”.  That Luke would create a variant of the same question independently outside the scope of Q looks very improbable.
[88] Luke’s formulaic  and those who were with them [the eleven]’  (και τους συν αυτοις) in 24:34 echoes Mark’s 4:10 quibble and likely asserts Pauline primacy of access to the risen Lord.  ‘Simon’ in 24:34 is unlikely Simon Peter, as Luke uses that appellation only when Jesus addresses Peter directly, same as with the one direct address in Mark (14:37).   
[89] The contrast between spirituality and religiosity, or the ‘convulsive’ versus the ‘obsessional’ aspects of faith, has been brilliantly described by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s parable of the Grand Inquisitor, in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. 
[90] Maxime Rodinson, Mohammed, tr. by Anne Carter, Penguin Books, 1991, p.74
[91] Heikki Räisänen, The ‘Messianic Secret’ in Mark,( tr. by Christopher Tuckett), Edinburgh, 1990, pp. 27-28
[92] The Pentecost founding event seems to have been concocted to defeat Paul’s scorn for the belief in the magical properties tongue-speaking in 1 Cor 14.  Paul says specifically in 1 Cor 14:23 If, therefore, the whole church assembles and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?  How could this be a hypothetical if such an event was acclaimed (Acts 2:2-13) as the traditional founding of the church which he is believed to have joined ?  
[93] This excludes commands not to speak of miraculous cures which are takes on the glossolalic property of the spirit, scorned by outsiders.
[94] Godwin-Jamison, op.cit. pp.76-79
[95] Mark’s tendency to reverse, ‘retard’ or misappropriate logical components in narration has been well illustrated by Robert M. Fowler,  Let the Reader Understand, Minneapolis, 1991, pp.92-98
[96] Kraepelin cites the tendency of the florid manics to disrupt church services by screaming and singing, and otherwise target the symbols of power (eg. by ‘forcing their way to a palace’), op.cit.,  p.62.   This behavioural pattern throws new light on the cleansing of the temple.  Worth recalling here is also Paul’s legendary disruption of the praying glens in the Macedonian Philippi (Acts 16:16), and Muhammad’s (by proxy) in Makka as recorded in ibn-Ishaq’s Life of the Prophet.
[97] Fredriksen, op.cit., 44,  compare her presenting the disconnected, disorganized, rapidly serialized, heroic motifs with Kraepelin’s observation of his charges:  The delusions which forthwith emerge, move very frequently on religious territory: the patient is a prophet, John II., is enlightened by God, is no longer a sinner, is something supernatural; he fights for Jesus, has to fulfil a divine mission , is a spirit, hides the world-soul in himself, intends to ascend to heaven, possesses secret power over mentally afflicted people. He preaches in the name of the holy God, will reveal great things to the world, gives commands according to the divine will. Female patients are queen of heaven and earth, the immaculate conception, female clergyman[sic], mother of heathen children; they have a child by God, are going to heaven to the bridegroom of their soul; Christ has restored their innocence in them. The devil is done away with; the patient has taken all the suffering of the world on himself; it is a wonderful world  op.cit.68-69
[98] The Thomasian community likely was the first to develop the Jesus therapeutic lore.  In their rendition, the persecutory mania was a side-effect of the obtruding grandiosity.  GThomas (69) Jesus said, "Blessed are they who have been persecuted within themselves. It is they who have truly come to know the Father. ..” 
[99] The oppressively needy, menacing nature of the crowds around Jesus is asserted well before the final days in Jerusalem. Note the packed house preventing the entry of the paralytic (2:2), the planned escape from the crowd bent on crushing him (3:9),  the pressing of Jesus in the story of the woman with the issue of blood (5:31), and the uncanny knowledge of the people in the districts of the place where Jesus planned to rest with his followers, which was given privately to them (6:31-34) and the arrival of the multitude at the destination ahead of Jesus’ party.    
[100] The idea was mocked first by Matthew, who had the two co-crucified robbers revile Jesus.  Matthew 27:44 lampoons Pauline systauroō  supplying a redundant preposition syn (with) to the already prefixed word indicating that the robbers were crucified with Jesus. The effect would be an instant howl to anyone who knew what the allusion meant. I hold that the reviling is of Matthean  origin, and was later assimilated into Mark (15:32). Matthew interpreted the robbers as specifically invoking Paul’s mystical co-crucifixion and the λεσται as reference to Isa 53:12, εν τοις ανομοις ελογισθη, ie. as Paul’s followers freedom from “the law”.  The image of the co-crucified probably inspired Matthew 5:18-19 and the anti-Pauline ‘doublets’ in the stories of the Gadarene demoniac, the blind beggar at Jericho and the donkey  (in Jewish  tradition, a symbol of unruly truculence) on which Jesus entered Jerusalem. That Mark 15:32 has a later harmonizing gloss is also argued for by the verb oneidizō occurring as a hapax in Mark, but having multiple uses in Matthew (5:11, 11:20).
[101] Kraepelin, op.cit. p.22
[102] Fowler, op.cit., p 262
[103] 1 Cor 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.