I am hoping this next year to spend some time in a close reading of Marks gospel. I will share from it as I go on. I will be using the commenartries of R.T France (Commentary on the greek text) and the 2 volumes in the word biblcial commentary series.
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [υἱοῦ θεοῦ].
Marks short book about Jesus was probably written around AD70 in Rome. The book begins by stating its theme, that of the ‘gospel’ of Jesus Christ. This word for gospel (euangellion) is not a new word but in the early church it seems to have had special significance, being used for as a short hand way of describing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. (See Romans 1:1-6). In the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures the noun appears in 2 Kings 14:10 where t seems to simply mean good news. However, as N.T Wright and others have stressed, the word was often used within the Roman empire in reference to the activity of the emperor. The Emperor’s birthday, royal visits and accession to power were declared as being euangellion. Within this cultural world of the empire, an empire which has or will shortly surround the historic home of YHWH in Jerusalem with devastating power, a euangellion s proclaimed. This euangellion is to be found in a man called Yeshua. Jesus is a translation of the the common Hebrew name Joshua. Yeshua being the Aramaic translation. Yeshua is declared to be the Christ, the anointed one. His birth and life, as Matthews infancy narratives show, is a challenge to the empire.
Lets just take a moment and reflect upon this. This world has erected worldviews, political and economic systems which thrive on power. These worldviews are implicity to be seen by many in the west through the medium of the media as ‘good news’. In the life of Jesus Christ we find a challenge to all ideologies of power, this challenge is to be found in the man who will go on to crucified. It seems at time sthat the church has lost its ability to proclaim afresh and with confidence euangellion of Jesus. We need to be inspired by Mark who writes within the centre of empire and challenges the ideology of empire in his day with a message about a crucified Messiah.
In the next blog we may look at the contribtion of Isaiah in understanding the Judaic background to the word gospel