Mark 1:1 ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ’
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
“εὐαγγέλιον in the imperial cult. This is the most important usage for our purpose. Note must be taken of what is said concerning the θεῖος ἄνθρωπος (→ 712), τύχη and σωτηρία. The emperor unites all these in his own person. This is what gives εὐαγγέλιον its significance and power. The ruler is divine by nature.30 His power extends to men, to animals, to the earth and to the sea. Nature belongs to him; wind and waves are subject to him.31 He works miracles and heals men.32 He is the saviour of the world who also redeems individuals from their difficulties (→ σωτήρ). τύχη is linked up with his person; he is himself τύχη.33 He has appeared on earth as a deity in human form. He is the protective god of the state. His appearance is the cause of good fortune to the whole kingdom. Extraordinary signs accompany the course of his life. They proclaim the birth of the ruler of the world. A comet appears at his accession, and at his death signs in heaven declare his assumption into the ranks of the gods.34 Because the emperor is more than a common man, his ordinances are glad messages and his commands are sacred writings. What he says is a divine act and implies good and salvation for men. He proclaims εὐαγγέλια through his appearance, and these εὐαγγέλια treat of him (→ 713). The first evangelium is the news of his birth: ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κόσμωι τῶν διʼ αὐτὸν εὐανγελι[ων ἡ γενέθλιος] τοῦ θεοῦ.35 “The birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of the joyful messages which have gone forth because of him.” TDNT 2:724″
Ched Myers ‘ He [Mark] is serving notice that he is challenging the apparatus of imperial propagation……Mark is taking dead aim at Caesar and his legitimating myths. From the very first line, Mark’s literary strategy is revealed as subversive. Gospel is not an inappropriate title for this story, for Mark will indeed narrate a battle. But the ‘good news’ of Mark does not herald another victory by Rome’s armies; it is a declaration of war upon the political culture of empire.’ (Binding the Strong Man, 124)
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Just picked up my latest cd-rom from logos. Its called Studies in Jesus and the Gospels and contains 23 different monographs. I purchased them as a pre-pub and in the process saved myself some money. The idea is that you commit to buying the product before it has been published. As an electronic resource its easy to pull out quotes, highlight the text and they are fully searchable.
I started reading one last night by Sean Freyne which seeks to show Jesus’s ministry in the context of a historically reconstructed Galilee. There is some discussion of Galilee and Roman imperial rule. I found the follwoing quite stimulating.
“‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’—a call to accept Caesar’s rule, or a declaration that only what belonged to God was of any consequence? There seems little doubt about Jesus’ answer to his own question. Unlike some of his co-religionists who belonged to the retainer class, he was not prepared to accept the inevitability of Rome’s rule as expressed in its propaganda (JW 2.348–361). Like other kingdoms, it too was doomed to pass. Despite Rome’s claims, their peace could not be imposed. ‘They make a desolation and call it peace’ are words put on the lips of a British general Calgacus, by a Roman historian, Tacitus (Agicola 30.3–31). Jesus was not prepared to share the violent response to such conditions, espoused by many Jews throughout the first century, which eventually plunged the nation into a disastrous revolt. He believed in the power of symbols and symbolic action because he believed in a God of whom, unlike Caesar, no image could be made, and yet who summoned people to trust in his presence and his power. This was the risk of faith that Jesus was prepared to take. His was a faith that was grounded in a trust in the goodness of the creation as he had experienced it and reflected on its mysterious but hidden processes. It was also a faith that had been nourished by the apocalyptic imagination that this creator God was still in charge of his world and had the power to make all things new again. No human empire could be compared with this power, no matter how dominant it and its agents appeared to be. Caesar could have his image engraved on the coin of the tribute, but he could not control the power of the imagination that was fed by the tradition of God’s mysterious but powerful presence in the world, to which no image could do justice.”
JW Jewish War of Flavius Josephus
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