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15:1-15 The portrayal of Jesus’ trial before Pilate is more in keeping with what we know of ancient judicial procedure than his nighttime Council appearance, though the supposed custom of freeing a dangerous criminal at the festival (verse 6) is unknown outside the gospels and would in fact be highly unlikely in such a volatile situation. Roman governors had enormous discretion in matters of public order. Their power is difficult to reconcile with Mark’s portrait of Pilate as a helpless tool of the Jewish leaders, submissive to the demands of a bloodthirsty mob. Nonetheless a Roman magistrate would not shrink from using summary punishment to preserve order in such an uncertain situation.

15:16-39 Jesus’ maltreatment and execution by the soldiers highlight the ironies in describing the death of a submissive and suffering king. The Roman legionnaires have unwittingly furthered God’s secret purposes by dressing Jesus up as a king (verses 17-20) and labeling his cross with his royal title (verse 26).

15:21 Mentioning Simon of Cyrene by name is unusual, since bystanders and bit players usually remain anonymous in Mark’s story (cf. Also Jairus in 5:22; Barimaeus in 10:46; Joseph of Arimathea in 15:42).

15:22-32 The scene of Jesus’ crucifixion is studded with scriptural allusions and quotations, chiefly from the Psalms (see the cross references).

15:39 Mark’s theme of Jesus’ hidden identity reaches its ironic climax when the Roman officer offers as Jesus’ epitaph a remark that was presumably meant as sarcasm, not an indication of a sudden change of heart: This man really was God’s son. We readers are privileged to realize that those soldiers knew even more than they thought they did.

15:40-41 The sudden and unprepared mention of these three women, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome, who Mark now tells us had regularly followed and assisted Jesus during his public work in Galilee, is an extreme example of the narrator’s tendency to withhold apparently important information until we are far into a story (on this see the Introduction to the Gospel of Mark).

15:42-47 In this scene about Joseph and Pilate, Mark skillfully establishes that Jesus really died and that the women really knew where he was buried. Jesus’ quick death and burial provide a motivation for the women to visit Jesus’ tomb as soon as would be proper. All these points could otherwise be questioned by those doubting reports of Jesus’ resurrection.

Joseph of Arimathea has not previously been mentioned and his are and concern here are quite unexpected. Affluent families would purchase tombs hewn out of rock large enough for the eventual burial of several generations. Is Joseph in effect bringing Jesus into his family? Jesus’ own relatives seem to be far out of the picture.

16:1-8 When the women so recently introduced (15:40, 47) approach Jesus’ tomb, their worry as to who will roll away the stone is unexplained until Mark adds, again a bit late, that the stone was very large (verse 4). The women’s fright does not necessarily remain the readers’ final thought: the young man in the dazzling clothes, while terrifying the women into silence, confirms the readers’ expectations, based on Jesus’ frequent predictions of his fate (especially 10:33-34; 14:28).

 

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14:1-2 With the approach of the Passover festival the threat of violence to Jesus becomes even stronger. Major feast days attracted huge crowds of pilgrims to the holy city. Mark’s crowds again play a shifting role, here shielding Jesus from the malevolent intentions of the city aristocracy, perhaps unwittingly; soon their mood will turn ugly (15:8).

14:3-9 Mark “sandwiches” a story about a private meal in Bethany into his larger theme about the Jewish leaders looking for a way to get rid of Jesus (resumed in verses 10-11). Here an unnamed woman pours out a vessel of expensive ointment on Jesus’ head. The disciples miss the point, which Jesus makes clear: the woman has signaled his impending death and burial. It must be unintentional irony when Mark has Jesus predict that this story will always be told in memory of a woman whose very name escapes him.

14:10-11 As Judas Iscariot seeks a way to betray Jesus, Mark reminds us again that he was one of the twelve (see also 3:19; 14:20, 43).

14:12-16 The story of the Passover feast resumes as Jesus sends two disciples to make preparations for the only meal he will eat in Jerusalem. Jesus’ detailed instructions are followed exactly, his control and foreknowledge give the readers confidence that Jesus is master of his destiny.

14:22-25 The scene narrating the passing of bread and wine is told simply, with little or no explanation of Jesus’ surprising words. Presumably Mark’s readers knew all about his last meal and what it signified from their own customary remembrances (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 22:19b).

14:24 The blood of the covenant alludes to biblical language of the propitiatory sacrificial cult (e.g., Exodus 24:8), redirected by Israelite prophecy in a spiritual or moralizing fashion (Jeremiah 31:31). The language is that of the church celebrating its sacrament: Jesus says his blood has been poured out for many, to seal a new redemptive covenant, though in Mark’s story the death is stall a day ahead.

14:28 Jesus predicts his resurrection and appearance in Galilee, something the reader is meant to remember when hearing the young man’s words from the tomb in 16:7.

14:32-42 Mark gives us a rare glimpse of Jesus’ inner thoughts when we overhear his prayer to his father while his closest followers sleep. The contrast between Jesus’ resolve and the disciples’ weakness is powerfully drawn.

14:51-52 The nameless young man who watches Jesus’ arrest from afar has long puzzled interpreters. One suggestion is that for Mark the youth symbolizes all of Jesus’ followers, both in Jesus’ “then” and in Mark’s “now,” running away in terror from the prospect of Jesus’ (and their) fate. A young man with a robe also appears in 16:5-7 and in the longer Secret Mark fragment.

14:53-72 The trial before the Jewish Council is artfully portrayed, with an especially poignant Marcan “sandwich” showing Peter skulking in the courtyard all the while (verses 54, 66-72). Mark tells a frightening story of official malevolence. It is difficult to reconcile much of Mark’s picture with known Jewish judicial procedures: a secret court session, at night, with trumped-up and contradictory evidence. Jesus’ initial refusal to speak is no defense. Finally Jesus’ avowal of his messiahship (14:62) provokes the desired verdict.

 

 

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Thomas Aquinas (c.1225 – 1274) was an Italian scholastic theologian and philosopher, who synthesized the role of faith with the role of reason when he outlined five ways to prove the existence of God using logic. He wrote two great summaries of knowledge: The Summa contra Gentiles, and his greatest work the Summa Theologica.

The existence of God can be proved in five ways. The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e., that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is moved must be moved by another. If that by which it is moved to be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is moved by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

The second way is from the nature of efficient cause. In the world of sensible things we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor intermediate, cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to be corrupted, and consequently, it is possible for them to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which cannot be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything cannot be, then one time there was nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist begins to exist only thorough something already existing. Therefore, if at one nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now thing would be in existence – which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

The fourth way is taken from the graduation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like. But more and less are predicted by different things according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is most being, for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph, ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all that genus, as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things, as is said in the same book. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

 

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