Re: "a" or "the" ?? (Mark 15.39)

From: Rod Decker (
Date: Thu Mar 26 1998 - 16:25:28 EST

In response to George's comment that:

>>The lack of an article
>>does indeed seem to argue for the sarcastic 'neither' view, which then
>>makes the 'debate' so evenly balanced. He would then be saying in
>>English idiom a scathing "Son of God indeed!"

Jim commented that:

>Lets all be careful lest we assume that Mark is reporting actual historical
>events. Otherwise soon we will have an entire apocryphal gospel on the look
>on the centurion's face and what color clothing he had on, as well as what
>he had for breakfast. His tone of voice is immaterial, for Mark is not
>interested in the Roman, only in what he says. That Mark would have him
>say, in an insulting way, that Jesus was "son of god" (sneer supplied by our
>apocryphal gospelists) goes against the very purpose of the Gospel.
>Interpretation should keep in mind such things as authorial intent or the
>text becomes subject rather than object.

I have mixed feelings here. I agree heartily with Jim's discounting the
"sneering" connotation suggested (I can't imagine how the lack of the
article in itself could suggest that). But on the other hand, I an not sure
what to make of a rejection of "actual historical events"--esp. when the
same post pleads for "authorial intent." Is there any more indication that
Mark did NOT intend us to understand his record to be that of a historical
event than there is indication of a sneer? I think not. It might be worth
noting that Mark may have framed his gospel with two "theological bookends"
re. the identity of Jesus, namely, 1:1, "Son of God" and 15:39, "Son of
God." (I just noted Dale's comment that "context includes the whole of
Mark's Gospel" and would concur heartily.) If Mark was writing for a Roman
audience (likely from my perspective), to introduce Jesus as "Son of God"
in 1:1, develop that theme throughout, and then to close with the same
affirmation on the lips of a Roman officer (official representative of
those directly responsible for the crucifixion)--that would be a powerful
statement. Perhaps that view is not far from Jim's point, the disagreement
perhaps being only whether or not the man actually spoke those words.


 Rodney J. Decker Baptist Bible Seminary
 Asst. Prof./NT P O Box 800 Clarks Summit PA 18411

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