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Is there a messianic secret in Mark's Gospel?
Hooker, Morna. The Gospel According to St Mark, pg. 66 - 69, A & C Publishers, London, 1991. Pg. 66- not only Jesus's identity which is kept secret, those who have been healed must also keep their cure secret. Wrede saw 'the messianic secret' as reflecting 'a tension between the belief of the early church in Jesus as Messiah and the unmessianic character of Jesus's ministry. 'Jesus's commands to secrecy, he argued, cannot be taken as historical but are a dogmatic device to explain why he was not acknowledged as Messiah during his ministry' Another view of the motif of secrecy is that the messianic secret was historical-'Jesus's wish to conceal his messiahship from men and women during his ministry for fear that it would have been misunderstood as a claim to political kingship' o Thus choosing title 'Son of Man' CRITICISM- pg. 67 'the view which takes the secret to be historical fails to explain why Jesus should have chosen to confuse his disciples by using an enigmatic title' What's more, how could Jesus have given such unrealistic commands?
'leaves unsolved the problems of how the bystanders could ignore the confessions of Jesus's
identity made by the men and women who were possessed by these spirits' CRITICISM of Wrede- 'since Jesus was put to death as a messianic pretender, it seems that during his ministry questions about his messiahship were already being asked' 'to describe the whole ministry of Jesus as 'unmessianic' is to ignore totally the plain evidence of the gospels' Widely agreed by new testament scholars that Jesus 'acted with authority and believed himself to have been commissioned by God: it is difficult not to use the term 'messianic' to describe such authority.' Importance of Easter in recognition of Jesus's messiahship. The messianic secret functions in the opposite way; means of revelation, 'yet no one in the story hears them, and the truth they utter remains hidden' 'their words are intelligible only to those who already believe that Jesus is what they declare him to be - Son of God' Secret occurs in 2 contexts: one is the command to secrecy after some declaration about who Jesus is has been made. Second; 3 miracles (restoration of life, sight and hearing) which seem to be used in a symbolic way. Jesus makes no secret of his healing, exorcisms widely known, crowds flock. Thus might conclude that (pg. 68) 'commands to secrecy are largely artificial'
'secrecy and disclosure are part of a theme which pervades the whole of Mark's gospel, Jesus acts with supreme authority yet makes no open claims for himself'
3) Mark portrays a Jesus in between these 2 poles; both as the Messiah but also keeping this messiahship secret.
Pg. 69 - 'the truth about Jesus is at once hidden from view and yet spelt out on every page of the gospel'
Pg. 3 'Mark's 'messianic secret' therefore, in in essence the product of the wedding of these two perspectives'
possible 'the so-called secret reflects not simply the tension between Jesus as he was perceived in his lifetime and as he was confessed after the resurrection but the reluctance of Jesus to make claims about himself'
SECOND CONTENTION- the messianic secret pervades whole gospel, not just surrounding Jesus's identity but also activity/teaching of miracle-working, suffering, death and resurrection.
his message centring on God and his Kingdom, not himself, 'if he believed himself to be in any sense the Messiah, the last thing he would do was to claim the title for himself'
THIRD CONTENTION- 'contradictions' in the narrative, 'those places where the messianic secret is manifestly broken.'
Kingsbury, J. The Christology of Mark's Gospel, chapter
1. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1983. William Wrede's theory of the Messianic Secret 3 contentions 1) Related to context 2) 'within the NT, the place of Mark is between 2 poles.' a. First- Jesus as only becoming Messiah at his resurrection (thus his earthly life was nonmessianic) b. Second- John's gospel; Jesus portrayed as 'being the Messiah already in the course of his historical existence'
Pg. 4, 'they are 'fissures' in the all-pervasive messianic secret through which he permits the revelation of Jesus's messiahship to shine forth.' Wrede sees Mark's gospel as written to describe the earthly Jesus as the Messiah 'the non-messianic nature of the life and ministry of Jesus' had not yet been forgotten, 'increasingly, the notion was asserting itself that if the risen Jesus is the Messiah 'now', then he has always been the Messiah' Promoting this view, Mark 'gave a messianic cast to the nonmessianic traditions of the sayings and deeds of Jesus by presenting the earthly Jesus as the Messiah who was intent on keeping his messiahship a secret' CRITICISM OF WREDE
One of main attacks on Wrede's theory saw the gospel as a reliable historical account of Jesus's life Schweitzer - pg. 5 'dismissed Wrede's theory on the grounds that Mark admits to being read as genuine history and that the notion that Jesus is the Messiah originated, not with the resurrection appearances, but in Jesus' own selfconsciousness.' Much criticism of Wrede from British scholars, insisting that ultimate source of 'the notion that Jesus is the Messiah is not simply the resurrection but the historical Jesus himself' Ernst Kasemann- 'whether the earthly Jesus applied the category of Messiah to himself or not, it is nonetheless the only category that does justice to the unparalleled claim to authority that resides in his words.' 'if Jesus's claim to authority was messianic in nature if not in name, it follows that the notion that Jesus is the Messiah ultimately derives from Jesus himself' Thus it would be mistaken to argue there 'ever existed a 'nonmessianic' tradition of the sayings and deeds of Jesus' CRITICISM- dubious to treat Mark as 'genuine history' Counter- some see Mark as ''a conservative redactor' who, in working with primitive traditions, did relatively little to change them.' The Adoption of Wrede's theory
Pg. 8, Did not view Mark as a source for historical facts about Jesus, instead saw it as 'a literary work in its own right...
product of a 'compiler'' Mark as kerygmatic, proclaiming gospel, 'as Wrede correctly saw, the interpretive key to this gospel is the 'messianic secret', the idea that although Jesus, who is the Messiah, desires to keep his divine glory hidden it nevertheless bursts forth in secret epiphanies... [which] encompasses all the major motifs of Mark's narrative' Many saw the Messianic Secret as 'the theme around which the second evangelist organized his gospel.' CRITICISM- seeing different secrecy motifs Ulrich Luz- separates those commands to silence 1) to demons and disciples 2) to the healed. 1) As these are to do with the identity of Jesus as the messiah they properly constitute the 'messianic secret' motif 2) The latter commands are always broken, and this indicates that they were meant to attest to the overwhelming nature of the divine power in Jesus's miracles. a. 'not the hiddenness of Jesus, therefore, but the public proclamation of him is the point of this motif' Weeden- 'the persistent inability of the disciples to understand comprises yet another distinguishable motif in Mark's story.'
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