If this is something that Spiderman says to Mary Jane after she discovers his secret identity, it makes perfect sense. He has to keep his secret to protect his loved ones, and he probably doesn’t want his friends knowing that he spends his evenings prancing around the city in colored spandex. Or, if an undercover cop whispers this to his informant as they slip into the underground hideout of some notorious gang of thugs, everyone understands that he has pretty good reasons for want to hide his true identity.
But Jesus? He’s the Messiah, the one who’s supposed to come and lead God’s people into all the blessings of the kingdom. That’s the best news around. Why would he want to keep that a secret?
At least, that’s what Wilhelm Wrede argued in his The Messianic Secret. According to Wrede, the early church didn’t come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. But, once they’d come to believe, the early Christian community needed some explanation for why Jesus wouldn’t have given any overt indication of this before his crucifixion. So, Wrede argued, the Gospel writers, particularly Mark, invented the “messianic secret” as a way of explaining this inexplicable silence.
But, is that an adequate explanation? Not according to Jesse Richards in the paper that he presented at the NW regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society: “Mark’s Nuance of Wrede’s Messianic Secret: ‘The Messianic Paradox’.” Richards argues that although Wrede’s argument is interesting and provocative, it ultimately fails to convince. Instead, he contends that these sayings manifest the “messianic paradox” of a suffering messiah, not an after-the-fact theological reconstruction fabricated by early Christian leaders.
Here’s the outline of the paper that he provides in his introduction:
First, a brief overview of Wrede’s place in historical Jesus studies, and thesis, will be provided to frame the discussion; second, a critique of Wrede’s thesis will be offered; third, A proposal of how the secrecy theme is historical and stems from the life of Jesus. Fourth the significance of Jesus crucifixion as King of the Jews; finally, literary criticism which has been used to evaluate Mark’s narrative strategy will be shown to support the Messianic paradox, and thus argue against the idea that Mark was concocting a
After a lengthy summary and critique of three main lines of evidence offered by Wrede in support of his hypothesis (the distinct nature of the messianic motif, the unhistorical nature of exorcisms, and the post-Easter belief in Jesus as Messiah), Richards moves into his argument that a more plausible account of these messianic sayings can be found in the messianic paradox:
From a narrative analysis of Mark it becomes clear that Mark was seeking to emphasize Jesus as the suffering messiah. This is truly the messianic paradox—that Messiah would suffer. Mark uses pacing of his narrative to focus in on the week of Jesus’ death. His use of irony allows the themes of secrecy and messiahship to exist together, without one having to negate the other. Additionally, his irony lets the reader in on the truth of Jesus as Messiah. Mark also highlight’s Jesus’ messiahship through the climax of his narrative—the confession of Peter, and then uses triads to show that Jesus is anointed to be Isaiah’s servant of the Lord who will give his life as a ransom. The gospel is also full of intercalation, which helps to highlight this theme as well. Mark’s plot, including Jesus indictment of the temple cult, the leader’s rejection, and the disciples misunderstanding are intentionally contrasted with the God of Israel, tearing open heaven to declare Jesus his Son at baptism, and tearing the curtain open to declare Jesus his anointed Isaianic servant at death.
So, Richards argues from a variety of angles that the messianic “secret” was not a post-Easter fabrication, but was actually an historical aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry, consistent with the paradoxical reality of the suffering and crucified Messiah.
(This is last part of a series highlighting papers presented by faculty and students from Western Seminary at the 2011 NW regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can see the rest of the posts in this series here.)
- Church Relevance has puts out its list of the top 100 Church Blogs (actually 140). It looks like they use a matrix involving Alexa rankings, unique visitors, Google page rank, Good reader subscriptions, and Yahoo inlinks. Brian’s annoyed that he wasn’t included in the list (few biblioblogs or theoblogs were), but I’m pretty sure it’s because blogs that espouse Arianism aren’t allowed. And, while we’re on the subject, the September Biblioblog Rankings are out.
- Diglot asks which schools are best for doing a PhD in Biblical Studies. He’s gotten some good feedback in the comments, along with links to a couple of other good posts on the subject.
- Jim West is giving away a copy of Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth. Winning a copy will take some work since, but if you’re interested, go check it out.
- October’s Biblioblogger Carnival is out. Stephen’s post on justified belief gets noticed, as does Brian’s review of Diogenes Allen’s Philosophy for Understanding Theology.
- Dave Black lists 13 Things Your Greek Teacher Won’t Tell You. This isn’t a traditional blog, so you’ll have to scroll down or search to find the list. But it’s worth checking out.
- The 2010 Ig Noble prizes were awarded last night. Apparently these prizes are given every year for serious research that just sounds really funny. This year’s winners included research into whale snot, treating asthma with roller-coasters, relieving pain through swearing, and bat sex, among other things.
- And, Google street view now includes Antarctica. That seems odd to me. Shouldn’t you have streets if you’re going to have a street view?
Tonight here in Portland there will be a discussion/presentation featuring Marcus Borg and Paul Anderson. Borg is a popular historical Jesus scholar. Anderson, a professor at George Fox, is at the forefront of a movement of scholars who are revisiting the historicity of the Fourth Gospel. The subject will be the origin of the Synoptics and the Gospel of John. Both JohnDave Medina and I (who blog at Near Emmaus)will be attending so you can expect some discussion on that blog later in the week.
If anyone else in the Portland area is interested this event will take place at the Reedwood Friends Church located at 2901 SE Steele St. It is scheduled to take place from 6:30-8pm. For more information call 503.234.5017.
In case you haven’t heard yet, the sessions from the Wheaton Theology Conference, Jesus and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright, are available online (audio and video). If you listen to any of the sessions, please blog on it and let us know what you thought.