Massilia 4, Lucan as model 2: The soldiers could form the above-mentioned turtle

Hamburg harbor, Druzhba, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, Druzhba, 16. 7. 1989

with the shields for their protection: The soldiers formed a square, the soldiers standing on the outside placed the shields next to each other without gaps to the outside. The soldiers standing inside formed a shield roof against projectiles.

When advancing against the fortifications of a fortress or fortified city, the soldiers formed a shield roof to ward off projectiles.

Lucan, with his epic Pharsalia, also serves as a model for the author Mark in other respects, so that we can assume that he has a good knowledge of Lucan’s epic.

Both were contemporaries and – Lucan as a republican, Mark as a Christian – opponents of the emperor Nero, and so a comparable world view was not far away.


Massilia 3: 2. The Roman poet Lucan as a model for the author Mark:

Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 16. 7. 1989

Mark likes to use familiar military imagery to depict the confrontation between Jesus and his opponents.

The victory against the unclean spirit in Mark 1 can be interpreted as a duel of gladiators in which words strike the opponent like sword strokes.

The use of the large body-covering shields of the Roman infantry during military marches, exercises or in war produced impressive images that were not lacking in Augustan and later imperial pictorial propaganda and were thus ubiquitous.


Massilia 2: (2) Lucan reports the following in the epic Pharsalia:

Hamburg harbor, Sedov, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, Sedov, 16. 7. 1989

Caesar besieged the city of Massilia with his troops. A sacred grove, which had not been touched since time immemorial, hindered the siege. Therefore Caesar ordered his troops to cut down the trees.

The soldiers, out of religious timidity, refused to lay a hand on the trees consecrated to the gods and were paralyzed. Then Caesar himself took a double axe, split a towering oak and ordered his soldiers to do the same,

saying, “That none of you hesitate any longer to cut down the forest, suppose that I have committed the sin! (3:436-437) The soldiers reluctantly obeyed, but, Lucan writes, Caesar’s anger outweighed the wrath of the gods. (3:439).


Mark 2:1-12 and the siege of Massilia in Lucan, Pharsalia, Book 3:

Hamburg harbor, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, 16. 7. 1989

1. the account of Lucan: Lucan, in the Pharsalia Book 3, describes the siege of the Gallic city of Massilia (now Marseilles) by Caesar’s troops during the civil war with Pompey.

In 49 BC, Caesar, coming from Rome, was on his way to Spain and besieged the fortified city of Massilia. In 3:399-486, Lucan describes two details that later become central to Mark’s narrative.

(1) Caesar’s soldiers are prevented from advancing by projectiles thrown from the besieged city. They then form a closed roof over their helmets with their shields, a so-called turtle formation, which reliably protects them from the enemy projectiles.

Only when their forces weaken and the previously closed roof shows gaps, the enemy projectiles can penetrate the ranks of the soldiers and cause damage.


Eroticism 3: Jesus and the beauty are not inseparable:

Hamburg harbor, Sedov, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, Sedov, 16. 7. 1989

When Jesus is captured, beauty also flees in the form of the naked young man, 14:52.

After beauty has left him, his goodness is also questioned: he is condemned.

Later, Jesus’ honor is restored, he is morally rehabilitated.

Consequently, beauty also returns, symbolized by the young man in the tomb, now dressed demurely again, who announces Jesus’ resurrection to the women, 16:5.


Eroticism 2: How to describe the beauty of Jesus,

Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 16. 7. 1989

is left to the aesthetic sensibility of each epoch and of each individual.

Jesus restores the physical beauty and erotic attractiveness of the sick, especially clearly in the narrative of the raising of Jairus’ daughter, 5:41-42. He does not comfort the sick by referring to their inner values!

Beauty is not a value in itself. The beautiful rich young man, 10:17-27, is rejected because he does not fulfill the moral demands of the community, the conditions of following Jesus.


6 Eroticism: Eroticism is not neglected in the Gospel of Mark,

Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 23. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 23. 7. 1989

even if it can only be hinted at discreetly.

Mark introduces himself and us to Jesus as a beautiful man. For the Greeks, beauty and moral goodness belong together. Kalos k’ agathos = beautiful and good was a standing expression.

The Son of God Jesus as a hunchback or with ugly features, as an unwashed philosopher or as a farmer stinking of cow dung, that would be a contradiction in terms.


Language 2: The language of Mark is situational

Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 16. 7. 1989
Hamburg harbor, tall ship, 16. 7. 1989

like that of the fellow poets of his time. Mark’s language ranges from ancient Septuagint quotations to solemn words from a voice of God to descriptions of everyday situations such as the sick man on a simple mattress, 2:19.

An unclean spirit calls itself legion with the Latin term because it appears with its henchmen as numerous as the soldiers of a Roman legion, 5:9.

The foreigner Pilate calls Jesus a king of the Jews, 15:26, because he cannot distinguish between the different regions of Palestine.

The scoffers under the cross, familiar with the land, know better, they call Jesus the King of Israel because Jesus and his followers come from the northern regions of Palestine, the ancient Israel.


5. The language: The language of Mark is the language

800 years port of Hamburg, May 1989
800 years port of Hamburg, May 1989

of the poeta doctus, the learned poet. The poet wants to depict the diversity of life also in the language and adapts the linguistic styles to the respective speech situation.

In Latin philology, older research had often mocked the alleged lack of knowledge of Latin of the medieval copyists.

Today we know: the Latin poets used dialect variants and slang expressions of the social underclass for certain situations in order to distinguish the speech styles of the individual speakers.


Reader’s Expectation 3: Mark had anticipated the reader’s objection,

Hamburg by night, Dom, Ferris wheel 1989
Hamburg by night, Dom, Ferris wheel 1989

he does not tell the story of the gladiator Jesus in the fight with the diseases, but the one how a political leader wins a follower who will be active for him as a herald, who will proclaim his kerygma, his herald’s message.

When Mark tells the next healing, the cheeky objection comes again: we already know that, Jesus is looking for heralds for his message.

Mark has also anticipated this objection and again tells another story: the story of a religious-philosophical discourse about the question whether illness is a punishment of God and whether social changes may be brought about by humans.


Reader’s Expectation 2: I would like to demonstrate this again

Hamburg by night, Musical Cats, 1989
Hamburg by night, Musical Cats, 1989

the first three great healing miracles. In 1:23-28 there is a fight like in the arena of the gladiators.

The battle of words is followed by the real exchange of blows, Jesus is the victorious gladiator, the audience applauds.

When Mark begins with the healing of the leper in 1:40-45, the cheeky reader exclaims: Oh, I know that already, Jesus will defeat the leprosy like one gladiator defeats another.


4. Reader’s Expectation: Mark engages in a dialogue

Hamburg by night, Cafe Keese, 1989
Hamburg by night, Cafe Keese, 1989

with the reader. He teases the reader like a mystery writer who is always laying out new false leads, only to be delighted when the poor mystery reader falls for them.

He then rejects the reactions Mark evokes in the reader as inappropriate, thus playfully introducing the reader to the mysteries of being a Christian and of divine activity.


3. Outwardness: As a good narrator, Mark describes

800 years port of Hamburg, May 1989
800 years port of Hamburg, May 1989

the outward course of the action, which the reader must interpret for himself. In 1:40, the leper is seen falling to his knees.

One must fear that he will fall out of weakness or clumsiness and infect Jesus, who is standing directly in front of him, with germs of disease.

It is only from the context that the reader learns that the leper kneels in homage to Jesus as if he were a ruler.

Matthew uses the technical term proskynesis for kneeling before the ruler and thus deprives the reader of the tension that Mark so skillfully builds.


Theater 4: In Mark 1:42, the leper runs away from the sick person

800 years port of Hamburg, May 1989
800 years port of Hamburg, May 1989

as James and John run away from their father Zebedee in 1,20. One has the impression that Mark is thinking of a theater scene in which the sick person wears the old skin with the leprosy like an old dress.

In 1:42 another actor comes and takes away the old garment (the old skin) and underneath the new clean skin appears as a beautiful new garment


Today I interrupt the normal text to tell something about myself.

Johannes Neumann on the way to Lake Titicaca
Johannes Neumann on the way to Lake Titicaca

I am Johannes Neumann, I live near Dresden in Germany. Since my youth I have been interested in Christianity, its origin and the Bible.

Besides that, I am interested in archaeology and the history of the Ancient Near East, Greek and Roman antiquity and their literature. There is so much information there that helps us to better understand the Bible and the history of Jesus and early Christianity.

I am especially happy about every single person who reads my blog and writes comments. It is great if you put a link to my blog on your homepage or recommend me in your Facebook group. I want my theses to become even better known so that they can find their way into the discourse of theology.

If you want to support me, you can find a donation account on the front page of my blog. You can find my books on www.johannesneumann.com