11. Jesus as god: the church’s working model of the divinity of Jesus, which is binding doctrine,
was the philosophical model of the complete separation of the divine and human nature of Jesus.
This model corresponds with the worshipping of the Roman emperor Augustus. His human nature was never doubted, but, in the activities of Augustus the human being, the people saw the divine powers acting and worshipped Augustus like a god.
In the doctrine of the church the human nature of Jesus has been kept philosophically untouched. This included, and still includes, his suffering and his integration into the causality of the world, which can be searched for and explained.
In the activities of Jesus as a human being the Christians saw – as the Romans did in Augustus – benevolent acts of divinity; they worshipped him as a god from the start.
6. Groups of Christian women, Mary, refused the damnatio memoriae,
which was connected with the crucifixion and supported an honourable burial, so that after the death the soul could settle down into the underworld, see Sophocles, Antigone. For annual celebrations of the yearly passion of Jesus a cenotaph (empty tomb) was erected.
7. Easter: the church of John, which had seen Jesus as example for a new beginning in one’s lifetime, had visions of Jesus. Here the kingdom of God was internalised. Jesus made possible an internal, psychological new beginning.
8. Pentecost: in the era of Pisces which was just beginning, the church of Peter saw a sign of Heaven; in Jesus they saw the foretold ruler from Judea. Here the kingdom of God was postponed to the (near) future and connected with the hope of a new creation.
Galilee at the time of Jesus can be seen as a miniature model of the Roman Empire
as regards East-West differences, the social classes and the different cultures. Moreover, the transition from the rule of the aristocracy to the monarchy was going on there and in Rome at the time of the emperor Augustus.
What did Jesus achieve? He created the basics of a homogeneous culture – later called Christian – for Galilee, which balanced the cultural and social differences and served as an example for the whole Roman Empire.
The religious transformation of Jesus’ culture was realized by the apostles; the writers of the gospels turned it into properly formulated literature.
1. Good governor in Galilee: Jesus realized his ideals of prosperity and reconciliation in the earthly Galilee, especially in the city of Tiberias, the example of the new society. A lot of people who reaped the benefits of his new policy admired him.
2. Tetrarch elected by the citizens (Messiah) in Caesarea Philippi.
3. Revolt: the people hoped Jesus would be the expected Messiah for all Israel.
a sepulchral monument to a person whose body is elsewhere. This is how the records of the empty tomb developed.
7. The church of John saw Jesus even in his lifetime as the man who had braved – for the purposes of the mystery religions – the death of the old and the rising of the new man.
The visions of the risen Jesus followed this idea, probably influenced by narcotics such vine or ergot, which were taken in the mystery religions.
8. The Ascension of Christ described the older myth of the raising of Christ as a narration. In the Acts Luke limited the authentic visions to a period of 40 days after the death of Jesus. Evidently the number of records about meetings with the risen Jesus increased in an inflationary fashion.
The self-testimony of Mark about his gospel: In the narration of the Transfiguration
(Mark 9, 2-13) Jesus takes the disciples Peter, John and James with him and leads them up a high mountain. Jesus is transfigured in an apparition and stands between the apparitions of Moses and Elijah who talk to him.
Peter would like to make three shelters (= three temples, three churches), one for Moses, one for Elijah, one for Jesus. But the vision ends, the disciples are alone with Jesus.
Jesus stands here in a row with the mythic heroes of Judaism, Moses and Elijah: he himself becomes a mythic hero. Mark also made a statement about his gospel. The Pentateuch records the story of Moses; the books of Kings and of prophets records the story of Elijah and the prophets.
In his gospel Mark records about the story of Jesus with the same authority as the scriptures of Judaism. Mark can only gain the authority this requires if he writes his gospel according to an agreement with the leaders of the apostle churches.
Therefore the founding fathers of each of the three churches were named witnesses of the major theological creeds. Mark writes right from the start for the unified Christian church and right from the start he claims canonical importance.
In the well-known narration of Stilling the Storm (Mark 4, 35-41) Jesus and his disciples
are in a boat. A storm comes up, and Jesus is sleeping on a cushion. The disciples are afraid and wake Jesus up, who calms the storm down. Mark focuses the attention on Jesus: the disciples became a facade, they are helpless without Jesus.
A different situation: the disciples are important. At three places in the gospel according to Mark Jesus picked out three disciples who were going to accompany him and to witness special events: the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter (5, 37), the Transfiguration (9, 2), and the Temptation of Jesus in Gethsemane (14, 33).
The three disciples Peter, John and James were the leaders of the most important apostle churches, and the three events they witnessed and were to bear witness to in each of their churches were the most important creed of the three apostle churches:
the Raising by Jesus (church of John), the Glorification of Jesus (church of Peter) and the temptation, the human suffering of Jesus (church of James).
Anyone who knows biblical narratives will be sure to remember the parable of the Great Supper,
Matt 22, 1-14; Luke 14, 15-24. A king invites guests, but they do not come. So the king decides to invite the poor and the beggars. Fortunately Flavius Josephus sketches the historical situation of this parable, Ant 18, 2, 3.
The prince Herod Antipas had built the new capital and had named it after the ruling emperor Tiberias. When he invited the upper class to live in the new city, they all made excuses. Herod Antipas invited the lower class to live in the capital and enticed the impoverished with properties, building sites and start-up capital.
None of the new settlers were asked where they come from or what they had been before. Former slaves, Josephus sneers, also settled in Tiberias and got full civil rights.
In the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matt 20, 1-16) there are still signs of contemporaries’ amazement that all new citizens are treated equally, irrespective of their social background and their work (the equal wages symbolize the same civil right they all got).
The Call of the Levi (Matthew). Duties and taxes were leased in the Hellenistic states and in the Roman Empire. Wealthy men guaranteed with their fortune that the demanded sum of taxes in a city or a region would be paid.
Their job or their risk was to divide the tax paid to the king among the other wealthy citizens of the city or the region and collect the money from them. In the principality of Herod Antipas the system of leasing taxes and duties probably worked the same way.
The leaseholders of duties (the publicans) the governor Jesus dined with can originally only have been rich Jewish aristocrats. Only these upper-class people were able to guarantee a sum of taxes or duties. Understanding the narration this way, the meaning of the parable is as follows:
Jesus, as governor, did not ostracize the Jewish aristocracy in Galilee, but integrated it in monarchic society. When the rich aristocrats demanded benefits from the monarch like the poor Galileans, Jesus’ answer was negative: It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick, Mark 2, 17.
This miracle has central importance for the early Christians; it is told of Peter and of Paul too (Acts 3, 1-11; 14, 8-18). In the Old Testament help for the weak is a symbol of the Messiah and the last days, Micah 4, 6s, Zephaniah 3, 19.
The paralytic is again the Galilean people. He is so weak that he cannot do anything to bring about the healing himself. But there are friends in need who demonstrate the weakness of the people to Jesus. In the parable Jesus’ help consists of pronouncing an order.
In the historical situation the governors Jesus help was to order people to help themselves. But Jesus did not just issue orders: he ensured that the people were legally and economically able to meet his orders.
The good policy of the government was followed by an economic boom which has been proved by historians. In this context I will later speak about the founding and populating of Tiberias.
The leper is the non-Jewish people of Galilee. Leprosy is a contagious disease; in the Ancient World it was incurable, and the leper was put under strong quarantine: the disease ostracizes the sick.
In parables leprosy and the leper symbolize ostracism, i.e. exclusion from the religious community (probably 2 Kgs. 5). The governor Jesus wants to take all the people under the authority of the monarch: he needs them all for the economic boom, strengthening the economic power of the tetrarchy.
Jesus wants to tear down the barriers erected by the Jewish aristocracy to exclude the non-Jewish Galilean from the profits of the economic prosperity.
Jesus cleanses the leper. The miracle is not that he can break the laws of nature: the wonder is that someone is suddenly able to give the same rights to the Galilean lower class as to the Jewish upper-class.
8. The measures taken by the governor according to Mark 1-2
Mark 1-2 keeps – as miracle stories – a catalogue of the measures taken by the governor Jesus.
The miracle narratives are not historical records of healings of individuals, but parables which describe the activity of Jesus for the benefit of the Galilean population.
First Jesus heals the Demoniac. The man symbolizes the people of Galilee: the unclean spirit which possesses the man is the Jewish aristocracy which justifies its supremacy by its alleged cleanness and the uncleanliness of the non-Jewish population.
The spirit gets to the point: Jesus has come to destroy the supremacy of the (Jewish) aristocracy in Galilee. The man, the people of Galilee, is freed from the jurisdiction of the aristocracy and comes under the authority of the monarchy.
A famous mosaic from late Antiquity (3rd century CE) shows the Roman poet Virgil
sitting between two Muses. To his right stands Klio, the muse of history with a scroll in her hands, to his left Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, with a theatre mask. On Virgil’s knees lies a scroll with the 8th verse of the Aeneid quoting: Muse, tell me the reasons…
Virgil created the Aeneid, the poem of the Roman state, the myth of Roman origins. Mark wrote the gospel of Jesus, the myth of Christian origins.
As with Virgil’s poem two literary genres were also the inspiration for the Gospel according to Mark: historical account, giving us the facts, and tragedy, transforming the facts to create a fictional story of philosophical truth. The poet tells us the reasons for what was going on, but transformed poetically.