In my last post I quoted Dr. Vincent Taylor’s fine commentary on Mark, joining him in praise of the strokes by which the evangelist captured the complex and edgy person of the divine-human Son of God. But there are also difficulties in Mark. There are inadequacies in Mark, causes of perplexity, scandal and stumbling which engender further questions, questions about the birth and early life, about the lack of spiritual teachings, or whether anything substantial happened after the women found the empty tomb.
Do angels sing when the acts of a fallible human mind establish for all time such a history as Mark has made of the divine mission of the Word?
On the positive side, it cannot be denied that Mark’s story evokes a genuine sense of apostolic experience of an Incarnate Savior. Mark’s framework of events was barely challenged by later writers, indicating that few in a fast-disappearing generation knew of a better. And the passion narrative seems to have been a piece of his original territory.
Still, neither Jesus nor his apostles had (in 40 years) ‘put up’ any generally-accepted and authoritative text (even such a seminal text as the Sermon on the Mount seems not to have been known at Rome at the time of Mark’s writing). There is a sense in which Mark broke this 40-year ban on written histories of the Word of God.
Mark makes available his invaluable material truth regarding the divine Son, but at the same time he casts into the world a Divine Antithesis, a ‘corpus’ – a textual God of the letter, engendering other texts. I think it has been the tendency of these texts to both release and to limit the power of the Divine Son. But I am inclined to view a God-of-text as ultimately a negation of divinity, not to be worshipped. The living God is real, shaping us in his image, but the textual God is a creation of human mind, a god shaped in our own image.
The human mind seems to crave escape from the obligations posed by the invitation of spirit to join it in real and living relationship – and it finds this escape in the relative safety of second-hand, imitative religious forms. This retreat to creedal and textual forms is a kind of apotheosis of rejected mercy. Since Pentecost the Spirit and the Son have been offered stubborn resistance by this human god (the text) which was ‘thrown’ into our finitude as a god of the ‘old ways,’ born from below.