This commentary on Marks gospel is offered as a textbook for students of theology and as a guide for serious readers in the hope that it will deepen their spiritual and theological insight, and bring them to a level of academic competence. It is also aimed at those many preachers who wish to underpin their preaching with serious reading and to the many people who practise lectio divina and other forms of spiritual reading. No prior technical knowledge of biblical scholarship is assumed.
Michael Mullins is a priest of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. He was director of Studies at Pontifical Irish College in Rome before becoming Professor of Scripture in St John’s college in Waterford in 1975 where he served also as Dean and President until 1998. From 1998 until 2009 he was Lecturer and Associate Professor in Sacred Scripture at Maynooth and is a visiting lecturer in the National Centre for Liturgy since 1978. He is author of Called to be Saints: christian Living in First Century Rome (Veritas, 1991), The Gospel of John (Columba Press 2003), The Gospel of Mark (Columba Press 2005), The Gospel of Matthew (Columba Press 2007), The Gospel of Luke (Columba Press 2010)
- Chapter One . The Prologue Mk 1:1-15
1. THE PLOT
It was common practice in ancient literature and drama to begin a work with a prologue. It served to introduce the reader or audience to the plot, the characters, the issues and the outcome. (1) It gave privileged information of an authoritative kind which was not shared by the characters in the narrative or drama. The reader or audience, therefore, had the advantage over the characters in the story not only in understanding their relation to each other and to the plot as a whole, but also in having privileged access to their inner thoughts and motives and the influences to which they were subject. Matthew and Luke introduce their gospels with accounts of the birth and infancy of Jesus in which his true identity is revealed to the reader and his destiny foreshadowed. The prologue in St Johns gospel serves the same function, introducing the Word made flesh as the monogen?¬s, the only son. Marks prologue reveals the identity of Jesus and the sources of divine and demonic powers that will be working behind the scenes throughout his ministry. The omniscient narrator sets the scene at the beginning, clearly showing the initiative of God in sending the messenger to prepare the way of the Lord, in confirming the identity of the Beloved Son and in empowering him with the Spirit. The narrator then carefully guides the reader or hearer of the gospel through the story, ensuring the acceptance of his (or her) own point of view.
The prologue begins with the announcement of the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God, and builds up to the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom by Jesus on his return to Galilee. It roots the good news of Jesus in the plan of God revealed long ago in scripture and historically initiated by John who was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord. The prologue underpins the authority of the protagonist, Jesus, with the account of the voice from heaven and the coming of the Spirit. It describes the beginning of the contest between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan when the Spirit drives the protagonist, Jesus, into the desert to be tested by the antagonist, Satan, and to be ministered to by the angels. The prologue reaches its goal when Jesus emerges from the contest in the desert and proclaims the good news of the kingdom in Galilee initiating an attack on the kingdom of Satan, laying siege to the house of the strong man. The final victory in the contest will be proclaimed at the empty tomb when the Beloved Son is vindicated by the Father.
Where does the prologue end?
Scholars discuss the exact extent of the prologue, whether it ends at verse 13 or 15. Verses 14 and 15 form an inclusion with Mk 1:1 in referring to the good news and bringing the prologue to a conclusion or climax with the announcing of the good news by Jesus for whom the way has been prepared. At the same time these verses round off the career of the Baptist with the notice of his arrest. Furthermore the purpose of Jesus coming from Galilee to be baptised results in his returning to Galilee announcing the good news, so his coming from and returning to Galilee are two parts of a single event in the prologue. For these reasons verses 14 and 15 seem to be an integral part of the prologue. However, looking at the overall structure of the gospel, Mk 1:14 to 3:6 forms a unit. It is one of three similarly formed units covering the ministry in Galilee and so verses 14 and 15 seem to belong also to the Galilee ministry. Furthermore, a definite change of time and place is indicated and a clear chronological separation of the ministries of John and Jesus is underlined in verses 14 and 15. These verses, therefore, are also an integral part of the Galilean ministry. For these reasons it is difficult to make a very clear division between the prologue and the beginning of the ministry in Galilee and it is best to see verses 14 and 15 as a bridge or hinge, rounding off the prologue and at the same time beginning the section Mk 1:14 to 3:6. The use of similar bridge or hinge passages will occur a number of times in the gospel. Furthermore, a number of bridge passages are summaries like Mk 1:14-15 which look back on what has been and look forward to what is to come. (2)
2. THE SUPERSCRIPTION/ TITLE: MK 1:1
The first words of Marks gospel, Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God (3) do not refer simply to the first words of the written text, as though the middle and end will be pointed out in due course. They refer rather to the whole gospel as an account of the origin and governing principle of the euanggelion, the good news brought about in the life, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ, Son of God, in whom it is very likely that the implied or originally intended readers or hearers had already come to believe.
Paul had already used the term euaggelion, good news, more than sixty times as a proclamation or a theological synthesis of the revelation and salvation brought about through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As already seen in the introduction, for Paul and other New Testament writers the term good news was particularly apt for the gracious offer of salvation revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, with its promise of a faith relationship in this life with the Risen Lord through repentance, baptism, forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit, and the promise of an eschatological fulfilment when all things would be made new at Christs return in glory.
In the Old Testament the equivalent Hebrew term for good news, bsr, was used especially in the Psalms and in Deutero-Isaiah with particular reference to the gracious act of God in effecting the return of the exiled or scattered people to Zion. The LXX (the Greek version of the Old Testament) used the verbal equivalent euaggelizomai for this saving work of God in preparing and opening up the way for their return from exile (Isa 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). Furthermore, the bringer of the good news, the joyful messenger to Zion is a living sign or embodiment of the good news, of whom it can be said: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news, proclaims peace and says to Zion, 'Your God reigns'(Isa 52:7). The news is good in itself, and being the good news of God it effects the good that it proclaims. No matter what human obstacles are in the way, the hearers are reminded that all flesh is grass and its beauty like that of the wild flower, the grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our God endures forever (Isa 40:7,8).
In the Greco-Roman world the term good news was widely used for the announcing of an important birth or significant political or military victory. It was used for the pronouncements, presence and performance of the divine emperor. The messenger who brought good news was closely associated with the good news he brought and honoured accordingly, as the good news of a royal birth or important victory was announced with pomp and ceremony. Conversely the bearer of bad tidings could fear a reaction to himself as a consequence of his association with the bad news he brought.
Marks gospel marks a whole new departure in presenting a narrative of the origin or beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God. From the very start the reader is drawn into the story and senses a new beginning in the history of salvation. The first word in the gospel of Mark is none other than the very first word in the Bible itself, beginning. It re-echoes the first word of the opening verse of Genesis which points to the origin and governing principle of all Gods work in creation and history. (4) Using it here creates for the reader the sense of a radically new initiative of God.
The good news of Jesus is not just the good news about him, or the good news that he preached, but he himself is the embodiment of the good news. Throughout the gospel narrative the announcing of the nearness, presence or mystery of the kingdom in the person, words and deeds of Jesus as he invites people to repent, to believe in the good news and to follow him on the way, constitutes the good news. In the narrative of the gospel the good news takes on a whole new dimension at the climactic moment when the young man sitting at the open tomb proclaims: You seek Jesus the crucified Nazarene. He is risen. He is not here. Go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you into Galilee (Mk 16:8). Jesus, formerly the preacher and embodiment of the good news of the kingdom, from that moment becomes himself in a whole new way the subject of the good news of salvation in the proclamation of his vindication by the Father in his victory over Satan, death and the powers that brought about his rejection and execution.
This first verse of the gospel introduces the main character (the protagonist) in the story about to unfold on the human stage. Jesus role and true identity are proclaimed. The first half of the gospel story builds up to Peters proclamation of faith in Jesus as the Messiah/ Christ, the expected anointed one of royal descent (Mk 8:29). The second half contains Jesus instruction about the proper understanding of that role as it redefines messiahship in terms of suffering, death and resurrection. It replaces the royal Davidic descendent who would defeat Israels political enemies with a Messiah who must fulfil his destiny as Son of Man.(5) The story comes to a climax when the centurion who presides over Jesus execution, on seeing how he died proclaimed his faith in the identity of the one he has executed as he proclaims: In truth this man was the Son of God (Mk 15:39), reechoing the superscription at the beginning of the gospel and the declaration of the voice from heaven immediately after the baptism of Jesus (Mk 1:11) and the voice from the cloud at the transfiguration (Mk 9:7).
The reader, however, is given this privileged information about Jesus true identity and role at the outset and can therefore appreciate the unfolding story from a privileged position, sharing in the omniscience of the narrator and observing the reactions, difficulties and developing awareness of the characters in the story. However, the reader also has to wait and be challenged along with the characters to see how the Father vindicates the Son after his rejection and crucifixion. The Son is finally vindicated by the Father when the young man at the tomb proclaims: He is risen. He is not here (Mk 16:8).
3. THE DIVINE PLAN: MK 1:2-3
The established formula for quoting scripture, it is written, introduces the prime mover, God, into the story. The authoritative voice of God is heard through the teaching of the prophets in an adapted quotation rich in allusions to Isaiah, Malachi and Exodus, a quotation announcing the unfolding of a long awaited plan, foretold long ago (Is a 40:3; Mal 3:1; Ex 23:20). In the quotation God speaks through the prophetic voices to the protagonist Jesus, whom he addresses directly and to whom he promises to send a messenger to prepare the way: Behold I am sending my messenger before you to prepare your way. The way (mentioned twice in the prologue) is described as the way of the Lord.
Though the quotation is ascribed to Isaiah, the first part of the quotation re-echoes the prophet Malachis prophecy that God will send a messenger, identified as Elijah, before the great and terrible day of YHWH (Mal 3:1; 4:5). The second part of the quotation is from the Book of Isaiah and recalls the voice calling out in the wilderness: 'prepare the way of the Lord". The way of the Lord is a powerfully evocative term in both Old and New Testaments. In Deutero-Isaiah the way of the Lord refers to the way through the desert back to the Promised Land from the exile in Babylon, a physical way going hand in hand with the spiritual way of the Lord which the people will follow in response to Gods gracious action on their behalf. The prophet to whom chapters 40 to 55 of the Book of Isaiah are ascribed, conventionally referred to as Second or Deutero-Isaiah, is the prophet of consolation, the joyful messenger to Zion, the prophet of the good news for the people in exile. This good news was first heard during the exile as the voice crying out to the people to prepare for their return home from exile in Babylon (Isa 40:3; cf Mt 3:2f; Mk 1:2f; Lk 3:4f.). It envisaged the end of the exile, a new exodus of the people and a passage through the desert, under the protection of God. In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament it was seen in terms of a physical journey, a real physical path in the desert and the path was described as the path of our God.(6) The imagery portrays God as the shepherd leading the people through the desert.
Here in Mark the Way refers to the way of Jesus, to Gods way manifest in his life, death and resurrection. It is the way of discipleship in which Jesus will call his followers to share his destiny and walk with him on his divinely designated path. The way becomes a dominant theme in the section of the gospel dealing with the way to Jerusalem which is the way of the Son of Man, Jesus way to his passion, death and resurrection, and which is at the same time the context for the teaching on the way of discipleship (Mk 8:27-10:52). By the time of the writing of the Acts of the Apostles the term has become so established that Christians are referred to as people of the way (Acts 9:2).
In the New Testament the emphasis moves somewhat from , a path in the desert to a voice in the desert, so the way or path can be seen, not only in geographical and physical terms but also in spiritual terms, as the way of Jesus. This implies a new, spiritual, exodus, a calling of the people to the movement of repentance being carried on by John in the desert as a preparation for the way of the Lord. The voice in the desert calls the people to prepare the way of the Lord. The original physical journey is replaced by a spiritual journey signifying a return from spiritual exile, a path in the heart that makes possible the approach of God to his people, opening up their hearts, levelling their pride, filling in their emptiness, if one applies the imagery to a spiritual journey. (7)
The way of the Lord can be seen here both as the way of God made manifest in Jesus or the way of (Jesus) the Lord. The title Lord, kyrios, was used in the LXX as a translation of adonai, used in the Hebrew Bible as a substitute for YHWH, since the Jews regarded the name of God as too sacred to pronounce. The title kyrios became a standard title for the risen and glorified Christ in the early church. Though referring to Jesus as Lord is not typical of the body of the gospel of Mark, it is not out of place in the theologically and christologically rich prologue where he is called Christ, Son of God, Beloved Son, addressed by the voice from heaven, and invested with the Spirit. In Jerusalem at the end of his ministry Jesus will refer to the Messiah as Lord (Mk 12:35-37).
This part of the quotation, the voice of one crying out in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord, focuses on another very significant place and source of imagery ill-the Bible, the desert. As pointed out in the introduction, the desert held a special place in the history and spirituality of Israel. It was the place where Israel became Gods chosen people through covenant, when God liberated them from the slavery of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders (Deut 26:8). It was also the place where they were tested, where they grumbled, complained, hesitated and suffered punishment and purification as they were led to the Promised Land. It was through the desert that God, in a new Exodus, would lead them back from the exile in Babylon, straightening the paths and making smooth the way. (8) The desert was seen as the place where the devout and repentant would withdraw to be with God and remake their lives. Elijah repaired to the desert in crisis. The Essenes went there to found an ideal messianic community when they withdrew from the illegitimate Temple authority in Jerusalem. It was therefore the ideal spot for a group like the followers of the Baptist to assemble in their quest for new beginnings and for straightening the spiritual paths and making smooth the ways on which they walked in their lives. Jesus himself after his baptism will be driven there by the Spirit to be tested by Satan. The desert is mentioned twice at the beginning and twice towards the end of the prologue, and in the ministry of Jesus it will be his place of retreat for prayer. It will also be the place where he will take his disciples to rest, and the place in which he will be moved to compassion to teach and feed the multitudes who come to the desert to be with him, to listen to him and to be healed by him. In doing so he will re-enact the caring and protecting activity of the Shepherd of Israel.
4. INTRODUCTION OF THE PRECURSOR,
JOHN THE BAPTISER MK 1:4-6
The narrator introduces the precursor with all the solemnity of an Old Testament prophet. He uses the canonised LXX expression egeneto, often translated in the ritualised biblical language of English translations as it came to pass. Though it makes for an awkward sentence, the solemnity would be well expressed by and it came to pass that John the Baptist was in the desert proclaiming. .. The messenger sent to prepare the way of the Lord, the one crying out in the desert, is identified as John the Baptist (lit. the one baptising).
John is preparing the way for the one coming after him. His baptism is a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins and it is sharply contrasted, by John himself, with the baptism in the Holy Spirit of the one coming after him. Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins describes the nature and purpose of Johns baptism. Unlike Matthew and Luke, the apocalyptic, fiery language of the wrath that is to come with the axe laid to the root of the tree and the burning up of the chaff is missing. (9) Missing also is the explicitly moralising tone of his preaching (Lk 3:7-14; d Mt 3:7f). He calls for repentance, metanoia. This New Testament term signifies a change of mind, heart, attitude and direction as in reassessment of ones life and remorse for ones past. It is more or less synonymous with the Greek word epistrephein, to turn around, and the Hebrew word, subh, to turn back / return. Turning round to face God in response and reconciliation, or returning to God and making a new beginning, are key concepts in the call to repentance. Repent also captures the sense of the Hebrew niham, to be sorry. Here in the prologue it represents the call back to God from the crooked paths on which one has strayed. The purpose of the exercise is the remission (aphesis) of sins. Aphesis (aphiemi) signifies pardon, cancellation of a debt, release from captivity and remission of punishment. The people confess (exomologoumenoi) their sins. Confession of sins, in private and public, was reckoned as an important form of prayer / worship. This is obvious from the Old Testament, especially from the psalms, and from the apocryphal literature. Josephus Flavius states that God is easily reconciled to those who confess and repent, exomologoumenois kai metanoousin.(10)
The account of Johns movement emphasises the universal character of the response to his call to repentance. All the Judean countryside (pasa) and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (pantes) went out to him: This universal appeal on the part of the crowds in the context of the Baptist will be very characteristic of the response of the crowds to Jesus, particularly during his early ministry. In choosing the Jordan as the site for ritual baptism and inauguration into his movement, John the Baptist chose a place rich in associations with Israels past. Crossing the Jordan dry shod behind the ark, which was carried in solemn procession into the promised land, was a pivotal moment in the history of the chosen people as they entered into the land to live there as Gods covenanted people (Josh 3-4). Baptising in the Jordan river has the connotation of a spiritual crossing of the Jordan and it recalls the new life and dedication originally required of the people as they emerged from the desert wandering with its suffering and disaffection to the joyous occupation of the land of milk and honey. On that historic occasion they promised faithfulness to the covenant relationship with the God who had led them from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land. Johns followers now come to the Jordan to renew that promise. The prophets had regularly called for repentance and for a return to the covenant way of life. Now John is the latest and final prophet in the former dispensation. His dress and deportment recall those of the prophets and of Elijah in particular (Zech 13:4; 2 Kings 1:8). His food consisted of locusts and wild honey. Locusts were one of the winged insects permitted in the Levitical code and featured in the Qumran diet (Lev 11:20-23; CD 12:14). Wild honey could be got from among the rocks, from trees and carcasses of animals (Deut 32:13; 1 Sam 14:25f; Jdgs 14:8f). The similarity to Elijah does not end with the description of Johns clothes and diet. Preparing the way of the Lord and announcing the coming of the stronger one who will baptise in Holy Spirit and preparing for the one coming after him re-echo very strongly the expected return of Elijah to usher in the Messianic time. The gospel will show how the similarity with Elijah continues as John is arrested and put to death by a latter-day Ahab tricked by a scheming latter day-Jezebel (cf 1 Kings 19; Mk 6:17-29).
5. JOHNS PROCLAMATION MK 1:7-8
Now after the narrators introduction, John the Baptists Own voice is heard. Picking up on the solemn" prophetic note of proclamation (k?¬ryssón), the imperfect tense signifies ongoing and repeated activity. John was proclaiming (ek?¬ryssen): the stronger one is coming after me. The first word in the sentence is erchetai, he is coming. The one who is coming is an established messianic designation. The apocalyptic tradition speaks of the one coming from among the followers, from behind, to take over the leadership. Here erchetai opisó mou, there comes after me, alerts the reader to such a coming one, a follower who will take over the leadership, confirmed by John as he identifies the coming one in terms of the one stronger than me, ho ischuroteros mou. The designation stronger one not only alerts the reader to the relative strengths of Jesus and the Baptist but also recalls the divine visitation in Deutero-Isaiah where God will come with strength, meta ischyos. The God-given strength in the one coming will also be stronger than the strong man, Satan, whose house he will spoil (Mk 3:20-27).
Johns reference to the one whose sandal straps he is not worthy to bend down and untie, or carry, is common to all four gospels and Acts (Mt 3:11; Mk1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:27; Ads 13:25). A disciple was expected to do for a teacher what a slave did for his master, except tend to his feet / untie his shoes, as it was regarded as too demeaning. Rabbi Joshua ben Levi states: All services that a slave performs for his master a pupil should do for his teacher, with the exception of undoing his shoes. (11) John is here proclaiming that he is no more than a slave whose task is to untie his masters sandal; and he feels unworthy even of that .(12)
To appreciate the significance of the contrast between their baptisms, which is highlighted by John the Baptist as he points to the one whose baptism in Holy Spirit radically surpasses his own baptism in water, Johns baptism should be put in the context of the practice and understanding of baptism at the time.
The baptism of John fits into a wider context as is evident, for example, from the baptismal rituals of the Qumran community with which he may have had contact or by Whom he may have been in some way influenced. Given the fact that he conducted his ministry in an area close to the monastery at Qumran it is quite possible that he was influenced in some measure by their asceticism, ceremonial practice and messianic expectation. Their Manual of Discipline is very definite, however, that mere washing cannot really make one clean. It can clean flesh, but only the submission of ones soul to Gods ordinances can make one internally clean. It is only God who will finally purge all the acts of man and refine him by destroying every spirit of perversity in his flesh, cleansing him by a holy spirit and sprinkling upon him the spirit of truth like waters of purification to cleanse him.(13) The rite itself therefore was not seen as effecting forgiveness and purification and people could not use it to become like the holy ones. It was seen as an external expression of a sincere inner disposition of repentance. Josephus Flavius presents a similar view of Johns baptism. He says that it was not to beg pardon for sins committed, but for the purification of the body, when the soul had previously been cleansed by right behaviour (14) Another possible influence may have been the process of proselyte baptism, signifying the cleansing process of a Gentile before entering into the spiritual heritage of Israel. These were the likely influences on John which he adapted for his purpose. Whatever the influences, however, Johns practice of ritual baptism, as it stands here in the gospel, is unique to John in its broad scope and eschatological thrust. (15) He, however, emphasised the preparatory nature of his baptism and accentuated the contrast with the baptism by Jesus who will baptise in Holy Spirit A new era and a new baptism are about to be inaugurated with the rending of the heavens, the descent of the Spirit on Jesus and the voice from heaven proclaiming him My Son, the Beloved.
6. INTRODUCTION OF THE PROTAGONIST.
JESUS BAPTISM MK 1:9-11
The same solemn word egeneto, it came to pass" is used to announce Jesus entry into the story. It is here combined with another evocative expression, in those days, a phrase canonized in biblical tradition as a description of the times in which some great salvific event took place (Jdgs 19:1; 1 Sam 28:1). When Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan a new era was about to begin. As Jesus came up out of the water the definitive salvific work of God began immediately with the rending of the heavens and the descent of the Spirit like a dove. This is the first instance of the use of the word euthus, immediately. Forty-seven times euthus (often kai euthus and sometimes its adverbial variant eutheós) is used, giving the story of Jesus ministry, especially in its initial stages in the Galilee ministry, its sense of urgency as the kingdom rushes in all around.
The rending or tearing open of the heavens described in the immediate aftermath of the baptism of Jesus is an eschatological sign, announcing the inauguration of the final definitive action of God. It recalls the sentiment of Trito-Isaiah, , O that you would rend the heavens and come down... to make known your name to your enemies, and make the nations tremble at your presence, working unexpected miracles such as no one has ever heard before (Is a 64:1-3; cf Isa 24:17-20; Rev 19:11). (16) Here at the baptism scene the rending of the heavens and the heavenly voice represent the divine presence, transcendent and immanent, joining earth and heaven, somewhat like the (Jacobs) ladder image in Johns gospel (In 1:51). J. Marcus explains the significance exceptionally well: God has ripped the heavens apart irrevocably at Jesus baptism, never to shut them again. Through this gracious gash in the universe, he has poured forth his Spirit into the earthly realm. (17)
The opening of the heavens and the descent of the Spirit mark a completely new initiative of God in the economy of salvation. Contrary to the impression given by many works of Christian art, the Spirit was not conferred on Jesus by the baptism of John but descended on him on the occasion of, and immediately following, the baptism, as he came up out of the water. Mark (like Matthew) states that Jesus had already been baptised and was coming up out of the water when the Spirit descended upon him (Mk 1:10; Mt 3:16). Luke further emphasizes the point when he says that he had been baptised and was at prayer when the Spirit descended on him (Lk 3:21). The gospel of John omits any reference to the actual baptism of Jesus and offers only to the descent of the Spirit showing him to be the Son/ the Chosen One of God (In 1:32). (18)
Though the ministry of John is unique and the baptism of Jesus without parallel, still the narrative is rich in biblical allusions, setting it within the wider scope of salvation history. Many see in the figure of the dove appearing above the waters of the Jordan an allusion to creation with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters (Gen 1:2) or to the dove sent out by Noah heralding the ending of the flood, the completion of the punishment and the inauguration of a new covenant (Gen 8:8-12). (19) For the readers in the Hellenistic world, comparing the Spirit to a dove highlighted the divinity of the Spirit since the dove was regarded as a divine bird in the Hellenistic world. (20) The descent of the Spirit, therefore, points to the divine origin and power of the one about to be declared Beloved Son by the voice from heaven.
All these allusions point to the new initiative of God, a new creation and a new definitive reconciliation. Whereas the baptism of John was called a baptism of repentance (Mk 1:4), and could be graphically described as an empty hand stretched out to God for forgiveness, the baptism of Jesus signifies the beginning of a new era, a pivotal point in the economy of salvation, a new and final initiative of God in Jesus. This new era will be marked by the gift of the Spirit. (21) Baptism as an empty hand stretched out to God in repentance is now surpassed by the promise of baptism in Holy Spirit, announcing the beginning of the eschatological time, marked by the return of the Spirit and the work of the Messiah. Baptism has taken on a whole new significance. (22)
After the end of the prophetic times, when the Spirit no longer spoke through the prophets, the rabbis spoke of the bath qól, daughter of the voice, the faint echo of the divine voice uttered in heaven. This voice from heaven at the baptism, accompanied by the return of the quenched Spirit is no faint echo, but the sound of the voice (phón?¬) of the Father, transcendent and immanent at this moment, addressing Jesus saying: You are my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (Ps 2:7). There is a density of meaning here. First of all it recalls Psalm 2 which probably reflects an enthronement ceremony, where the metaphor of adoption as Gods son (Ps 2:7) assures the royal prince of Gods protection at his enthronement as Davidic King. However, this sonship transcends the general sonship of the anointed king, the righteous priest, prophet or prince and the suffering righteous one, or the collective sonship of the people. The term agap?¬tos, beloved, reflects the Hebrew yahid, unique, as in only son (as monogen?¬s in Jn 1:18) and therefore especially beloved, as in the case of Isaac (Gen 22:2, 12, 16). It also reflects the Hebrew bak?«r, chosen, as in the appointment of the chosen servant of God, in whom God is well pleased and in whom he puts his spirit. This recalls the suffering servant, obedient to God to the end in spite of persecution, and suffering vicariously on behalf of others, taking their faults on himself and praying all the time for sinners (Is a 42:1-2; 52:13-53:12). The divine voice speaks in the second person addressing Jesus in the baptism scene, You are my Beloved Son... But later in the ministry, at the transfiguration, the voice will address the disciples speaking of Jesus in the third person: T