Sunday, January 22, 2006

Gibson on Mark 14: Was Jesus Killed in the Temple?

I finally got a minute to read Gibson's paper on the blasphemy charge in Mark 14, which he posted to the list a last week.

In this essay Gibson argues that the writer of Mark intended to compare the Sanhedrin who tried Jesus to the Zealots of the Jewish rebellion. Gibson locates parallels between the trial before Jesus and the sham trial of Zachariah son of Baruch by the Zealots:

"Here, as in Mk 14:54-63, we have a capital trial before a hastily summoned Sanhedrin. Here, as in Mk. 14:54-63, the trial occurs in the Temple precincts and in an atmosphere not only of crisis but of eschatological expectation centering in the God of Israel's imminent deliverance of his people from oppression and the destruction of Israel's enemies. Here, as in Mk. 14:54-63, those who convene the trial believe in holy war. Here, as in Mark, we have the appearance of false witnesses and the sounding of the theme of a predetermined verdict. Here, as in Mark, the one brought into court is a figure who is known and identified as standing in opposition to the ideology of those who have convened his trial. Here, as in Mark, the accused speaks out forcefully against the ideology of those who would condemn him. Here, as in Mark, the remarks of the accused evoke from his accusers both physical and verbal expressions of rage and indignation. Here, as in Mark, we find an outworking of a theme that standing on the side of the accused creates risks for those who might do so. And here, as in Mark, the one accused is handed over to mockery and an ignominious death."(p11)

Gibson follows Joel Marcus and the majority of exegetes in seeing Mark 13 as a reference to the Jewish War of 66-70. I argued several months ago on my blog that Mark 13 actually refers to the Bar Kochba revolt of 135. One part of my argument was that the writer of Mark coded a reference to the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus that Hadrian built on the Temple Mount. That makes a far better candidate for the "abomination of the desolation/makes desolation" than anything that happened prior.

The sequence in Mark 13 acts as a typology for the experience of Jesus during his Passion. The parallels run:

Disciples before Councils
Jesus before Sanhedrin

Disciples beaten in Synagogues
Jesus beaten after Sanhedrin Trial

Disciples before Governors
Jesus before Pilate

Disciples brought to trial and "handed over"
Jesus on trial and "handed over"

Brother betrays brother
Judas betrays Jesus

Disciples hated in Jesus' name
Reaction to Jesus' claim to be the Blessed One.

The very next verse is of course the "abomination of the desolation" which of course, if it completes the typology, is a reference to where Jesus died. Where was that?

TE Schmidt argued that Jesus' procession out to Golgotha was essentially a mock triumph. Schmidt was among a small number of exegetes who have observed that Golgotha may also be translated as head as well as skull. That would make Golgotha the Place of the Head. A Roman legend records that in Rome when a temple was being built on a hill, a human head was found with its features still intact. According to the legend, the soothsayers then said this meant the hill would be the head of all Italy. The hill was thus named Capitoline Hill. The significance of this should not be missed: the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on Capitoline Hill, the Capitolium, the placed named after the Death's Head, was the terminus of every Roman triumph.

But as I just noted, there was also a hill in Jerusalem surmounted by a Capitoline Temple, the Temple Mount itself. The writer of Mark may be making an oblique reference to that Temple to Jupiter installed by Hadrian. Jesus was led out in triumph to a Capitoline hill, but it was another one, in Judea. That is what the author is trying to tell us.

That brings us back to Gibson, for Gibson's parallels imply a second vector on the question of the location of Jesus' death in Mark: Zachariah was killed in the Temple. Just like Jesus?

1 comment:

the_cave said...

I felt you had to be wrong about a post-135 Mark, but I couldn't quite figure out an adequate I have it.
(And if you have an opportunity to read Ted Weeden's epilogue to his treatment of the story of Jesus ben Ananias, I highly recommend it.)

I'd always been able to see how insightful your hypothesis was--the symbolism did indeed seem to be there, to some degree. But a Mark that late just seemed so incredibly implausible to me. (Based on the Gospel of Peter, I thought that perhaps I could show there was a pre-Markan version of the PN without Golgotha, but I found this difficult to extract, and so I didn't find it an entirely persuasive idea, though it remained an interesting hypothesis. And even if it were true, it would admittedly mean a post-135 date for all the gospels in the form we have them. However, I'm not sure it matters as much now...)

I wondered "How could Jesus have been crucified on a Capitoline hill prior to 135?" It seemed possible that the Romans had been threatening to build a temple to Jupiter from an early post-70 date...but I found little or no evidence of this. Again, nothing but an interesting hypothesis. I also thought that perhaps the Roman camp on the Temple Mount might have stood in for Jupiter's temple. I still think this, but again, can't prove it did.

Finally, I wondered if the symbolism were working at a purely symbolic level--that is, it had nothing to do with actual geography. That was plausible, but in light of the fact that you had an actual Capitoline temple to back your hypothesis up, this purely symbolic understanding seemed somewhat paltry. (However, I did have this intriguing passage from Revelations:

"Their dead bodies will be in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified."

The "great city" is traditionally Rome, but Jesus wasn't crucified in Rome. So the great city must also somehow be Jerusalem. Either, or's unclear, and I didn't know where to go with this...but keep reading.)

Now, however, I think otherwise--or rather, you're right, it's geographical, but not in the way you think it is. Weeden's paper cites Kloppenborg's outline of the Roman evocatio, the calling out of the local god from a nation's temple. The god is then invited to relocate...where else...but Rome!

Of course! Jesus is led out of the temple by the Romans (well, alright, maybe its outer court) the Place of the Skull. It can be literal and symbolic at the same time, even without a post-135 date. The crucifixion is effectively an evocatio. Since the Romans crucified Jesus on the Temple Mount after leading him out of the temple, as in an evocatio, he is therefore effectively (and symbolically, mythically) crucified on the Capitoline Hill. And so, now we know how Jesus could have been crucified in the great city! (Unless the great city is Jerusalem...but perhaps the symbolism works both ways. Jerusalem and Rome are linked--Jerusalem has been destroyed, and Rome will be destroyed. For the author of Revelations, they represent the same entity, perhaps.)

Now, I admit that the connection with Hadrian's temple is still somewhat compelling, so it's possible that event resulted in renewed attention to Mark...but I now think that here, correlation does not imply causation--rather, it demonstrates a common source for both data points. Mark's Golgotha and Hadrian's temple were both inspired by the tradition of the evocatio. Mark's application of Golgotha was literary--Jesus was crucified on a "Golgotha" because that's where the Jewish God went after 70CE (actually, he suggests that it happened before that, as do other traditions). Hadrian's application was literal--he built a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus because that's who took over the Temple Mount after 70CE (after the Jewish God abandoned it.)

It also seems that this is the desolate aspect of the abominating desolation--in departing from the Temple, the Jewish God has left Jerusalem desolate. And are right, Mark 13 is a typology, which ends, via an evocatio, in a desolation.

Finally, I think that all of this symbolism--the Roman camp, talk of building a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount, the evocatio--may all have been working together to create the word "Golgotha". (It's even possible that Golgotha actually became the name for the Temple Mount after 70CE, for these same reasons. However, I don't want to get into an argument about the details of Jerusalem's ancient geography.)