Dr J.R. Daniel Kirk on ‘A Man Attested by God’

By Dale Tuggy on October 17, 2016. Reblogged from Trinities

kirk-a-man-attested-by-god-420x630Do the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke discreetly but clearly imply that Jesus is God? This has become a popular reading lately among evangelicals, thanks in large part to the work of Dr. Richard Bauckham.

A popular argument strategy has been to focus on the earliest gospel, and the one which arguably has the least material from which to argue that Jesus is presented as divine. Even this gospel, it is argued, in its very first chapter, hints that Jesus is God himself, when this passage is said to be fulfilled:

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3, NRSV)

Clearly, in Mark Jesus is the one for whom a way is being prepared; so, by referencing this text, the author is telling us that Jesus is God, right? Wrong, according to Dr. Kirk. As he explains here (starting at around 15:13) and argues at length in the book, this is a misreading of Mark 1. When we pay careful attention to the texts and how the author is using them, it seems that he’s deliberately avoided calling Jesus “God” here. What is actually in Mark 1 isn’t exactly what is above, but rather, filling in the names of the three characters involved according to this gospel:

“See, I [God] am sending my messenger [John the Baptist] ahead of you [Jesus], who will prepare your [Jesus’s] way; the voice of one [John] crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord [Jesus], make his [Jesus’s] paths straight’”

As Dr. Kirk explains, here we are presented with three characters: God, Jesus, and John the Baptist.

Dr. Kirk’s overall thesis in this book is that in the first three gospels Jesus is presented as an “idealized human figure,” a category which he explains using numerous ancient Jewish texts, biblical and extra-biblical. In our conversation here, he focuses on the interesting case of Moses. In light of this whole ancient Jewish context, Dr. Kirk says that

…everything that is said about Jesus in the synoptic gospels has been said about other glorified, idealized human figures in the story of Israel. …we see these as stories about a messiah, a surprising messiah…

One surprising aspect of Jesus’s ministry is his authority to forgive sins. But as Dr. Kirk explains (18:25), the text itself (Mark 2:10) presents Jesus as an extraordinary man who has been granted this authority by God. Throughout the book Dr. Kirk distinguishes identifying Jesus with God fromidentifying Jesus as God. We discuss this distinction and Dr. Kirk’s contention that the synoptics frequently do the former but, contra Bauckham and others, never do the latter.

Dr. Kirk contrasts the christologies of the synoptics with that of the fourth gospel. In part 2 of our discussion next week, we’ll talk about this, and about the fact that in the synoptics people sometimes worship Jesus.

Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Christianity, God, Recommended Reading

4 replies

  1. Great. Will check it out. Never knew Dr Tuggy had hm on the podcast – didn’t show up on my feed. For some reason JD Hal’s Polemics Report floods my feed – clearly overshadowing the better stuff. JD, you may get the boot soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark 2:10 would be different if it was saying the Jesus was God.

    God does not need to say He has authority in place X like Earth.

    God by definition has authority everywhere.

    So Mark 2:10 can actually be evidence against the idea that this verse is implying Jesus is God.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Prepare the way of the Lord

    Isaiah issues a call in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord (1:2-3), but then John the Baptist appears, preparing a way for Jesus. So are we to suppose that Jesus is the Lord who will suddenly come to his temple (Mal. 3:1), the God who is returning to Zion (Is. 40:3)? The interpretation is not without its problems. As Mark has constructed the quotation from “Isaiah”, YHWH speaks to Jesus (“I send my messenger before your face”), which makes the argument about identity rather difficult to sustain. The first part of the quotation is arguably closer to Exodus 23:20 LXX than Malachi 3:1, which would identify Jesus with Israel rather than with YHWH. And perhaps most importantly, Isaiah has the same shift of focus from the coming of YHWH to the appearance of a human servant, “my chosen, in whom my soul delights”, upon whom rests the Spirit of God (Is. 40:1). The Isaianic rationale is quite straightforward: when YHWH acts to restore his people and vindicate himself before the nations, he does so through the agency of a servant. Is there any reason to read Mark 1:2-11 differently?

    Who then is this?

    The story of Jesus calming the storm (Mk. 4:35-41) looks like a retelling of Psalm 107:28-29: “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” But in the context of the Gospel the disciples’ astonished question “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” is given a clear answer, as we have seen already: he is the beloved Son, the Christ, the Son of Man who in due course will be seated in glory at the right hand of YHWH. If Mark intended his audience to hear an allusion to Psalm 107, the identity question can be satisfactorily answered according to the explicit christology: he is the obedient Son who has been empowered by the Spirit to act on behalf of, and exercise the authority of, the God of Israel.



  4. Dale’s podcast are very interesting and educative


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