Helen Bond: The Markan Jesus’ Timelessness

Helen K. Bond, The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2020), 165.

On first reading, it is easy to miss the fact that Mark’s Jesus is ageless. We are used to Luke’s note that Jesus was “about thirty years of age” when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), not to mention centuries of Christian art and decades of films that reinforce this image. But Mark does not tell us when he was born, how old he was at the start of his ministry, or his age at death. The impression is of a man in the prime of life – young enough to cope with a demanding itinerary, yet mature nought to speak with wisdom. Mark’s lack of any reference to time or date (other than locating Jesus’s execution during the governorship of Pilate) lends the figure of Jesus a timeless air; he might be anything from late teens to early sixties. Similarly, Jesus’s social status is curiously indeterminate: although a carpenter and a friend of fishermen and tax collectors, he speaks to religious authorities as equals and dies as a would-be king (15:26). And though we have seen that Jesus displays a range of manly virtues, there is something rather sexless about him: we never hear of a wife or have the slightest indication that Jesus behaves as a virile male. Whether or not all of this is deliberate, the effect of this lack of specificity is to enhance the mimetic aspects of Jesus’s character. Mark’s Jesus can easily be appropriated by a variety of believers, irrespective of age, gender, or social standing.

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