Mark 10.17-22

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and kneeling before him asked, “Good master, what must I do to win eternal life?”

Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

“You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.’ “

“But Master,” he replied, “I have kept all these since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked straight at him; his heart warmed to him, and he said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, follow me.”

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart, for he was a man of great wealth.

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9 responses

  1. What do Christians make of Jesus’ comment, “no one is good but God alone?” It seems to go against his deification that is so central to mainline Christians.Dave Carl

  2. The deification of Jesus is an example of a metaphor that ran amok.Can you derive any truth from that metaphor? (If you can’t, that’s all right. I’m just saying that’s a useful approach to strange religious notions.)By the way, thanks for jumping in here!I notice a few other things here. The subject is no longer “the kingdom (rule, reign, etc) of God” but “eternal life.” Why?Jesus lists commandments, but leaves out the first ones, about honoring God, and everything about not “coveting.”And then there’s Jesus’s prescription. Why? Addressed to this man only? That time only? All rich men?–how rich?And on what authority?

  3. What do you make of the fact that Jesus inserts a bogus commandment? There is no such commandment as thou shall not defraud you know. As memory serves when Matthew rewrites this story he deletes the bogus commandment. Did Jesus make a deliberate mistake here? Why?

  4. As regards “do not defraud”, the Greek verb used is apostereô. In the Septuagint this verb is used to mean the act of keeping back the wages of a hired hand; in classical Greek the primary meaning was a refusal to return money or goods entrusted for safekeeping. C. S. Mann, in the Anchor Bible commentary on Mark, suggests that it might be a restatement of the eighth commandment, “do not steal”; he also tells us that other commentators have read it as a reference to the tenth commandment, “do not covet.” If either of those readings is valid, this would not be a “bogus” commandment, but merely an unfamiliar way of stating an existing commandment.But far more to the point: When Christ lists these commandments, the person he is conversing with does not object to the casual and irregular form of Christ’s list, or to the omission of several commandments from Moses’s list, or to the unfamiliar item on Christ’s list. He simply responds, “But, Rabbi, I have kept all these since I was a boy.” This is the response of someone who is already fairly familiar with Christ’s list, familiar enough to have thought about the items on the list before he ever talked to Christ, so that he can now respond to Christ’s list without having to stop and ponder the items on it first.Such an easy and quick response suggests very strongly (at least to me) that there was a vernacular understanding of what God expects of His children that kids in Galilee learned at their parents’ knees, and that could be expressed in just this informal way, and that a commandment not to “defraud” was a natural part of. And Christ was not, then, invoking the Ten Commandments as stated in Exodus, but rather, was invoking this vernacular understanding.

  5. I think that here we’ve got evidence about the common collection (“Q”) of teaching material that went into Matthew & Luke–that it probably took written form before Mark itself was written down (hence the early Church’s belief that “Matthew was written first.” If they were talking about “Q”, not our version of Matthew, they seem to have been right.)That “eternal life” reference is a jarring note in a gospel where Jesus is talking about “the Kingdom of God,” not as sky-pie stuff but as a this-world reality. That Kingdom concept is probably the main element in Jesus’s actual historic message to his contemporaries.My guess–There was an Oral Mark, probably in Aramaic, which preserved the original focus on “the kingdom”, and when it was written down for a Greek-speaking audience, a little bit of written Q (with its more cautious reference to “eternal life”) was included, in this passage identical (except for “Do not defraud”) to its equivalent in Matthew or Luke.We haven’t begun to talk about the fact that “Money is addictive and causes brain damage.”Who wants to start on that?

  6. What do Christians make of Jesus’ comment, “no one is good but God alone?”Goodness coming from God doesn’t exclude Christ; his goodness is certainly “of God”. He doesn’t deny his goodness here – he just asks a question.I suspect there’s a strong connection between that and the stranger’s problem in giving up all he has – his dependency on his possessions keeps him from engaging with God more directly.The “do nots” he can handle; the direct connection (and its costs) he apparently cannot.

  7. Christian orthodoxy runs to “a high Christology and a low anthropology,” to help church authorities keep the rabble in line. That is to say, the belief that “Jesus is God and you ain’t!”As the truth is in “a low Christology with a high anthropology”–that “Each of us is God confined to a particular vantage, and Jesus is more aware of that and less confined than us”–I tend to think that Jesus, within his initial human lifetime, spoke from that vantage.Mark, like any gospel writer, insinuates a Christology in the framework of every story and quotation he gives us. But overall he gives the most human picture we have, versions complied later tending to make Jesus more and more superhuman and his mission more and more about afterlife in Heaven.Here he is not “Christ” but “Messiah,” the man who is a “son of God” by virtue of being the unacknowledged King of Israel.

  8. Forrest,”Each of us is God confined to a particular vantage, and Jesus is more aware of that and less confined than us.” I agree. Would you say that Jesus was trying to teach us that? If so, are there any passages that you particularly rely on in drawing that conclusion? The “oneness” passages in John come to mind, but how about the synoptics?Dave Carl

  9. You can find it in the Hebrew scriptures in at least two places, 1) man/woman being “made in the image of God” & 2) Moses asking God for his name, being told to “Tell them ‘I am’ sent you.” It’s knowledge that goes back a long way, revealed in different forms within many religions.Jesus alludes to it in Matthew when asked about the commandments: He says the first is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind… and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Why does he call the second like the first?–unless God and your neighbor are somehow akin?The trouble with “teaching” it is that if you don’t already half-understand it, anyone trying to teach it probably won’t make sense to you.Given that Jesus knew “who” God “is”, and was leading people to bring themselves under God’s rule, he must necessarily have put out many hints. How long these took to ripen, I can only guess. Same with whether John was written by an actual disciple who lived many years afterward before he finally “got it,” or by a later Christian trying to convey what he’d learned directly from Christ’s Spirit.Jesus had, of course, more than one thing to teach. And more roles than “teacher” to fill.

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