Адела Ярбро Коллинз о «мессианской тайне» Евангелия Марка

(Цитируется по изданию Collins, A. Y., & Attridge, H. W. (2007). Mark : A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Hermeneia—a critical and historical commentary on the Bible, Minneapolis: Fortress Press)

There is of course great tension between the theory that Mark is an account of the process of The “messianic secret” is a concept in the history of interpretation of the Gospel of Mark, not a phrase that occurs in the text itself.77 William Wrede coined the term “the messianic secret” (das Messiasgeheimnis) and used it in the title of his very influential study of Mark that appeared in 1901. 78 He developed a hypothesis to explain a number of features of Mark that he believed had the same purpose, namely, the commands to demons and disciples not to reveal the identity of Jesus,79 the instructions to those who are healed by Jesus not to speak about their healing,80 the lack of understanding by the disciples,81 certain individual features that betray a tendency against publicity, and the so-called parable theory. The latter is expressed in the enigmatic and shocking saying of Jesus addressed to a restricted group of those around him together with the Twelve, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, everything happens in parables, in order that, seeing, they may see and not perceive, and hearing, they may hear and not comprehend, lest they turn and it be forgiven them” (4:11–12*).82 Wrede did not believe that the messianic secret in Mark reflected historical reality. Rather, he treated it as a development in the pre-Markan Christian tradition, intended to explain the difference between the situation before the resurrection of Jesus and the situation afterward. He believed that the key to the meaning and function of the messianic secret is the statement that, after his transfiguration, Jesus ordered Peter, James, and John to tell no one what they had seen, “except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (9:9*). Wrede believed that the various types of the secrecy theme were all intended to explain the fact that Jesus’ life and work were nonmessianic, whereas his followers came to believe that he was the messiah after they experienced him as risen from the dead.

Other scholars have argued that the messianic secret has some basis in the life of Jesus.83 Beginning with Bultmann, however, many scholars have interpreted the theory of secrecy as a creation of the evangelist. Bultmann argued that the device served to link the Hellenistic Christian community’s proclamation of the Son of God coming down to earth, that is, the Christ-myth, with the narrative traditions about Jesus.84 Dibelius argued that the secrecy theory had an apologetic function. It was intended to explain why, in spite of so many proofs of his supernatural power, Jesus was not recognized as the messiah during his lifetime.85 Some scholars have argued against Wrede’s thesis that the several secrecy themes have the same origin and purpose.86 Ulrich Luz argued that the “miracle secret” and the “messianic secret proper” should be distinguished. According to him, the miracle secret is an independent motif that serves to highlight the glory of Jesus, which manifests itself irresistibly. He interpreted the messianic secret proper as a qualification of the nature of Jesus’ messiahship, which can be understood only from the perspective of the cross and resurrection.87 Jürgen Roloff agreed with Luz’s separation of these two motifs but argued that the messianic secret proper should also be divided into two parts: commands to silence addressed to demons and commands addressed to disciples.88 Schuyler Brown, Heikki Räisänen, and others have argued that the parable theory should be interpreted without reference to the messianic secret.89

In the scholarship reviewed up to this point, the primary methods employed are the reconstruction of the history of tradition in historical context and literary-theological interpretations of the text of Mark. More recently Gerd Theissen has taken a different approach. Applying the perspective of the sociology of knowledge, he has suggested that the secrecy motifs had a pragmatic function. That which is kept secret is removed from social sanctions. It is kept secret to avoid the imposition of such sanctions by those with the power to enforce them. As a rule, he suggests, every secret is an attempt by a group to protect itself. When the secret is broken, the group is endangered. Assuming a correspondence between the world of the text and the social world of the audience, Theissen suggests that the tension between keeping their Christian identity secret and revealing it was a problem for the audience, just as an analogous tension was a problem for Jesus as a character in the narrative with whom the audience would identify. By telling the story of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark offers advice to the audience. They may keep their identity secret with a good conscience. But they are warned that it will be impossible to do so in the long run. When they are discovered, they must confess their identity bravely, as Jesus did, and risk conflict that may lead to death. By means of this approach, Theissen is able to make a case for the unity of the secrecy themes, since they all have the same basic purpose.90 The social functions of secrecy, however, are more varied and complex than Theissen allowed in that study. This commentary takes a comparative, history-of-religions approach to the question of the “messianic secret.”91

Wrede was right that all the secrecy motifs in the Gospel of Mark have the same purpose, or at least very similar purposes. His explanation of that purpose, however, is inadequate. As noted above, Wrede took the saying of Jesus after the transfiguration as the key to the messianic secret. According to Wrede, when Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead, that meant that the identity of Jesus would only be revealed or could only be comprehended after his resurrection. Other scholars have noted that Jesus’ declaration to the high priest and the acclamation of the centurion beneath the cross call this hypothesis into question (Mark 14:62*; 15:39*). The saying of Jesus after the transfiguration should rather be interpreted as a signal that the transfiguration serves as a preview of the resurrected state of Jesus. Mark offers this account instead of a description of an appearance of the risen Jesus later on. In sum, Wrede did not take a sufficiently literary and comparative approach to the theme of secrecy in Mark.

Hans Jürgen Ebeling was closer to the mark in his thesis that the secrecy theme is a literary device intended to make it clear to the reader of the Gospel the importance of the things dealt with in it.92 Ebeling argued that the unifying conception of the Gospel of Mark is the revelation of the Christ-event.93 

There is of course great tension between the theory that Mark is an account of the process of revelation, on the one hand, and the observation that secrecy is an important theme, on the other. He resolves this tension by pointing to the dialectic between revelation and secrecy in various texts from antiquity and to the tension between the activity of God and that of human beings in religious experience. Another way of expressing this tension is the felicitous description of the Gospel of Mark by Dibelius as a series of secret epiphanies.94 

The theme of secrecy appears for the first time in Mark in the account of this first miracle, the exorcism that Jesus performs in the synagogue in Capernaum. His command to the spirit, “Be muzzled and come out of him,” in v. 25* is a typical exorcistic technique. But Mark has employed a variant of the typical genre of the exorcism in order to allow the demon to identify Jesus. This identification has importance primarily for the reader and those to whom the Gospel is read aloud. Those present in the narrative scene comment on how the demons obey Jesus, but not on the demon’s revelation of Jesus’ identity (Mark 1:27*). The intention of the evangelist comes out even more clearly in the editorial summary given in 1:34*: “And he healed many who were sick, and he drove out many demons, and he would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew him” (see also 3:11–12*). The demons recognize Jesus because of their knowledge of heavenly matters, but his identity is not grasped by the human beings in the narrative.

The various themes of secrecy in Mark—the commands to demons and disciples not to reveal the identity of Jesus, the instructions to those who are healed by Jesus not to speak about their healing, the lack of understanding by the disciples, and the “parable theory”—are all literary devices created or adapted by the author of the Gospel to reveal and yet conceal Jesus and to imply that, during his lifetime, his identity was similarly revealed yet concealed.


77 See also Adela Yarbro Collins, “Messianic Secret and the Gospel of Mark: Secrecy in Jewish Apocalypticism, the Hellenistic Mystery Religions, and Magic,” in Elliott R. Wolfson, ed., Rending the Veil: Concealment and Secrecy in the History of Religions (New York/London: Seven Bridges Press, 1999) 11–30.

78 Wrede, Messianic Secret.

79 E.g., Mark 1:34* (demons), 3:12* (unclean spirits), and 8:30* (disciples).

80 E.g., the leper in Mark 1:44*.

81 E.g., Mark 8:14–21*.

82 Mark 4:11–12*; see the commentary below.

 83 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: First Complete Edition (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001) 319; Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple—Apostle—Martyr (rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962) 176–80; Taylor, 123; Julius Schniewind, “Messiasgeheimnis und Eschatologie,” in Nachgelassene Reden und Aufsätze (Berlin: Töpelmann, 1952) 1–13; and Erik Sjöberg, Der verborgene Menschensohn in den Evangelien (SUKHVL 53; Lund: Gleerup, 1955) 246; for criticism of these positions, see Räisänen, Messianic Secret, 48–54.

84 Bultmann, History, 347–48; see also Räisänen, Messianic Secret, 55.

85 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 223. Dibelius had many followers, e.g., T. Alec Burkill, Mysterious Revelation: An Examination of the Philosophy of St. Mark’s Gospel (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1963) 68–69; and Walter Schmithals, Das Evangelium nach Markus (2 vols.; ÖTBK 2.1–2; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1979) 1:52–53, 58–59; for a critical assessment, see Räisänen, Messianic Secret, 56–60.

86 Andreas Bedenbender argues that the messianic secret is a bundle of distinct themes; each type must be interpreted on its own terms, and the coherence of the whole can only be a differentiated one (“Das Messiasgeheimnis im Markusevangelium,” Texte und Kontexte 27.3–4 [2004] 1–96, esp. 35).

87 Ulrich Luz, “Das Geheimnismotiv und die markinische Christologie,” ZNW 56 (1965) 9–30; ET “The Secrecy Motif and the Marcan Christology,” in Christopher Tuckett, ed., The Messianic Secret (Issues in Religion and Theology; Philadelphia: Fortress; London: SPCK, 1983) 75–96.

88 Jürgen Roloff, “Das Markusevangelium als Geschichtsdarstellung,” EvTh 29 (1969) 73–93; he concluded that the commands to the disciples reflect the author’s intention to distinguish between the life of Jesus as a historical past that can be reported, on the one hand, and the time of Easter onward, the time of the eschatological activity of God to which one can only bear witness, on the other.

89 Schuyler Brown, “ ‘The Secret of the Kingdom of God’ (Mark 4:11*),” JBL 92 (1973) 60–74; Räisänen, Messianic Secret, 73.

90 Gerd Theißen, “Die pragmatische Bedeutung der Geheimnismotive im Markusevangelium: Ein wissenssoziologischer Versuch,” in Hans G. Kippenberg and Guy G. Stroumsa, eds., Secrecy and Concealment: Studies in the History of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Religions (SHR 65; Leiden: Brill, 1995) 225–45.

91 See the commentary on 4:1–34 and 8:27–33 below.

92 Hans Jürgen Ebeling, Das Messiasgeheimnis und die Botschaft des Marcus-Evangelisten (BZNW 19; Berlin: Töpelmann, 1939) 167–69, 170–72, 177–78. But some aspects of Ebeling’s argument are untenable; see Räisänen’s summary and criticism of Ebeling’s interpretation (Messianic Secret, 60–62).

93 Ebeling, Das Messiasgeheimnis, 221–24.

94 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 230.


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