Does the Earliest Gospel Proclaim the Deity of Jesus?

Scholars generally agree that Mark was the first written Gospel.[1] As a result, critics often claim that the doctrine of the deity of Christ does not appear clearly in Mark but emerges later in the Gospel of John.

While there are certainly explicit claims to deity in John, such as when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), this critical challenge overlooks distinct proclamations of the deity of Christ throughout the Gospel of Mark.

Divinity Jesus Gospels

Here is my contention: From the first chapter until the end, the Gospel of Mark proclaims that Jesus understood himself to be God. Consider six brief examples:

1. MARK 1:2-3: Mark begins his Gospel by citing a passage from Isaiah 40:3, which discusses how a messenger would come, like a voice of one crying in the wilderness, and “Prepare the way of the Lord.” In the original context, the messenger would prepare the way “for our God.” But Mark substitutes Jesus as the Lord who is coming and John the Baptist as the messenger. In other words, John the Baptist is preparing the way for God himself to come in the person of Jesus Christ.

2. MARK 2:1-10: In this passage, Jesus heals a paralytic brought to him by four friends. When Jesus first sees him, he says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes instantly object, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They believed the man was paralyzed because he had sinned against God, and yet Jesus had the audacity to claim that he could personally forgive these sins. The scribes are right that only God can forgive sins (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalms 103:3). Not even the Messiah could forgive sins. In this instance, however, Jesus bypasses the normal route of how forgiveness was received (Leviticus 4:20) and claims to speak with God’s authority. Why? Because he understood himself to be God.

3. MARK 2:27-28: In this passage, Jesus and his disciples pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath, but the Pharisees object that such behavior violates the law. Jesus responds with an example of how David did the very same thing in the time of Abiathar the high priest. And then after explaining how the Sabbath was made for man, rather than vice versa, Jesus makes an even more provocative claim: “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” In other words, Jesus claims to have authority over the Sabbath, which was instituted by God at creation (Gen 2:3). Once again, Jesus claims to have the authority of God within himself. Jesus furthers his claim to divine authority over the Sabbath by healing a man in the synagogue (Mark 3:1-6).

4. MARK 3:13-19: In this passage, Jesus calls his twelve apostles to be with him, preach, and have authority to case out demons. The number twelve is significant, and recalls the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22-26). The twelve will continue the ministry of Jesus, but also sit in judgment over Israel (Matthew 19:28). Since God originally established Israel and the twelve tribes, by what authority can Jesus reform the twelve? The answer is, once again, that Jesus speaks with the authority of God himself.

5. MARK 6:45-52: Jesus walks on the water in this passage and his apostles were terrified to see him. He responds, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” The Greek for “It is I” (egō eimi) is identical to how God revealed himself to Moses as “I am” (Exod 4:3; 6:6; Isaiah 43:10-11). By walking on water, Jesus was also walking in God’s stead, since only God can walk on water (Job 9:8; Psalm 77:19; Is 43:16). Thus, in both word and deed, this passage presents Jesus with a divine understanding.

6. MARK 14:60-62: In the climax of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus stands falsely accused before the chief priests, elders, and scribes. The high priest asks Jesus directly if he is the Messiah. And Jesus responds, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tears his clothes in response and claims that Jesus has committed blasphemy. Why? Because Jesus quoted Daniel 7:13 in reference to himself, a passage in which the “Son of Man” is a divine figure who will rule God’s kingdom for eternity.

There are many other examples throughout the Gospel of Mark that indicate Jesus saw himself as divine. But these should be sufficient to show that the deity of Christ is not a late invention creeping into the later Gospels but appears in the (probably) earliest Gospel, Mark.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


[1] Conservative scholars generally date the Gospel of Mark in the late 50s to late 60s and liberal scholars in the 70s, after the destruction of the Temple.


Free CrossExamined.org Resource

Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.

Powered by ConvertKit
5 replies
  1. Dan Willett says:

    Thanks so much for the reassurances that helps me bolster the courage and confidence to defend our Savior. Tomorrow is Easter “our hope”. HE IS RISEN!

    Reply
  2. Andy says:

    A couple things I want to point out:

    First, each Gospel deals with specific aspects of the Messiah. This is why John is so much more into defining the deity of Christ, Luke with the historical, Matthew deals with the prophetic aspect, and Mark deals with the suffering servant aspect of the Messiah.

    Each of these gospels are aimed at a different audience, supposedly.

    However, we usually sum up these books as being the Gospel, though Christ Himself referred to the gospel before it was ever written. We have to understand that the New Testament was not written while Christ was walking upon the earth.

    Christ and His disciples relied upon the Old Testament. As Christ says to His disciples, “You fools! Do you not know what the Law, the Prophets and the Writings say about me?” (Paraphrase) The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Old Testament.

    Why?

    The Law was instituted as a sign of the covenental relationship between God and man. Sacrifices were required, not for atoning sin, but as a foreshadow of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This is what Paul means when the Law is a foreshadow of what is to come. Sacrifices will begin again, as prophesied in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, as a memorial to Christs sacrifice. Not many people see that in the Law.

    The Prophets should really be self explanatory. They are prophets! They give the pophetic messages of who the Messiah is, what He will do, and what will happen to Him. The earliest Messianic prophecy concerning the Messiah is found in Genesis 3:15.

    The Writings have a few Messianic prophecies of their own, and David discusses the Messiah at a few points.

    So all of that all points to who Christ is. And this is what the disciples and every other Jew and Gentile had to rely on, in the 1st century to know the Messiah. Now we have the New Testament, that shows the fulfillment of these prophecies, to testify to Christ being the Messiah. But not all is accomplished.

    The New Covenant is not yet complete. As Jeremiah 31:31-34 has a few terms that are not completed yet.

    ‘Each man will not go to his neighbor and say, “Know the Lord.” For they all will know me.’ (Paraphrase)

    Israel and Judah have not yet reconciled. Interestingly enough, the prophetic passages dealing with Israel and Judah are always really fun to pay attention to. At times, God will reference them separately, but then leaves out Judah. My guess is, that eventually Judah will rejoin Israel and there will be no division between the two, and it will be complete Israel.

    This has not happened yet.

    So obviously not all is accomplished in the New Covenant. Christ has not returned, and if we say that the Law, or the Prophets or any of that doesn’t matter, it doesn’t apply, then we are fools, as Christ has called His own disciples for their neglect of such matters.

    I hope this helps, I love yall!

    God Bless.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *