A fitting end? Self-denial and a slave’s death in Mark’s life of Jesus

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The present article argues that rather than look for a traditional Jewish model behind Mark’s passion narrative (such as an account of the ‘suffering righteous one’), we would do better to understand the composition of the whole gospel – both the central body of teaching in 8.22-10.45 and the passion narrative – as influenced by the genre of ancient philosophical lives. After considering ways in which biographies tended to present the deaths of philosophers, the article examines the death of the Markan Jesus as an example of a shameful, humiliating end. What redeems it for Mark is the fact that Jesus dies in perfect conformity with his teaching. The carefully composed central section of teaching material (8.22-10.52), it is argued, was put together by the evangelist with the specific intention of showing that Jesus died in accordance with his teaching. Thus the crucifixion could become the perfect embodiment of Jesus’ counter-cultural message of self-denial and servanthood, and therefore a powerful symbol of its truth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-442
JournalNew Testament Studies
Early online date6 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Mark
  • Passion narrative
  • biography
  • bios
  • death of a philosopher
  • crucifiction


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