We need to divide this week’s Liturgical passage into two separate pericopes: vv. 14-15 and vv. 16-20.
Pericope One: Of Faith
Background: God’s Imperial Rule
The Markan narrator provides the reader with central information that will become relevant in 6:14-29, that of John the Baptizer’s imprisonment. John, who represents a movement of religious renewal and rebirth, is caged; there is an attempt by the Jewish political authorities—who have been put in place by the Romans, and therefore are de facto puppet leaders—to stop the work of God in the world. Jesus will have none of it; he goes into Galilee and begins to proclaim the good news (gospel).
Again, we face a central question: What is this “good news”? While v. 15 provides some further detail, it descends into a tautology: “‘The time is up: God’s imperial rule is closing in. Change your ways, and put your trust in the good news!’”[i] Jesus tells us that time is short and in order to be saved, we must trust in the good news. So is the gospel that we should put our faith in the gospel? What is going on here?
We should begin by identifying an underlying assumption of the Markan text, that of the impending eschaton or end time. This is a Pauline detail. In I Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul warns followers that when the archangel’s trumpet sounds, “the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be one with the Lord.”[ii] This is reiterated in 1 Corinthians 15:51-2, when Paul insists that within the twinkling of an eye, we all will be changed. Without question, Paul expects that Jesus will return within his lifetime, or at least within a generation.
Paul is wrong.
It appears that the author(s) of Mark make the same error; in this gospel, Jesus is presented as an eschatological prophet, that is, one who announces the imminent end of time (Mark 13:30; 14:25). The Markan Jesus proclaims that the time is nigh, and that all should repent—more exactly, “return”—and set their houses in order before God arrives. If we take this passage literally, we are left with very little. Two thousand years of history ridicule the claim that Jesus returns in the first or second century of the common era. So what do we do with this?
Kingdom language is at the heart of the Synoptic gospels.[iii] However, the kingdom of God (basileia tou theou) is not described in a monolithic, unified manner. Indeed, as we shall see, Jesus describes the kingdom as something that is imminent (Mark 9:1), and event that will strike suddenly and cause great tribulations (Mark 13); yet, he also describes it as something which has a hidden power that grows slowly (Mark 4:30-32); in Mark 1:14, the kingdom is depicted as something already present, yet as is discussed as something that cannot be detected (Mark 13:21).
If the good news is that the kingdom is at hand, how can we know? And what does this kingdom entail?
Even if we ignore issues of temporality, it seems clear that the kingdom of God boils down to one essentially point; as John Dominic Crossan writes: “The Kingdom of God is what the world would be if God were directly and immediately in charge.”[iv] We should never forget that the Romans came to be in control of greater Palestine because of the failures of the Hasmonean Dynasty, the political organization that grew out of the Maccabean Revolt, the second century B.C.E. event that is commemorated each year in the Festival of Hanukah. In the middle decades of the first century B.C.E., two Hasmonean brothers are arguing with one another over who will be high priest and king, and one brother beseeches the Roman General Pompey, who is still vying for overall control of Rome, to intercede. One does not ask the greatest superpower in the world to settle disputes, for said superpower will never leave. This is what happens. Pompey comes in and establishes a form of government that will dominate for over a century: “Israel” is ruled by an ethnarch, or “ethnic leader,” who is answerable to Rome. Brief independence is lost, and the Roman sandal is upon the necks of the Jewish people.
This model of empire is not new to the Jews; over the course of the millennium, they have been occupied or dispersed by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks (as well as the inheritors of Alexander’s kingdom, the Ptomelies and Seleucids), before the Romans arrive. But, starting in the second century B.C.E., they experience a brief period of relative autonomy under the Hasmonean Dynasty, and while there is corruption, it is local corruption. To put this in perspective, one need only think of sibling rivalries. One brother may beat the heck out of another brother, but woe to any outsider who lay hands on him. In other words, better the beast we know than the beast that we don’t. Rome is that unknown beast, and a brutal one at that.
So it is hard to not read Jesus’ statements about the kingdom of God as political declarations. All around Jesus is poverty, suffering, oppression, starvation, exploitation, and despondency. Jesus presents a view of the world in which power does not oppress, but rather liberates. At the heart of Jesus’ kingdom of God is the memory of the Exodus, a time in which God hears the cries of affliction and reacts with compassion by raising up the people and delivering them from slavery into freedom. There is perhaps no greater form of good news in all the land for those who see no hope or redemption in their future. Return, Jesus says, just as did your ancestors, to the land given unto Abraham and delivered unto you by God through Moses. Repent, and be delivered by Jesus.
But I do not read this a simply a meta narrative, one in which recurring Jewish themes are cast into a new light. Rather, I see this as an existential call to arms. As we shall see, proclaiming the good news about God’s kingdom requires speaking truth to power. Jesus begins at the periphery, with those who are marginalized, but then marches into the locus of power and issues a damning indictment against the brokers of both political and religious power. This act costs him his life. The road of discipleship is not easy, and one that requires action, not passivity.[v]
Background: The Princely Life of Buddha
Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was born in Sakka (present-day Nepal) sometime in the sixth century B.C.E.; most scholars date his life from 563-483 B.C.E. He was born into royalty; his father, Suddhodana, was a member of the ruling sangha (order), and his mother Maya was revered as a queen. Much of Siddhartha’s birth is steeped in myth. According to Buddhist myth, Queen Maya, Siddhartha’s mother, on the night of the Buddha’s conception, dreams that a white elephant with six tusks pierce her right side. According to legend, ten lunar months later, Siddhartha’s mother , Queen Maya, is walking through Lumpini Park, when she begins to have birth pains. The Sala tree bends down, takes her hand, and she gives birth standing up. The child is handed to Maya’s maids by the attending members of the Hindu Trinity (with their female consorts). She names him Siddhartha, from siddha, “one whose goals are accomplished.”
Other legends report the birth occurred differently. As Donald Lopez writes in The Story of Buddhism, “Ten lunar months later, as she strolled in the garden, the child emerged, not by the usual route, but from under her right arm.”[vi] Karen Armstrong, in her book Buddha, argues that this is symbolic of Siddhartha’s later compassion: He is born at the level of her heart. Regardless of the particulars, there is no doubt that compassion is at the core of Buddha’s message, much as it is with that of Jesus of Nazareth.
According to the Nidāna Kathā, a 5th century biography/history of Siddhartha, eight brahmins (members of the highest varna, or caste, in Indian society) examine his birthmarks and declare that the child will become either a Buddha (Enlightened One) or a cakkavatti, a Universal Ruler. Such juxtapositions are not uncommon in Axial Age[vii] myths; a great spiritual leader is tempted by the extremes of secular power. Siddhartha has a choice to make: he can achieve supreme spiritual enlightenment or become a cakkavatti who will ride on a divine chariot, each of its wheels rolling to one of the four cardinal directions. Through war and power, the cakkavatti will “turn the Wheel of Righteousness” and establish peace and justice through the cosmos. The cakkavatti stands as Siddhartha’s alter ego throughout his life, a reminder of the stark choices he faced.[viii] Hearing this prophecy, one of the brahmins declares that Siddhartha will not become a cakkavatti, but rather will be a Buddha for the present age. This revelation upsets Suddhodana, who wishes his son to become a Universal Ruler. The stage is set, the tension established.
Again, while much of Siddhartha’s life is steeped in myth, one experience seemed to have influenced him greatly. While attending the ceremonial plowing of the fields for the following season’s crops, Sidhartha sees that the young grass has been torn up, and the insect eggs that have been deposited therein are destroyed. He sees the hard life of the farmers, and witnesses a bird pecking at a worm, and the bird then being taken away by an eagle. Immediately, and without training, he sits and begins to meditate. He enters the first stage of dhyana (discussed later), and begins to realize what it might take to leave the world of suffering behind. Legend holds that the apple tree under which he sits continues to cast shade over him all day, even as the sun moves out of position. Just as the natural world pays homage to the future Buddha, so, too, do his nursemaids and father, Suddhodana. Buddha recalls this experience in his later life as he searches for his own dharma (teaching).
Despite this early encounter with spiritual truth, Siddhartha is only a child and is raised in seclusion under his father’s watchful eye. He engages in sense pleasures that are provided for him in the palace. This will influence his later behavior, as he wonders if living a life devoid of spiritual pleasures might lead to Enlightenment. He marries the princess, Yasodharā, a distant cousin, when he is sixteen years old. She gives birth to a son named Rahula, which means “fetter,” indicating that Siddhartha regards family life as an obstacle to Enlightenment. While Siddhartha has three palaces (one each for summer, winter, and the rainy season), he has no exposure to the outside world until the age of 29. When he finally wrests away from the forced seclusion, what he sees sets into motion a chain of events that will alter the course not only of his own life, but also of the world’s spiritual history.
One day, Siddhartha asks his father permission to take a chariot ride through the city. His father resists, but finally relents after ordering the troops to remove all sick, old, and starving people from the streets. His charioteer Channa drives Siddhartha outside the gates, where Siddhartha sees an old man. Some Buddhist traditions hold this man is actually a god in disguise (or, conversely, the gods allow an old man to escape the attention of the soldiers). Suddenly, Siddhartha is faced with the issue of mortality. The experience deepens on each of the three successive trips. He sees a diseased man, and realizes that our bodies decline; he witnesses a dead body lying on the street, and comprehends that our corporeal beings decay; and he encounters a religious ascetic, and his eyes open to the pursuit of spiritual truth.
Siddhartha is overcome by the suffering of humans; Suddhodana, his father, is despondent over the son’s discovery, fearing that the future cakkavatti will choose instead the path of a Buddha. The latter proves true; Siddartha asks to be released from the responsibilities of a grihastha, or house-holder, and to become a forest-dweller or mendicant monk. Suddhodana offers his son anything to keep him in the palace. Siddhartha asks to remain young and healthy, and to be immortal, which his father, of course, cannot provide. Siddhartha retires to his harem to be entertained by beautiful women. Donal Lopez writes, “as the night wore on the women fell asleep in all manner of inelegant positions, disheveled and drooling. The prince was disgusted by the scene, declaring that women are by nature imperfect, and resolved to go forth in search of a state beyond birth and death.”[ix] While there are few who always look attractive when sleeping, the point is clear: The crudeness and shallowness of a sensual life is clear to Siddhartha. He must venture forth in quest of something more.
Siddhartha realizes that palace life is not a proper atmosphere to focus on the spiritual life. Without saying goodbye, he leaves his wife and newborn son. According to Buddhist tradition, the gods muffle the sounds of the horses’ hooves so Siddhartha can leave un-accosted.[x] According to legend, Siddhartha begins his new life as a beggar in Rājagaha, the capital of Magadha. Within a week of living as a bhikku, Siddhartha comes to the attention of King Bimbisāra, who offers to make Siddhartha his heir. For a second time, Siddhartha is offered worldly power; for the second time, he rejects it. In the coming years, Bimbisāra becomes a follower of Buddha.
While there are constituent differences between the Markan narrative describing Jesus’ declaration of the gospel, and the legends surrounding Siddhartha’s birth and upbringing, one central detail is present: Both encounter a worldly, limited notion of power and opt to pursue a deeper, more lasting spiritual truth that will not only aid their own lives, but also will provide succor and comfort to others. Siddhartha speaks truth to power by asking his father for release from cultural and familial expectations; Jesus eschews accepted notions of political and religious power by speaking of God’s kingdom and taking the message to those most oppressed by the current Temple system. Finally, both offer a message of hope and transformation to those who need it most, and both do so out of a sense of compassion. They enter into the world and form relationships with others; they explore the contours of a spiritual life by engaging others, and then frequently withdraw to be by themselves to reflect upon the significance of their experiences. They offer exciting and shocking alternatives to the status quo; they reject conventional wisdom and encourage followers to embrace an ethic of compassion and love. In truth, both draw upon their contemporary traditions—Judaism for Jesus, Hinduism for Siddhartha—but they refuse to accept the empty, self-serving practices of the elite. Certainly, it is incumbent upon me to provide ample evidence of this thesis, which leads us to the next pericope.
Pericope Two: And Followers
Background: Fishing for Jesus
Mark 1:16-20 is a simply narrative, in that the details related are not overly complex. But we should not underestimate the radical nature of Jesus’ call. Jesus alights upon Simon and Andrew, and calls for them to abandon their nets to follow him. They are not provided time to make a decision; they are not permitted to go home, set their affairs in order; they do not pack a bag, or discuss the decision with their families. They simply follow Jesus.
We must ask why. Jesus promises that they will become fishers of people, which speaks a deep truth about the Christian life. Just as baptism pulls us into relationship with other who have undergone the rite,[xi] so too does Jesus call us to come into one another’s company. Salvation is not about the individual; discipleship is not about self protection. Rather, it is a radical commitment to a new way of life, one that propels us toward one another in the midst of a world that seeks to drive us apart.
There is something troubling about Jesus’ call, though. As Jesus walks a little farther—we imagine with Simon and Andrew in tow, unless this pericope is composed of two separate oral traditions that later were placed together—he comes upon the Zebedee brothers, James and John. They too receive the call, and upon receiving it, abandon their own father, a seeming violation of the fifth commandment.[xii] This does not seem to square with the “family values” ethic of Christianity that so often is preached from the pulpit and used to justify the politicizing of religion. What do we do this with detail?
In my previous book, The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot: A Meditation on Suicide, I argue that there are shared oral traditions between the Q Gospel[xiii] and the Gospel of Mark. While it is not appropriate to retrace the entire argument here, it is clear that Mark 1:16-20 parallels the following passages from the Q Gospel:
9:59-60: “Another said to him, ‘Master, first let me go and bury my father.’ But he said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave it to the dead to bury their own dead.’”
9:61-2: “Another said, ‘I’ll follow you sir, but let me first say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is qualified for the empire of God.’”[xiv]
It seems that, from a very early point, discipleship requires followers to respond immediately to the call, even when it means eschewing familial obligations. If we take this command as coming from Jesus himself—which the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar do not[xv]—the saying is most problematic. Does Christianity require a rejection of family, friends, and others who are not in the fold? If so, how viable a vision of life in God through Christ does this offer? Not very, I dare to answer. If we imagine, though, that this saying reflects more the needs and concerns of early Jesus followers rather than of Jesus himself, we might be able to make more sense of the requirement.
A good many scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was written as the Romans destroyed the Second Jerusalem Temple. The First Roman Jewish War, which begins in 66 C.E., marks one of the lowest periods for the Jewish people. Tens of thousands of people are holed up in the Temple compound, besieged by Romans. Gangs of Jewish religious fanatics, called Zealots, roam the Temple with impunity, warring with one another and burning the food supplies. Disease, violence, and starvation are rampant. Finally, in 70 C.E., the Romans breeched the defenses, and razed the city. The Temple, the center of Jewish religious, cultural, financial, and political life, is leveled. Scholars believe that the author(s) of Mark witness this event, either in person or from a distance, receiving word as it spread through the Middle East. Fear becomes a currency, to be traded for cold comfort and empty promises.
While Mark’s gospel is filled with promises of hope and commands to not be afraid, the reality for those people living at the time of the Temple’s fall is bleak, dark, and brutal. Various Roman emperors persecute both Jews and Christians. Jews and Christians fight with one another about the future of their shared religion.[xvi] Families are divided; neighbors turn upon neighbors. The fabric of society is rent, and chaos reigns. So a Jesus who commands people to follow him, even in the face of abandoning their families, most likely speaks to their immediate experiences. Yes, I abandoned my family, we can imagine people saying to themselves individually, but that is part of what Jesus promised. Just as the fall of the Temple is most surely a sign that Jesus is returning, so too is my loss of family and friends a portent of the end.
So what can Mark 1:16-20 mean for us today? If we take the passage literally, not much. But if we dig for a deeper truth, we can find great spiritual sustenance in the pericope. What are our nets? What are our seas? Do we cast out nets of selfishness into seas of greed? Do we cast out nets of violence and prejudice, apathy and despair into seas brimming with available catches? Do we fish in seas of ignorance, exclusivity, and hatred? How do we focus our energies? What is Jesus asking us to drop in order to follow him? What do we need to abandon in order to embrace the new family, the new community that God offers to us? Do we allow fear to reign, or do we exhibit trust, faith, and hope that the current oppression is not the final word? Do we glimpse, as we do at the time of our baptisms, that there is the possibility for a different kingdom, one in which the fellowship table is wide and long, filled with all God’s children, who are able to eat, drink, and be merry without fear of reprisal?
Jesus calls us to cast out new nets, but most likely the seas will remain the same. We can fish with nets of compassion and love, while the rough seas of solipsism and violence church, casting inhabitants to and fro. As Christians, we enter into the seas, with Jesus aboard our boats, and we cast out the nets of God’s righteousness and love, pulling people from the cold, indifferent waters. We help offer another way, just as God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has offered us another way: The way of Life in a world of death.
Do we live more in Good Friday or Easter Sunday?
Background: On the Road to Find Out
Siddhartha sets forth into the world. After wandering around for awhile encountering other bhikkus, who would always ask “Who is your teacher? And which dhamma [dharma; teaching] do you follow?” Siddhartha decides to study under Ālāra Kālāma, who teaches a form of Sāmkhya, a philosophical school teaching “discrimination.” The ideas Siddhartha encounters influence the development of his own dharma. Scholars believe that Siddhartha did not have much exposure to traditional Hinduism while growing up. It seems that Sakya was outside Aryan control[xvii], and the varna system was not central. As a result, Siddhartha did not have much interaction with Brahmins, the priestly caste of traditional Indian society. Therefore, it is important to understand what teachings he encounters when he begins his process of spiritual discovery.
Hinduism, while varied and complicated, asserts that there is a universal spirit, Brahman, who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer of all things. The language used to describe Brahman is very similar to that used to discuss Yahweh, the Holy Trinity, and Allah. Brahman is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; Brahman is a creator but is not created; Brahman is alpha and omega. Hindus view human life in different terms than do the Abrahamic faiths, however. They hold that each human person has numerous lives. The soul outlives the body and transmigrates, or moves, from one body to another in a process called reincarnation. The continuation of reincarnation over the course of many lives is called cycle of samsara, a Sanskrit word that means “wandering.” Samsara requires that the each person is born, lives, dies, and is reborn according to his or her own karma.
The word karma (kamma) frequently is misused by many in the West. Originally, karma referred to the rituals one would undertake in order to appease God or the spirits. In this sense, karma, “action,” meant the hymns one would sing, or the sacrifices one would offer. Yet, beginning in the seventh century B.C.E., karma takes on a new meaning. Karma is more about how one lives one’s life than it is about the rituals associated with religious worship. This shift in emphases has a strong connection with the prophetic movement taking place within Judaism at the same time. Just as prophets such as Micah, Hosea, and Amos are stressing that God cares less about the animal sacrifices than God does about humans extending love, justice, and compassion to one another, so too do Hindu reformers begin to emphasize the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. Karma, therefore, has to do with how one thinks, acts, and speaks. Kind, loving, and gracious thoughts, actions, or words will “generate” good karma, whereas solipsistic, malevolent, and violent individuals will “generate” bad karma.[xviii] The karma attaches to the soul, and dictates the future reincarnation of an individual.
The cycle of samsara is daunting. Imagine knowing that the sufferings of this life will find no relief, and will only be repeated again and again, seemingly without end. Hindu reformers found this unsatisfactory—what Buddha will call dukkha[xix]—and sought release, or moksha. Hinduism, in very simple terms, is a religion that concerns itself with how to find release from the process of birth, death, and rebirth.
When Siddhartha decides to study with Ālāra Kālāma, he enters into a system that seeks to find a path leading to moksha. The tenets of Sāmkhya influence Siddhartha’s development of his own dharma, or teaching.
- Ignorance, not desire, lies at the heart of our problems. (Ignorance “does not refer to a lack of knowledge but to an active misconception about the nature of things.”)[xx]
- Suffering stems from our lack of understanding the true Self, which is not the jina (phenomenal, psychomental self) but rather the Atman.
- Our intellect allows us to rise above unstable emotions and discover the eternal Spirit.
- Once moksha, release, has been achieved, one will stop feeling the effects of suffering. One will speak of “it suffers” rather than “I suffer.”
- Samsara ceases when bad karma is burned off.
Siddhartha excels in the dhamma, but he finds it unsatisfactory. He does not”realize” or “penetrate” the doctrines as he is told he might. According to some sources, this is because Siddhartha is attempting to understand truths on a purely intellectual level; Ālāra Kālāma exposes him to yoga.
Yoga, which means “to yoke” or “bind together,” attempts to bring the Self (Atman) and the mind together in a unified whole. Essentially, yoga aims to rid us of subconscious activities (yāsanās) that promote ignorance, passion, disgust, and selfishness. Through cultivation of yoga, we can rise above these impulses that control our behavior. Karen Armstrong, in Buddha, describes yoga “as the systematic dismantling of the egotism which distorts our view of the world and impedes our spiritual progress.”[xxi] With this practice, the illusory and mundane world will no longer have a hold on one; rather, only the Unconditional, Eternal and Absolute (Atman) Self will exist.
As a result of his exposure, Siddhartha becomes an ascetic yogi. He cuts his hair, a sign that he was no longer a grihastha (a householder), but rather begins his “Going Forth,” removing himself from the world completely. To begin, he has to observe five prohibitions (yama):
- No stealing
- No lying
- No intoxicants
- Practice ahimsā
- No sexual intercourse
There are other requirements as well. First, the niyamas (constraint), which include scrupulous cleanliness; the study of dhamma; and the cultivation of habitual serenity. Second, ascetic practices (tapas) such as extreme heat and cold, severely limited diet without complaint, and stringent control over thoughts, actions, words, and deeds. Once he has his “lower self” under control through these practices, Siddhartha begins āsana yogic practice: with legs crossed and back perfectly straight, he attempts to sit completely motionless, so as to master control over both his mind and his body. A major part of this is prānāyāma, where one breathes progressively more and more slowly until respiration essentially ceases.
With control over breathing, Siddhartha begins the practice of ekāgratā, concentration “on a single point.” He has withdrawn his senses and exists in true concentration, a state of trance known as dhyāna (jhāna). In this state, there is no distance between the subject and the object. One reflects on a reality or idea and sees it “as it really is.” The false self does not impede true vision. This ultimate realization comes in stages.[xxii]
Extremely skilled yogins can go beyond the dhyānas and enter into the four āyatanas, or meditative states, which produce four distinct mental states.
- A sense of infinity.
- A pure consciousness aware only of itself
- A perception of absence, which is actually plentitude. Often referred to as “Nothingness,” but understood as unlimited space and freedom.
- “Neither-perception-nor-non-perception” that allows entry into the true self, Atman.
Siddhartha reaches the third āyatana relatively quickly, but he disagrees with the teachings of Ālāra Kālāma, that it leads to the realization of Atman. How can “Nothingness” lead to the true Self?
So Siddhartha gathers five followers, leaving Kālāma, and begins the quest for his own dharma.
The Gospel of Mark does not tell us about Jesus’ life before his baptism. We can use our imaginations, but that does not lead to responsible exegesis. What we do know, however, is that Jesus first goes to another teacher, John the Baptizer, accepts the rites championed by said rabbi, and the moves on, into the world, to begin his ministry. Sidhartha also seeks out a new teacher. He undergoes the training that is offered, but yearns for more.
Both Jesus and Siddhartha gather followers. Their visions of Truth move others to action; but, as we shall see, both Buddha and Jesus find themselves at odds with these same followers when times get tough. Both Jesus and Buddha go against prevailing wisdom, challenging the accepted authority. They expect that others will follow their lead, but discover that while the spirit is willing the flesh is weak. In both Jesus and Buddha, we see profoundly human figures dealing with the limits and frustrations of what it means to be human. However, they remain in relationship with others. They continue to teach, to lead, to inspire, to love.
At this point in our two stories, we have yet to discover what is “gospel” and what is dharma. Let us venture forth with the Nazarene and the ascetic, to see what it is life holds in store.
[i] All translations come from the Scholar’s Version (SV) translation, unless otherwise noted.
[ii] RSV translation.
[iii] The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are known as the “synoptic gospels,” so called because they see the story of Jesus “with the same (syn-) eye (ops).” While there are constituent differences between the narratives, they display a much greater thematic and literary cohesion with one another than they do with the Gospel of John.
[iv] John Dominic Crossan. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. Harper Collins: San Francisco, 1994. 55. Print.
[v] We will return to this theme later, as I argue that the Greek word pistis (trust, faith, belief) is used as a call to action. As Mark 1:14-15 adjures us, we must place “trust” in the good news. As the gospel unfolds, I will develop my argument more fully and clearly.
[vi] Donal Lopez. The Story of Buddhism, 37.
[vii] The Axial Age is a period extending from 800 B.C.E. through 200 B.C.E., in which there were constituent changes in the ways religion was practices. From the Middle East to Asia, major world religions began to move away from a ritualized worship of the gods meant to appease and please, and instead focused on the ethical treatment of living things. From the social justice prophets of Judaism to the rejection of Brahmin authority in Hinduism, disparate traditions underwent fundamental transformations that, given the lack of global communication, are difficult to explain.
[viii] So, too, does Marā, the evil one; the connections between Marā and Satan will be discussed later.
[ix] Lopez, 38.
[x] This is known as The Great Departure.
[xi] See “Mark 1:4-11: Jesus the Proclaimer, or Jesus the Proclaimed?”
[xii] See Exodus 20:12.
[xiii] The Q Gospel is a hypothetical document constructed by scholars to account for material shared by Matthew and Luke—material that is identical or nearly identical in language, theme, and event—but missing in Mark. Also known as the double tradition, the Q gospel records central passages such as the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, and Jesus’ tempting by Satan. Although scholars have yet to find the Q gospel, an overwhelming majority agree that it existed in some form, and was used by the authors of Matthew and Luke to construct their gospels.
[xiv] Translations taken from the SV translation; see Aaron Maurice Saari, The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot: A Meditation on Suicide, 36-40.
[xv] The Jesus Seminar, comprised of some of the world’s foremost scholars, gathered together over the course of six years and voted upon the authenticity of each saying in the canonical gospels. For a full explanation of the Jesus Seminar’s methodology, see The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? , ix-38.
[xvi] At the time of Marks’ writing, it is incorrect to postulate a complete separation of Judaism and Christianity. While fissures were present, a true break, most likely, did not occur until the second century.
[xvii] The history of Hinduism is fascinating, yet complicated. In the third millennium B.C.E., the Harappan civilization flourished in the Indus Valley. As scholars are unable to read their native language, little is known about the people. However, it seems that they revered a divine goddess and a divine bull, and recognized any manner of lesser gods, goddesses, and spirits. Around 1500 B.C.E., Indo-European invaders known as Aryans moved in and overtook the Harappan peoples. Their form of religion, known as Brahmanism or Vedism, focused upon an unknowable world spirit called Brahman; there also was reverence for ancestors and other spirits. Religious worship focused on the household, and the male head of the family acted as a priest. The language of the Aryan invaders, Sanskrit, became the official language of the religion, as the Harappan tongue soon was dead. However, Indian influence soon came to impact the religion; new beliefs, such as a recognition of heaven and hell, changed the faith tradition. But it was the belief in reincarnation—the idea that the non-physical part of a person lives on after bodily death, and transmigrates from one body to another—that separated traditional Brahmanism from what we now call Hinduism.
[xviii] It is important to note that the word “generate” most likely is an improper term. Karma exists, in an of itself and outside of human actions. Think of it like bumper bowling. If you ball hits the bumper, it has not “generated” the bumper; it has struck it, and the trajectory of the ball is changed. Karma is the bumper; the ball is the soul.
[xix] See “Mark 1:4-11: Jesus the Proclaimer, or Jesus the Proclaimed?”
[xx] Lopez, 46.
[xxi] Armstrong, 51.
[xxii] 1. One is oblivious to the immediate environment, feeling only great joy and delight. Only occasional ideas flicker across the mind. 2. Thinking stops entirely. 3. Awareness of joy and happiness dissipates. 4. Complete union between subject and object