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Jesus as Gospel: Is there Emperor Typology in Mark 1:1?

emperor-constantine mark 1 1 sxc huSome have suggested that the “OF” case in Mark 1:1 in the phrase “Gospel of Jesus” is objective… meaning that Jesus is the gospel and not merely the preacher of a Gospel, though Mark 1:14-15 will show that he does preach a gospel as well. Here, in Mark 1:1, however, these claim that Jesus becomes the very essence of the “Good News” being proclaimed… his person, his coming, his emergence, his preaching, his healing, his demonic deliverance, his death, resurrection, and commission. Everything from O’Little Town of Bethlehem to Behold! he is Coming! is the gospel.

They have found an important parallel in this interpretation with the way the Roman world came to use the Greek term for gospel (Where we get our English words Angel & Evangelical) to speak of the Emperor. This is demonstrated perfectly in a letter written concerning the changing of the Date of New Years Day to Augustus’ birthday… it was an adjustment of only two days… from September 21st to the 23rd.  I’d like to provide here an edited translation of this letter without commentary. I will, however, mark out sections that I think worthy of consideration in making typological connections. I’ll return to some of these in a later post.

“Whether the birthday of the most divine Caesar be more a matter of pleasure, or more a matter of profit, it is a day which we may justly count as equivalent to the beginning of everything—if not in itself and in its own nature, at any rate in the benefits it brings—inasmuch as it had restored the shape of everything that was failing and turning into misfortune, and has given a new look to the Universe at a time when it would gladly have welcomed destruction if Caesar had not been born to be the common blessing of all men. Wherefore we may each of us justly count this to have been the beginning of our own life and being, as it is also the conclusion and end of our repenting that we were ever born. And whereas there is no day of good fortune for all men, no day whatever other than this, which could give a more auspicious start to each of us, alike for our common advantage and our individual benefit… and whereas it is difficult to show any gratitude equivalent to his many benefactions if we do not devise some new method of acknowledgement for each occasion… for all these reasons it seems good to me that in all city governments the birthday of the most divine Caesar should be the new First of the Month and beginning of the New Year, and that all men should enter on office on that Day, which is 23 September.

…whereas the providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving it to Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending him, as it were a saviour for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, and to create order everywhere;

…and whereas Caesar, when he was made manifest, has caused the hopes of those who cherished anticipations, [to be outstripped by what he has actually done,] inasmuch as he has not only gone beyond previous benefactors, but has also left no hope to his successors of going beyond him; and whereas the birthday of the God [Augustus] was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings [Gospels] that have come to men through him…Paulus Fabius Maximus… has devised a way of honouring Augustus hitherto unknown to the Greeks, which is that the reckoning of time for the course of human life should begin with his birth.

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