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Beginning Mark with Beginning: Is there New Creation in Mark 1:1?

beginning mark 1 1 sxc hu smallSome words require a serious amount of cultural packaging to define… (A Technical Term is not just a different Word; it’s a different World.) …such as our past discussion on the importance of Ancient Near Eastern war runners for understanding the meaning of Gospel.[1] Other words, however, give us a bit of a break… a little breather… concepts that are common to every culture and easily represented in every language.

I would imagine that while some languages have unique words for special kinds of water (rain, well water, spring water, cistern water, melting mountain water, etc) I’m sure every language has a basic word for water. We might also find basic terms for wood, rock, or wind… even if we also have unique words for specific kinds. (Eg. Gale, Gust, Breeze)

Are you having fun yet? I am. I love language and all our funny ways of using it to communicate with each other.

One set of “basic but significant terms” are relationship words like Top, Inside, Because… or even the one I want to discuss today… BEGINNING. Mark 1:1 reads, ” The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The grand question for understanding why the Author begins the gospel with the word beginning is whether or not this is in fact merely a relationship term—”This event is the beginning of the gospel story,” or “This book is the beginning of the gospel story.” Is it possible that the word is chosen because of its association with CREATION, and, more specifically, prophetic anticipation of NEW CREATION.

Sounds crazy, I know… just one more example of people doing mental gymnastics to find secret meaning in every tabernacle tent peg and under every spreading tamarisk tree. Even so, there are some things to consider.

  1. “Beginning” plays into three gospel openings, while the fourth quotes a key element of Genesis 1.
    1. Luke 1:1-2 says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us.
    2. John 1:1-2 actually quotes the opening of the Greek of Genesis 1:1 saying, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
    3. Matthew 1:1 quotes the Greek[2] from Genesis 2:4 when it opens with, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.”
  2. A new beginning for Israel is anticipated in the Messiah in the creation of a New heaven and a new earth.
    1. Isaiah 65:17 says,  “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
    2. Isaiah 66:22 reiterates, “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.”
    3. It has a relationship with the notion of a New Covenant in the coming of Messiah. Jeremiah 31:31- 34 says, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. …I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
  3. This NEW CREATION is celebrated throughout the New Testament in terms of the coming of Christ and the transformation of souls in his salvation. (Romans 7:6; I Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6;
    1. 2 Corinthians 5:17  says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    2. Galatians 6:15  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
    3. Colossians 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
    4. Titus 3:5  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
  4. New beginning is a powerful gospel theme even when speaking of the celebration of the birthday of emperor Augustus.
    1. 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
    2. 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
    3. Wherefore we may each of us justly count this to have been the beginning of our own life and being…
    4. the birthday of the God [Augustus] was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings [Gospels]

Does Mark begin with beginning to do no more than introduce the start of a story or a book? I think not. As a term saturated with the theology of creation and new creation it is a powerful and somewhat technical term designed to stimulate the mind in regard to the significance of this Jesus who is Christ, who is Son of God.

 


[2] Brenton’s translation of the LXX reads in Genesis 2:4, This is the book of the generation of heaven and earth, when they were made, in the day in which the Lord God made the heaven and the earth.”

 

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