Yesterday Dr. Pitre weighed in on the recently revived Markan Christology debate with a wonderful reflection on the walking-on-water episode in Mark 6. Brant reminds us that John Meier, Joel Marcus, Adela Yarbro-Collins, Eugene Boring, and Richard Hays (thus a nice spectrum of fantastic scholars) take Jesus’ egō eimi saying to suggest Jesus' divine status in some sense. If we add Pitre's name, this list becomes even more formidable! We are then left with the question, in what sense is Jesus portrayed as divine? Does Mark put forth Jesus as a manifestation of Divinity, as a semi-divine agent, or as someone who benefits from divine agency as a mediator of the divine? As I mentioned in the comments section, I think that the debate is fascinating. I am not certain whether the Second Gospel is quite as explicit as the Fourth Gospel on this matter and I am committed to reading both on their own terms.
Traditionally NT scholarship (and Brant links a few readers along these lines) concludes that Mark must be read as a representation of lower Christology. I have tended to think of Mark, rather, in terms of a collage of underdeveloped and inconsistent images of divine agency. So I am not opposed to reading Mark 6 (for example) as a wink and nod toward Divinity. Brant points out that in conjunction with the "It is I" or "I AM" statement in Mark 6, Jesus intends to pass them by [καὶ ἤθελενπαρελθεῖν αὐτούς]. I would add also that in addition to egō eimi Jesus also says the equivalent of "fear not!" which is suggestive of like theophanic episodes [ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴφοβεῖσθε]. Brant intriguing plays up the "passing by" statement as an echo of theophany (cf. Job 9:8 LXX).
The most cautious solution would be to call these hints toward Divinity inconclusive. But what is the most we could say? Mark is echoing, hinting, winking. Let's play along for a moment and affirm that Mark is indeed intending a statement of Jesus' Divinity (in some sense) with this episode. Can we agree that whatever statement is being made, it is understated?
If indeed we can agree that Mark is understating his Christology here, what do we make of the fact that Jesus intends pass them by but doesn't do it? The language of "passing by" in this context is intriguing language to be sure. But Jesus ends up not doing it and instead gets into the boat. It's like we almost get a symbol for Divinity and then we don't quite get it. Rather than transcendence we get immanence.
This is just the sort of thing that I love about Mark's Gospel! Is it enough to revel in the beauty of the ambiguity here? Must we connect the dots in a Johannine way?