Why did Mark Omit Jesus’ Birth?

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As soon as I started reading Mark this week, I realized that, in contrast to Matthew,  there was no account of Jesus’ birth. If the virgin birth was so important, why did the author of Mark not include it? The Gospel of Mark is widely believed to have been the first gospel written. Was the virgin birth of Jesus a later addition to the story to fulfill the prophesies?

Since Mark is widely received as the first gospel written, the lack of a Jesus’ birth story is odd. Personally, if a virgin birth happened, that would be the first thing I would mention. The virgin birth is prophesied in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Could the virgin birth have been a later addition to the story of Jesus to make his life more prophesy fulfilling?

Some believe that the Gospel of Mark does have a story of Jesus’ birth. They believe that the baptism is Jesus’ birth. Jesus was either adopted by God at baptism (adoptionism), or that the” Son of God” entered Jesus at baptism and from that moment there were two beings in one (separationism). 

One source says that Mark does not include the birth of Jesus because the author had other things more important to highlight. The Gospel of Mark is focused on the public life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He is portrayed as a servant.  Servants during this day did not have birth records or a family line that could be traced back to the beginning of time. According to one website, the author of Mark wrote this to the Romans of his day. The emphasize was on the paradoxical message of the hidden service of Jesus as Lord. Together with the secrecy motives in this Gospel, the omission of any details of the birth of Jesus helps the reader to understand that it is not important where a servant is born of from which family he comes – it is his service that defines him. The Gospel of Matthew portrays Jesus as a king. So, this would explain the genealogy that begins that book.

There were a lot of opinions on these topics. I chose a more faith-based question than I normally would without realizing it. Ultimately, there isn’t one specific answer to these questions, but I learned a lot.

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Why did the Wise Men bring Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh?

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While reading about Jesus’ birth, I read that the wise men had brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Now, this was nothing new to me. I had read and heard this story many times. But what are gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Why are they important?

Gold Frank Myrrh

GOLD:

Gold is a precious metal (obviously!).  Many of Yahweh’s temples were adorned with gold. Gold is mentioned throughout the Bible. It was and still is considered to be extremely valuable in most cultures. It was used to symbolize royalty and honor. Gold was the usual offering presented to kings by their subjects, or those wanting to pay respect.

 

Frankincense:

Frankincense is the dried sap of trees in the Boswellia genus, particularly Boswellia sacra. These trees grow in Oman, Yemen and the Horn of Africa, including Somalia and Ethiopia.  The frankincense is usually burned.The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Israelites used frankincense as part of their religious ceremoniesFrankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness.  In pagan cultures, frankincense is burned as an offering to numerous gods. Frankincense is used in burials to cover to cover up the smell of the corpse rotting.

 

Myrrh: 

Like frankincense, myrrh is dried sap from a tree. It is used to embalm the bodies of the dead. However, unlike, Frankincense which is sweet, Myrrh has a bitter taste to it. Some scholars say that the gift of myrrh foreshadows Jesus’ death. Frankincense and myrrh were used in conjunction with each other.

 

All three gifts were gifts that would normally given to a king or god to show worship and divinity. The wise men may or may not have believed that Jesus was the Son of Yahweh; however, they gave gifts of royalty to the small child.

 

 

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The word behemoth means any creature or thing of monstrous size or power.  In Job 40:15-24, a mysterious creature is described. It is called a Behemoth. It is described to eat grass like an ox (v. 15), makes its tail move like cedar (v. 17), and its bones are like iron (v. 18). The rest of the chapter goes on to describe the creature’s personality.

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Some strict creationists believe that the description of this creature best fits a sauropod–one of the long-necked, four-legged dinosaurs informally known as “brontosaurs.  The strict creationists believe it was a dinosaur because they interpret the tail in verse 17 to be the size of a cedar.

 

Most scholars believe the creature may be an elephant or hippopotamus. Both of these animals fit the description and live in the region where it is believed Job was living. Again, verse 17 causes problems with this theory as well. Scholars note that the Hebrew term usually translated “tail” here can, and sometimes did, refer euphemistically to the genitalia of a male elephant or hippo; each have a penis that when erect, extends several feet in length. Those favoring this view note that the term for “move” can also mean “extend,” that the preceding verse describes strength being in the loins, and the verse that follows describes “stones wrapped in sinew,” which arguably refers to the animal’s testicles.

 As we have established in class, the Bible is full of figurative language. A Behemoth may not have been a real creature but a figure of the writer’s imagination.  

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Allusion #2

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“Hallelujah”

by Jeff Buckley

I first heard this song my senior year of high school when a girl in my show choir wanted me to help her with it.  This song quickly became one of my all-time favorite songs. I have 4 different versions of this song on my iTunes. Many artists have covered this song, including Jeff Buckley.  Some of these lines linger with you long after the song is finished playing. This song is considered to be alternative folk (whatever that means). There are many references to the Bible.

In this song, Buckley uses the biblical references to show lustful love and love lost. He switches between biblical references often. Some of these images are concrete; others are more in-depth interpretations.

 

Well I heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

Well it goes like this:

The fourth, the fifth,

The minor fall and the major lift

The baffled king composed it Hallelujah. 

 

In the first verse, David is mentioned. David was a harp player; so, he obviously knew how to play chords and music.  He is also credited with many of the psalms that were “pleasing to the Lord.”   David was “baffled” when Nathan came to him telling him he had sinned. David then composes “Hallelujah” or a psalm expressing his guilt and giving glory to Yahweh.

Side note, if you know anything about music, most hymns are composed using the fourth and fifth chords. Also, the chords in the song actually line up with the words.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to her kitchen chair

She broke your throne and she cut your hair

and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah  

The first three lines refer to David seeing Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11.  In this story, David first sees Bathsheba bathing. She was already married. David was king at this time. Bathsheba’s husband was in his army. At first, David tries to get her husband to sleep with her. Her husband refuses to leave David. David then sends him to the front line where he is killed.

The next three lines are referring to Samson and Delilah in Judges 16. Samson’s power was in his hair.  He told Delilah his secret because he thought she loved him. Delilah deceives Samson. She has men cut Samson’s hair. This causes a truly tragic ending for Samson.

There was a time when you let me know

What’s really going on below

But now you never show that to me, do you?

But remember when I moved in you

And the holy dove was moving too

And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

 

In the first three lines, I think it is could refer to the lack of prophecies between the Old and New Testaments. The holy dove is a direct reference to the dove that came down to Jesus at his baptism.

Without the knowledge of these stories, the listener would have no clue what any of these references ment. Since there are so many references to the Bible, some claim that this song is “religious.” They  have reason to believe this, but the artists who have recorded this song have said it is explicitly about sexual encounters.

Who Was the Fourth Man?

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“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’  They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’  He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” –Daniel 3:24-25

I have heard this story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego told many, many, many times. I have always wondered who the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw was. There are a couple of different theories on who this mysterious person was.

Some believe that it was a pre-incarnate of Jesus.

This was one of the many Christophanies (appearances of Jesus) in the Old Testament. He supernaturally kept them from being burned and consumed by the fire. This was one of the numerous miracles that Jesus performed during the Old Testament dispensation. In the King James Version, the translation of “son of the gods” is “the Son of God.” This makes some assume that it was a pre-incarnated Jesus.The phrase “the angel of the Lord” is used repeatedly in the Old Testament is accepted widely as referring to the Messiah. The word “angel” in both Testaments means a messenger and this “angel” in Daniel could be a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The second theory is that it was an angel.

The term “sons of God” was sometimes used to refer to angels in the Bible.Later on in the chapter, King Nebuchadnezzar refers to the fourth man as an angel.  It must have had a god-like appearance. Whatever that appearance was, King Nebuchadnezzar knew it was not human and assumed it to be divine.

Regardless of if it was an angel or Jesus, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survived a fiery furnace with nothing on them harmed or smelling of fire.

Who was Dagon?

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“Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.  The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.”- 1 Samuel 5:2-7

 

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Dagon was the god of crop fertility for the Philistines. He was second in command after the supreme god, El. Dagon was represented by half-man and half-fish. He was the father of the god Baal.  Dagon is also created with inventing the plough.  When Dagon fell before the Ark, it was a sign to the Philistines that the Israelites’ god is more powerful than theirs.  The Philistines recognized this sign eventually.

Not only did the Philistines believe in Dagon, the Babylonians did as well. The Babylonians had a myth that a being emerged from the Erythraean Sea who was part man and part fish and thus adopted the deity into their culture in their earliest days in history. There have also been discoveries of the fish-god in the sculptures found in Nineveh, Assyria.

And This is One of My Favorite Things

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I have been obsessed with Sara Bareilles since I first heard her first major- label album, Little Voice, which came out in 2007.  Her most famous song, “Love Song”, comes from this album. Her most recent album, Brave, came out July 16,2013. So, naturally, I bought it that day. I am one of those people who find a song and put it on repeat until I hate it.  Well, this song has been on repeat pretty much since July, and I don’t hate it yet. So, that must be a sign.

When we were told about the Biblical Allusions project, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to do this song. This song is actually an allegory. However, only certain lines actually allude to the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3.

I’ll bold the allusions and take it from there.

These are the lyrics.

“Eden”

Let me paint a picture for you then I’ll have to teach you to see it
Illustrate the remnants of the life I used to live here in Eden
Rolled a lucky pair of dice, ended up paradise
Landed on a snake’s eyes, took a bite and ended up bleeding

You know if I could change anything, I think I would start with the name
The truth is all those angels started acting the same
And I know there’s no going back now cause
Life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
No way to make the pain play fair
It doesn’t disappear just because you say it isn’t there
So when they ask why’d she go you can say cause
Life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
Life in Eden changed

Walking in the garden was a serpent-shaped heart and he told me
That what is broken cannot show, and less than beautiful is worse than unholy
Idolized my innocence, stole it from me in the end
Now I’m wide awakened and still paying for the poison they sold me

You know if I could change anything, I think I would start with the name
The truth is all those angels started acting the same
And I know there’s no going back now cause
Life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
No way to make the pain play fair
It doesn’t disappear just because you say it isn’t there
So when they ask why’d she go you can say cause
Life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
Life in Eden changed

There was a time when I was taking all bets
That this place was even better than as good as it gets
And now looking back from the outside in
I think I was choking on the air in Eden

You know if I could change anything, I think I would start with the name
The truth is all those angels started acting the same
And I know there’s no going back now cause
Life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
No way to make the pain play fair
It doesn’t disappear just because you say it isn’t there
So when they ask why’d she go you can say cause
Life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
When they ask why’d she go you
Cause life in Eden
Life in Eden changed
Life in Eden changed
Life in Eden changed

If you didn’t know the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Adam and Eve, this song would make zero sense.

Eden is obviously referring to the Garden of Eden. It is a perfect place, or paradise.

Landed on a snake’s eyes, took a bite and ended up bleeding” is a reference to Eve being tempted by the serpent and taking a bite of the fruit. As a result of that, we now have menstruation. Thanks, Eve. 

Walking in the garden was a serpent-shaped heart” is alluding to the serpent again tempting Eve.

” less than beautiful is worse than unholy” refers to being holy is to be different or like Yahweh. We picture Yahweh to be perfect; so, less than beautiful is not Yahweh-like.

Idolized my innocence, stole it from me in the end” refers to the innocence she had before eating the fruit, and the serpent telling her she would be like Yahweh.

“Now I’m wide awakened and still paying for the poison they sold me” alludes to the instant knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve had once they ate from the fruit. Men and women are still paying for The Fall of Adam and Eve.

looking back from the outside” alludes to Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

This girl lives in a “perfect” place. Then, something changed. She no longer believed the place was perfect because of the situation. Everyone was acting the same, and no one was being themselves. Now, she realizes that the people took advantage of her. Now, looking back, she doesn’t believe “Eden” was so perfect after all.

Knowing the story in Genesis 2-3 helped me understand the underlying storyline within the song. Without that prior knowledge, this song would be just words strung together in a nice beat.