The centurion's confession as apocalyptic unveiling : Mark 15:39 as a Markan theology of revelation.
Gamel, Brian K., 1977-
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Mark 15:39 has often been identified as the narrative climax of Mark’s Gospel. Here, for the first time, a human identifies the crucified Jesus as God’s son. Most commentators have also noted that this statement immediately follows the narratival comment that the temple veil was torn in two (15:38), and some have suggested a relationship between these two events. While previous scholarship was eager to label the centurion’s exclamation as a confession in the highest Christian sense more recent writers have broken from this position to suggest that his speech is ironic at best or derogatory and mocking at worst. This project addresses two essential questions related this discussion: What does the centurion mean when he says that Jesus is God’s son and why does he say it? I conclude that the centurion speaks sincerely and knowingly when he proclaims Jesus God’s Son, perceiving Jesus’ divine identity. But he makes this confession neither on the basis of any signs nor from an understanding of Jesus’ death as honorable or exemplary. The centurion’s apparent lack of motivation itself highlights a key Markan theme – that this insight is revealed to the centurion by an apocalyptic act of God, signaled by the tearing of the temple veil. Thus, the centurion’s confession is the result of an act of God’s revelation alone. Following from this conclusion, I articulate their theological ramifications, arguing that not only is the cross a moment of great Christological import (which has already been sufficiently argued) but also of soteriological importance as well. Mark depicts a story in which all human characters exhibit varying levels of blindness to the spiritual realities that govern their lives. At the cross this blindness is decisively confronted by God’s apocalyptic act. This offer of sight to the centurion, who oversees Jesus’ death, also demonstrates the reconciliation of God and humanity, which throughout Mark’s Gospel are repeatedly presented as antagonistic spheres. Finally the fact that revelation is offered to a Gentile highlights the inclusion of the nations into the promises of Israel.