Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Clothing in Mark's Prologue

In all my times reading the prologue of Mark's Gospel (1:2-13), it was not until today that I became curious concerning Mark's reference to clothing, in verses 6,7. The reference to John the Baptist's garb is easy enough to follow, evoking Elijah's apparel in 2 Kings 1:8, as both, John "wore a cloak of camel hair and a belt of leather around his waist...", (ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ...) and Elijah was "a hairy man and a belt of leather girded upon his waist..." (Ἀνὴρ δασὺς καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περιεζωσμένος τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ.). John is presented as the returning Elijah.

In the very next verse (v.7), John makes the statement that "After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals (τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ)I am not worthy to stoop down and untie." This is obviously, a reference to Jesus, in light of the quotation of Malachi 3:1, in 1:3.  Matthew's Gospel includes a similar account 3:1-11, but the reference to John's clothing occurs in 3:4, while the reference to sandals does not occur until 3:11. Mark's Gospel has these references in such close proximity one wonders if there is any authorial intentionality here, and if there is, what is Mark driving at as he describes John's clothing along with Jesus' sandles?

What say you?

3 comments:

A. B. Caneday said...

Hmmm! You do have me thinking. And this is good, especially early in the morning.

Matthew D. Montonini said...

Thanks Ardel! So what do you think?

Living the Biblios said...

Darrell Bock in his book, Recovering the Real Lost Gospel, makes an illuminating observation on pages 12-13 about John the Baptist’s remark that he wasn’t worthy of untying the sandal strap... First, Bock notes that on God’s “job list,” a prophet ranks pretty high—Jesus called John the greatest of the prophets. Second, Bock informs us that if a Jew should become a slave, one task they should never do is stoop down to untie their master’s sandal in order to wash their feet. Bock then says, “The One to come is so great that John, even though he is a prophet, is not worthy to perform even the most demeaning task of a slave.”