Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's with Focant: Mark's Prologue (1:9-13)

In this post, I will not rehash Focant's proposals for the second half of Mark's Prologue, but, rather, discuss Focant's interesting insights concerning 1:10:

10 And immediately, coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending like a dove toward him (Focant's translation; 39.)
What makes Focant's insights interesting here are not his reconstructions of where the 'dove' derives intertextually, as he suggests that Gen 1:2 remains the most favorable background (46), but the narrative role that the dove plays in Jesus' ministry in Mark's narrative. In a nutshell, Focant suggests that Jesus' ministry is 'dove-like' (my expression) when in confrontation with Satan and his forces, tied together narratively by the Spirit (cf. 1:12-13). Perhaps it is best to hear Focant lay this premise out:

The descent of the Spirit on Jesus can signify his messianic investiture along the lines of Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” In the plan of Mark’s construction, it is not insignificant that the Spirit who descends on Jesus will dare to drive him into the desert to face Satan (Mark 1:12–13), the leader of the unclean spirits. The Spirit “like a dove” appears like Satan’s opposite, which will make the controversy of 3:22–30 explicit. The pericope of 1:12–13 constitutes the first appearance of an offensive strategy that will see Jesus confront the unclean spirits without fear, but also without aggressiveness. In what follows, the narrative will furnish several concrete examples of this offensive strategy of Jesus announced discreetly from the prologue on. The reference to “like a dove” could very well specify one of the elements that differentiate the Holy Spirit that manages Jesus’ strategy in comparison to Satan who arouses that of the unclean spirits (42).

I am not sure what to think of Focant's proposal here. Perhaps if Jesus' ministry in confronting the demonic characterized by a lack of aggressiveness is linked to Jesus' mastery over the dark forces, then Focant's point can be granted. I think I need to think more on this. Narratively, I believe that he rightly notes the connection of the Spirit at Jesus' baptism and the same Spirit who drives him into the wilderness a couple of verses later. What say you?

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