IS THE CRUX OF MARK 14.61–62 RESOLVABLE?
James D.G. Dunn
By common consent, Mark 14:61–62 is one of the most important texts in the Gospels, particularly in any quest for Jesus' self-understanding and for the historical circumstances of Jesus' death. In it Jesus is asked by the High Priest whether he is “the Messiah, the Son of God”. Jesus answers in the affirmative and then makes a prediction regarding the Son of Man sitting on God's right and coming on the clouds. The High Priest responds by charging him with blasphemy. In this one text, therefore, we find no less than three of the most important christological titles being used. Jesus seems to accept two of them (Messiah, Son of God), and a very plausible interpretation of the third (Son of Man) is that Jesus was also speaking of himself. Moreover, we have clearly indicated the reason why Jesus was rejected by the priestly authorities and why he was then handed over to the Roman authorities for execution. If all, or any, of this is historically accurate, or close to the events which led up to Jesus' execution, the consequences for Christian understanding of Jesus and of the reasons for his death are tremendous. If, alternatively, this is much elaborated or even wholly created tradition, then much as it tells us about early Christian belief regarding Jesus and the cause of his death, its value in answering important questions like, Who did Jesus think he was?, and Why was he executed?, becomes highly dubious if not worthless.
These of course are issues which David Catchpole addressed in his early studies,1 which stimulated my own early interest in them.
1 D.R. Catchpole, “ 'You have heard His Blasphemy'”, Tyndale House Bulletin 16
(1965) 10–18; also “The Answer of Jesus to Caiaphas (Matt 26.64)”, NTS 17
(1970–71) 213–26; “The Problem of the Historicity of the Sanhedrin Trial”, in The
Trial of Jesus: Cambridge Studies in Honour of C.F.D. Moule (ed. E. Bammel; SBT, 2nd
series 13; London: SCM, 1970) 47–65; The Trial of Jesus (Studia Post-Biblica 18;
Leiden: Brill, 1971).