The use of Old Testament Prophesies and allusions in Marks Passion Narrative
Jesus being a teacher and a man born into the Judaic religion and culture would have known the Old Testament passages well. So if and when his life was echoing them Jesus would have known. As it happens through Jesus life ands especially his passion many Old Testament prophesies and allusions arise. Was this coincidence? Or was it fulfilment of prophecy? As soon as the passion starts at Mark 14 there is an Old Testament link with Passover, this link echoes themes of atonement for sin and sacrifice within marks gospel.
This soon moves on to the anointing at Bethany where a woman symbolically anoints Jesus with very expensive perfume and the disciples scold her saying she is wasteful. Jesus knows this woman is anointing him as the king (1 Sam 16:13) she believes he is and so Jesus defends her by saying that that action of love was more important than that of financial cost (Mk 14:6-9). This Old Testament allusion of anointing kings turns into a two sided symbol because in Judaism bodies are anointed when they are dead.
This passage is also a passion prediction. The narrative then moves on to the Last Supper. Jesus foretells his own betrayal (Mk 14:17-18) as predicted in Ps 49:1. This link with Old Testament scripture shows that Jesus knows his fate and even expects Judas to betray him. Jesus even quotes Old Testament himself (Mk 14:21). The additional detail about eating with the one who betrays him (“one who is eating with me”) makes the treachery even worse and emphasises the Old Testament Link.
However, Jesus knows Judas is a vehicle to act out Gods divine plan. After this Jesus took the bread and broke it and gave it to the disciples offering it as his body. Then he took the cup and offered it to the disciples and they drank. Jesus said “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”. This is clearly an Old Testament link relating to the covenant of Moses (Exod 24:8) where Moses sprinkles the blood of the sacrificial animal on Israel. The ‘poured out for many’ alludes to Isa 53:12 (suffering servant passage).
The two Old Testament allusions characterise Jesus death as a sacrifice for others and marks the commencement of a new covenant sealed in Jesus’ blood. Out on the mount of olives Jesus again alludes to Old Testament scripture by stating that “You will all fall away, Jesus told them, for it is written I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. ” This is predicted in Zech 13:7 the death of Jesus and the desertion by the disciples. The author is using prophecy to show that everything is happening in accordance with Gods divine plan.
The next destination for Jesus is the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked his disciples to watch out for him and Jesus states that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” this is a reflection of the words in Ps 42 this shows Jesus is even experiencing suffering in the same degree as predicted. Jesus then prayed and fell to the ground in spiritual anguish. In the prayer that followed Jesus showed his human side thwarting the accusations of Jesus not really experiencing pain. Jesus asked that the cup (of suffering) might be taken away from him.
The cup is linked with the cup of the anger of God Ps 75. Jesus then surrendered to God by offering complete obedience” not what I will but what you will” Jesus wants to fulfil his earthy mission as it is written or mankind will not be saved. Jesus returns to find his disciples asleep and states “The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” Jesus shortly after this is arrested and says to the authorities “Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me.
But the Scriptures must be fulfilled” Jesus knows that his death or the events could not have happened any other way because if they had it would not have been fulfilment of scripture and mankind would not be saved. Jesus is probably making reference here to Isa 53:8. Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin and he is ‘silent’ which fulfils Isa 53:7 and Ps 38:13-15. Again mark is showing that Jesus life and actions are happening according to scripture.
Then Jesus is then taken by the guards and beaten again fulfilling another Old Testament prophecy about the suffering servant (Isa 50:4-6 and 53:3-5). It may also allude to popular perceptions about Jesus as a prophet (Mk 6:15 and 8:28″ Jerome biblical Commentary Pg 627. There was a problem with the Jews condemning Jesus to death only a roman could issue the ‘ius gladi’ and so Jesus was taken to Pilate who sentenced Jesus to flogging and death by crucifixion. The flogging of Jesus also fulfils Old Testament prophecy. The soldiers mock Jesus calling him king of the Jews which is ironic because this is what he is. They beat him and make Jesus suffer fulfilling suffering servant passages in Isa 53.
Jesus was crucified at the third hour yet before this Jesus was offered a myrrh drink to ease his pain this alludes to the gifts that were given to him at his birth hinting that it was not fate that intended Jesus to die but the will of God as part of his divine plan. Also in fulfilment of Prophecy (Ps 69:21) the soldier drew lots for Jesus clothes. Meanwhile Jesus in his 6th hour 12am is on the cross and darkness descended. This some scholar’s think it may be symbolic of the darkness that fell over Egypt in the Old Testament as a sign of Gods displeasure Exod 10:22).
On the cross Jesus uttered a cry “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” which is a direct quotation from Ps 22. Again showing Jesus is fulfilling prophecy exactly to the word of the Old Testament. Jesus died at the ninth hour and ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom’ this has great significance. The temple curtain was a barrier between sinful people and perfect god there was now no need for the barrier because Jesus had led man to salvation and it was available to all just as it had been prophesised.
In evaluation of the evidence presented it is clear that mark included these Old Testament prophecies to prove Jesus was the saviour and the one to redeem all. However one can ask how far was it fulfilment of prophecy? Or was it just coincidence? Or was it all the purpose of mark to intend his gospel top be the one true interpretation of Jesus that could be believed by all and so he included prophecy even if they did not happen. Yet the evidence against this is all of the other gospels have some Old Testament prophecy in them. However this could be argued further with the four source theory.