Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
James W. Voelz
Scripture References in this Resource
Mark 7:1–23; Numbers 19:11–22; Numbers 5:1–4; Mark 1:40–45; Mark 5:21–43; Ezekiel 36:25; Zechariah 13:1–2; Mark 1:1–39; Mark 3:10–12; Mark 3:22–30; Mark 5:1–20; Mark 7:24–30; Mark 9:14–27; Mark 2:1–3:35; Mark 1:16–45; Mark 6:53–8:9;
Lewis, David Issac.
“Purity/Impurity and the Lordship of Jesus in the Gospel according to Mark.”
Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2020.
Most modern scholars read purity/impurity to be a major theme in the handwashing controversy of Mark 7:1–23, and the majority further interpret the parenthetical participle clause in Mark 7:19b to indicate that Jesus abrogates the food regulations of Leviticus 11. Many interpreters also detect purity/impurity to be a theme in the three miracle accounts of Mark 1:40–45 and 5:21–43 and in the exorcism accounts. Fewer interpreters, however, read these various accounts together in light of the entire narrative to investigate how Mark presents both Jesus’ relationship to purity and his overall authority, in particular his authority with respect to the Torah. A narrative approach to analyzing the Gospel of Mark would intentionally interpret together the passages where purity is an underlying theme. Such a narrative approach would also consider the OT background, how this was understood in the Second Temple era, and other passages in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus displays unique authority with respect to the Torah. In the three miracle accounts of Mark 1:40–45 and 5:21–43, Jesus overcomes contact-contagion impurity as defined in the Leviticus 11–15 and Num 19:11–22 by coming into physical contact with unclean persons. In each of these miracles, Jesus brings cleansing/salvation to an unclean person based in his own authority and so apart from the regulations of the Torah. Jesus then displays this same authority when he abrogates Leviticus 11 during the handwashing controversy of Mark 7:1–23. When Mark 7:1–23 is compared to other passages in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus teaches about the regulations of the Torah, the narrative indicates that Jesus’ authority is based in his inauguration of the reign of God and the coming of the new age. Therefore, Jesus’ authority encompasses the entire Torah and not just the purity laws. In the exorcism accounts, Jesus displays authority over the unclean spirits whose impurity represents a cosmic and generic class of impurity that is not defined by the Torah. The baptismal ministry of John initiates the fulfillment of the eschatological promises of Ezek 36:26 and Zech 13:1–2 that God would cleanse his people Israel from their sin. As the one who receives the Holy Spirit at his baptism, Jesus continues this cleansing ministry, and this is accomplished in part through the exorcisms by which he removes the unclean spirits from both Jews and Gentiles. By interpreting together the exorcisms, these three miracle accounts, and the handwashing controversy through this narrative approach, it is shown that Mark’s Gospel depicts Jesus as one who has authority over every type of impurity—both the generic impurity of the spirits as well as Levitical impurity defined by the Torah—and so Jesus is one who is Lord over all things, even Lord over the Torah.
Lewis, David Issac, "Purity/Impurity and the Lordship of Jesus in the Gospel According to Mark" (2019). Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation. 81.
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