Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mark 1:1 - The Calendar Inscription of Priene

Calendar Inscription of Priene
The first verse in the KJV of Mark's gospel reads:

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;"

I was reading from Mike Parker's class notes regarding this verse and came across something that I thought was interesting. He mentions that the author of Mark may have been alluding to an inscription called the Calendar Inscription of Priene (not to be confused with the Priene Inscription) that dates to 9 B.C. The purpose of the inscription was to celebrate the birth of Octavian (aka Caesar Augustus) who was born in 63 B.C. and to announce that the Roman calendar would from then on be reckoned from the day of his birth. 

One of the lines of the inscriptions states the following:

"The birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [εύαγγελίων/euaggelios, 'gospel'] for the world that came by reason of him."

Roman emperors were seen as divine, as were other rulers of the ancient Mediterranean. The author of Mark's gospel may have phrased his first verse in such a way as to challenge Roman notions of divine kingship. It appears as though the author of Mark was declaring that the true divine king and son of God was Jesus and not the Roman emperor.

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