God’s Oneness and Our Wholeness: Exploring a Unifying Theme in Mark 12:28-44

God’s Oneness and Our Wholeness: Exploring a Unifying Theme in Mark 12:28-44
This paper argues that the concept of “wholeness” serves as a unifying theme in Mark 12:28-44. This passage begins with Jesus’s claim that the command to love God with one’s whole (ὅλης) being is the greatest commandment (Mk 12:30; cf. LXX Deut 6:5). Jesus’s scribal interlocutor agrees, asserting that wholeness of love for God and neighbor is better than “all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (πάντων τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσιῶν). In short, a wholehearted God-follower is better than a whole burnt offering. This ethical theme of wholeness continues to inform the rest of the chapter and thus the conclusion of Jesus’s public ministry in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus gives an example of the “dividedness” of the scribes who appear religious, but only out of pretense (Mk 12:38-40). Jesus then refers to “one poor widow” (μία χήρα πτωχὴ) as a foil to the religious leaders and a positive example of wholeness. While the rich people contributed a “divided” amount (“For they all contributed out of their abundance”), the widow gave “all she had to live on,” (ὅλον τὸν βίον αὐτῆς), or in other words, “her whole life.” This unifying theme of wholeness has not been recognized by many commentators, but I argue that it not only connects these individual stories in Mark 12, but that it also sums up Jesus’s call to whole-hearted discipleship that is present elsewhere in the Gospel (e.g. Mk 10:21, 28) and sets the stage for Jesus’s own whole-hearted offering of himself (as predicted in Mk 10:45).
Given this focus of wholeness, this paper will conclude by suggesting a connection between God’s “oneness” and the Jesus-follower’s “wholeness.” For Mark, kingdom wholeness begins with the one God of Israel. Only the Markan Jesus includes the preamble of the Shema (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”) in his description of the Great Commandment (Mk 12:29). In the context of both Deuteronomy 6 and Mark 12, God’s oneness appears to be the motivation for loving God with your whole (ὅλης) being (LXX Deut 6:5; Mk 12:30). This connection then explains the addition of Jesus’s treatment of Psalm 110:1 in Mark 12:35-37. If God’s oneness is the motivation for whole-hearted obedience, it would make sense that Jesus would need to explain how both the Messiah and Yahweh can fit in the context of Jewish monotheism. This paper, therefore, attempts to show the relationship between God’s oneness and the God-follower’s wholeness as a unifying theme in Mark 12:28-44.

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