I am pleased to share that my article, “The Centurion, Son of God, and Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles: Contesting Narrative and Commemoration with Mark,” has just been published in Horizons in Biblical Theology 39.1. Many friends of mine will recall that this article grew in part out of my concern and advocacy for Kelly Gissendaner, a Christian sister who was executed in Georgia despite her conversion to Christianity, personal rehabilitation, and ministry to other inmates while on death row. I have outlined the reasons why her death was abortive justice here and here. In this article I attempt something else: I simply try to adopt Mark’s way of seeing the world — what I call his “apocalyptic squint” — and reassess Jesus’s and Kelly’s executions accordingly.
Here is the abstract:
The Centurion, Son of God, and Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles: Contesting Narrative and Commemoration with Mark
Against a longstanding tradition of ascribing religious conversion to the centurion who witnesses Jesus’s death in Mark 15:39, I argue that his acclamation of Jesus as υἱὸς θεοῦ is better understood within the narrative as the words of a conquered enemy. The centurion’s confession parallels the responses of unclean spirits and Legion, two other vanquished enemies who, in the moment of defeat, see and name Jesus υἱὸς θεοῦ. By framing the centurion as a defeated enemy, Mark contests the meaning of Jesus’s crucifixion: rather than remembering it as a performance of Roman rule, Mark commemorates it as the summary victory of the rule of God. Turning from an ancient capital offender to a contemporary one, I recast the memory of Kelly Gissendaner, who was executed in Georgia in 2015, and attempt to narrate and commemorate her state-sanctioned death in light of the Markan Jesus’s.
If you are on Academia.edu, you can download the PDF here.
The regional meeting of the SBL and AAR (SECSOR) in Greenville was highly enjoyable. My friends, Dave Kiger and Stephen Lawson, gave excellent papers in their respective sections. Dr. Rollston’s joint session with Profs. Goodacre and Tabor was stimulating as well. I have heard rumors that all three presentations from that session will be uploaded to Bible & Interp, but for now you can get a taste of the proceedings here.
My own paper in the Gospels & Acts section was quite well received and the discussion at the end was enjoyable and helpful. You can read my paper by following the link to Academia.edu below.
The more I study and write about Mark’s Gospel, the more convinced I become that Howard Clark Kee was really on to something when he likened Mark to a fugue. A fugue, for those (like myself) who are not musically-trained, is a compositional technique that introduces a theme early on in the piece and repeatedly returns to it later, oftentimes with significant variation. The author of Mark uses a strikingly similar technique in his storytelling. At the outset of Mark’s story, the audience is introduced to the narrative’s theme as the Markan storyteller fills them in on what they need to know about the story’s protagonist: he is the Messiah [and son of God] and his central aim is to proclaim and enact the good news of God by living and spreading God’s rule on Earth. You get this—all of it—in the first sixteen verses of Mark 1. Mark introduces the theme, and what follows in the bulk of the narrative is simply repetition and variation. From 1:15-16:8 the story revisits and builds upon this theme, layering, defining and re-defining what the theme actually means: by the time the audience gets to the end of Mark’s story, their knowledge of who Jesus is and what his message entails has not been fundamentally altered. It has, however, been built upon; on the other side of the cross, at the empty tomb, and at the end of the story, the audience knows the theme in all its fullness.
After taking a course, writing two papers, leading a six-month bible study at church, and reading Mark “cover to cover” multiple times, I think I finally got my mind around the narrative one night as a friend and I were driving to Chicago. About an hour outside of the city we began listening to The Mountain Goats’ The Life of the World to Come. It’s a brilliant album from start to finish, but one song in particular stands above the rest as my favorite, “Deuteronomy 2:10.” In this song, John Darnielle (the lead singer and songwriter of TMG) introduces a theme early on and repeatedly returns to it and builds upon it until the audience hears the theme in its fullness at the end. I’ll not ruin the beauty of either the song or Mark’s story by explaining their similarities to death. I hope you hear what I hear in both of them.
 Howard Clark Kee, Community of the New Age: Studies in Mark’s Gospel (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1977), 75.