Bible Review 13:1, February 1997

Jesus’ Triumphal March to Crucifixion

The sacred way as Roman procession

By Thomas Schmidt

Scholars have long recognized that the Evangelists do not simply report the events of Jesus’ life. They select, arrange and modify material at their disposal to stress important themes—like the connection between Jesus and the Old Testament, the inclusion of gentiles in the kingdom and the nature of discipleship.

Mark’s gospel was probably written for gentile Christians living in Rome. Could this audience have understood the various allusions to the Hebrew Bible worked into Mark’s narrative? On the other hand, Mark’s contemporaries might well have grasped a pattern of meaning that has gone unrecognized by modern Bible commentators: In Mark’s gospel, the crucifixion procession is a kind of Roman triumphal march, with Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa replacing the Sacra Via of Rome. In this way, Mark presents Jesus’ defeat and death, the moment of his greatest suffering and humiliation, as both literally and figuratively a triumph.

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