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Concealment or Revelation? The Messianic Secret in Mark

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Concealment or Revelation?

According to such scholars as William Wrede and Heikki Räisänen, the messianic secret is the idea that Mark—or a later editor of his Gospel—invented the accounts where Jesus told his disciples to be silent about his messiahship.

In Concealment or Revelation?, author John H. Morris, Jr. analyzes the critical scholarship on the messianic secret in Mark’s Gospel. Focusing on the Gospel in its first-century context, Morris illustrates why Mark did not have to invent a “messianic secret” to explain Jesus’ behavior. Citing primary Jewish and Roman sources and using a social-science model, he explains how the messianic secret was a representation of normal first-century behavior by Jesus used in an effort to spread his reputation while preventing his enemies from disseminating an incorrect reputation of him.

Concealment or Revelation? provides a detailed exegesis of selected passages in Mark 1–9 dealing with the classic messianic secret, demonstrates that Jesus’ behavior was normal first-century behavior in Roman and Jewish culture, and explains why Jesus alternated between silence and revelation in reference to his messianic mission. Bridging the gap between first-century and contemporary culture, it offers fresh insight on the Gospel of Mark in its original context. This volume also includes an annotated bibliography of New Testament–era name-calling and insults.


  • The Problem and Its Setting
  • Deviancy and Naming Model Creation
  • Analysis of Selected Passages from Mark

Top Highlights

“Second, and closely related to the first rule, Mark presented Jesus as one who defined his identity through his own actions rather than through the interpretive insights of his enemies.” (source)

“First, as a general rule, a person did not want to give his enemies any opportunity to assign a name to him.” (source)

“When the characters in the text accepted Jesus as he presented himself, Mark showed that Jesus wanted his message to be spread. When they were antagonistic or misunderstood the true nature of Jesus’ message, Mark portrayed Jesus warning or ordering the audience not to do anything that would create an incorrect public impression.” (source)

“John Pilch’s 1994 article on the same subject demonstrated how social-science criticism had developed during the intervening seventeen years. Pilch used the first-century Mediterranean social models of secrecy and honor/shame to provide new insights into Mark’s messianic secret. Control of information (the keeping of secrets) was part of the culture, and keeping secrets separated people inside a group or family from outsiders. Therefore, keeping secrets was a way to preserve personal or group honor and status.” (source)

“The hypothesis guiding this investigation is that the messianic secret passages are best understood as Mark’s accurate recording of first-century values and actions, with the messianic secret passages reflecting such concerns as who had the authority to apply new names to Jesus, who had the correct understanding of Jesus’ nature and mission, and who came from the proper social context to define the public identity of Jesus.” (source)

Product Details

  • Title: Concealment or Revelation? The Messianic Secret in Mark
  • Author: John H. Morris, Jr.
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Pages: 195
  • Format: Logos Digital

About John H. Morris, Jr.

John H. Morris, Jr. has a PhD in New Testament from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, an MDiv in biblical languages, and a ThM. He is a professor of biblical studies at Point University in West Point, Georgia. Previously, he served as the director of a SACS-accredited four-year Christian ministry college program at a Georgia prison, interim vice-president for Adult and Profession Studies at Atlanta Christian College, and director of Distance Education at Point University. He has contributed to the textual critical analysis for the New International Greek New Testament Commentary series, contributed to Lexham Bible Dictionary and Leaven, and presented papers at Evangelical Theological Society.

Sample Pages from Concealment or Revelation?


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  1. Phil Niebergall