The Narrative Jesus: A Semiotic Reading of Mark's Gospel


Ole Davidsen


narrative theory, narrative criticism, narrative exegesis, Gospel of Mark, gospel genre, gospel story, storytelling, cognitive narratology, narrative semiotics, narratology


This doctoral dissertation from 1993 is a study of the narrative or literary Jesus as presented by Mark’s gospel story. The study focuses on Jesus as a character in a piece of literary art identifying him by a number of thematic and narrative roles: wonder-worker, proclaimer, and savior.

The Markan gospel narrative is defined as a two-fold story whose sequences of events interact and form the characteristic gospel genre.

                             The first sequence concerning the relationship between God and Jesus is fundamental, and recounts the constituent events. The connection between baptism/anointing, crucifixion, and resurrection is analyzed as an integrating structure, which establishes the gospel narrative’s semiotic unity and reveals the overarching salvation and re-creation project served by these events.

                             The second sequence concerning the relationship between Jesus and his disciples shows Jesus as the teacher who tries to induct the disciples as potential apostles for the post-paschal proclamation directed towards Christianity’s persistence. The gospel narrative itself (as discourse) appears as literary indication of the successful result of the proclamation project (founded in its own story).

                             Mark plays the part of inductor relative to the reader in that he discloses the double messianic secret; not only that Jesus is Christ, but also what Christ truly signifies. Mark presents his reader with a narrative Christology: Jesus alone sees himself as identified as Christ through the roles assigned to him by the narrative. Mark reveals a secret that cannot be revealed on terms other than those of the narrative. Although convinced of the truth of his own proclamation, Mark is aware of the gospel narrative’s fragility. Whether this narrative is true, whether it is fiction disguised as reality or reality disguised as fiction, remains for the reader to decide.


Ole Davidsen

Associate Professor, dr.theol.

Theology, Culture and Society, Arts

Aarhus University



21 april 2015

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