Why Mark Has No Genealogy: Christ as Melchizedek in Mark’s Gospel

Genealogy of JesusIn, and Before, the Beginning…

Mark’s Gospel, along with John’s, does not begin with Jesus Christ’s genealogy, and so stands out from among the Synoptic Gospels. Yet whereas the absence of a genealogy in John’s Gospel contributes to John’s depiction of Christ as the pre-existent Word who became flesh, Mark’s purpose is not as immediately clear to the reader. Some may wish to contest the idea that Mark’s omission of Christ’s genealogy is significant, yet Scriptural testimony disagrees. Mark’s target audience was very likely not Jewish; however, Mark himself was a Jew. Therefore, the reader must ask himself: If Matthew, Luke, and John (three Jewish followers of Christ) all have theological reasons for including or excluding the genealogy of Christ, is it really likely that Mark (also a Jewish follower of Christ) would be the one writer who has no theological reason for omitting Christ’s genealogy? The reader will see that the answer is a resounding “No.”

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In these opening words, Jesus is identified as the Messiah and Son of God, two titles which are further fleshed out at his baptism. The ministry of Jesus begins at the time of his baptism, when he enters into his role as high priest and king. Behind the Father’s words “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” as James R. Edwards notes, “lies a wealth of OT imagery.” Imagery which falls under two main heads, viz. Christ as the Suffering Servant of the Lord and Christ as King. After establishing the thematic similarities between Mark 1:10-11 and Isa 49:3, Edwards notes that Jesus’ baptism also echoes Ps 2:7 (i.e. the enthronement of the Messiah-King of Israel) and Gen 22 (i.e. the sacrifice of the beloved son/seed of Abraham).

If Christ is the King of Israel and the Suffering Servant/Sacrifice for the sins of God’s people, however, why is there no mention made of his genetic affiliation with God’s people? Jesus simply shows up, is baptized, and begins his ministry. Why is there no genealogy? Is his genealogical pedigree unimportant? Far from it. Rather, in addition to signifying Jesus’ ministry as Messiah-King and Suffering Servant of the Lord, the words at Jesus’ baptism also signify his ministry as high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews directly correlates the words of Christ’s inauguration as King (i.e. Ps 2:7) and the declaration of the Father to the Son in Ps 110:4b: “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The author writes:

 …Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

as he says also in another place,

You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

Christ’s baptism, then, also signified his entrance into his role as the high priest after the order of Melchizedek. And this brings us back to the question of Mark’s omission of Jesus’ genealogy.

By not listing Christ’s genealogy, Mark is able to portray Jesus as being “without father or mother or genealogy” (Heb 7:3, emphasis added). Furthermore, the absence of a genealogy allows him to portray Christ as “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Heb 7:3), the same qualities which render Melchizedek like “the Son of God” (Heb 7:3). It is not by accident, therefore, that Mark 1 does not contain a genealogy. Jesus is not a mere creature; Jesus is the Son of God who was, prior to his incarnation, without father or mother or genealogy. He is king and priest on the basis of his indestructible life (i.e. eternality). He is, in other words, the Eternal Son of God.

Soli Deo Gloria.



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