Christology Mimesis and the Economy of the Spirit

It is in Mark's Passion narrative that the complex inter-association of Christology, story-telling, discipleship and a theology of history (realised through the working of the Holy Spirit) achieves its most profound expression. The movement of the Spirit through historical contingencies, that has governed the sending and now the handing-over of the Christ, is paralleled by the operation of faith (in the disciples and in the readers of/listeners to the narrative). Both movements or economies participate in and foster the continuation of the economy of mimetic desire. The economy of mimetic desire is the power (dunamis) of the story-telling to elicit response (faith) and the power of the representation to promise, partially present and continually forestall the anticipated conclusion,39 the final resolution and demystification.

There are two related and focusing nodes of mystification. One is theological: who is this Jesus of Nazareth, how does he relate to the Christ, and what legitimises or authorises that relationship? The other one is literary:

38 As Malbon points out, '"Watch" (gregoreite, fromgregoreo) and "risen" (egerthe, from egeiro) have a linguistic root in common and thus, perhaps, have some elements of meaning in common. Gregoreo was a new formation in Hellenistic Greek from egregoria, the perfect of egeiro, their shared significance is "to be awake"' (Narrative Space, p. 152). Watching, the action characteristic of discipleship, is then a participation in an eschatological unfolding — both a prefigurement of one's own resurrection and an imitation ofJesus's.

39 The forestalling is continuous, for from the beginning when the fulfilment is proclaimed, through each miracle performed, through to the transfiguration, Jesus's entry in Jerusalem, his purging of the Temple, his arrest, his trial, his provocation on the cross and early on the first morning of that new week, a resolution, a final revelation and vindication of Jesus's Messiahship is expected, longed-for, and yet deferred.

what relationship does this representation of the life and work of Jesus Christ bear to the generating events themselves, and what legitimises or authorises that relationship? The structure of the theological and literary problems is the same. In fact, they cannot be separated — for they are two forms of expressing the operation of the narrative, the economy of mimetic desire. For both, the nature of the problem is the nature of the problem for all representations, whether political — Jesus as the constitutional representative of God — or aesthetic — Mark's representation of Jesus Christ. The problematic is this: who or what legitimises or authorises that representative status?40 What I am suggesting throughout this essay is that one legitimises and authorises the other. Just as God legitimises Jesus's representational function (at his baptism and at his transfiguration), so Jesus legitimises the Gospel's representational function ('for my sake and the gospel's'). And legitimation for both Jesus and the Gospel takes the same form, the origin of the one in the other, the extension of one into the other — God in Christ and Christ in the Gospel. The nature ofJesus Christ as representative authorises, through the Spirit, further forms of representational engagement with the gospel — in terms of the narrative of the Christ event, witnessing to that original event, and the disciples as representatives and disseminators of the truth of the gospel. The representative nature of the Gospel is both testimony to the meaningfulness of the Christ event and a vindication of the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore one authorises (in a strong sense of that term) the truth of the other. And both forms of representation are caught up in the economics of the Trinity.

The economy of mimetic desire in Mark's Gospel traces the work of the spiritual powers in the cosmos — the Holy Spirit, the spirit ofJesus and the unclean spirits. The narrative begins when the Spirit descends (in prophecy to Isaiah first and then as a material object, the dove); once it has descended it immediately 'drives' and initiates the gospel story, the sending of the Christ. The success of the driving forward is countered by conflicts with religious officials and disciples (who at no point are said to have spirits of their own, to possess an independent spirituality), and the unclean spirits. The conflicts are overcome or transcended by the Spirit operating in and through Jesus — the divine dunamis, the Holy Spirit. The unclean, the unbelieving open to believing, the deprived who desire and know their need for salvation, are all either overcome or transfigured by Jesus. That is, until the Passion narrative — until the move into the crisis of death (the death of the will challenged and overcome is prior to any physical or spiritual death

40 See Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, for a discussion of the relationship between legitimation and narrative.

on the cross). The spiritual generates events, provides scenes for action. The material (and literal) provide a constative body which the spiritual inhabits and is potentially disruptive of. In and of itself the corporeal is static — the scene for sleep, paralysis, literalism and non-commitment (unbelief).

In the Passion narrative Jesus gives up his flesh to be sacrificed and bequeaths his spirit, the Holy Spirit, to those who, like David in 12.36 or those in chapter 13, will testify and speak not of themselves (13.11). It is the Holy Spirit then who promotes the telling and the retelling of the Christevent, who promotes the prophecies and testimonies to the coming and coming again of Christ. The economy of response is governed by the operations of God as Spirit. The mimetic experience, informed and legitimated by the Spirit, is always an anticipation of a revealed Christ.

Though the performer retreats in the Passion narrative, the performance continues (under someone else's initiative — the chief priest's and the Romans'). Jesus's injunctions to the disciples to preach repentance and follow are supplanted by the injunctions to beware and to watch. A new economy of responding and a new type of narrative are emerging from the old. A new set of protagonists propels the plot from the opening verses of chapter 14: they usurp the narrative and dictate the terms of its action. A violence both to the narrative and within the narrative is being perpetrated: the violence is evident in the increasingly ironic portrayal of Jesus that is foregrounded. It is almost as if someone else were narrating,41 or another spirit were speaking within the narrator, a spirit darker and more uncertain than the spirit that fired within the narrative when Jesus's action governed it. The darkness deepens, likewise the uncertainty and ambivalence. Though briefly, when Jesus appears before Pilate, there is daylight, the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, the arrest, the Jewish trial and the crucifixion all develop a theme of deepening night that breaks in the resurrection dawn. Then the light will draw attention to itself through self-conscious circumlocution: 'very early on the first day ... when the sun had risen'.

Along with the darkness, the change in protagonists and the new passivity of Christ, there is a widening of narratorial perspective. An omniscient

41 Martin Kahler's idea in 1892, that Mark as an editor wrote an extended introduction to a Passion narrative, is a testimony to the dramatic change in narrative key in chapter 14. In The Rhetoric of Irony (University of Chicago Press, 1974) Wayne Booth recognises the complexity of narratorial position as the portayal of Jesus becomes ironic. A double irony is involved as Mark reports the sardonic remarks about Christ as King ironically. Booth makes the important observation that Mark's intention is 'to build, through ironic pathos, a sense of brotherly cohesion' (p. 28). For irony is elitist, only 'insiders' can recognise it. The crisis of representation, then, promoted through the ironic discourse at this point, fosters discipleship and exercises those who, by faith, are on the inside.

narrator (who has appeared at other moments in the text) becomes dominant as the drama widens in its religious and political complexity. A universal perspective is assumed in which Jesus is seen as only one among several major figures. The modification and expansion of narratorial perspective corresponds to the more detailed presentation ofJesus's own omniscience (which again has been evident before). Jesus predicts the future fame of the woman who anoints him, he predicts the future outcome for the disciples who will go to the city and encounter a man carrying a water jar, and he predicts the disciples' flight and Peter's denial — as well as his own impending death. At his Jewish trial he will predict his own glorification; finally, a neaniskos informs us that he will go before the disciples to Galilee. The one who predicts or prophesies is always the one who goes before, who is ahead, who is at the head of those who follow after. And the one who is at the head controls all that comes after. Jesus is the potentate of time.

Furthermore, in these closing chapters Jesus also demonstrates (again) his ability to read the hearts and minds of those around him — he knows what Judas has done and the logic of events that will now occur: 'the hour has come ... See, my betrayer ... And immediately Judas came.'Jesus, the potentate of time, also then speaks words that create and represent42 events prior to their occurrence. His position as the one beyond time and the one whose words engender, parallels the position of the narrator, the work of the narrator, and the experience of that narration as it is re-created and represented in the event of reading/listening. But the inseparability of Christology and mimesis now enters the crisis of ironic and sometimes sardonic representation. (Irony can be understood as mimesis aware of its own paradoxical

42 Jesus's words as both creating and representing events that have not yet but will now occur, portray, in nuce, the paradox of mimesis. The words are reported — that is, they are in the past and represented to us by the narrator. But the promise these words contain, what they suggest, is Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is the locus for what Ricreur terms the paradigmatic (mimesis 1) and the syntagmatic (mimesis 2) axes of mimesis (Time and Narrative, vol. I, p. 66). That is, Jesus Christ as author or creator both presents and re-presents, and incarnates the condition whereby one can move from presentation to representation. He portrays the 'two sides of poetic configuration' (ibid., p. 45). Ricreur wishes to relate these two sides through the act of reading that constitutes a third level of representation (mimesis 3). This act of reading 'completes the work' (ibid., p. 77) and the 'narrative has its full meaning when it is restored to the time of action and the times of suffering in mimesis 3' (ibid., p. 70). Lacoue-Labarthe, on the other hand, wishes to see no completion or fulfilment as possible: 'the logic of the paradox ... is nothing other than the very logic of mimesis ... the logical matrix of paradox is the very structure of mimesis ... Hence the disquiet to which mimesis gives rise' (Typography, p. 260). In terms of Mark's Gospel, I would argue that Lacoue-Labarthe's disquieting mimesis has the upper hand. The paradox of representation remains, the questions remain and the reading does not resolve them. The narrative's meaning is forever withheld, although the narrative encourages a faith that participates in and looks forward to a Ricreurean restoration. The paradox of mimesis is then the paradox of the Word of God.

nature and unnerved by it.43) There is a crisis of meaning. Jesus the miracle worker, the theios aner, has disappeared. Jesus the Son of David, the Davidic king, the Messiah, is portrayed in terms of contradiction and parody. Jesus the Son of God only reappears on the lips of a man with no past association, in terms of Mark's text, with the disciples; a man, therefore, who (as others in the Gospel) speaks something he does not fully understand (as 10.38) or a man who has received a revelation. And if this is a revelation it is far from being unambiguous — not simply because Romans were familiar with 'sons of God' terminology, nor simply because the 'son' is anarthrous and could be translated 'a son' or just 'son'. But it is ambiguous because it is quite emphatically in the past tense. If this man was the Christ, the Son of God, then he is that no longer. There is certainly no suggestion of either victory or a return; no sense the presence of this son of God will continue in some way. There is, in fact, with this anagnorisis, a sudden plunge of the narrative towards tragedy. As for Jesus the Son of Man, that title holds the field, but as an epitaph over the suffering and thoroughly human character ofJesus. Pilate's ecce homo reverberates throughout. As Morna Hooker observes, 'Mark ... does not treat it [the title] as a christological title comparable to "Christ" or "Son of God".'44 It describes more the role he is playing as a symbol of

43 See Paul de Man ('The Rhetoric of Temporality'): 'Allegory and irony are ... linked in their common demystification of an organic world postulated in a symbolic mode of analogical correspondences or in a mimetic mode of representation in which fiction and reality could coincide.It is especially against the latter mystification that irony is directed' (p. 222). In other words, irony destabilises what we consider true representations of our world, representations that can be understood literally. The possibility of irony is the possibility that the literalism is only an interpretation, not a correspondence with facts 'out there'. Irony is, then, representation's reflection upon its own constitutive crisis — that it cannot present that which would legitimate its action. I would agree, then, with Stanley Fish's criticism of Wayne Booth's attempt to stabilise irony. In his essay, 'Short People Got No Reason to Live: Reading Irony'in Doing What Comes Naturally (Oxford University Press, 1989), he argues that irony too is an interpretation. But its possibility draws attention to a need always for interpretation — and that precipitates the crisis of representation. This possibility challenges Rorty's strict dichotomy between ironists and metaphysicians in Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge University Press, 1989). There Rorty separates ironists who hold to the contingency of language from the metaphysicians who believe in the possibility of achieving closer and more accurate representations of what is (see pp. 76—7). My own view, and Fish's, suggest that no such separation can be made — the metaphysical perspective and the ironic perspective are two moments that constitute the nature and crisis of representation. But Rorty's construal of ironism is wide and frequently synonymous with perspectivism — in which case, the ironist's position can embrace the metaphysican's rather than merely counter it. If that is so, then Rorty too accepts a similar view of irony to that I am suggesting here. Markan irony releases the forces of the need for endless interpretation and redescription — forces only held in check by Jesus Christ and guided by faith and the Holy Spirit. Without these theological cornerstones, there is only pragmatic meaning in the face of an infinite regress of unstable interpretation. Upon these theological cornerstones a realism is made possible — but it is a theological, not a philosophical realism.

44 The Gospel According to St Mark, p. 89.

the suffering community of Israel than the Messianic victor. Christology loses its way in these last chapters, while simultaneously being given more attention.45

In our reading, we re-enact this crisis in Christology, the crisis of identity. We are caught up in the crisis of faith among the disciples, those who follow. For 'follow me' is a demand made by both Christ and the narrator of the Gospel. Following is the action of reading and participating in the event of reading (and forever rereading) the narrative of Jesus Christ.46 Christ's identity, the disciples' identities, the readers'/listeners' identities, are all caught up in and kept in play by the process of representation. One cannot be abstracted or divorced from the other. All the forms of representation are searching for a legitimating fatherhood or origin. The crises of faith and Christology are co-extensive at this point with a bewildering semiosis that infects the narrative. Logos as both Christ and the gospel47 appears to collapse towards legion (both demonic host and a Roman army). For there is a surfeit of potential, but no explicit meaning. The representation generates only the effects of meaning — not its understanding. The narrative moves between faith (which embraces and employs an analogical imagination) and paranoia. For no event or character stands alone or means merely what is written.

In the final chapters the refraction and ricochet of possible meaning revolve not just around duplication (there are two trials, two beatings, two betrayals, two cock-crows and the garden of Gethsemane is an ironic inversion of the scene of the transfiguration), but they revolve around triplication. Three times Jesus comes to the disciples (three of them) in the garden. Three times Peter denies him. At the first trial three questions are put to Jesus by the High Priest. At the second trial Pilate too asks three questions. In threes the hours of the crucifixion pass (15.25, 33, 34). The three guilty male protagonists (Judas, Peter and Barabbas — a name parodying 'Son of the Father') stand juxtaposed to three righteous male

45 Morna Hooker: 'the true identity of Jesus becomes clearer the closer we move to the Cross' (ibid., p. 252).

46 This is Scharlemann's acoluthetic reason, his Christological reason as it adheres to aesthetic reason.

47 The word logos appears 23 times in the Gospel with a variety of different nuances. In the first reference — 1.45 — it appears to be a synonym for Jesus's preaching (kerussein). In 5.36 it appears to mean words spoken by one person (here the servant of the synagogue chief) to another. In 7.13 it is the Word of God as the Law. In 7.29 it signifies the manner of the Syro-Phoenician woman's reply. In 9.10 it refers to the content of the transfiguration. In 11.29 Jesus's word is associated with calling into question. In 13.31 it is synonymous with prophecy. One could suggest, therefore, that Mark's Gospel is part of a logocentric vision that perceives analogies between Jesus Christ as God's Word sent into the world and the true meaning of events and human discourse.

protagonists (Simon of Cyrene, the centurion and Joseph of Arimathea) and the three women who come to the tomb. One event may redeem another, one event may reinforce another or deepen the significance of the other, one event may be parallel and contradict another (the woman's anointing is followed by Judas's betrayal, both of which prepare for Jesus's death). What I wish to argue, though, is that there is a descent, in the closing chapters, towards a madness born of imitation, of duplication, or representation, of semiosis, irony and parody — a madness, that is, or a divine logic radically at odds with our own and our representation's. It is within this divine madness, counterpart to the final eschatological crisis of chapter 13, that a faith is born which clutches at significance without fully understanding what it is significant of. And the narrative itself is the first sign that that significance believed in is significant of something. For the centurion's cry is ambivalent and the women run away and say nothing, but the narrative speaks and vindicates the significance of what has transpired; that something has, in fact, transpired. The narrative is the first indication that a salvation has been wrought. In fact, it makes (poiesis) that salvation available. The salvation, the saving event, is again unpresentable. The representation substitutes for what has already taken place — without the representation there would be no salvation. The representation is, then, the search for, the witness to, and the producer of the process of salvation. There is, then, no need for a resurrection, for the narrative itself is the enactment (or is it the re-enactment?) of Christ's resurrection life. The narrative has become Christological, the means of grace.

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