Eschatology and the Economy of Desire

Mimesis (like allegory and irony) always functions through mirroring — repetition that creates significances and, by associating one object or event

33 This is a good place to introduce a book whose presence has been, for the most part, subliminal throughout this study: Frank Kermode's The Genesis of Secrecy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979). Kermode's fundamental observation about Mark's Gospel — 'a good deal of the story seems concerned with failure to understand the story' (p. 69) — is axiomatic for this theological analysis.

with another, opens up alternative readings. Repetition displaces chronological time. What has been called the 'rhetoric of temporality'34 disturbs temporality, driving it into semiosis. Chronos (twice mentioned in Mark) is transfigured by kairos (mentioned five times in Mark), just as Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter (or his son?) is transfigured by his Messiahship. A theology of history invests the geographical and historical contingency with transcendental significance. Thus, as one commentator has put it, 'the plot as a whole is eschatological time'.35 The 'sea' is not just a stretch of water, eating 'bread' is not just the satisfaction of a physical appetite, and being 'healed' is not just the restoration to biological health. Critical time (kairos) is narrative time (which is mimetic time) — and it always poses both an eschatological fulfilment and an eschatology question. There is an eschatological fulfilment because critical time says 'now' is significant. Jesus begins his preaching with, 'The time [kairos] is fulfilled [peplerotai]' (1.15). But this 'fulfilled' is an ambivalent Greek perfect — it has already been fulfilled in an unpresented past with present implications. When, then, was it fulfilled? The realised eschatology of the kairos is past and unpresentable in the same way as the future eschaton is unpresentable. There is a post-fulfilment announcement here just as there is a pre-fulfilment announcement in chapter 13; but it is a representation that mediates and substitutes for what cannot be presented. Representation is haunted by intimations of the apocalyptic that act as a consciousness of its own limitations and imminent crisis. Chapter 13 is a proleptic representation of the final crisis, the ruin of all that has been the vehicle for the narrative's symbolism. There we have the breakdown of the family and the Temple, the collapse of the universal and created order, the destruction of the house, the abandonment of clothes and children and the proliferation of signs and wonders which are false and misleading. The movement is towards dissolution, the dissolution of meaning. It is a dissolution the reverberations of which reach back into the present writing and the narrative's semiosis.

Kairos appears again, significantly, at the end of the eschatological discourse and in the negative: 'You do not know when the time is.' Again, when one cannot tell the time, the beginning and endings become arbitrary. The eschatological paradox is the paradox of representation itself — always

34 Paul de Man, 'The Rhetoric of Temporality'in Blindness and Insight (London: Methuen, 1983), pp. 187-228.

35 Dan O. Via Jr. in The Ethics of Mark's Gospel — in the Middle of Time (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress Press, 1985), p. 32. Through his analysis of the apocalyptic in Mark, Via emphasises Mark's commitment to the processes of history, the 'temporality of eschatology' (p. 63). For Via too this means that 'revelation is both given and withheld' (p. 57).

offering as present what is only a memory, and always promising a future it cannot possibly deliver. '[L]'apocalypse johannique, n'est-ce pas aussi celle de toute scène d'écriture en général? ... l'apocalyptique, ne serait-il pas une condition transcendentale de tout discours, de toute expérience même, de toute marque ou de toute trace?' Derrida asks.36 The question here in Mark's Gospel receives an affirmative answer. The apocalyptic in Mark (in Jesus's ministry) is part of a general theology of representation. The Christian Gospel presents a theology of narrative.

As I said, within this eschatological paradox of representation there is repetition, folding and doubling. Time folds, rumpling the surface of the text until it seems we walk on water. There are rewinds (Herod's flashback to the execution of John is triggered by a conviction that Jesus is John redivivus), replays (the conversation at Herod's court on who Jesus is foreshadows Jesus's conversation with his disciples on the way to Caesarea Philippi) and fast-forwards (chapter 13). What is is a reflection of what was and what will be; and what is is a reflection itself of what occurred as Jesus lived. We are caught as readers/listeners in the mirroring of time and representation, in a land between, in a process that is always 'on the way'.37

It is the theme ofjourneying that relates these references to critical time. It is Jesus Christ's journeying which begins with the prophetic odos (1.2). And the word gathers a density of pedagogical, ethical, geographical and eschatological reference as the narrative proceeds. There is an imbrication of three distinct 'ways': the 'way' of Jesus teacher, the methodos; the 'way of God' (the Derek of God's righteousness); and the 'way' of the narrative which traces the geographical path and the response of the world (corporeal and incorporeal) to the other two 'ways'. The overlapping of these three ways participates in a larger, destined movement towards climax and crisis: the journey towards Jerusalem and death. The dynamic of the movement is governed by an eschatological promise that keeps us continually expecting a revelation and resolution that can never be presented. Its very absence is the precondition for representation — representation that is forever mourning the loss in that absence and desiring its recovery. The eschatological promise of chapter 13, prefigured in each miracle and 'raising', is the theological figuring of the indwelling desire that accompanies all writing and reading. The

36 D'un ton apocalyptique adopté naguère en philosophie (Paris: Galilée, 1983), pp. 77—8.

37 See here Elizabeth Struthers Malbon's book Narrative Space and the Mythic Meaning in Mark (Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), in which, having examined three forms of space within the narrative (geopolitical, topological and architectural), she concludes: '''on the way" ... is, finally, the key mediator of the various Markean manifestations of the fundamental opposition ORDER and CHAOS ... [the] conflict between the chaos and the order of life is overcome not in arriving, but being on the way' (pp. 166—8).

desire keeps us alert to the need to read the signs; throughout Mark's representation of apocalyptic dissolution we are commanded to watch, to be awake and to distinguish what are true signs from what are false.38 The economy of the representation (the movement of the narrative and the Christology) is always also a theology of representation that moves towards and generates an economy of faith. From a discipleship perspective history, Christology and imitation are interwoven through the economy of faith that works within them, interprets them for itself and makes them part of its own Christian praxis. Theologically, history, Christology, imitation and the economy of faith are inter-associated (intertextualised) through the operation of the Spirit.

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