Tae Hun Kim, «The Anarthrous ui(o\j qeou= in Mark 15,39 and the Roman Imperial Cult», Vol. 79 (1998) 221-241
This article points up evidence by which the language of the Roman imperial cult might help make clearer what a reader of Mark's Gospel might understand when the centurion (Mark 15,39) refers to Jesus as ui(o\j qeou=. Knowing how an audience familiar with this cult language would react, Mark intentionally speaks of Jesus as ui(o\j qeou= at 1,1, as well as at 15,39.
examination of Colwells rule and a consideration of the general reputation which a Roman soldier of a centurions rank may have had among Marks readers all demand a reconsideration of this widely accepted interpretation of Mark 15,39" 9. He goes on to argue that it is not likely that Marks readers understood the centurions remark christologically, given the grammatical evidence and the image they had of a Roman centurion, which was undoubtedly negative. It is my opinion, however, that Marks readers could immediately see the significance of the centurions confession. The confession was thoroughly consistent with the supposed cultural and religious background of a Roman centurion, because the titular epithet ui(o\j qeou= appears to echo diction widely known in the Roman imperial cult. Augustus was known from the beginning of his political career as divi filus, son of god, which in Greek was written as 'ui(o\j qeou=' or 'qeou= ui(oj' without the definite article. It seems plausible that the anarthrous ui(o\j qeou= in Mark 15,39 echoes this very title because of the absence of the definite article and the fact that the remark was ascribed to a Roman centurion. While the intention of the Roman centurion is still difficult to ascertain, the circumstances and diction in which his remark is presented in Mark appear to be consistent with features of the Roman imperial cult.
The difficulty of ascertaining the meaning of ui(o\j qeou=
The recurring difficulty in interpreting the centurions confession seems to arise from approaching the anarthrous ui(o\j qeou= from a Christian messianic perspective. The Christian messianic expectation speaks of one Messiah who is the Son of the one and only God, and thus any designation which refers to the messiah has to be definite, for the messiah is an unique being. This innate necessity for definiteness in the messianic title requires ui(o\j qeou= to be definite if it is to have any validity as a messianic title from a Christian perspective. The problem is that the grammatical and textual background does not seem to warrant ascribing a definite sense to the anarthrous ui(o\j qeou=. In the case of Mark 15,39 the confessional status was superimposed with little regard to its controversial grammatical features, let alone to the question of its historical authenticity. Johnsons arguments, therefore, penetrate into the issue of the historical