Earl S. Johnson, «Mark 15,39 and the So-Called Confession of the Roman Centurion», Vol. 81 (2000) 406-413
Continuing examination of the grammatical, literary and historical evidence indicates that the centurion's remarks about Jesus in Mark 15,39 cannot be understood as a full Christian confession of Jesus' divine sonship, and cannot be taken as a direct challenge to any Roman emperor in particular. Jesus' identity in the gospel is not revealed by the centurion, the demons, the disciples or in the introduction to the gospel. It is made clear by God's declaration that he truly is the Son (1,11; 9,7), and in the faith of the readers as they search for Jesus' presence in their own community.
abstractions (virtues) such as Eirene, Themis, Pax, Concordia, Virtus21 and Victory22, as well as the importance of specific military Genii, demonstrates the multiplicity of images that the confession of the centurion might have raised in the minds of readers who were familiar with Roman religious practices. An inscription cited by Hegeland is of particular interest. It is significant for its reference to the Deities of several emperors.
To the Deities of the Emperors and the Genius of the Second Legion August, in honor of the eagle, the senior Centurion gave this gift23.
What the expression ui(o_j qeou= on the lips of the Markan centurion means cannot be determined with any precision.
3. The traditional interpretation of the centurions statement at the foot of the cross as text critical to Markan theology has also been supported from another perspective. 15,39 is not only the interpretative key to Marks Christology, but is the narrative and Christological climax as well24. The Markan Jesus fulfills the Christological paradox: through the gospel a man demonstrates what God can do. Appearing to dismiss grammatical concerns about the anarthrous ui(o_j qeou=, it has been argued that the intended reader of Mark would not search out other anarthrous predicate nouns which precede the verb in order to clarify the problem; rather he would read 15,39 consistently with previous references to Jesus sonship to God25.
Naturally it is not suggested that Marks readership was made up of grammarians. But language and the way it is used, precisely or imprecisely, is important. If nothing else, it impacts translation and the way the authors interpretation is passed on to future readers. P. Harner indicates the difficulty which Marks grammar presents.
It is doubtful whether any English translation can adequately represent the qualitative emphasis that Mark expresses in 15,39 by placing an anarthrous predicate before the verb. Perhaps the verse could best be translated, Truly this man was Gods son. This has the advantage of calling attention to Jesus role or nature as son of God. It minimizes the question whether the word son should be understood as definite or indefinite. At the same time it leaves open the possibility that Mark was thinking of Jesus at this point as a son of God