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.
in the hellenistic sense, or the son in a specifically Christian sense, or possibly both. In all of these ways the translation Gods son would reflect the various shades of meaning that may be present in Marks word-order26.
At some point decisions must be made for translation, unless a long footnote is to accompany the modern text. Is Jesus in Mark 15,39 The Son of God, a son of God or a son of god? Is it likely that Mark meant all at once, as Harner implies?
It is argued that it is clear throughout the gospel who Jesus is. If that is correct, one wonders if the confession of the centurion is so necessary at the end as it is often implied. There is little question among scholars that Marks is a Son of God theology27; little question that Mark and the readers in his church believed him to be so; one hopes that there is little question about the faith of scholars who debate the significance of Mark 15,39. The question after all, is not whether Mark believes and demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God, but if he does so in 15,39.
Certainly there are other places where Jesus is designated the Son (with a definite article). But in every instance other than the bat qôl at the Baptism and Transfiguration, they are all false starts. The other references to Jesus sonship demonstrate who Jesus is not, rather than who he is, even if they are with the definite article. The demons, for Mark, are not ones who are worthy to make a definition of Jesus (1,24; 3,11; 5,7). Evil spirits are not the ones who confess the true nature of Gods Son; they are rebuked and silenced (1,25; 3,12)28. Likewise, the High Priests statement about Jesus is also to be disregarded. Jesus may agree that he is the Son of the Most Blessed (14,61), but he redefines it in the correct terms with citations of Ps 110 and Dn 7,13. Jesus, furthermore, is not the King of the Jews either; certainly not as Pilate sarcastically defines the title (15,2.12.26), or the king the soldiers mockingly abuse in a parody of the salutation to the emperor (15,18). Jesus is not even the Christ, or the King of Israel as his religious detractors sneer out at him (15,32).
One scholar concludes that [t]he issue, after all, is not what Marks readers thought of the centurion and his faith; it is what they were to think of Jesus29. A good point and well stated. Yet, in Marks story, it is important how the readers regard characters around Jesus. How readers understand the witness of God, of John the Baptist, of King Herod, of Peter in Caesarea Philippi, of Bartimaeus, has a powerful impact on their definition of who Jesus