Category Archives: water

Water and Spirit

Mark 1:10

και ευθυς αναβαινων εκ του υδατος ειδεν σχιζομενους τους ουρανους και το πνευμα ως περιστεραν καταβαινον εις αυτον

Reading this in Greek, I see a subtle wordplay that isn’t really as evident in English translations. This translates roughly as “And immediately ascending from/out of the water [he] saw the sky split and the spirit, like a dove, descended into him“.

The wordplay is between Jesus rising out of the water and the spirit falling into him. But, like I said, in English it doesn’t really do justice. Mark uses the words αναβαινος and καταβαινος to describe the rising/falling. The more obvious parallel in English would be ascending/descending since they are the same word but with opposite meaning prefixes.

The “split” between the two words occurs when there’s a “split” in the sky, as though there was a split between worlds, like walking from the real world into “camera negative” world through some portal. It kinda reminds me of a video game, like in “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” or “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” where there’s a real world and then the opposite world.

After being baptized by John, the world flips or splits and Jesus is then baptized by the spirit. Instead of going into the water, the “water” (i.e. the spirit) goes into him. There seems to be an interplay between water and spirit at the beginning of Mark, but oddly in Mark this theme is never revisited.

Maybe Mark was harkening back to Genesis 1:2?

η δε γη ην αορατος και ακατασκευαστος και σκοτος επανω της αβυσσου και πνευμα θεου επεφερετο επανω του υδατος

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering over the water

When I think of interplays between water and spirit, I think of Johannine theology: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit [υδατος και πνευματος]’” (3:5). I wonder which came first? Maybe John is trying to rectifiy the once separated “water and spirit”? The human Jesus and the spiritual Christ; the christology of pre-gnostics like Cerinthus – a “separatist” according to Irenaeus (AH 3.11.7).

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Posted by on May 13, 2010 in gospel of john, gospel of mark, spirit, water

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