044 Commentary

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This page forms part of the resources for 044 Carrying Ones Cross in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

Crossan Inventory | 044 Literature | 044 Parallels | 044 Commentary | 044 Poetry | 044 Images


John Dominic Crossan

Crossan, [Historical Jesus 353]:

The complex Carrying Ones Cross [1/3] could be dismissed almost immediately as a retrojection of Jesus' death back onto his own prophetic lips. This would be especially persuasive if it were found only in Mark 8:34, but it is found in both Gospel of Thomas 55:2b and the Sayings Gospel Q at Luke 14:27 = Matthew 10:38, neither of which show any great interest in the historical crucifixion of Jesus.

After citing the passage from Epictetus (see above), Crossan continues:

There is, therefore, no need to take Jesus' saying as either retrojected or projected prophecy. Jesus "was discussing," as Leif Vaage put it about Epictetus, "the (possible) consequences of following a certain philosophy ... The cost of adopting a particular way of life is ... graphically imagined ... The fate portrayed ... certainly seems a conceivable outcome of the kind of social challenge and outrageous behavior" (1989:173) seen so often throughout this chapter.

Note: The Vaage reference is to "Q1 and the Historical Jesus: Some Peculiar Sayings (7:33-34; 9:57-58,59-60; 14:26-27)" Forum 5/2, 1989, 159-76.

Joanna Dewey

The abstract to her study: "Let them renounce themselves and take up their cross": a feminist reading of Mark 8:34 in Mark's social and narrative world.' reads as follows:

Christians today, especially Christian women, often interpret Mark 8:34 as a call to sacrifice self—to be subservient and to endure suffering that could be alleviated—as a demand of Christian discipleship. This is a fundamental misreading of Mark. The argument is placed in the context of the development of feminist biblical criticism these last thirty years and then of Mark's social and narrative world. When read in the context of the first-century cultural world and the larger narrative of Mark, Mark 8:34 is not an exhortation to suffering in general. General human suffering—hunger, illness, etc.—is overcome with Jesus' inauguration of God's rule. Rather, to renounce self is to renounce one's kinship group and join the followers of Jesus. It is an exhortation to remain faithful to Jesus and the rule of God in the face of persecution by political authorities.

More at: Find Articles site

International Q Project

IQP reconstructs the original Q saying as follows:

The one who does not take one's cross and follow after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus Seminar

The Seminar's judgements can be represented as follows:

  • Thom 55:1-b2
  • Thom 55:1-b2
  • Luke 14:27
  • Luke 14:27
  • Matt 10:38
  • Matt 10:38
  • Mark 8:34
  • Mark 8:34
  • Matt 16:24
  • Matt 16:24
  • Luke 9:23
  • Luke 9:23

(On some occasions a text was reconsidered at more than one session of the Seminar, sometimes resulting in a different color grading.)

This saying is deeply embedded in the early traditions appearing in three independent sources and in two different forms: as a negative saying in Q/Thom and as a positive saying in Mark. In the end, and only after a second consideration of the question, the Fellows rejected the saying from the database of authentic Jesus sayings on the grounds that its post-Easter understanding of the cross as the defining symbol for Jesus.


Lüdemann [Jesus, 57] considers Mark 8:34b "a saying of post-Easter prophet."

John P. Meier

Meier [Marginal Jew, III, 64-66], discusses this saying as part of his treatment of the disciples. He considers that the "shocking imagery" and the multiple attestation both support the case that Jesus created this saying. Meier suggests that the saying would not have spoken of carrying one's own cross (rather than Jesus' cross) had it been a post-Easter creation, and he also cites the parallel from Epictetus (c. 55-135 CE) in support of a wide dissemination of the crucifixion metaphor in the early Roman period.

Ted Noffs

Founding minister of The Wayside Chapel in Sydney, Ted Noffs, comments in By What Authority?:

The tragedy of Christianity has been that Christians have left it all to Jesus. There have been a few exceptions, of course. In the main, however, Christians have never tired of seeing the spectacle of Christ Himself upon the Cross -- in some mysterious way He is our stand-in or proxy representative in every age. We love to sing about the Cross, to pray about the Cross, to preach about the Cross. As long as we are so fascinated and mesmerised, humanity troops on to its doom.

What will save the world is not Christ's suffering and death but ours. It is not His blood which counts but ours. It is not His broken body which matters but ours. In fact, this is what Christianity is all about. It concerns the followers of Christ no less than it concerned Christ Himself. They must be radically obedient to God, Truth and Humanity.

The Cross of Christ becomes the most important event in the world only when it is the inspiration for a journey every Christian must make. In the sense that He was not spared, so we will not be spared. Thus it is a salutary reminder that the reward of Christian discipleship is not a peaceful mind, freedom from anxiety in personal living, but the very opposite.