Mark, the earliest and the shortest of the Gospels, begins with John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River (Mark 1:9). As Jesus emerges from the water, Mark tells us, Jesus sees the “heavens torn open” (schizomenous tous ouranous) (Mark 1:10). The Spirit then descends upon Jesus, like a dove (Mark 1:10). A voice calls from heaven: “Thou art my beloved son; with thee I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). The Spirit then drives Jesus into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan for 40 days (Mark 1:12–13).
The verb schizomenous (torn open) is unusual, as the image it evokes. At the precise beginning of Jesus’ career—the moment of his baptism—the heavens are “torn open.”