Bible Review 7:4, August 1991

Heavens Torn Open

Mark’s powerful metaphor explained

By David Ulansey

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.”

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