Mark’s account of Jesus’ walking upon water includes an odd detail: when he approached the disciples’ boat, “he would have passed them by” (Mk 6:48). Why? There’s no mention of this in either Matthew or Luke — if we’re thinking in terms of Markan Priority, we might suppose that they each found this detail as puzzling as modern readers do, and simply deleted it.
That background of incomprehension is why Richard Hays’s explanation of this detail in his recent Reading Backwards is so exciting: he argues that Jesus’ passing them by alludes to a passage from Job that likely forms the implicit backdrop for the walking on water story. So, Job proclaims that the LORD “alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea…Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not” (Job 9:8, 11).
Far from being an extraneous detail, Mark’s reference to Jesus’ passing by the disciples is central to Mark’s assimilating Jesus to the LORD as he is depicted by Job; it’s an important piece of “early narrative Christology,” as Hays calls it, borrowing a phrase from his student, Kavin Rowe.