Book Reviews Mark

Review: Mark (NAC)

Mark (NAC)

James A. Brooks’ Mark commentary was one of the first commentaries in the New American Commentary series (1991; if not the first). The NAC series is designed “to enable pastors, teachers, and students to read the Bible with clarity and proclaim it with power.” It is “unapologetically confessional and rooted in the evangelical tradition.”  The standard translation used by the series is the NIV, though the authors are allowed to disagree with the translation and wrestle with the Greek/Hebrew text itself.

The main point is discovering and relaying the theological points and structure that the original author (here being Mark himself) intended to present in his portrayal of the life of Jesus Christ and how that is to affect our lives today. How are we to go about reading the Gospel of Mark in a way that grows our faith and builds up the church body? It is Brooks’ aim to answer that question to the serious student/teacher/preacher/layman who would read this commentary.

In the Author’s Preface Brook’s says that Mark held very little interest in his own life as opposed to the other three gospels (an attitude similar to much of Christian history, and similar thoughts are found on my review of Stein’s Mark commentary). Mark’s gospel is the shortest Gospel, but that doesn’t mean he was lacking information. Much of what Mark says is found in Matthew and Luke. In fact, Mark has no beginning genealogy, no infancy/birth narrative, and may or may not even have a resurrection story. What gives?! But we need to see that Mark has a story to tell, and Brooks’ aims to show us what that story is.


I. Introduction (1:1-13)
II. The Good News about Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom (1:14-8:21)
III. The Good News about Jesus’ Teaching on Discipleship (8:22-10:52)
IV. The Good News about Jesus’ Death (11:1-15:47)
V. Conclusion: The Good News about the Empty Tomb (16:1-8)
Appendix: An Ancient Attempt to Supply a More Appropriate Ending for the Gospel (16:9-20)

The Spoiled Milk

   ·   Beginning in the text, Brooks comments on each verse. There are paragraphs where Brooks asks a question in the end, only to leave you hanging. Perhaps it’s to lead you to think about the text, but all I thought was, “Now what? What’s the point?” (1.8, in speaking about the baptism of Jesus: “Was it the beginning of his messianic consciousness? Was it the occasion of his call? Most likely it signaled the beginning of his ministry. Nor did Mark indicate what the event meant to John. Did it confirm to him that Jesus was the more powerful one of v.7?”). Brooks asks a question, but gives no connection to an answer from the text (preceding or forthcoming). Unfortunately, this was not a one time instance.

   ·   Most of all, considering the (unfortunately) small size of the book (especially being a gospel, 276 pages), Brooks spends more time on textual criticism than necessary for pastors and the like. With the issue of Jesus’ mention of ‘Abiathar’ in 2.26, Brooks gives 3 paragraphs on why Mark would have put Abiathar, but then only gives a few sentences on how the Sabbath was made for man, and not vice versa (while then giving more textual criticism on 2.27-28 before and after).

      ···      On the explanation of the Parable of the Sower (4.13-20), Brooks spends 3 paragraphs refuting those who refute the explanation coming from Jesus, and only 1 paragraph on the explanation. Though Jesus does explain those verses, there is still much to say on them.

      ···      Brooks spends 7 paragraphs discussing if the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000 were actually two events (he says ‘yes’), 6 paragraphs discussing arguments about Jesus telling the Parable of the Wicked Tenant Farmers (12.1-12) and making messianic claims (which leaves less room for actually explaining the text), and spends one paragraph explaining the word “go” and “woe” in 14.21 (“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born”). There’s more in there than the meanings of “go” and “woe”. Unfortunately, this too was not a one time instance.

The Chocolate Milk/Recommended?

Yet, after saying all that is above, is there anything good to Brooks’ commentary? Well, yes, there is. Brooks writes a commentary from an evangelical position that can be read by any layman and is a good introduction to Mark (considering it’s size). Yet, there wasn’t much that Brooks said that I didn’t read from Stein, Bock, or Culpepper (and even then, mainly Stein and Bock). Brooks falls too far into the details of the trees to see the overall broad view of the forest. For a book this size, there isn’t enough information to warrant a successful grasp of the text.


  • Series: New American Commentary (Book 23)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Holman Reference (September 25, 1991)

[Special thanks to B&H Publishing for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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