Category Archives: Mark

I. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

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Since the book of Isaiah is so large, I simply can’t write down half of what I’ve learned in Watt’s Isaiah class. Simply, there would be too much to say. Instead, over the course of the next few days, I’ve decided to write out a few “nuggets” of information, some larger, some smaller. I hope this benefits you as it does me.


The One Who Shows Compassion

In Isaiah, it is the Lord Yahweh who shows compassion to people. This is seen in texts like Isa 9.17; 14.1; 27.11; 49.13, 15; 54.7, 8, 10; 55.7; 63.7, 15. In the Gospels, aside from two texts (Lk 10.33; 15.20), Jesus is the one who shows compassion on others (Matt 9.36; 14.14; 15.32; Mk 6.34; 8.2; 9.22; Lk 7.13).

In Luke 10.33 Jesus tells the parable of the ‘good’ Samaritan who has compassion on the injured man. The point here is that the man “desiring to justify himself” (10.29) is to be like Jesus and show compassion on all, even his enemies, for all are his neighbour. And in Luke 15.20 the father (representing God the Father) shows compassion on his prodigal son. After all of his partying (15.13), the son receives another (and better) party from his merciful father (15.22-23).


The One Who Forgives

In Isaiah 33 the “destroyer” and “traitor” has “not been destroyed.” But God’s people wait for the Lord. He is their arm and strength “every morning (vv1-2). When the Lord lifts himself up there is a “tumultuous noise” where people flee and nations scatter (vv2-3). The Lord’s spoil is leapt upon (v4).

In vv 10-12 the Lord announces that he will “now arise” and lift himself up. The best his enemies can do is give birth to fleeting chaff and stubble. Their own breath is a fire that will consume them. In vv14-16 the godless sinners in Zion tremble and ask, ““Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?” The answer? “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure” (vv15-16).

Jerusalem will be “an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” (v20). Yet “your (i.e., the enemies, rebels) cords hang loose” (v23). The Lord in his majesty will be for his people. He is our judge, our lawgiver, our king, and he will save (v21-22).

An abundance of prey and spoil will be divided, and “even the lame will take the prey” (even the lame will “leap” upon the spoil [v4]). And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick.” The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity (v23-24).

So the lame will walk and sins will be forgiven. Zion will be made pure. This is the main theme of Isaiah. In Isaiah we see “God’s plan of how He’s going to get a Jerusalem full of bloodshed and murder, and transform them into a true city of the great King that reflects his character that becomes a light to the nations and carries out and effects Israel’s initial call as a blessing to the people” (Watts, Lecture 1).

What happens at the end of Isaiah? Yahweh promises to create a new “Jerusalem,” one that is “to be a joy” (65.18).

The New Testament

When we look at Mark 2, what does Jesus do?

Mark 2.5-7, “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Jesus then heals the lame man and at the same time forgives his sins. The scribes think Jesus is blaspheming for two reasons:

  1. In their minds, Jesus isn’t God.
  2. Forgiveness isn’t proclaimed in houses, but in the Temple (on that point, see Jn 2.18-22; Heb 7.22-8.3; 9.7, 25-28).

Here, Jesus does what Yahweh promised to do: he heals and forgives. The lame man and his friends had faith. The scribes did not. The ex-lame man and his friends will be in the future New Creation. The scribes, if left to their own devices, being blind of Jesus’ deity, will not.


God’s Concern in Isaiah

God’s concern in Isaiah isn’t about getting us out of here.
It’s about constructing communities that actually look like God’s people.

It isn’t about abandoning creation.
It’s about transforming it through alternative communities where peace and justice happens under a different kind of King.

It isn’t about how you get to heaven.
It’s about how heaven gets here (Rev 21-22).

If people put something in God’s place, He will give them what they want. God gives people over to their idolatries, and it will be a judgment to them. Just read Romans 1.18-32. People become like what they worship.


Come back tomorrow for John 9 and the works of God, along with Swallowing Up.

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Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse and Effect in the NT

Isaiah 6.9-10 is quoted to in every one of the Gospels (Matt 13.14-15; Mk 4.12; Lk 8.10; Jn 12.40). In each of he Gospels salvation is announced and rejected, Why is this the case? How is it that Israel can so easily reject their Messiah?

Last time we look at Isaiah 6 and saw that Israel was idolatrous. They had been for a long time (e.g., Abraham was a pagan idolator). But more than that, much of Israel’s history after that had to do with God working idolatry out of them, and them clinging to it even harder. So God calls Isaiah to preach to them, with the result that their hearts will be hardened against God. Israel will become deaf, blind, dumb, hard-hearted, and eventually breathless as they continue to trust in their idols, even as it leads them to their doom.

In Isaiah 7-9, salvation and judgment are effected through parables. Ahaz has the choice to trust in God, but instead, he, like his wilderness forefathers, tested Yahweh. In the end, Judah would be judged by Babylon.

Jesus speaks a parable about binding the strong man in Mark 3. The Pharisees have rejected Jesus. Israel is doing what Ahaz did all those years ago. Once they respond in an attitude of rejection, Jesus speaks in parables. The hearts of Israel are hardened even more. Paul said Israel sought a righteousness all of their own (Rom 10.3) and not a righteousness brought by truly following God. Jesus commands the crowds to listen to his parable in Mark 4.3, and he ends his parables with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (4.9). Some will hear, and some will not. Those who take and use what is given, more will be added. But those who do nothing with it, even what they have will be taken away (4.24-25; Matt 25.29).

How you hear determines if you are on the inside or the outside (“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables…” Mk 4.11). Watts says this is not about predestination. And what I think he means is that Jesus isn’t teaching a seed-form of predestination here. He’s not thinking about that at all. What he means is that Israel is idolatrous, and some will respond rightly to Jesus, but many will only become more hard-hearted to him. This is God’s response to an Israel/Judah who have already rejected him. In fact, in the Parable of the Vineyard the Jewish leaders understand that Jesus says he is the Son and that he speaks against them (Matt 21.45; Mk 4.12; Lk 20.16). Instead of bowing at his feet in worship, they want even more to kill him.

This was a brief look at Isaiah 6.9-10 and how it is used in the Gospels, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts. Hopefully we can start to see the importance of the OT context and storyline when studying the NT. Next up will be three more posts:

  1. Did Paul misquote Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4?
  2. Warrior Armour in Ephesians 6
  3. My review of Watts’ ‘Isaiah’ class.

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The Major Prophet Isaiah

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The semester here in Waterford is winding down. I have three weeks left with two for teaching and one final. After that Mari and I will be heading back to Norway to get ready for our wedding celebration in June.

In the meantime I wanted you to know that I’ve been able to get my hands (or ears) on a class on Isaiah by Rikk Watts. If you don’t know who Rikk Watts is, he was originally trained as an aeronautical engineer. He did some engineering work for IBM while working toward (and receiving) a degree in philosophy, art, and sociology. He wrote his dissertation on one of my favourite books, the Gospel of Mark, saying that Mark’s themes, structure, and narrative came right out of Isaiah. The book is called Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. I haven’t started reading it yet, but from everything I’ve heard and read (here and in this good book), it’s genius.

Watts knows his Mark, and I’m going to see how well he knows his Isaiah (meaning, I’m going to learn a lot from him). I requested to review this class from Bill and Kim at Regent College, and my request was approved! So I’ll be throwing some posts up on here about different things Watts says. I don’t know Isaiah very well, which is unfortunate because it’s one of the most quoted OT books in the NT (along with Deuteronomy and the Psalms). I hope you’ll enjoy the posts too and hopefully take some interest with Watts, his class, and his writings.

Watts is also set up to write the new Mark volume in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series. This will set a new standard for Mark commentaries (and other works) to come, especially in dealing with OT quotes and allusions.

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Mondays With Mark, Part IX [7.31-8.26]

Mark

Having now broken down a barrier between ministering to Jews and Gentiles [7.19], and having healed a demon-possessed daughter of a Gentile woman [7.29-30], we will see Jesus’ counted ministry into the Gentile arena, and the lack of understanding from those who hold the most responsibility to understand. Mark places five scenes one after the other to develop the theme of seeing eyes and hearing ears.

7.31-37, Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

Jesus goes to the east (Gentile) side of the Sea of Galilee, where a deaf and mute man is brought to Him. The Greek word for mute (μογιλάλος mogilalos) is found only twice in the LXX, here and in Isaiah 35.6. Whereas Isaiah 35 addresses Israel’s end-time hopes, Mark shows them as being fulfilled in Jesus [2 Cor. 1.20]. Jesus takes the man away fro the crowds, put His fingers in his ears, spat and touched his tongue, looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, “Ephphatha” (“Be opened”), and the man could hear and speak. In the end the people are astonished and proclaim God’s glory [Isa. 35.5-7; 64.2]. As strange as this section is, it looks very similar to the final section in 8.22-26, though there will be some differences. What is important though is how it is Gentiles who proclaim the mighty works of Jesus.

“He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

8.1-10; Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

This scene is very similar to the scene in 6.30-44. Jesus has compassion on the multitude for they have been with Him for three days, they have not eaten, they may faint on the way (a motif picked up in the following chapters), and have come from afar (alluding to Gentiles [Josh. 9.6; Acts 2.39; Eph. 2.12-13, 17]?). God’s grace is also available for Gentiles. Yet still the disciples do not see how Jesus can feed all of these people in the wilderness [8.4]. Being fishermen [1.16], they ironically are ably to bring only a few fish to Jesus [8.7].

While Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves [2 Kings 4.42-44], Jesus will feed 4,000 with seven loaves and has fed 5000 with 5 loaves. Jesus is the greater Elisha. Jesus does what God can do, has compassion on His people [Is. 41.17] and feeds them in the wilderness [Ex 16].

Is there significance in the numbers of people, baskets, and fish in Mark’s two feedings? Perhaps there is, but can we really know? If so, there certainly isn’t the room for it now.

“…and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples…. And they ate and were satisfied.”

8.11-13; The Pharisees Demand a Sign

the Pharisees begin to argue [1.27; 9.10, 14, 16; 12.28] with Jesus. The disputing Pharisees have taken up a significant portion of Mark’s account (2.6-12, 16-17, 18-22, 23-28, 3.1-5, 7.1-23). Yet Mark’s previous miracle sequence makes the impending rejection by the Pharisees even harder to understand. Only people with closed eyes and hearts could fail to appreciate that Jesus was working by the power of God.

They want an irrefutable sign from heaven. Perhaps they wanted fire to fall down? Whatever the case be have been, they are testing Him [8.11]. This same word for test is used in Mark 1.13 when Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness. They wanted God to prove Jesus’ authenticity. But would it really be irrefutable? They accused Jesus of casting out demons under the power of Beelzebub in 3.22. Why wouldn’t they do it here too?

Jesus has just been the greater Moses and has provided manna to 4,000 (and 5,000 plus) people. Now Israel’s leaders are complaining and demanding a sign from the Bread of life just like the rebellious generation of Israelites in the wilderness [Ex. 17.1-7; Ps 78.41, 56].

Only the blind could fail 2 see what God was doing. Signs in mMark are viewed negatively by reflecting a lack of belief [8.11] or a readiness to be deceived [13.4, 22]. The Pharisees placed inappropriate demands on God’s work, dictating what it should look like by seeking a specific indicator. The demand for a sign was a sign in and of itself; one of unbelief. The seed Jesus has sown has fallen on hard ground and the Pharisees don’t want it.

A  Herod’s Wrong Attitude to Miracles/Signs [6.14-29]
++B  The Narration of the First Feeding Miracle [6.30-44]
++++C  Accounts of Various Other Miracles [6.45-7.37]
++B’ The Narration of the Second Feeding Miracle [8.1-10]
A’  The Pharisees’ Wrong Attitude to Miracles/Signs [8.14-21]*
*Geddert, pg. 186, Mark [BCBC]

Unlike the Gentile woman [7.24-30], the Pharisees were blind to what Jesus was doing. She didn’t have to have the main course. The crumbs would be just as suitable. The Pharisees, on the other hand, despite being the children fed first, were like dogs biting the hand that fed them.

“Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 

8.14-21; The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod

How much time has passed since the last feeding? Mark doesn’t say, but the disciples get on the boat with only one loaf. They’ve Jesus perform two large feeding miracles. He cautions them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. Leaven is often (but not always [Mt. 13.33]) as sign of sin and evil [Mk. 8.15; Lk. 12.1; 1 Cor. 5.8]. Because the disciples are so dense they don’t understand the connection.

Leaven of the…

Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ death will be due to pressure placed upon political leaders by others with power. Both Herod and Pilate acknowledge the innocence of their victims, but will chose to gain the favor of world in exchange for their souls. The concerns of the world choke out the Word they heard. Yeast works through whole batch, the whole person, and corrupts entirely.

Herod committed adultery, murder, and was guilty of political ambition. He didn’t demand a spectacular sign, but he did misinterpret the miracles of Jesus as an indication that John the Baptist had been raised. The Pharisees saw what Jesus was doing, they saw the finger of God at work [Ex. 8.19], but they rejected the same finger that they claimed to follow for they followed their own ambitions and selfish gain.

Though the disciples understood Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom, they failed to manifest Kingdom values. They forgot Jesus’ warning about the blindness of the Pharisees [Mt. 15.13-14] and the two miraculous feedings. Why did He feed the multitudes? Was it to show a sign? No. It was because He had compassion. Jesus is the great King we serve, the great Shepherd who has compassion on His sheep.

“Are your hearts hard?”

But the disciples may suffer from being blind and deaf: “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? and do you not remember?” [8.18]. This is a reference back to Jeremiah 5.21-23 where Israel’s lack of understanding leads her into exile.

Israel professes loyalty to the Lord, but hardens their hearts against His correction. The beginning of wisdom is the fear the Lord, but Israel doesn’t fear YHWH, although it is YHWH who controls the unruly and roaring sea (which was viewed as an entity of chaos). Though Jesus controls and walks on water the disciples do not understand. Isreal’s rebellious hypocrisy would be their downfall [Mk 13].

But Jesus’ questions, are not statements. He is warning the twelve of the seriousness of rejecting Him.

They have seen many things and have not understood, but they have one thing in their favor: unlike those whose hearts are truly hardened, they keep following Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God [1.1] has just healed a deaf man, and will soon heal a blind man. If He can do that, surely He can and will heal His blind and deaf disciples.

The Gentile woman is happy with under-the-table puppy-crumbs. The disciples have had baskets of leftover bread, but they don’t understand. In fact, they won’t for a while. Yet despite His warning [8.15], the disciples will give Jesus leavened responses [8.32; 9.5-6, 18, 32, 34, 38; 10.28, 37, 39, 41]. But Jesus is patient in His discipleship.

“Do you not yet understand?” 

8.22-26; Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

In 7.31-37 Jesus healed a deaf man. Now, He will heal the blind. Yet also, it is the disciples who need eyes to see and ears to hear [8.18]. The two miracles combine to show what can and must happen to the disciples. In this miracle, with the first touch Jesus causes the man to see [8.24]. With the second touch, He causes the man to understand what he sees [8.25]. 7.37 ended in a doxology of sorts, praising God for His good work through Jesus’ healing. The current section just seems to end. Yet in the next section Jesus will ask two questions: “Who do people say that I am?” [8.27] and “Who do you say that I am?” [8.29].

The Gentiles have responded to Jesus’ miracles with amazing insight [7.37]. How will the disciples respond?

How will you respond?

“You are the Christ.” 

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Monday’s With Mark, Part VIII [7.1-30]

Mark

Last week we looked at Mark 6 and the rejection Jesus and John the Baptist experienced by the authorities, and that which the disciples would experience. It ends on a high notes with Jesus as a miracle worker, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, and healing the sick.

7.1-13; Prophesied Hypocrites

Ritual purity, scribal traditions, and the breaking down of the Jewish-Gentile walls are a major theme in the following verses. We haven’t seen the Pharisees since they left to plot the death of Jesus (3.6) along with the scribes since they accused Jesus of working with Satan (3.22). Jesus has been accused of blasphemy (2.7), keeping bad company (2.16), breaking the Sabbath (2.24; 3.2), and working under Satan’s power (3.22). What now?

Oh, they have seen that Jesus’ disciples eat bread with defiled (unwashed) hands.

…that’s it? 

The Old Testament prescribed cleansing rituals, particularly for priests and their households before eating consecrated food (Num. 18.11-13). The Pharisees, wanting to seem extra pious, expanded this command to cover hands, food, and eating utensils (7.4). The real issue is the tradition of the elders (7.3) over the will of God. The traditions were a guardrail around the law ensuring nobody stepped over the line. In being asked why His disciples disobey the traditions (7.5), Jesus responds not by explaining the disciples ‘disobedience’, but what is wrong with the scribes and Pharisees’ ‘obedience’.

They are hypocrites (7.6-8). Only those whose soil/hearts are hard (4.5) and far from God (7.6) could continue to reject His good news. This hypocrisy by the Jewish leadership points to the transfer of the vineyard (12.1-9) and the destruction of the temple (13).

There is a word play in 7.6 and 7.9, with Jesus saying ironically, “Isaiah did a beautiful job of describing you, and you do a beautiful job of living up to the description.” Jesus’ accusations also get progressively stronger in the following verses: they lay aside the commandment of God (7.8), they reject the commandment of God (7.9), and they make the word of God of no effect (7.13).

Though there are many examples (7.13), Jesus cracks down on their theory of ‘Corban’ (7.9-11). One could declare an object ‘Corban’ and still retain the use of it. It becomes unavailable to others as if it had been given to God. So a son may have been expected to support his parents in their old age, yet gives that support up as ‘Corban’ to the Lord. The son could keep it and the parents couldn’t touch. As dumb as this sounds, the religious establishment stood on the side of the son!

The Pharisees not only abandoned God’s commandments to honor one’s parents, but they also forbade it (7.12)! Yet Jesus said by breaking this commandment one was deserving of death (quoting Moses) (7.10).

7.14-16; Jesus Speaks to the Crowds

Defilement is something that is born in the heart and manifests itself outwardly. Only people, not things, can be unclean, and they are unclean not by things, but their actions devised in their hearts (7.15; 3.5-6).

7.17-23; Jesus Speaks to the Disciples

Food doesn’t touch the heart. It doesn’t make you any more or less moral (7.18-19a). Jesus’ opponents are trying to make up ceremonies to make the profane become sacred again. Jesus simply affirms the goodness of God’s creation.

The shift of food being unclean to clean points Peter and the apostles to preaching the gospel to the now-clean Gentiles. This is the same sort of point Jesus is making here.

A person is not defiled by food, but schemings, reasonings, and actions from a defiled heart (3.6). “Jesus doesn’t not alleviate the demand for purity but sharpens it” (pg. 258, Lane). “Washing hands is relatively easy compared to overcoming greed, pride, and other evil desires” (pg. 168; Geddert).

7.24-30; A Persistent Gentile

Speaking of things that are defiled, let’s go to the Gentiles! Jesus goes to Tyre wanting to seek refuge in a house. But this popular Messiah can find no rest for very long. Jesus is found by a “born loser”. She is a woman (social status), a Greek (religious status), and a Syrophoenician (identifies her race as being connected to the OT Canaanites).

Having just talked about breaking down barriers, and that defilement comes from within, this Gentile woman’s daughter is demon-possessed. She asks for help, and Jesus refuses. He’s not wrong in doing so. The right time has not yet come for the children (Israel) are to be fed first (7.27). It is not fair to take what is first and throw it to the dogs (or puppies?) under the table (seems like it could be ‘puppies’ with reference to food under a household table).

Yet she understands! She accepts that Israel is first (‘Yes’). She calls Him ‘Lord’, and becomes the only person in Mark (and a Gentile at that) to call Jesus ‘Lord’ (similarly, the only person to confess that Jesus is God’s Son is a Gentile [15.39]). But she is not asking for a seat at the table. She simply wants one of the crumbs that falls on the floor.

The Pharisees and scribes could not convince Jesus to change His mind. But lo and behold this Gentile woman does the trick, has faith, and succeeds. God’s grace is for those who are open to receive it, not to those who hold to every tradition.

In the next section Mark deals with eyes that can’t see and ears that can’t hear and how only Jesus can overcome that.

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Review: Mark [CBC]

Mark [CBC]

The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary is based on the second edition of the New Living Translation (NLT). Many of the contributors to the translation of the NLT have also contributed to this commentary series. The Bible is God’s word and is for all people, not only the scholar and academic, to understand and live according to.

The NLT is a lucid English translation, and with each passage the reader is given the NLT printed in full. Notes provides more technical information, such as a Hebrew/Greek understanding of words, cross-references, textual and contextual matters, and interaction with other scholars. Commentary gives the reader a coherent interpretation of the passage, how it fits the previous and proceeding sections, and attention to context and theological themes.

I have to say it’s interesting to review a commentary based on 30% of the book. Each CBC volume includes a commentary on two biblical books, with this volume looking at Matthew and Mark. Technically I only needed the Mark portion because I was co-teaching his Gospel this last semester. So if 70% of the book is Matthew, what do I do with it all?

I read it!

At the beginning of each section (pericope) the reader is given the title of the whole section, and then that of the pericope under investigation. And along with this we are given cross references usually to Matthew and Luke. For example:

B. Controversy Leading to Rejection (2:1-3:12)
+++++++1. The first controversy: Jesus as Son of Man heals a paralytic and forgives sin
(2:1-12; cf. Matt 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26)
+++++

So after reading Bock’s section on Mark, one can page over to Turner’s section in Matthew and read what he has to say. Of course, one must not forget context, but often times much of the meaning can be translated over to either book. There is surely something to gain by having Scripture interpret Scripture, and comparing commentator to commentator.

The Chocolate Milk

Though I requested this book for Mark, I’m not content to only review Bock’s ‘Mark’, but also Turner’s ‘Matthew.’ Both were good commentaries in their own respects, and both have written commentaries for the Baker Exegetical Series (Turner: Matthew; Bock: Luke). It’s unfortunate that Bock wasn’t given more space for often times I preferred reading what Turner had to say simply because there was more information to read. Yet the information there wasn’t good simply because it was more, but because it was informative. Simply put, it was good because it was good!

The benefit of this commentary is that, not only does it cover two Gospels, but the interpretation is as clear as the translation. Each commentator has a knack for intelligible writing. You know what they’re saying. There is surprisingly little Greek in any of the sections making this easy reading for the masses. Both Turner and Bock quickly get to the point and answer the question we all have, “What does this Gospel mean?” 

The Spoiled Milk

At times in ‘Mark’, the Notes gave information for information’s sake than for the reader’s sake. For example, dealing with the Parable of the Lamp (4:21-25), Bock writes 4:21 basket. This was probably a two-gallon measure (Hooker 1991:131)” [pg. 437]. While I appreciated the Notes section, sometimes, like in this example, it provided only information that had no bearing under Commentary. Did it help me understand the parable? No. Is it useful for future reference? Maybe, but I don’t know how. This is in no way a deal-breaker, just a head-scratcher.

Adding on to that, sometimes it would have been more beneficial to have more information under the Commentary section instead of Notes. Being written to “teachers, pastors, students, and lay people” [Preface] we and those we teach would prefer to know the theological message of Mark more than the bare facts.

Recommended?

While I don’t understand why the Mark commentary was so short (no reason was given), I would suspect it’s because much of what is in Mark is found in Matthew, and while Mark is 16 chapters, Matthew is 28. But, don’t let this dissuade you from this commentary. Both Turner and Bock are established scholars with plenty of works leaving a trail behind them.

I will say I was a bit disappointed with Bock’s section on Mark, but it’s not because he is lacking. It’s just that the Mark section is 30% of the whole book. Fortunately, Turner’s other 70% is fantastic. Regardless of which Gospel you are studying, both Turner and Bock are capable of helping you to prepare whatever message you need to get across.

Lagniappe

+++++Series: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary (Book 11)
+++++Hardcover: 576 pages
+++++Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (May 1, 2006)

[Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

 Buy It on Amazon

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Review: Mark [BCBC]

Mark [BCBC]

For the lack of Marcan commentaries in the first 1700 years of church history, there are plenty out there now for a teacher to use, many of which are good in their own right. One such commentary has been written by Timothy Geddert under the Believers Church Bible Commentary Series. This series is under the conviction that “God is still speaking to those who will listen, and that the Holy Spirit makes the Word a living and authoritative guide for all who want to know and do God’s will” [pg. 11]. They want to assist as wide a range of readers as possible to know and understand God’s word, and each writer consults with other counselors, the series’ editors, and the Editorial Council. No commentary in this series (or any) are written and released merely by one person.

The BCBC Series represents the hermeneutics of a community which interprets the Bible for the use of those who have a hunger to know God through His written word. Mark is the 14th commentary to appear in the BCBC series, sponsored by six denominations: Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, Brethren in Christ Church, General Conference Mennonite Church, Mennonite Brethren Church, and Mennonite Church.

Geddert starting his Marcan journey by memorizing a Gospel. Which did he start with? The shortest one, of course! But as he memorized Mark, Mark mastered him. He paid attention to exact sentence wording, geographical markers, episode arrangements, allusions, patterns, and recurring themes. His desire is to teach Mark in a non-technical way. You could say it’s Mark For Everyone, only by a different author.

Book Setup

1. Preview:

Locates each section within the larger framework of Mark’s Gospel and shows how the section is structured.

2. Outline:

Outlines the section in greater detail.

3. Explanatory Notes:

Notes, facts, and background clues to invite the reader to see Mark’s Gospel come alive.

4. The Text in Biblical Context:

Picks up several themes fro the section and comments how OT and/or other NT material contributes to its understanding.

5. The Text in the Life of the Church:

Focuses on one or two issues from each larger section and explores how they apply to the Church.

The Chocolate Milk

1. Literary Reading

Geddert reads Mark as “Historical and Theological Literature.” Of the wide range of critical study methods employed by scholars (Historical, Source, Form, Redaction, Literary, Reader-response), Geddert focuses his interest on using Literary (the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature) and Reader-response (the reader/audience and their experience of a literary work) criticism. He says no one should stick with only one form of criticism, and doesn’t set these forms above the rest. However, reader response doesn’t require us to look at how the events were in their original form. We read Mark’s Gospel to figure out what he’s trying to tell us.

By using this, Geddert looks forward and behind each text in conversation. In chapter 4 Geddart points out that Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God in parables, and has not mentioned the Kingdom of God since 1.15. Why is this? Jesus has been acting out the Kingdom of God: “[H]e goes around recruiting disciples, teaching with authority, driving out demons, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, pronouncing forgiveness, accepting the sinners, challenging the status quo, vanquishing the enemy, renewing the people of God, and creating a spiritual family” [pg. 95]. Sounds like the Kingdom of God to me. And since the Kingdom of God has been a rare term thus far in Mark, it can be very easy to lose sight of the meaning of the Kingdom in Mark.

2. Personal warmth

One of the first things I noticed about Geddert’s commentary. Under the Introduction he states, “As you embark with me on this voyage of discovery, I need to state my own personal conviction about Mark and my goals in writing this commentary” to which he presents the facts as previously stated. Yet this is not the only time Geddert is personal. Much of his commentary is reader focused, as if he is speaking to you in person, as a person. I understand the academic sense other commentaries feel they should be written in, but this personality was refreshing. I could see and believe that Geddert cared that I understood Mark and his theological reason for writing his Gospel. He does his best to include what helps and exclude whatever does not.

The Introduction was brief, yet Geddert combs the book in broad sweeps to give the reader the main ideas. Though, I have to wonder if this section was too short.

3. Clear Explanations on Hard Texts

Geddert gives some of the clearest explanations I’ve read on a few sections, whether it be the meaning of why parables were given so that the outsiders wouldn’t be forgiven in 4.10-12, the explanation of ‘leaven’ in 8.15 and a chiasm of 6.14-8.21 to help give an explanation (Watts also gives a succinct explanation for the use of ‘leaven’ and the problems it foreshadows), and even his explanation of Mark’s possible use of symbols in 6.30-44 and 8.1-10 (feedings of the 5,000 and 4,000) made sense. I don’t know if I buy into it yet, but Geddert’s explanation is fully understandable.

The Spoiled Milk

1. No Historical Criticism?

What I did miss was the historical look [criticism] at the context. In 2.18, Jesus is given a question about why His disciples do not fast like the Pharisees or John the Baptist’s disciples. Who are the Pharisees? For what reason would John’s disciples fast? We aren’t told. But, despite that I enjoy the historical context, this isn’t Geddert’s focus. And what he does focus on, he does really well.

Recommended?

I was very pleased with the forms of criticism Geddart employed in his studies. It creates a readable commentary that anyone can read (and enjoy!) for their own understanding. This is one Mark commentary that could (and should) be used by Sunday School teachers, pastors, teachers of any kind, students, and those who want some more information on Mark.

I was highly pleased with Geddert’s commentary on Mark. He shows a confident yet humble grasp on Mark, often combining themes and exegesis with clear, succinct writing that anyone could understand. Geddert does what many commentators have not done, and that is to make a commentary that is both wise and useful for anybody who opens it up to read. With great care for both the reader and the Gospel, he writes his commentary for all to appreciate, understand, and apply Mark’s theological purpose.

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (4.40).
“After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (1.7).
“But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house” (3.27).
“This is my beloved Son; listen to Him” (9.7).
“[This is t]he beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1.1)

Lagniappe

  • Series: Believers Church Bible Commentary
  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Herald Press (February 1, 2001)

[Special thanks to Jerilyn at Herald Press 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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