Sunday, December 18, 2005

Something About the Gospel of Mark

Michael Turton posts a review of his Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. This commentary is the outcome of Turton's "goal of producing a skeptical commentary on the Gospel of Mark", the first ever as he sees it.

It should be noted that the term "skeptical" is rather slippery. I'm a skeptic but see more history preserved in Mark than Turton does. And the idea that Mark is a "one of the greatest literary geniuses of history" -- he shows considerably less genius than the other gospel writers, as far as I'm concerned -- is at odds with an important approach emphasizing the nonliterary dimension to the texts of the New Testament. The gospels were read in oral settings and communicated ideas to specific communities. (Though if an evangelical like Richard Bauckham disputes this, Turton may share more in common with at least one of those "believing conservatives" he laments about after all.)

But we agree about one thing: Mark is the best gospel we have. If there's one gospel I could take to the moon with me, that would be the one. In the author's note Michael writes:

"There's something about the Gospel of Mark. Matthew instructs, Luke pleases, John drones, but Mark? Mark obsesses. People dive into Mark and emerge for air, months later, not certain what happened to them, and wondering who strangers living in their house are."

Yes. Mark is the most engaging and dramatic of the four gospels, and Turton's own commentary on Mark is pretty engaging and dramatic too. Even if you disagree with his approach to Mark (as I do), it's well worth reading, and you will learn from it.


Anonymous steph said...

Mark is my chosen NT book for my moonpack too. He is definitely the one that continues to fascinate me most and I agree that there is history to be gleaned from him. I like him in the form we have him though, without a prequel. As it is, he grabs you by the throat straight away (so to speak) -anything prior would only destroy that sense of urgency he achieves in the present form and be superfluous. My old teacher described it as "a story of intrigue passion violence and death".


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