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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