Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 24:2 (Fall 03) p. 283
R. T. France. The Gospel of Mark. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. xxxvii + 719 pp. $55.00.
R. T. France starts off his introduction by stating, “I have tried to write the sort of commentary I like to use” (p. 1). For him, this means most of all that he has written a commentary on Mark, not a commentary on commentaries on Mark. Since his focus is on the exegesis of Mark’s text, he does not feel obliged to draw attention to all the concerns of other commentators. One result is that France spends little time with the prehistory of Mark’s gospel or the process of its composition. He does not sort out the elements in a given passage that belong to an earlier tradition from those that represent Mark’s own contribution. The text of Mark’s gospel, however it may have come about, stands at the center of his attention. France hopes that enough people share his expectations about a commentary on Mark to make his efforts worthwhile. I would belong to that group of people.
The rest of the introduction sets out France’s basic understanding of Mark’s gospel as a foundation for his exegetical work in the commentary itself (p. 4). With regard to literary genre, Mark’s gospel is a biography, similar to other lives of famous people written in the ancient Greco-Roman world. In other words, it tells the story of a recent historical figure in a way that commends the man and his message (p. 10). Mark was a worthy storyteller. His use of descriptive detail, “sandwiching” of one scene within another, and presentation of thought-provoking paradoxes, all contribute to the impact of his story (pp. 15-20). Mark did not write his work with a narrow purpose in mind. His aim was to write a book about Jesus, drawing on the information available to him, although in the process he undoubtedly addressed many of his own personal concerns and gave guidance to the church within which he served (p. 23). The two most central areas in Mark’s theological message are Christology and discipleship, addressing the questions of who Jesus is and what it means to follow him (pp. 23-29). The widespread circulation of Mark’s gospel was not an accident of history but was the intention from the start. Mark was not only speaking to a particular local church context. Therefore, France does not seek out the exact circumstances in which Mark wrote as a guide for his interpretation of the text (p. 36). In addition, France does not consciously base his exegetical work on any specific theory of authorship, date, and location (p. 41). However, he evaluates positively the tradition of the early church that Mark wrote his gospel in Rome as a record of Peter’s teaching, probably while Peter was still alive and therefore not later than the early sixties of the first century (p. 38). With regard to the Synop...
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