Exegetical Issues in Mark’s Gospel -- By: Robert H. Stein

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 08:3 (Fall 2004)
Article: Exegetical Issues in Mark’s Gospel
Author: Robert H. Stein


Exegetical Issues in Mark’s Gospel

Robert H. Stein

Robert H. Stein is Mildred and Ernest Hogan Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A world-renowned scholar of the Synoptic Gospels, Dr. Stein has published numerous books, papers, and journal articles addressing the Gospels and hermeneutical issues. Among his many books are Luke in the New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman, 1992), A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules (Baker, 1994), Jesus the Messiah (InterVarsity, 1996), Studying the Synoptic Gospels (Baker, 2001), and Mark in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker, forthcoming).

In the study of the Gospel of Mark, there are several key issues that need to be addressed in order to understand its meaning. What I would like to do is to discuss six of these issues and why they are important in the study of this Gospel.

The Importance of Having a Clear Goal

There are numerous reasons why a person might choose to study the Gospel of Mark. Mark is in reality a treasure chest containing vast amounts of information, and one must come to some conclusion of exactly what one is hoping to discover in this treasure chest. Numerous people for example choose to study the Gospel of Mark in order to understand the teachings of Jesus. This is one of the most popular reasons why people study Mark. At first this appears like an easy task, because all one has to do is to find a red-letter edition of the Bible and read the red parts of Mark. Yet some problems immediately arise once we ask such questions as, “What did Jesus mean by this English word in this sentence?” We all, of course, know that the New Testament is not written in English but Greek, so that the question about the meaning of an English word in the text involves not what Jesus meant by this word but what the English translators meant by it. Far more appropriate would be the question “What did Jesus mean by this Greek word in this sentence?” But this also raises a question. The native tongue of Jesus was not Greek but Aramaic, so that the question about the meaning of a Greek word involves not what Jesus meant but what the Evangelist meant by this. If, on the other hand, we seek to reconstruct from the present Greek text the actual words that Jesus spoke in Aramaic—and vast amounts of effort have been poured into such efforts—we would always be dealing with probabilities and not certainty. It is difficult at times to distinguish clearly between what Jesus said and what the Evangelist in his interpretation of Jesus’ words reports. Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that in preaching and teaching something is lost when we say, “Here is the word of the Lord, if my reconstruction of what...

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