Mark: A Commentary

Adela Yarbro Collins, John J. Collins Fortress Press, Minneapolis November 1, 2007

One of the first courses recommended for entering doctoral students in biblical studies is a seminar that surveys both literary and nonliterary sources from the Hellenistic age as an aid to New Testament interpretation. Most commentaries interact with this background material to a certain extent, but no commentary on Mark can match this one by Collins for the wide variety of ancient sources cited and discussed. Also helpful is the fact that although these citations are often given in the original language (usually Greek, but also Latin), they are followed by a translation, making the commentary useful for the general reader as well. As a resource for access to these sources this commentary is an outstanding aid.

The introduction (125 pp.) addresses the usual issues of authorship, place of writing, date, and genre. The latter topic includes discussion about Mark as biography and about the book as an “eschatological historical monograph,” narrating “a sequence of events that constitute the fulfillment of the divine plan” (p. 42). Specifically “the narrative of Mark as a whole suggests that the kingdom of God on earth is to be realized in his Son Jesus (1:11) in an anticipatory way and later in a definitive way in his role as the heavenly Son of Man (8:38; 13:24–27; 14:62)” (ibid.). The two main discourses featuring parables (chap. 4) and future events (chap. 13) fit this point of view nicely.

The introduction also includes discussion about Mark’s interpretation of Jesus (as Prophet, Messiah, and Teacher), the Synoptic problem, composition and structure, audience and purpose, the history of interpretation, and textual criticism. The chief textual debate in Mark concerns the ending(s) of the Gospel. The author makes a case for 16:8 being the original conclusion (pp. 797–801), but she also comments on the shorter (additional) and longer endings and the Freer logion (pp. 802–18).

The commentary also includes numerous excursuses on various topics such as the baptism of John, the messianic secret, the Son of Man tradition, the historicity of Judas, the secret Gospel of Mark (likely a forgery or a hoax), the passion narrative, Galilee and Jerusalem, scholarship on 14:51–52, and a discussion of resurrection in ancient cultural contexts. What is missing is a synthesis of the Gospel’s message or something resembling an overview of Mark’s theology that would enable a reader to see the various parts of the commentary in light of the Gospel as a whole. However, for readers interested in learning more about the historical and cultural context of the Book of Mark, this is an invaluable aid. 

—David K. Lowery

October 1, 2009

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2009 vol. 166 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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