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Fall 2001 · Vol. 30 No. 2 · pp. 223–24 

Book Review


Timothy J. Geddert. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2001. 454 pages.

Reviewed by V. George Shillington

In recent years some New Testament scholars, Timothy Geddert among them, have made something of a career out of studying the lively narrative of Mark about the ministry of Jesus. A professor of New Testament at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California, Geddert published his doctoral dissertation on Mark in 1989 under the title Watchwords: Mark 13 in Markan Eschatology (Sheffield Academic Press).

This commentary on Mark is a welcome addition to the Believers Church Bible Commentary series. Like the volumes before it, Mark follows the four-part format of the series: Preview, Explanatory Notes, The Text in Biblical Context, and The Text in the Life of the Church. All four apply to every unit of text discussed. Then at the end of the commentary, short essays on selected topics appear.

I appreciate the clarity of Geddert’s language and the sweep of his thought, a sweep taking in some 430 pages of text on the shortest of the four gospels. The discussion is solid, lucidly focusing various salient views on difficult texts (e.g., 83f., 189f.). At the same time, one could hardly call this commentary on Mark refreshingly new, except, of course, for a reiteration of the 1989 Watchwords theme: “seeing eyes” and “hearing ears” (e.g., 191f., 426).

The lengthy Introduction makes plain the author’s aim and approach. He says, “this commentary will not focus on historical-critical, source-critical, form-critical, or redaction-critical matters.” Rather, “the tools of literary criticism and reader-response criticism contribute most directly in helping readers interpret the message of Mark.” Geddert then adds, “no critical method should be used alone” (23). Yet he does employ historical-critical reconstruction to argue for a particular historical figure as the “real author,” to affirm one date of writing over another, to posit Rome as the place of origin, and to appeal to authorial intention. All of this is nothing less than historical-critical reconstruction. Reader-response, by contrast, requires no such reconstruction of events behind the text. It requires only the text and reader. When the focus is on the reader reading the text the need for a reconstructed “real” author’s intention in writing the text is rendered inoperative.

Much as I applaud Professor Geddert’s effort to capture Mark’s “portrait of the historical Jesus” (18) without interfacing it with the respective portraits of Matthew and Luke, I think at points Geddert {224} might have found clues in the contributions of these two early interpreters of Mark. For example, the short metaphor depicting disciples as “salt” in Mark 9:50 (229) appears also in Luke 14:34, in this case not as preservative or flavoring, as Geddert holds for Mark, but as fertilizer for the land. Quite a different theological image! The same for “salt” in Matthew 5:13. How can Geddert affirm that Mark intends sodium chloride “salt” as preservative/flavor? (Cf. Shillington, “Salt of the Earth?” Expository Times 112:4 [January 2001]: 120ff). By the same token, Matthew’s take on the “cursing of the fig tree” could shed light on Mark’s puzzling comment regarding Jesus’ action (11:12-14, p. 263).

Over all, this up-to-date commentary on Mark reads well. Every student and teacher of Mark owes it to themselves to consult it seriously.

V. George Shillington
Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology
Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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