Approaches to Mark: What am I leaving out?

It seems to me that the following are the most important questions or perspectives that one would need to consider when interpreting Mark. I invite you to take a look at this list and to respond by telling me which approaches I have omitted, and why any approaches to Mark that aren’t on this list are important.

So, here’s my list:

1. The question of the historical Jesus, and the quest to find the earliest sources for the life of Jesus (Life of Jesus research, source criticism).
2. The Synoptic Problem and its majority solution, Marcan priority (source criticism).
3. The oral tradition of the life and teachings of Jesus, and how Mark utilizes it (form criticism).
4. The Greek text of Mark and its history of transmission (textual criticism).
5. The emergence of the Κατὰ Μάρκον Ἐυαγγέλιον (Gospel According to Mark) in early church history.
6. Mark in comparison with patterns from the Hebrew Bible.
7. Mark in comparison with the larger tradition of teacher/disciple narratives (socio-rhetorical criticism).
8. How Mark does characterization (literary criticism).
9. The theology of the Gospel of Mark.

6 thoughts on “Approaches to Mark: What am I leaving out?

Add yours

  1. your list seems pretty thorough to me. Does the numbering indicate importance or is it simply a list?

    Also, you don’t directly address the history of the interpretation of Mark. Might be interesting to contrast pre-Reformation interpretations with post-Reformation interpretations.

    1. Yes, I think I should have put in the history of interpretation. We now have available to us the volume Mark in the “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” series. It is edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998; corrected edition 2005). Unfortunately we have no way of knowing how representative the excerpts that Oden and Hall chose were. Nonetheless it is a good start.

      The only question I have about the current focus on history of interpretation is just how helpful the history of interpretation, before the early 19th century, is towards doing exegesis now. We may find out that the fathers were just as divided on the interpretation of crucial passages as 19th, 20th, and 21st century interpreters are.

      The listing of interpretative issues and approaches was not a ranking, just an attempt to list them.

      All best,

  2. I’ve unpacked my books and found my commentary on Mark. It’s by Morna Hooker in the Black’s New Testament series. It’s been a while since I cracked it open. I’ll post my opinion on its usefullness after I’ve had a little time to reaquaint myself.

    1. I’m now working through the new commentaries by M. Eugene Boring (New Testament Library 2006) and Adela Yarbro Collins (Hermeneia 2007), and I want to make comments on them in due course. Your comments on Morna Hooker’s commentary (Black’s NT Commentary 1991) will be very welcome.

  3. Hello Frank. I’ve just come across your blog and I don’t know if you are still maintaining it. If so, I’d like to suggest the following perspectives when interpreting the Gospel of Mark:

    1. Influence of Greek philosophy on Mark’s narrative – Plato (Timaeus) and Philo of Alexandria (Legum Allegoriae amongst others), especially the idea of the individual and cosmic tripartite soul.
    2. Influence of historical events (esp. the Jewish War) and how these are introduced into the narrative.
    3. The social and political forces at work at the time that the Gospel was written.
    4. Why did Mark write the Gospel and who did he write it for?
    5. The significance of the Messianic secret.
    6. The significance of the Galilean healing miracles esp. the types of ailments suffered by those that Jesus healed.
    7. The significance of Jesus’ behaviour when on trial in front of the High Priest and Pilate.

    These are just a few but there are a lots more perspectives that can be covered. I find the Gospel utterly fascinating and it would be good to hear your ideas.

    Kind Regards


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