William Hulitt Gloer

The Conrad Grebel Review 20 no. 3 (Fall 2002)

Timothy J. Geddert. Mark. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale,
PA: Herald Press, 2001.

Timothy Geddert has contributed an outstanding commentary to the Believers Church Bible Commentary series. He begins with a brief introduction discussing the nature of the gospel of Mark, questions of authorship, date, provenance, basic theology, reception of the gospel in the church, and his own approach to the gospel’s interpretation. While acknowledging the usefulness of a wide variety of critical methodologies, he sees Mark as a highly creative, carefully constructed narrative employing various literary devices (chiasm, intercalation, etc.), and suggests that “literary criticism and reader-response criticism contribute
most directly in helping readers interpret the message of Mark” (23). He
reminds readers of things Mark presumed his audience would understand,
highlighting Old Testament and first-century Greco-Roman backgrounds and customs, and explaining the meaning of Greek words and grammar.

Geddert sees the gospel divided into two main sections: “Ministry In
and Around Galilee” (1:1-8:26) and “Journey to Jerusalem, the Cross, and
Beyond” (8:27-16:8). An overview at the beginning of each section is followed by a detailed treatment of individual units found there. For example, Geddert’s treatment of Mark 13 begins with a preview recalling the development of the narrative so far and significant thematic emphases, and setting forth his understanding of the unit now under consideration. Geddert argues that this chapter is not about “signs and timetables” but “about discernment, not being fooled by people with timetables and signs” (300). It is about the familiar Markan themes of discernment, discipleship, Christology, passion, and the temple. If these themes are kept central, the chapter appears to be “an integral part of Mark’s good news and of his challenge to follow Jesus” (300).

An outline of the section under examination is followed by explanatory
notes. Noting that chapter 13 is filled with ambiguities (e.g., “the desolating sacrilege”) that have “proved extremely difficult” for interpreters, Geddert suggests that “Mark has deliberately created or incorporated virtually all the ambiguities that many interpreters are aiming to eliminate,” so that faithful interpretation “does not mean getting rid of the ambiguity but understanding why it is there and what roles it plays” (302). He gives attention to major exegetical and interpretive issues, acknowledges interpretive options, and sets forth his own conclusions (301-20). Geddert’s conclusions will not satisfy everyone, but they are well-reasoned and make sense in the developing Markan narrative.

“The Text in the Biblical Context” presents succinct, suggestive
discussions of issues such as “The Prophetic Perspective” and “The Four
Watches of the Passion Night,” an often overlooked feature which dramatically contrasts Jesus’ faithfulness and the disciples’ unfaithfulness. Finally, “The Text in the Life of the Church” discusses significant issues for the church today (e.g., “Mark 13 and Popular Eschatology”). A full outline is followed by helpful essays (“Kingdom of God in Mark,” etc.), an extensive and cosmopolitan bibliography, and an annotated list of selective resources.

Geddert notes connections often overlooked, is quick to point out
popular interpretations that go beyond the text, and highlights contributions of the believers church tradition to the understanding of the text, while recognizing shortcomings in this tradition suggested by others. Geddert has immersed himself in the Markan text. His approach is refreshing and revealing, a skillful and effective blending of the scholarly (in a non-technical way) and the devotional. He approaches the text with humility, inviting the reader to join him in listening carefully to Mark’s message. I recommend this commentary highly to pastors and teachers and to anyone wanting to engage in a serious, compelling study of Mark’s gospel.

William Hulitt Gloer, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas