Grant Osborne. Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014. 352 pp.
This is a work that is a part of the Teaching the Text Commentary Series put out by Baker Books. My overall review of this book is that this is a wonderful and helpful expositional commentary. I read through this commentary for my own devotional but felt it would be good for an expositor to use as well. The introduction of the book mentioned that the editor was intentional in making this volume accessible and helpful for the exegete and educated lay person and certainly I think they largely succeeded with the format of the book. The author begins each section in the commentary with the big idea summarizing the periscope, then a section titled “understanding the text” that is broken down into “The Text in Context” followed by “Interpretative Insight” that goes roughly verse by verse. After this is “Theological Insights” then “Teaching the Text” and ends with “Illustrating the Text.” I appreciation the commentary’s attempt to give illustration even when at times the illustration was weak since it help the expositor jog his mind for sermon illustrations!
This is a commentary filled with good insights. Here in this review I can only share some of those that stood out to me:
- I especially enjoyed how the commentary shares background that helped enlightened the text; for instance, the Jews often saw that the further back in salvation history one can pull in one’s theological argument, the greater is its theological “weight;” thus when Jesus argues against the Pharisees concerning divorce the move by Jesus to go back to Adam and Eve and not just stay with Leviticus and Deuteronomy was a deliberate move to provide an argument with a stronger force than the Pharisees.
- In the first century religious context, Jewish sages were often seen as being too important to have children bother them; yet Jesus turns this on its head when He welcomes children in Mark 10:13-16.
- This commentary was also helpful for me in interpreting Jesus’ curse of the fig tree. The author noted that fig trees in the area typically had early figs in early March even though the main season that it bloomed was in May; this was what Jesus expected from the fig tree even though it was “not the season for figs.” The commentary makes the argument that the issue isn’t so much about the fig tree as it is about the spiritually barren temple (which the fig tree periscope is sandwiched between two periscopes at the temple) which the word “season” heavily suggests since it is not a botanical term for growing season but a religious term.
- Background information is also important in appreciating the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. The commentary noted that it was unusual for pilgrims to enter Jerusalem on a ride so Jesus entrance into Jerusalem bear some resemblance to Solomon’s entrance to Jerusalem on David’s donkey in 1 Kings 1:32-48.
- The commentary’s explanation of how the Jews performed the Passover feast with its various steps also help illuminated what was going on during Jesus’ last supper.
- There are some ironies during the night that Jesus was arrested. The verb for “laying hands” is often used in Mark to describe Jesus healing people but now used to describe people grabbing Jesus. Normally in Jewish custom it is the Rabbis who bestow the greeting of a kiss to his disciples and not the other way around as Judas did.
Although I read through this commentary as a devotional read I would also say that this commentary is definitely for expository preachers. Several years ago I had a hard time finding a good commentary I can recommend on Mark to my church’s small group leaders. Had this commentary came out then I would have also recommended this book as a tool for lay people leading Bible studies on Mark.
NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Baker Books and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.