Book Reviews

Mark (Teach the Text Series)

Grant R. Osborne Grand Rapids, MI 2014-12-01

Grant Osborne is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, and has authored numerous books. Darrell Bock submits that Osborne’s Mark is “a concise yet seasoned, sensitive treatment of this important Gospel. Be prepared to learn more not only about Jesus but also about the walk of faith from a well-qualified guide” (back cover). This review will be limited to three select sections to illustrate the function of the commentary.

Mark 8:27–33, Realizing the True Nature of Jesus the Christ. The Big Idea is “The central themes of this passage and the next are Christology (8:27–33) and discipleship (8:34—9:1). This passage picks up the Christology of 1:1 and the truth of Jesus as the Messiah and then defines his messianic work in terms of the Suffering Servant” (p. 140). The Key Themes of this section are: (1) “The world will never understand Jesus’s true personhood and mission;” and (2) “The messianic path for Jesus and his followers demands suffering and vindication,” noted clearly in Osborne’s discussion of 8:31, “the Son of Man must suffer many things” (pp. 141–42). Theological Insights note that the “primary thrust is Christological. Jesus is not just in line with the Old Testament prophets; he is the expected Messiah, the ‘anointed one,’ who would bring God’s final salvation to humankind.” Osborne suggests two possibilities under the heading Teaching the Text: (1) “The world is ignorant regarding Jesus” (p. 144). He shows how religious leaders and even Christ’s disciples misunderstood Jesus’s mission and personhood. (2) “Jesus’ disciples must walk his path of suffering and vindication” (ibid.). The servant must suffer as Christ suffered, because “vindication comes rarely and temporarily in this life; it comes fully and forever in the ‘better’ world (Heb. 11:39–40)” (ibid.). Two suggestions are given for Illustrating the Text. First, built around the question, “Who do people say I am?” Osborne gives examples of what people have thought of Jesus historically (pp. 144–45). The second illustration builds around another question, “Who do you say I am?” Here Osborne offers passages that exemplify the only right answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (p. 145).

Mark 10:32–52, A Call to Servanthood and Suffering. The Big Idea is that “once more the disciples fail by seeking greatness rather than servanthood, and the right ‘path’ is shown by Bartimaeus, who centers entirely on Jesus and ‘follows’ him ‘along the road.’ Jesus is central, and here he reveals that his way of suffering is redemptive, providing a ‘ransom for many,’ and ends his public ministry with a call to discipleship” (p. 182). The Key Themes are (1) “Jesus predicts the path of suffering”; (2) “Believers need to understand the path that Jesus asks them to walk with him”; (3) “Jesus will die as a ‘ransom for many’ ”; and (4) “The healing of blind Bartimaeus encapsulates the meaning of discipleship” (p. 185). A helpful cutout on “Jesus the ‘Ransom for Many’ ” is provided on page 185. There, Osborne says, “ ‘Many’ is most likely a Semitic idiom for ‘all.’ Christ died for all of sinful humanity” (ibid.). Theological Insights once again combine Christology and discipleship “as Jesus knows that his messianic path is one of suffering, for he will give his life to provide a ‘ransom for many,’ and a payment that will purchase the freedom of humankind from the bondage of sin” (ibid.). Osborne suggests three possibilities for Teaching the Text: (1) “Jesus predicts his path of suffering,” where the purpose of Jesus’s incarnation was to be his vicarious death. (2) “Our walk with Jesus is done in imitation of him” (p. 186). Walking the path of Jesus is never presented as an easy life in the Gospels. (3) “The healing of Bartimaeus is ‘the gospel in microcosm’ ” (ibid.). This event “provides a segue to the passion event” and Christ as the light-giver to the world (ibid.). In Illustrating the Text Osborne offers “A discipleship choice: faith or fame?” This illustration revolves round a 2011 study by a team of psychologists at UCLA who discovered that fame was the number one value promoted by television for preteens (p. 187).

In a section entitled Additional Insights, Osborne discusses the ending of Mark (16:9–20) (pp. 324–25). He observes that although the passage is missing from ancient manuscripts and from the majority of extant manuscripts, it “seems to be a compendium of the other Gospels and Acts” (p. 324). He notes the following: v. 9 = John 20:11–17; v. 10 = John 20:18; v. 11 = Luke 24:11; vss. 12–13 = Luke 24:13–35; v. 14 = Luke 24:36–43; v. 15 = Matthew 28:18–20; v. 17 = Acts 2:4; v. 18 = Acts 28:3–6; v. 19 = Luke 24:50–51; and v. 20 = the book of Acts (p. 324). He states, “My conclusion is that Mark should be seen as ending at verse 8” (p. 325).

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