Ben Witherington III applies to Mark the socio-rhetorical approach for which he is well known, opening a fresh new perspective on the earliest Gospel. Mark was written when the early Christians were experiencing a major crisis during the Jewish war. He provides us with the first window on how the life and teachings of Jesus were presented to a largely non-Jewish audience. According to Witherington, the structure of Mark demonstrates that this Gospel is biographically focused on the identity of Jesus and the importance of knowing who He is—the Christ, the Son of God. Because Christology—who Jesus is—stood at the heart of the earliest Christians’ faith, Mark reveals how important it was to these earliest Christians to persuade others about the nature of Jesus, both as a historical figure and as the Savior of the world.
Drawing on a host of ancient authors who were concerned with the form and function of rhetoric and writing, Ben Witherington interacts with a broad range of contemporary New Testament scholarship to offer his own informed interpretation of Mark’s Gospel. With clarity and conviction Witherington guides readers through complex, often controversial, issues of interpretation. This commentary offers both a new exposition of Mark’s Gospel and an intelligent introduction to scholarly Markan studies.
—Marion L. Soards, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Witherington provides scholars and church leaders with an impressive, reliable, and often surprising commentary on the Gospel of Mark. He treats the book as an ancient biography of Jesus, written by and for people who were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God and Savior of the world. By being faithful to the literary dynamics of Mark’s text and attentive to the social dynamics of Mark’s world, Witherington reveals Mark’s life-transforming message of hope for our world today.
—Mark Allan Powell, Trinity Lutheran Seminary
Ben Witherington III is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. He received his M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies. A prolific writer, he has twice won the Christianity Today best Biblical Studies book-of-the-year award. Among his other books are The Christology of Jesus and Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World and The Jesus Quest. A popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings not only in the United States but also in England, Estonia, Russia, Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia.
“Their authority was based on their learning, whereas Jesus’ seemed to be like that of a prophet—someone who had received a word of God without study.” (Page 90)
“Mark seems almost unconcerned about explicating how event A was related to event B, which seems to have followed it. Rather, he sought to ask and answer the questions: Who was Jesus, what was he like, and why is he worth writing a biography about?” (Page 5)
“Mark largely lets Jesus’ words and deeds speak for themselves.” (Page 6)
“The Sabbath had become a symbol of the eschatological rest or shalom that God would one day provide for his people when, as the Pharisees thought, Messiah came and brought in the age to come. The longed-for Sabbath was the coming of the dominion of God. Thus Jesus’ beginning his healing work on the Sabbath should be seen as a deliberate attempt to bring in that final Sabbath rest, a time when creation would be relieved not just of the toil and turmoil of a fallen world but of disease, decay, and death as well. From this perspective, there was no better time to heal a person than on the Sabbath as an indicator that the ultimate Sabbath was coming.” (Page 100)
“The point of both the cursing of the fig tree and the action in the temple is that they figure forth the coming judgment of God on the heart of Israel. That which is appealing from a distance (cf. Mark 11:13 to 13:1), on closer inspection has no real fruit to offer up to Jesus or God.” (Page 312)