A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. By David E. Garland. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. 651 pp. Cloth, $44.99.
David Garland teaches at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.
This beautiful and massive book is a Biblical Theology of Mark and not a commentary. The difference is that unlike in his commentary on Mark (The NIV Application Commentary on Mark), Garland does not walk his way through Mark’s Gospel passage by passage. Instead, Garland has chosen ten theological issues which Mark discusses and he tells us all that Mark has to say about that subject in the entire Gospel. The ten issues are Christological titles (Chapter 4), enacted Christology (Chapter 5), the presentation of God (Chapter 6), the kingdom of God (Chapter 7), the secrecy motifs (Chapter 8), the theology of discipleship (Chapter 9), the requirements, costs, and rewards of discipleship (Chapter 10), mission (Chapter 11), the theology of atonement and salvation (Chapter 12), and eschatology (Chapter 13).
There are three introductory chapters (Chapters 1-3) and a concluding chapter in which Garland considers whether Mark’s Gospel ends at Mark 16:8, whether it was lost, or whether the longer ending (Mark 16:9-20) is original.
JOTGES readers will want to know that Garland is not a Free Grace advocate. In his discussion of salvation and discipleship he indicates that following Christ is a condition of everlasting life. However, unlike many, he does not belabor the point. He doesn’t seem to have an axe to grind. He simply observes what the text says and interprets it through a standard grid.
This book is a mine of outstanding statements for the person willing to do the necessary spade work. The Scripture index at the back makes it fairly easy to find out where Garland discusses a given passage. It may involve looking at four or five different pages on which he discusses a given passage before you find the place where he gives the primary discussion. But once you do, it is worth the search.
The following are examples of statements by Garland or by people he cites which I found very helpful. “John the Baptist is Jesus’ forerunner in more ways than one. He paves the way in preaching repentance to Israel, in his conflict with the powerful, established order, and in his suffering and death. John’s arrest is the first hint that the coming of God’s kingdom will be resisted. Those who are faithfully obedient to God will suffer for their faithfulness” (pp. 104-105).
Concerning Mark 10:45 and Jesus’ saying that “the Son of Man [came]…to give His life a ransom for many,” Garland says, “Paul’s discussion of the repercussions of Adam’s trespass and Christ’s obedience in Rom 5:12-19 uses ‘many’ and ‘all’ interchangeably. In the same way, ‘the many’ in Mark 10:45 likely represents the sum total of humanity” (p. 478). For further support he here points the reader to the article in TDNT on polloi by Joachim Jeremias.
Speaking about Jesus’ call to deny oneself, take up his cross, and follow Christ in order to gain one’s life, Garland writes, “Their ultimate gain comes with present pain. Suffering and hope in God paradoxically belong together” (p. 447). While he understands the ultimate gain to be entering the kingdom and not eternal reward, the quote is still fantastic. I plan to use it.
Chapter 4, dealing with Christological titles in Mark (pp. 225-260) is excellent.
I recommend this Biblical theology of Mark for well-grounded believers. It is an excellent resource. I think that educators and pastors will find a wealth of very helpful material here.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society