Dr. Mark Strauss, professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, recently published a commentary on the Gospel of Mark for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Zondervan, 2014). He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work in an interview with me. Check his book out.
#1: Tell us about the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series and what this series has to offer? What attracted you to this project?
MS: The ZEC Series is an exegetical commentary designed for pastors and teachers. It is especially helpful for those who have had a year or two Greek, and will help them refresh their use of the Greek. It is thorough, yet not overly technical (all the Greek is followed by an English gloss). Every pericope contains a brief summary of (1) the literary context, (2) the “main idea” of the passage, (3) an original translation, (4) a graphical layout of the structure of the passage, (5) an exegetical outline, (6) a fairly detailed commentary or explanation of the text, and (7) a “Theology in Application” section discussing the theological implications of the passage. There is little space devoted to composition history and historical critical issues, which are not particularly relevant to the concerns of the church.
I was approached by Clint Arnold about joining the project as an associate editor for the narrative material of the New Testament. I got excited because the commentary is detailed yet accessible, precisely what a preacher or teacher is looking for when trying to do a thorough exegesis of a passage.
#2: Who are some of the Markan scholars that have influenced you most? If you had to work out an “essential reading on Mark” book list, what would you put on it and why?
MS: R. T. (Dick) France was a dear friend and a great biblical scholar. His volume on Mark in the NIGTC is a classic. In addition to Dick, there are almost too many important Markan scholars to name. I’ve been heavily influenced by the work of Cranfield, Hooker, Lane, Pesch, Guelich, Gundry, Stein, Marcus, Garland, Evans, Boring, Collins, and others. In additional to the many excellent commentaries and monographs, I would strongly recommend the classic narrative analysis of the Gospel in Mark as Story,by Rhoads, Dewey and Michie, and the introduction to new approaches found in Mark and Method (eds. Anderson and Moore),
#3: You have done work on Mark before (New Expositors, 2010). What jumped out to you about Mark’s interests and style this time around?
MS: I’ve come to love not only Mark’s raw energy and intense and colorful narrative (which are often noted) but also his theological and narrative craftsmanship. Mark’s Gospel is far from a random collection of Jesus traditions, as the form critics sometimes claimed. It is a beautifully crafted narrative masterpiece.
#4: After working through Mark in such detail, what question marks are left? What Markan conundrums are left unresolved and unexplained?
MS: Three stand out in particular: (1) The Olivet discourse, which is extremely difficult to untangle in terms of its reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age; (2) the naked man in the Garden (although few think he’s Mark, no one seems to have much of a clue as to why Mark recounts this); and (3) the abrupt and puzzling ending. It is still about a 50-50 split among scholars as to whether the ending was lost or whether Mark intended to end so abruptly. That’s not much of a consensus!
#5: Part of the emphasis in the ZECNT is “theology in application” – What kinds of things does Mark teach that need to be heard loud and clear by the church today?
MS: Mark is an urgent call to faithfulness to Jesus and the gospel in the face of an increasingly hostile world. It is a summons to take up our cross and follow him—even to death. That message is intensely relevant for many believers around the world, who are facing ostracism, persecution, suffering, and death. It is becoming more relevant in our increasingly post-Christian culture.
#6: Can you tell us about other projects you are working on?
MS: I tend to veer back and forth between popular and more scholarly writing. I’m finishing a book on some of the hard sayings of Jesus, editing a teen study Bible, preparing supplemental resources for my Gospels textbook (Four Portraits, One Jesus), and I’m contracted to write a critical introduction to Mark. (And a few other things.)