Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark Reviewed in JETS (Skinner)

Skinner.HaugeThe book I co-edited last fall with my friend, Matt Hauge, Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark, was reviewed by D. Keith Campbell in the most recent fascicle of Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Frankly, I was astonished to see such a positive assessment of the book. The review was one of the most glowing a book of mine has ever received. Campbell closes his review with these words:

[T]he contributors—all pacesetters in Markan narrative criticism—offer penetrating contributions to the field, contributions that NT narrative critics, who especially study characterization, will discuss for years to come. In essence, they accomplish what all researchers strive to accomplish; they advance their field, provide new methods for research, and open clear avenues for others to travel. What more could a monograph offer?

This is where I would normally encourage you to buy a copy but it costs $117!!! Let’s be honest for a second….who has that type of money? However, I am told that the paperback will be available for under $40 in just a few months. THEN you can go buy a copy. Our thanks to Dr. Campbell for both his positive assessment of the book and for his critical engagement with each chapter.

My Review of Black’s The Disciples According to Mark (Skinner)

Black BookA few weeks back I failed to point out that my review of the second edition of C. Clifton Black’s classic, The Disciples According to Mark: Markan Redaction in Current Debate, was published in the most recent fascicle of Biblical Theology Bulletin. As one who tries to keep current in my field, I am nearly always reviewing a book, though I rarely take the time to mention any of them here. However, in this case I wanted to mention the review not only because I regard Black’s book as a work of serious import, but also because it has survived long enough to see a second edition, which I think is a good thing for a future generation of Markan scholars. (Not many of us can say the same thing about our own published dissertations!) When it was first published in 1989 (originally by Sheffield Academic Press), Black’s book was credited with delivering a near death-blow to the agenda and practice of redaction criticism. The content of the original remains the same but this volume includes a lengthy afterword in which Black reflects on developments within Markan research in the 25 years since his important work first appeared.

If you are really interested in the recent history of Markan scholarship, you can read my review here (which may not be necessary), or you can buy the book here (which probably is).

Books to Read: Mike Kok’s The Gospel on the Margins (Skinner)

MarginsI have just finished reading Michael J. Kok’s book, The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century (I’m currently reviewing it for Biblical Theology Bulletin) and I must recommend it to those with interests in the Gospel of Mark, the formation of the NT canon, and reception history. Those around the blogosphere should be acquainted with Mike from his years blogging over at Euangelion Kata Markon (others will know him from his work here). This book is Mike’s first–a revision of his doctoral dissertation, which was written under the direction of James Crossley at the University of Sheffield.

It is a strange fact of Christian history that the Gospel of Mark made its way into the NT canon and was then promptly ignored by commentators for centuries in favor of the more “doctrine-friendly” Gospels of Matthew and John. In this book, Kok meticulously traces the reception of Mark in the second century from the secondhand report of Papias of Hierapolis to Clement of Alexandria. He is especially concerned to examine and test the historical veracity of early testimony regarding Mark’s supposed connection to Peter and then to answer, in light of Mark’s *connection* with Peter, why it fell into the shadow cast by the other gospels.

Overall, I found Mike’s treatment of the subject compelling and fair, and I actually learned a fair bit in the process of reading. I hope to post my full review in due course, but while I had the book on the brain I wanted to give it a shout out. Nice work, Mike!

Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark Has Arrived! (Skinner)

Markan Character StudiesMy latest book, Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark (co-edited with Matt Hauge) has just arrived in my campus inbox! It looks great and I’m thankful for the staff at Bloomsbury /T &T Clark who worked so diligently to get the book out before the professional meeting season in late November. So ends another two-year journey of nurturing a book from a vague idea into a fully gestated creation. Working on this book was a great experience. Contributors include: Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Matthew Ryan Hauge, Ira Brent Driggers, Joel F. Williams, Elizabeth Shively, Paul L. Danove, Susan Miller, Adam Winn, Cornelis Bennema, and myself.

See the full table of contents here. Get your copy today! (Or….wait until AAR/SBL and buy one at a significantly reduced rate.)

New Book: The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark (Skinner)

PICKWICK_TemplateAt the end of last week I received a package in the mail and I was thrilled to find inside a review copy of Gregg Morrison’s book, The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Markan Christology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014). Gregg and I were students at Catholic University between 2002 and 2007. During that time we sat in several seminars together and had the privilege (along with Kelly Iverson and Sherri Brown) of being Frank Moloney’s final doctoral students. Gregg is also a friend and I have been waiting for this book for some time. While I have not yet read the entire book, I remember the seminar paper that gave rise to the monograph and I’ve also heard Gregg give a paper on the subject. Gregg’s work is an engaging study in Markan Christology from a narrative perspective. Those interested in the Gospel of Mark need to put this one on the list!

Pre-Order My Latest Book (Skinner)

Skinner.HaugeI just noticed that my forthcoming book, Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark (co-edited with Matt Hauge) is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It’s not set to be out until October, but if you order now, you can have the distinction of being one of the first people to own it. I mean, isn’t that incentive enough? And here’s the thing, it will only cost you $114. What a bargain! If you’re still not convinced, here’s the table of contents:

1. ‘The Study of Character(s) in the Gospel of Mark: A Survey of Research from Wrede to the Performance Critics’ (1903 – 2013) Christopher W. Skinner 

2. ‘History, Theology, Story: Re-Contextualizing Mark’s “Messianic Secret” as Characterization’ Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

3. ‘The Creation of Person in Ancient Narrative and the Gospel of Mark’  Matthew Ryan Hauge

4. ‘God as Healer of Creation in the Gospel of Mark’  Ira Brent Driggers

5. ‘The Characterization of Jesus as Lord in Mark’s Gospel’   Joel F. Williams

6. ‘Characterizing the Non-Human: Satan in the Gospel of Mark’  Elizabeth E. Shively

7. ‘The Narrative Rhetoric of Mark’s Characterization of Peter’  Paul Danove

8. ‘Women in Mark’s Gospel’  Susan Miller

9. ‘“Their Great Ones Act as Tyrants Over Them”: Reading Mark’s Characterization of Roman Authorities from a Distinctly Roman Perspective’   Adam Winn

10. ‘Gentile Characters and the Motif of Proclamation in the Gospel of Mark’  Cornelis Bennema

Of course, this won’t be the last I’ll say about the book, but if you pre-order now, you can ignore all of my future posts on this topic. 🙂

Can We Still Use “Embarrassment” in Some Meaningful Way? (Skinner)

MulletAnyone who reads my posts on this blog (or my previous blog) knows that I have been largely won over by the movement to dispense with the Jesus criteria. However, I’m not completely ready to jettison every potentially good lesson (cultural, literary, historical, etc.) that may have been spawned by discussions about the criteria. I have always been fond of the criterion of embarrassment because I felt that, among other things, it helped us trace historical developments in the gospel traditions. While I think Rafael Rodriguez has made a very strong case that we cannot use this as a means of getting back to the historical Jesus, I’m wondering if we can’t use the concept of “embarrassment” to help us better understand the evolution of certain teachings within the canonical gospel traditions? Let me turn to the paradigmatic example: Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.

It has often been said that Jesus’ baptism by John was a source of embarrassment to the early church that is subsequently explained away as the tradition evolves. I think there is something to this, though I don’t necessarily think it “proves” the baptism is historical.

In the Gospel of Mark, John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (1:4) and shortly thereafter, the audience learns that Jesus comes to him and is baptized (1:9). I like to tell my students that after this event, there is no parenthetical note to the audience which reads: “Dear followers of Jesus, do not be dismayed by this turn of events. Jesus was sinless from the foundation of the world. This merely took place as an object lesson for future disciples.” Instead, Mark, simply unaware of later Christological trajectories that would proclaim Jesus as “divine” (e.g. John 1, Hebrews 1, Colossians 1, etc.), proclaims something that was not AT THE TIME embarrassing. Mark’s presentation of Jesus’ baptism only becomes a source of potential embarrassment as the early church engages in sustained theological reflection on the life, vocation, and death of Jesus. It is hard for me to read Mark as an autonomous narrative and not feel that later traditions try to explain (Matthew) or even explain away (John), Jesus’ baptism. For Matthew and John the tradition seemed to be a source of embarrassment, even if Mark had no problem with it.

Recently in one of his podcasts, Mark Goodacre took aim at the criterion of embarrassment, commenting that the early church simply would not have retained something that would have been embarrassing. While I agree with much that he says there, I’d like to suggest a qualification to his point. Many of us make choices at a point in time that is not AT THAT MOMENT, embarrassing, but may prove to be at a later time. To illustrate this, we only need to think back to some of the hairstyles or clothing choices of our younger days. When many of us see photos of our youth we cringe at the sight of ourselves. When I was 21 years old, I had both ears pierced with big gold hoops and hair down to my shoulders. I recently saw a picture of myself from that period and I couldn’t believe how ridiculous I looked. At the time, I thought I looked “cool.” Today I look at myself and wonder, “what was I thinking” (and also, “what was everyone else thinking?”).

My point is this: We often have no way of knowing in the present what we might regret or be embarrassed by in the future. So, perhaps things that were embarrassing to the early church did find their way into the NT, and while we can’t necessarily use those to demonstrate the historicity of a given saying or action in the NT, we can use them to evaluate the historical development of traditions within the canonical gospels. I’m interested in your thoughts on this….