Thursday, July 24, 2014

Feasting on the Gospels -- Mark -- A review

FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS -- MARK: A Feasting on the Word Commentary.  Edited by Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.  x + 552 Pages.

Lectionary preachers, like myself, continue to be blessed by resources like the Feasting on the Word Series from Westminster John Knox Press.   With that lectionary based series finished, WJK Press has launched a companion series, this time focusing on the gospels utilizing the same methodology used in the first series. Matthew as the first gospel to be treated in this way.  Now, editors Cynthia Jarvis and Elizabeth Johnson, have added a volume covering the Gospel of Mark.  

The two editors bridge the academic-parish divide.  Cynthia Jarvis is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Elizabeth Johnson is J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament  at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decataur, Georgia.  Both editors served on the editorial board of the earlier Feasting on the Word Series, so they were well acquainted with the principles of the earlier series when they turned to this new venture.      

As was true in the Feasting on the Word series, and in the two volume on Matthew, the gospel is explored by way of theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical perspectives.  The editorial board for the series involves representatives from twelve denominations, and the contributors range from an even wider community of scholars and writers.  As one would expect from a project that derives writers from such a wide spectrum of backgrounds, there will be differences of interpretation and vision -- not just across the four disciplines but across the commentary itself.  The backgrounds of the contributors not only cross denominations, but also social locations, from various ethnic backgrounds, gender differences, and of course the place from which they write -- whether the academy or the parish.     

It should be noted that this book provides  commentary on Mark 16:9-20, the longer ending of Mark.  Each of the four commentators acknowledge the uniqueness of the ending, pointing out the textual issues and the questions this ending poses, for it not only draws on other gospels it seeks to resolve questions that Mark may have wanted to keep open.  While, as Oliver Yarbrough notes, one ordinarily shouldn't give too much attention to textual matters in sermons, in this case that likely will be needed .

I have been very pleased with the methods and diversity of perspectives, since I began using the lectionary based materials.  This new series doesn't disappoint.  For preachers and teachers of the bible, this new series needs to be in their libraries.   I should also note that the Academy of Parish Clergy made this new series (based on the Matthew volumes), it's 2014 Reference Book of the Year, 

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