Personal Thoughts About Commentaries (8): Mark

Mark’s Gospel is terrific for the preacher.  It really comes into its own when expounded.  Any commentary on this book that keeps flipping back and forth between Mark, Matthew and Luke should not be considered a first choice.  There is now an embarrassment of fine resources.  Here is my list:

1. James R. Edwards (Pillar)

Edwards’ commentary on Romans is very good, and it was on my experience with that work that I purchased this.  I ended up reading the whole book and marking most of its pages.  The author gives you what you need (the Markan reveal of Jesus; the theology of Mark; the personal touches; the deliberate plan of the Gospel), in clear prose with good application.  This is my top pick for the preacher and teacher of Mark.

2. William L. Lane (NICNT)

First issued in 1974 this commentary is still better than most of those which have come after it.  Yes, the form-criticism is annoying in places, but when he gets down to interpreting the evangelist’s thought Lane is always an attentive listener.

3. R. T. France (NIGNTC)

France writes beautifully and has a great ability to keep you engaged with Mark while digging deep into his language and structure.  Many would rank this one first.  I demur because I don’t like his treatment of the Olivet Discourse.

4. Eckhard Schnabel (TNTC)

Replacing the solid work of R. Alan Cole was not easy, but Schnabel, who has more pages at his disposal, has bettered the previous commentary in the Tyndale series (of which he is the new editor).  Schnabel gets to grips with what matters, and reads Mark as self-contained.  A good shorter contribution.

5. C. E. B. Cranfield (CGTC)

Talking about short contributions brings me to Cranfield’s work.  Like France (see above) Cranfield writes good prose so naturally that the reader doesn’t have to stop and wonder what was meant.  Breezes through the Greek text while not ignoring theology.  Very helpful for checking ones exegesis.

6. Andrew T. LePeau

I reviewed this when it first came out and gave it a cautious recommendation.  Very good on thought-flow and backgrounds, but questionable assumptions regarding OT allusions.  A good foil to the above commentaries.

7. Larry Hurtado (UBNT)

I like Hurtado and I like this book.  It doesn’t waste your time and inserts good information on culture, structure and the like.

8. Mark Strauss (ZECNT)

I’m not a big fan of Strauss’s survey of the Gospels so I didn’t think I’d like this one.  But it has a lot of merits: attention to Greek without getting bogged down in quibbles, good on theology, plus a great layout.

9. Timothy Geddert (BCBC)

I should perhaps place this one further up the list.  Geddert really gives Mark his due, and holds him in high esteem as a thinker.  That comes across in this helpful book.  The group of essays that come with the commentary enhance its value.  Should I have placed it higher…?

10. D. Edmond Hiebert

Coming from the same stable as Geddert, this older work is very conservative and premillennial.  It also takes the last 12 verses seriously!  A bit stodgy but reliable.

 

There are other good commentaries on this Gospel which deserve a read.  Cole is the older Tyndale work, but being older doesn’t mean it isn’t still good.  Lenski is good and he defends the last 12 verses.  Barbieri’s Moody Gospel Commentary is reliable, but I found myself defaulting to Hiebert for a premillennial view.  Honorable mentions go to Darrell Bock (who might have made the top ten), David Garland, and Robert Stein.  Older works by J. A. Alexander and James Morison shouldn’t be sniffed at (in fact I resorted to Morison quite a lot when I preached through Mark).  The sermonic works of John MacArthur and particularly Alexander Maclaren are of real use.  Finally, Dean Burgon’s ‘The Last Twelve Verses of Mark’ is still pertinent.

5 comments

    1. Thanks Thomas,

      I’m sorry that I missed your comment, trapped as it was in the no-mans-land of my dashboard. I haven’t read Bolt but I’m sure it is worthwhile. I forgot all about it actually. Strauss is included though.

      God bless,

      Paul H

  1. Thank you, this is very helpful. I’m happy you listed Cole as a worthy, since I lean on getting that one.
    I’m trying to cut some corners here, since I have Carson on Matthew and I intend to get some good commentaries on John and Luke, so I thought maybe on Mark I can get away with something smaller and cheaper.
    I understand you think Culpepper is not worth the effort ? (even if getting it for cheap ?).

    Also, what is your opinion on Strauss commentary included in REBC ? I suppose it is much smaller than the zecnt version, but maybe Strauss (rebc) and Cole (tyndale) might be enough ?

    Though regarding Strauss, reading his commentary in rebc, I was shocked to find out that he doesn’t consider the last verses of Mark. This way I found out that many scholars disregard these verses. Is Strauss a liberal theologian, or is this the usual stance even for conservative scholars ?

    Thank you again for your work, it helps me much in assembling a theological library.

    1. Emanuel,

      Sadly, most modern commentaries on Mark omit the last 12 verses. I disagree strongly, but what can you do? Get Hiebert maybe.

      Wessels/Strauss in the revised Expositor’s will be good, though I haven’t seen it. Wessels’ original work was good, though a tad sermonic for me. Added with Cole and you have a decent combination. If you’re going to study Mark you need more though. No, I don’t think Culpepper is worth it (unless it’s dirt cheap!).

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