Review: Mark Through Old Testament Eyes

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Mark Through Old Testament EyesAndrew T. LePeau. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2017

Summary: The first in a series of commentaries looking at the Old Testament background of the New Testament text, with attention to the meaning of structural elements in the text, and the practical implications of the text for Christians and churches.

There are a myriad of commentary series on the market today. Of course there are scholarly exegetical commentaries that work up from the original languages and extant texts to give the best reading of a passage, popular commentaries that distill this information with more emphasis on contemporary relevance, and more recently, commentaries that collect the commentary of the church fathers or writers in a particular church tradition. This commentary, the first of a series focused on the New Testament corpus, explores how the Old Testament, which was the Bible of the New Testament writers, deeply informs their thought, not only where Old Testament material is quoted but also as background to much of its content.

The commentary is organized around four repeating features:

  • Running commentary, that offers Old Testament background and other key information for each paragraph, if not each verse. Working through LePeau’s commentary made the case for the idea of this series. Nearly every verse, and certainly every pericope in Mark is informed by Old Testament backgrounds. In the opening verses of Mark 1, for example, the commentary explores terms like “beginning,” “good news,” “Jesus,” “Messiah,” “Son of God,” “wilderness,” and “baptism of repentance.” And that is just the first four verses!
  • Through Old Testament Eyes, which are summaries at the end of chapters or sections looking at how Old Testament themes are used by the author. At the end of the commentary on Mark 1, the commentary notes how the first chapter draws on the themes of exodus, and sets up how the ministry of Jesus will parallel this in a new exodus narrative.
  • What the Structure Means looks at how the material in the text is organized by the author through things like chiasmus and parallel structures, and how this points to textual meaning. Throughout the book, LePeau looks at the ways Mark structures the narrative, using many tables to do so. One of the most informative sections is the “What the Structure Means: Outline of Mark 13” taking this difficult to understand apocalyptic passage, and proposing an A-B-A-B structure to the passage that makes sense of the whole, alternating passages focused on the temple with passages focused on the coming of the Son of Man.
  • Going Deeper sections unpack the implications of key themes in passages. For example, “Going Deeper into Choosing Life: Mark 3:1-6” explores how this involves both what we refrain from (the prohibitions of the ten commandments, which LePeau calls “ten paths to freedom and life”) and what we proactively embrace that brings life to others, just as Jesus brings healing that liberates on the Sabbath.

The commentary is accessible and organized to be helpful for all who preach or teach the gospel of Mark. No background in original languages is assumed. One of the features I found most helpful, in addition to the extensive Old Testament background are the various tables included throughout the text that offer ideas as to the structure of larger portions of Mark. So often, Bible study is simply one verse after another without attention to the larger framework of a passage or book. At the end of the commentary, lists of “tables,” “through Old Testament Eyes,” and “Going Deeper” discussions are provided. For teachers of this material, it might be a great resource to provide web-based versions of the tables with appropriate permission granted for their use for educational purposes.

It was fascinating to note another “background” for much of the material in this book, one I share. The author, formerly an associate editor at InterVarsity Press, part of the collegiate ministry with which I work, acknowledges his debt to the work of Paul Byer and the tradition of “Mark manuscript Bible study” used in our discipleship efforts for many of the insights (and even some of the tables) in the book. LePeau has made a signal contribution to that tradition in this volume, which I hope many of my colleagues, as well as many others, will use in preparing studies in Mark. And as series editor, LePeau has set the bar high for future volumes in this series, which I hope will bring a deeper appreciation to many throughout the church of the Old Testament background of the New Testament scriptures.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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