January 1978 · Vol. 7 No. 1 · pp. 39–40 

Book Review

The Gospel According to Mark

William L. Lane. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974. 652 pages.

Reviewed by D. Edmond Hiebert

This latest addition to the New International Commentary on the New Testament is a massive and erudite work on the Second Gospel which will assuredly rank as a standard work for years to come. The wealth of footnote references to books and journal articles in English and several European languages reflects the author’s scholarly acquaintance with contemporary critical views. This work will be valued not only for its full theological interpretation of Mark’s Gospel but also for its vast source references for further study.

Accepting the traditional view of the Roman origin of Mark’s Gospel, Lane connects it with the crisis which swept over the Roman church in the reign of Nero following the emperor’s charge of incendiarism against the Christians. He holds that the Gospel reflects this life-setting and was intended to speak to the condition of the persecuted believers in Rome.

Lane seeks to profit from the results of recent Gospel criticism. He accepts the positive contribution of redaction criticism and stresses Mark’s role in shaping the Gospel tradition to reflect his theological stance. He insists that Mark’s aim was not to produce a formal historical treatise nor a biography of Jesus, but to make a proclamation of the Gospel centering in the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

Lane seldom deals with precise grammatical forms of the text, doing so only when a special point of interpretation is involved. His interest and aim are rather to present an unfolding of the theological implications of the passage. There is close attention to the arrangement of Mark’s material and the theological implications of the order and contents of the various parts. At times the reader may wonder whether Lane’s reading of specific theological implications into the account are fully warranted. He sees definite significance in Mark’s opening with a “wilderness” theme; mention of Jesus’ return to the “sea” is also held to carry spiritual implications for the story.

Historical background material adds greatly to the understanding of different events of the Gospel. His discussion of the Qorban practice in 7:9-13 is illuminating. The reference to the temple by a disciple in 13:1 is made more significant in the light of the historical setting described. {40}

Accepting the priority of Mark, Lane’s approach is to interpret the Gospel independently of the other Gospels. Seldom does he make any reference to parallel accounts in the other Gospels. This position at times leads him to espouse views which are not in keeping with statements in the others. Thus his position on p. 132 that the call of the Twelve does not involve a selection from among other disciples is inconsistent with Luke 6:13. His assumption that the “triumphal entry” occurred on the same day Jesus made the journey from Jericho (p. 398) is out of harmony with the explicit statement of John 12:1. This is equally true of his assumption that “Jesus had been in Jerusalem, apparently for a period of weeks prior to the Passover” (p. 489). On page 366 he repeats the common error that it is “a boy’s twelfth year when he assumed the yoke of the commandments”, instead of the thirteenth year.

Lane holds that Mark’s theology of the hiddenness of the cross and resurrection during the ministry of Jesus allows for no unreserved disclosure of the title “Son of Man” as found in Mark 2:10; Jesus could not have used the title so early in Galilee (pp. 96-98). Lane therefore takes the words out of the mouth of Jesus and attributes them to Mark as a parenthetical comment. This is a questionable handling of the verse. He gives no indication how the identical construction in Matthew and Luke is to be explained in those Gospels. Nor does he deal with the use of the title in John’s Gospel from the very opening of Jesus’ public ministry (John 1:51).

Lane well shows that the promised open manifestation of Jesus’ glory in 8:38-9:1 found its fulfilment in the Transfiguration which is full of overtones of the parousia. This is in keeping with Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 1:16-18. Lane’s amillennial stance is evident in his treatment of the Olivet Discourse in chapter 13. He interprets 13:14-23 of the destruction of Jerusalem, but refers verses 24-27 to the eschatological end.

The author is another of a growing number of modern scholars who hold that the Gospel of Mark actually ends at 16:8. He gives no commentary on the “longer ending” (16:9-20), but two additional notes (pp. 601-611) deal with the critical problems of the endings found in the manuscripts.

Students looking for a thorough, up-to-date, scholarly commentary on Mark will find it in this volume. It should be a permanent addition to any pastor’s library. The footnotes on almost every page may strike the uninitiated lay reader as being formidable, but he can profit from the comments without them.

D. Edmond Hiebert
M.B. Biblical Seminary