Personal Thoughts About Commentaries: Mark

Image of The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
by James R. Edwards
Eerdmans 2001
Hardcover 578

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.

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There are 18 Comments

WallyMorris's picture

"stodgy"? I have used Hiebert's commentary often and haven't found it "stodgy". Lane's use of Form Criticism is more than "annoying"; it's useless. Much like using Redaction Criticism.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

My list for Mark:

  1. Edwards
  2. Hendricksen
  3. Strauss
  4. Hooker
  5. Lane

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

T Howard's picture

When teaching or preaching through Mark, I usually consult the following commentaries after I complete my own translation and exegetical outline:

For a better understanding of the Greek grammar and syntax found in Mark:

  • Rodney J. Decker (BHGNT)
  • R.T. France (NIGTC)

For a better understanding of the exegetical issues and questions found in Mark:

  • James R. Edwards (PNTC)
  • Robert H. Stein (BECNT)
  • Walter W. Wessel (EBC)

For a better understanding of the significance and application found in Mark:

  • David E. Garland (NIVAC)
  • R.C. Sproul
  • John Calvin

To be honest, I've rarely found Johnny Mac's commentaries insightful. If you're able to interact with the original languages and understand the exegetical commentaries, JMac's commentaries provide little more than a sermonic outline. Further, when he does comment on the original languages, his comments sometimes lack precision (e.g. use of diachronic vs. synchronic understanding of word meaning, incorrect understanding of or over emphasis on verb tense-form). 

Paul Henebury's picture

Wally: I like Hiebert, but in my opinion he is pedestrian to read. I realize that is a subjective view.  Lane is very good at following the argument.

Tyler: Hooker lost out to the others, but she is concise and informative.  I have her but found my self resorting to other works.  Hendriksen for me is better on Matthew and Luke.

Tom: I haven't read Decker's book, but I have read articles by him and find him a bit pedantic.  Wessel is updated in the revised EBC by Strauss, and I included Strauss's Zondervan Exegetical book.  Calvin, of course, merges Mark with the other synoptics in his harmony, so that knocks him out of my list.  I haven't read Sproul.  I think you are right about MacArthur.    

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

I'm preaching through Mark right now. I always meant to get Hiebert (his 1 Peter commentary is helpful), but I never picked him up. I don't need that many Mark commentaries! Decker is helpful. Guelich/Evans are helpful for technical matters, but less trustworthy for actual content. I love Hendriksen and Edwards. I like Hooker because she's concise and always makes me think.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

T Howard's picture

I have to admit I'm biased when it comes to Decker's works. Decker was my Greek prof in seminary, was a recognized NT scholar in the area of verbal aspect, and instilled in me my love and enjoyment of Koine Greek.

That being said, Decker's work mentioned above is not a commentary in the typical sense. You wouldn't read through it for fun. (Well, most of us wouldn't find it enjoyable reading.) Instead, Decker breaks down the Greek grammar, syntax, parsing, and function of each word in the verse. He does provide helpful context and commentary when it comes to the many stylistic features Mark uses throughout his gospel.

I spent almost a year on a team with several of Decker's advanced Greek students creating Greek sentence diagrams of the gospel of Mark for Accordance. We used his BHGNT text as our guide when we were uncertain on how a particular word functioned in the sentence.

AndyE's picture

For me, France was number 1, followed closely by Edwards and Lane.  I now also have Stein but haven't interacted as much with it as the others. I suspect he is very good, though.  I did not find Hiebert to be very helpful at all.

Kevin Miller's picture

Are there any good online commentaries? I preach a 15 to 20 minute message at a rest home about six times a year. At the risk of ridicule, i admit I go to this page to get a sense of what commentaries are saying about a passage.  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/1-1.htm

I tried checking for the Pillar New Testament online, but I'm sure they would rather sell it than provide it free over the internet.

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

Are there any good online commentaries? I preach a 15 to 20 minute message at a rest home about six times a year. At the risk of ridicule, i admit I go to this page to get a sense of what commentaries are saying about a passage.  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/1-1.htm

I tried checking for the Pillar New Testament online, but I'm sure they would rather sell it than provide it free over the internet.

check out Tom Constable. His notes on the whole Bible are very good, in my opinion. He used to teach at Dallas. I use him constantly.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

T Howard's picture

Constable's "commentaries" are found here. His are less a commentary and more a compilation of what other commentaries have said about a particular passage.

Kevin Miller's picture

T Howard wrote:

Constable's "commentaries" are found here. His are less a commentary and more a compilation of what other commentaries have said about a particular passage.

Thanks for the link. This is exactly the kind of resource I was hoping for.

TylerR's picture

He's very helpful. Not long ago, I recommended him to the congregation as a free aid for personal bible study. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TOvermiller's picture

T Howard wrote:

Decker's work mentioned above is not a commentary in the typical sense ... Decker breaks down the Greek grammar, syntax, parsing, and function of each word in the verse. He does provide helpful context and commentary when it comes to the many stylistic features Mark uses throughout his gospel."

I was getting ready to say the same thing as you here. I *highly* recommend Decker's handbook(s) on Mark from a Greek exegesis standpoint. Excellent.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TylerR's picture

Zondervan's series Exegetical Guide to Greek NT is better than the Baylor series. But, their Mark volume isnt out yet. The Zondervan series is also much cheaper.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thanks, Paul, for sharing your favorites are on Mark's Gospel.  I recently finished preaching through Mark (did it in segments over several years between segments of other series).

I happened to have R. Alan Cole's commentary. Besides many others-- like Constable online or The Jewish New Testament Commentary by Stern (also available online), and my trusty Lenski set, I always enjoy Craig Kenner's insights (Bible Background Commentary) for concise, helpful information.

Since most of Mark is in Matthew or Luke, I cheated and used my MacArthur set on Matthew and Hendriksen on Luke. That's what is so neat about the synoptics!  

Speaking of free online commentaries, I agree Constable is ideal. But David Guzik (commenting on most but not all the Bible) is also very helpful and ideal for the layman.  He is Calvary Temple, so a bit charismatic, but moderate.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Phil Siefkes's picture

Tyler, perhaps you meant to refer to the B & H Series by that title, not Zondervan. Both of the series have their strong and weak points. Not aware that Zondervan has an exegetical guide but they do have an exegetical commentary.

Discipling God's image-bearers to the glory of God.

TylerR's picture

Yes, you're right. I was referring to B&H. I somehow conflated that with Zondervan's commentary series.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

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