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.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.