Written by James R. Edwards Reviewed By Iain D. Campbell

James Edwards’ begins his commentary with an introduction of 21 pages, covering the main points of emphasis in Edwards’ approach to Mark. He draws our attention to what he describes as ‘the eclipse of Mark’ in early studies until modern times. Edwards accepts the priority of Mark, and argues that Mark was ‘a skilled literary artist and theologian’ who ‘displays considerable sophistication in literary intention and design’.

On Mark’s literary distinctives, Edwards highlights the compact nature of the work, with its ‘haste of narrative’ and ‘intensity of diction’. He also highlights Mark’s ‘sandwich technique’, by which Mark frequently interrupts a pericope with a second for a theological purpose. Edwards identifies nine such passages. He also stresses the medium of irony in the gospel.

Edwards’ own style is clear, and the exegesis of passages will stimulate thought and reflection. A review such as this can hardly interact with all the issues that a commentator will raise, but one or two issues may be highlighted.

First, Edwards’ definition of baptein in Mark 1:4 to mean to dip fully, to plunge or immerse must be questioned. The LXX uses the verb in ways that cannot be confined to this definition, (e.g. Lev. 14:6, Dan. 4:33). More problematic still is the simple fact that John the Baptist’s message concerned one who was to baptise with the Holy Spirit. Edwards is correct to say that ‘John’s baptism was symbolic and provisional of a more permanent and powerful reality to come’. Are we, however, immersed in the Spirit by Christ? Or is not the scriptural teaching that Christ pours out the Spirit, or, according to Isaiah 52:13, sprinkles many nations? This is not pedantry; it is an important consideration in the question of the proper mode of Christian baptism.

Second, Edwards’ excursus on the Son of Man (79–81) suggests that in Mark the phrase is primarily used with regard to suffering (in nine out of fourteen cases) and that these usages are to be distinguished from the apocalyptic contexts of three of the Son of Man sayings. It is doubtful, however, whether the Danielic overtones are to be ignored altogether even in those passages that refer to the suffering Son of Man. So although Edwards may be correct to say that the title designates humiliation and suffering, the very fact that Christ describes himself in this way is surely an indicator that Christ will suffer not because he is the Son of Man, but in addition to his being the Son of Man. The title is full of glory; the irony is that the Son of Man will appear as a servant.

Finally, on the vexed question of Mark’s ending, Edwards suggests that 16:9–20 is probably not the original conclusion to the gospel; and that 16:8 was never meant to be the ending of the gospel. His suggestion, however, that the original ending was lost, possibly due to wear-and-tear on the last leaf of a codex’ (503) is problematic, and raises serious questions about God’s preservation of his inscripturated revelation.

Craig Blomberg suggests that an abrupt ending at 16:8 fits Mark’s style (Jesus and the Gospels, 355), and this may well be the solution to the textual problem. On the other hand, a recent research paper on the website of Knox Seminary (Dr Warren Gage, ‘A Surprising Case for the Longer Ending of Mark’s Gospel’) argues a convincing case for the authenticity of the longer ending of Mark, and evangelical study of Mark will not be able to ignore its conclusions.

These points in no way reflect a negative view of this commentary. Indeed, they demonstrate how indebted we are to Professor Edwards for his worthy contribution to NT scholarship in this volume.

Iain D. Campbell

Isle of Lewis