Commentary Roundup posts are a series of short reviews or overviews of Bible commentaries. I’m working my way through a variety of commentaries, new and old, and hope to highlight helpful resources for my readers.
I begin what I hope will be an every-other-week series of “Commentary Roundup” reviews, with The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. I’ll be focusing on the Mark volume.
• Author: Ronald J. Kernaghan
• Series Editor: Grant R. Osborne
• Consulting Editors: D. Stuart Briscoe and Haddon Robinson
• Publisher: InterVarsity Press (2007)
• Format: softcover
• Page Count: 351
• ISBN#: 9780830840021
• List Price: $18.00
• Rating: Recommended
The IVP New Testament Commentary Series aims to “move from the text to its contemporary relevance and application.” Contributors are a “unique blend of scholars and pastors who share a passion for faithful exegesis and a deep concern for the church,” and although they come from “a wide range of theological traditions” they are united by a “common commitment to the authority of Scripture.” The base text is the NIV (1984).
The book has a general preface, explaining the series; and an author’s preface, explaining why he wanted to write this volume on Mark. An introduction covers the author, audience, date, setting and other matters. While the introduction provides a simple outline, in the text that outline is not necessarily stressed. The outline headings are bolded, and there is a brief discussion of a paragraph or two at the start of each of the six major divisions of the book. Beyond that, the commentary moves right along almost like you are reading a book rather than working through a technical commentary. In line with this approach, the Scriptural text is not included in the commentary.
One more note on structure, the commentary ends at Mark 16:8. A short appendix is provided that explains the questions surrounding the longer ending of Mark, but no comments on that text (16:9-20) are included. This follows the prevailing opinion of conservative evangelical scholarship.
I have found that at least in Mark, this commentary series majors more on contemporary application and theological themes, than a detailed exegesis. This volume has a warm conversational tone and each section begins with a helpful illustration to draw the reader in. An eye is kept firmly on the use of the book to aid its readers in delivering sermons, and this may well come through the influence of the series’ consulting editors: D. Stuart Briscoe and Haddon Robinson, both notable preachers. Footnotes, when they are included (which is not often), are simplified and not very technical in nature. They do provide additional detail however, that will help in exegeting the passage.
The following excerpt comes from his comments on Mark 2:13-17.
Furthermore, if we examine the three stories of the leper, the paralytic, and the tax collectors and sinners together, we can discern a very interesting progression. In his encounter with the leper [1:40-45] Jesus healed a disease. When the paralytic was lowered through the roof [2:1-12], Jesus first pronounced his sins forgiven and then healed his body. Here [2:13-17] we find Jesus keeping company with sinners and speaking as a doctor. These three events lead us from the physical realm where Jesus’ power to heal can be seen to the spiritual domain where his authority is more difficult to verify. Mark shows Jesus treating the most deplorable disease, leprosy, and the most deplorable social sin, the calculating greed of people who profit from the oppression of their own kind.
In this brief series of events Mark has recreated a moving exposition of Jesus’ preaching. As Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, he healed the worst of diseases, opened a new avenue of forgiveness and gathered together a fellowship of people whom the religious elite considered incorrigible and perhaps irredeemable. The Pharisees expected sinners to be destroyed when the kingdom of God came, but Jesus did not show the slightest interest in pronouncing judgment upon the unclean, the irreligious or the morally bankrupt. His intention was clear. He had come to heal and restore. Inviting tax collectors and sinners to accompany his preaching tour through Galilee was a sign that he had a very different idea about the kingdom of God. These three stories leave the reader with the single impression that Jesus came to make people whole. (pg. 62)
The publisher’s description of this volume states that “Ronald Kernaghan invites readers into a fascinating exploration of Mark’s Gospel as a parable, an open-ended story that invites us on a lifelong journey of discipleship.” And indeed the stress in this commentary is on the personal and contemporary application of Gospel truth. This is a very readable commentary, but at times the author’s effort to apply the message distracts from the reader’s goal to discern the meaning of the text. While this book is not as straightforward in unpacking the text as other commentaries, it invariably uncovers some angle of the text or some theological theme that makes the text’s message all the more compelling.
The simplicity of the approach of this commentary makes it ideal for lay readers who are aiming to apply Scripture more than uncover every last nuance hidden in the text. And pastors seeking to preach the text will appreciate the abundance of illustrations and the often poignant application of the text to contemporary times. This book deserves to be consulted by anyone teaching the book of Mark and would make a fine addition to any pastor’s library.
About the Author:
Ronald J. Kernaghan (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is Director of Presbyterian Ministries and assistant professor of Presbyterian ministries and pastoral theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Previously he served on the staff of several different Presbyterian churches in Southern California.
You can also get the entire series through a subscription discount via IVP. You can also sample the IVP New Testament Commentary Series through the free BibleGateway App (for Apple, Android and Kindle Fire).
This book was provided by InterVarsity Press. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.