Account Login

Sign In  |  Register

Reviews | Mark: the Gospel of the Son of God

Mark: The Gospel of the Son of God

L. G. Sargent

Hardback or e-book (ePub)

220 pages

Mark: The Gospel of the Son of God

The Christadelphian review (from May 1966)

The Gospel of the Son of God

IN the preface to his book The Gospel of the Son of God: a Study in Mark’s Record, the author refers in his list of acknowledgements to The Riddle of the New Testament by Hoskyns and Davey as “opening up new avenues for students”. Bro. Sargent in his own book does this no less. In freely acknowledging his sources and giving at the foot of each page the Scripture and other references on which his study is based he has provided the reader with a continuous and unbroken narrative and the Bible student with ample material with which to pursue the many interesting points raised. To this I found one tantalizing exception—there is no footnote to the reference on page 199 to the grim “King game” into which the Lord was so brutally drawn just prior to his crucifixion.

The work is divided into seven sections—The Beginning; The Voice of the King; The Preparing of the People; Recognition by the Twelve; The Way of the Cross; The King comes to the City; Through Death to Life—and follows closely Mark’s narrative of the Life of Christ. Chapter and verse numbers are clearly indicated so that the book could be used as a commentary when following the daily readings, but it is doubtful whether the attentive reader would be content to limit his reading of either the Gospel or this book to so short a daily stint once he had started on them.

The title is in fact Mark’s own, and it is clearly justified, even though the term “Son of God” is used by Mark most sparingly of all the Gospel writers. We are of course familiar with the idea that the four evangelists present different aspects of the life of Christ and that they select or pass over certain incidents consistent with the theme they are pursuing, in a way which has sometimes provided the Bible critic with ammunition. While the author here has seen it as no part of his duty to present a harmony of the Gospels or to deal specifically with all the difficulties of chronology, he has clarified some of the issues and clearly demonstrated that the best commentary on the Scripture is the Scripture itself, and also that a superficial reading of it yields neither its beauties nor its true meaning. The proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures does not lie in ignoring difficulties but in seeing inspiration at work, and that process can be seen on every page of Mark. The structure, choice of phrase, subtle emphasis or occasional reticence seen in the Gospel presents the life of Christ as a fulfilment of the Old Testament Scripture in a way which lies beyond chance: he was the “word made flesh”, and the phases of his life here recorded show the unfolding of the drama in his public ministry. Beginning with the Old Testament implications of the word “gospel”, especially in Isaiah and the Psalms, bro. Sargent takes us through Mark and lets us hear the harmonies which enrich the Gospel writer’s theme. Mark illuminates the prophets, explaining the things which they “searched diligently”.

The climax of the study is the climax of the Lord’s own life, and a quotation from this section of the book will serve as a convenient summary: “Particular Scriptures had formed the background at certain periods of Jesus’ ministry: Deuteronomy in the temptation and when he was setting forth the example of the children in contrast to the spirit of the Pharisees and the young man who turned back; Hosea when he came as Physician to the outcasts of Israel and as Bridegroom in their midst; Ezekiel when he gathered the scattered flock of God on the mountains; the Servant prophecies of Isaiah when he set his face towards Jerusalem. Now for the coming week his life would seem to be interpenetrated with the Psalms of the Hallel.”

A casual glance at the index of Scripture references at the end of the book would confirm that the O.T. books mentioned above are by no means the only ones made use of by either Mark or his commentator. It did seem to me, however, that in view of the importance and interest of some specific topics here discussed a subject index would be a useful addition, to help those who after a detailed reading would be glad to use the book as a work of reference. For example, the use of the word “save” in the sequence which includes the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage, as a natural taking up of the Lord’s own words in the synagogue on the Sabbath day.

Mark’s characteristic style, his careful use of words, and the logical relation of his artless background description to the central incident which he is describing, the vivid use of the Lord’s own words, the crises in his life which made his way plain and its goal inevitable—all are presented in this book. The student of New Testament language will find much to stimulate his study of original words and expressions, and for the benefit of those whose knowledge of the original is brought to them through the medium of commentary and concordance—an excellent way to begin, by the way—Mark’s language and idiom are presented in a readily comprehensible way. If I say that on just one or two occasions an original word transliterated for us or a literal rendering of the idiom of New Testament Greek did not seem to add to our understanding of the point expounded, then this is just another way of saying that the reviewer read with a critical eye a book which he recommends for careful study and pleasurable reading.

So let the last word be the author’s own to tell us what he will encourage us to find in Mark’s Gospel: “At every stage and almost every step we have seen (Jesus’) life interpenetrated with the word of God; yet, while he took Law and prophets to himself, lived out their word, and laid upon himself their burden, the fact that he was going voluntarily on a course marked out for him did not check his spontaneity or chill the warmth of his heart. He was himself—quick, eager, loving and lovable, overflowing with selfless giving for the needs of men and women, yet in the very act he was ‘the word made flesh’; as son of man he was instant with emotional response—compassion, sorrow, anguish, sometimes the flash of anger—yet he was Son of God and Emmanuel, God with us.”

A. H. NICHOLLS

The Testimony review (from March 1973)

The Gospel of the Son of God

THIS WORK by Brother L. G. Sargent deals with the gospel record of Mark and is characterised by the deep thought and scholarship that we have learnt to expect from the author. While it is probable that all readers will not agree with all his suggestions, he gives both sides of the argument, and while giving his own views leaves us to draw our own conclusions.

Of particular importance are his frequent references to the use of Greek words in the New Testament narrative, not in a classical Greek or colloquial Greek sense but in a Hebrew sense. Only by reference to the Hebrew source can the fullness of many expressions be deduced. For example, when expounding the word “gospel” he writes, “When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated, many Greek words had to be extended in meaning before they could carry the weight of Biblical ideas. One of these words was a word that originally meant the reward for bringing good news, and which came in its verb form to be used for the act of bringing the news. Thus, because of the use made of the verb in the Septuagint, the related noun comes in the New Testament with a meaning it would not otherwise have borne, and it can there comprehend the whole Christian message.” Again, speaking of the use of the word “ransom”, he says, “For its source we must look, not to contemporary custom in recovering captives in war or those held by brigands, but to the Old Testament … Jesus was providing a covering for sins in the eyes of God, and so a covering for men’s lives, an atonement for the many. Seen in this large context, the figure of ransom takes on a fullness and appropriateness of meaning which is lost when it is narrowly construed as a purchase price to be paid to God or Devil to let the sinners go free, and the idea of substitution which is read into the saying of Jesus fades away.”

Later on the author refers to Psalm 110:1: “The first verse of the psalm is quoted according to the Septuagint version; The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand till I put thy enemies under thy feet”; but, while Lord is represented each time by the same Greek word, in Hebrew it is in the first case the Divine Name, but the second occurrence reads “la’doni” (to my lord). While therefore the son is superior to David, he is not in these words identified with Yahweh. The solution is provided by the second Psalm, where the future King says, “The Lord said unto me, thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee”; the Son of David is also Son of God.

There are numerous occasions where Brother Sargent brings in background information which gives added meaning to the narrative. In dealing with the fasting practised by the Pharisees and the disciples of John, he brings out two important facts. The first is that the Pharisees fasted to hasten the coming of the Messiah, but the Messiah was with them so there was no need to fast; and the second is that it was the rule that the bridegroom and his companions, according to Rabbinic Law, were exempt from religious austerities during the seven days of the feast. As Jesus was the bridegroom it was not appropriate that his disciples should fast. To quote the author’s words, “The Pharisees fasted to hasten the coming of Messiah; now the Bridegroom, the King Messiah, was in their midst, and with his advent their whole system had lost its meaning. In that advent John’s work as Forerunner had reached fulfilment, and to incorporate the new Gospel into the old scheme of external restraints was merely to patch a worn-out garment with unfulled cloth which would tear away the weaker fabric and make a fresh rent.”

On a later page he refers to the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and brings out the background fact that, because of her infirmity, she would have been excluded from home, temple, and synagogue, and also divorced from her husband. It is only when we are reminded that she was an outcast that we understand the deeper significance of the work of Jesus in healing her.

From time to time the writer brings out the interpretation of Scripture in a particularly refreshing way. For example, in his concluding thoughts on the young man who came running to Jesus, but who trusted in his riches, he writes, “The young man with his boy-like warmth might seem to show the spirit of a child, but in fact he trusted in riches and he trusted in himself: he was anxious to do something to earn an inheritance of life. Yet the Kingdom of God is only for those humble, confiding spirits who will receive it as a gift from Him who makes the impossible possible. If the man’s thought is so coloured by the idea of possession that he thinks he can purchase on merit or place God in his debt, then he is disqualified from receiving it as a gift and can by no means enter the Kingdom.”

Another interesting point that he brings out is the change in attitude of the disciples to the message of the resurrection of Jesus, a change not evident in the Authorised Version: “When Mary told those who had been with him as they mourned and wept, they disbelieved; the Revised Version accurately represents the strong form of the negative which is used. When the two who had been walking in the country recounted their experience they did not believe them; a less emphatic form of the negative shows that disbelief had weakened into unbelief.”

An outstanding feature of this work is the way in which the parallels between Old and New Testament narratives are expounded. For example, there is a detailed examination of the prophecy of Micah 7:1-10 and a comparison with the experiences of Jesus. To quote from his concluding paragraph on this theme, “And on the morning of the third day the darkness of the tomb was riven by the light of life; then the words were fulfilled – He will bring forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. In saying as they would, Let Christ the King of Israel, descend now from the cross that we may see and believe, they would in effect be saying, Where is the Lord thy God?”

The writer deals with the crucifixion in a delicate and thoughtful manner and his concluding paragraph summarises the spirit of Mark’s record and that in which this book has been written; “It is in the spirit of Christ himself that out of all the events of those last days and the hours of crucifixion the Gospel writer chooses those in which Scripture was fulfilled. We know nothing of the sufferings on the cross except for those things which men did to him which fulfilled prophecy or in which Jesus identified himself with the written Word. We have seen all through how conscious Mark is as a gospel writer of the underlying allusions to Scripture, the interweaving of the prophetic word in all the life of the Master, the prevailing reflection of one part of Scripture or another at particular periods of his ministry. Mark does not quote, but the Word is always present in the story, and we cannot doubt in his mind; and it is evident that this continual consciousness of Scripture being fulfilled can only come originally from Jesus himself.”

In this awareness of the ever-present Word, we travel on with Mark through the sacrifice to the joy of the third day and the message of the angel; “He is risen; he is not here; behold the place where they laid him”. The Lord is risen indeed.

H. J. SALTER

(Originally published in the March 1973 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 90-91), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

Privacy |  Terms & Conditions |  Site Map |  Site by Quick By Design
Registered Address
The Christadelphian, 404 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham, B28 8SZ
Registered charity in England and Wales (No. 240090)
A charitable company limited by guarantee
(Company No. 329186 - England and Wales)
Tel: +44 (0)121 777 6328
Fax: +44 (0)121 778 5024
loading loading...