Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Mark. By C. Clifton Black. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-06870-5841-9. 406 pages. Paper. $27.
This is the twelfth commentary on the Gospel of Mark published in the last dozen years. One wonders if there is need or room for another. In any event, Black takes a moderately conservative approach to the major exegetical issues in Markan scholarship. For example, Mark's anonymous author, writing to or from an unknown provenance around 70 C.E., likely produced the earliest of the canonical gospels; it is close to being a Hellenistic bios, but with enough differences that "as literature it is not purebred but a mongrel." (34)
The commentary itself runs over 300 pages without chapter divisions. Black discusses the exegetical issues of each section and subsection of the gospel in turn, with occasional summaries of a more theological nature. He eschews footnotes; instead, his many references to other scholars (listed in a 22-page "select bibliography") are included in parentheses in the text itself. This means that readers who are unfamiliar with the secondary literature must constantly turn to the back of the book, rather than glance at the bottom of the page. Twenty helpful tables, which compare parallel sequences within the gospel or explore topics such as, the "Son of Man" title, are included at appropriate points.
The text is easy to read and is largely devoid of undefined scholarly jargon. Those who appreciate non-pedantic language will appreciate many of Black's winsome phrases: "In a single sentence Mark captures the viral spread of Jesus' popularity." (103) Jesus' parable about the mustard seed shows that "God's kingdom begins as the smallest of seeds but grows up to become the greatest of--zucchini!" (18) At the Transfiguration and its sequel "three disciples on a hill do not a riot make" and "the initial gag order recalls others that Jesus has issued." (207-208) "Jesus' craven disciples" (214) are accused of "quibbling over their own pecking order." (216)...