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Literary Critical Approaches to Mark’s Gospel

Many twentieth century New Testament scholars concentrated on the history behind the text: who wrote the Gospel of Mark, when was it written, where was it written, to whom was it written, what are its sources and how was it used as a source, what form did its oral or written traditions take before they were included in it, how did the evangelist edit the traditions, and is the text a window into the life of Jesus or a mirror into the beliefs of the various Christ associations? Narrative or literary-critical approaches tend to bracket such historical-critical questions, for reconstructions of the “authorial intention” or the historical situation behind the text is always tentative, to closely read the text itself.  This approach may be interested in the structural elements of the narrative (plot, settings, round or flat characters, implied author, implied audience, narrative point of view, rhetorical techniques, etc.) or in how meaning is produced in the interaction between text and reader. This has also led to ideological approaches that emphasize the reader’s own social location, for the former hegemony of white, male, liberal Protestants from Germany over the biblical studies guild impacted upon the research questions that were brought to the text, and has opened up the field to perspectives or readings from those who have been marginalized. Such approaches may include poststructuralism, liberation theology, postcolonial criticism, or feminist criticism.Here is a sample of literary or ideological studies of Mark’s Gospel:

  • Anderson, Janice Capel and Moore, Stephen D. Editors. Mark and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies.  Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992.
  • Belo, Fernando. A Materialist Reading of the Gospel of Mark. Translated by Matthew J. O’Connel. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1981.
  • Best, Ernest. Mark: The Gospel as Story. Revised Edition.  Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000.
  • Dewey, Joanna. Markan Public Debate:  Literary Technique, Concentric Structure and Theology in Mark 2:1-3:6. Chicago: Scholars Press, 1980.
  • Fowler, Robert. Loaves and Fishes: The Function of the Feeding Stories in the Gospel of Mark. Chicago: Scholars Press, 1981.
  • Fowler, Rober M. Let the Reader Understand:  Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. Harrisburg: Trinity, 1991.
  • Gray, Timothy C. The Temple in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Its Narrative Role. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
  • Horsley, Richard. Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark’s Gospel.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001.
  • Humphrey, Hugh M. ‘He is Risen!’:  A New Reading of Mark’s Gospel.  New York: Paulist, 1992.
  • Iverson, Kelly R. and Skinner, Christopher W. Editors. Mark as Story: Retrospect and Prospect. Atlanta: SBL, 2011.
  • Kingsbury, Jack Dean. Conflict in Mark: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
  • Jack Dean Kingsbury, The Christology of Mark’s Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989.
  • Levine, Amy-Jill. Editor. A Feminist Companion to Mark. Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2001.
  • Liew, Tat-siong Benny. “Tyranny, Boundary and Might: Colonial Mimicry in Mark’s Gospel.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 73 (1999): 7-31.
  • Politics of Parousia: Reading Mark Inter(con)textually. Biblical Interpretation Series 44. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
  • Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. “Fallible Followers Women and Men in the Gospel of Mark.” Semeia 28 (1983): 29-48. 
  • Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986.
  • Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. In the Company of Jesus: Characters in Mark’s Gospel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000.
  • Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. Mark’s Jesus: Characterization as Narrative Christology. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009.
  • Maloney, Francis J. Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004.
  • Moore, Stephen D. Mark and Luke in Poststructuralist Perspectives: Jesus Begins to Write. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992.
  • Moore, Stephen D.  “Mark and Empire.” Pages 70-90 in Recognizing the Margins: Developments in Biblical and Theological Studies. Essays in Honor of Sean Freyne.  Edited by Werner G. Jeanrond and A. D. H. Mayes. Dublin, Ireland: Columba, 2006.
  • Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.  Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988.
  • Peterson, Dwight N. The Origins of Mark: The Markan Community in Current Debate.  Leiden: Brill, 2000.
  • Powell, Mark Allan. “Toward a Narrative-Critical Understanding of Mark.”  Interpretation 47 (1993): 341-46.
  • Rhoads, David and Michie, Donald. Mark as Story:  An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982.
  • Rhodes, David, Joanna Dewey, and Donald Michie. Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Second Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999.
  • Skinner, Christopher L. and Hauge, Matthew Ryan. Editors. Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • Smith, Stephen H. A Lion With Wings: A Narrative-Critical Approach to Mark’s Gospel.  The Biblical Seminar 38. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.
  • Tannehill, Robert C. “The Disciples in Mark: The Function of a Narrative Role.” The Journal of Religion 57 (1977): 386-405
  • Tolbert, Mary Ann. Sowing the Gospel:  Mark’s World in a Literary-Historical Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
  • Van Iersel, Bas M.F. Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary. London and New York: T&T Clark, 1998.
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