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RBL Review of my Book

I will interrupt my planned series to link to this recent review of my book The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century in the Review of Biblical Literature that is unfortunately behind a pay wall. I am thrilled about this review for several reasons, including that it is by the well-respected scholar Elizabeth Struthers Malbon who has contributed so much to the literary critical study of Mark’s Gospel, it provides an excellent and accurate summary of the contents of the book, and it offers positive and critical feedback that help to sharpen my own arguments. Two clarifications: I argued that 1 Peter’s circulation in Asia Minor influenced the “elders” there to develop the Mark/Peter connection that we learn from the Elder John and Acts 12:12 [another option not considered in the book is that all three multiply attest a local tradition] and I am not sure if the Carpocratians shared the asceticism of Secret Mark or appropriated the text toward their own ends. These are very minor points and I want to highlight a few of her comments that I greatly appreciate:

“Kok’s book… is a straightforwardly organized, clearly written, and meticulously detailed study of the patristic (second-century) reception of the Gospel of Mark based on the paradoxical situation that, although the “orthodox” claimed it as part of the fourfold gospel, they did not favor it or often cite or comment on it.”

“Kok’s last image of Mark’s Gospel in his conclusion is of the patristic writers rescuing this Gospel from the margins. Yet his book seems to me to present—in highly readable form — more how Mark’s Gospel was pushed to the margins. Thus, we end with the paradox with which we began: the presence and absence of the Gospel of Mark, claimed but distrusted by centrists. Kok is right that centrists did likely rescue Mark’s Gospel from oblivion, thus making it, I would add, continually available to be appreciated by subversives.”

“It was the title of Kok’s book that attracted me; however, it is the subtitle that reveals its content, and that content is well worth reading. In general, I am more skeptical than Kok about various ancient and modern traditions and theories: about Papias, about possible Pauline authorship of Colossians, about an early dating of 1 Peter, about the authenticity of Secret (or Mystic) Mark. But anyone preparing comments about authorship for a Markan commentary will have to study Kok’s book carefully, and anyone finding such already-existing comments too thin will greatly appreciate Kok’s thorough book.”

I am only aware of two other reviews that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, for Biblical Theology Bulletin and for Themelios, and I have benefited from their critical feedback as well. Finally, my gratitude goes out to the various bloggers who have also reviewed it online.

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