My article, “Can I ask you a Personal Question?” has been published.
Click on the link below to read my article and the works of 14 other authors. Turn to page 55. Our topic is “The Power of Knowing.”
My article, “Can I ask you a Personal Question?” has been published.
Click on the link below to read my article and the works of 14 other authors. Turn to page 55. Our topic is “The Power of Knowing.”
Dr. Church Swindoll’s message to seminary students at Dallas Baptist Theological Seminary, “Accurately Handling the Word.” You will enjoy, be challenged, and encouraged by his words of wisdom concerning the Word of Life. I encourage you to drink from his well of truth.
Hugh: “A carefully selected card with the right wording serves as an improvement over modern attempts – emails, memes, text messages – to communicate one’s love for another. To me, writing your own feelings and thoughts for another reaches its peak with a handwritten letter. “
“I recently ran across a love letter by the formidable Napoleon Bonaparte to his Josephine Bonaparte. This general known for military genius and the large empire he gathered after the French Revolution, wrote to the woman who held his heart. Below is a sample expression of his love for his Josephine:
A few days ago I thought I loved you; but since I last saw you I feel I love you a thousand times more. All the time I have known you, I adore you more each day; that just shows how wrong was La Bruyere’s maxim that love comes all at once. Everything in nature has its own life and different stages of growth. I beg you, let me see some of your faults: be less beautiful, less graceful, less kind, less good…”
“If we are going to properly interpret God’s love letter to man, His Word, we need to embrace work – hard work. I imagine Josephine may have kept Napoleon’s letter’s close and read them over and over as she thought about him while at war. Every word proved precious.”
“The Bible, God’s Word, to us, ought to be just as treasured as Josephine did Napoleon’s words. Every word ought to seize our attention. Most of us read the Bible too fast. We think we are in a speed reading class and want to be able to say, “I finished my scripture reading for today! Give me a gold star!”
“Now class, the key to deep Bible study is to be observant. We need to see what the details God has placed in His Word. Our goal is to observe everything we can see. We ask questions and keep asking questions like professor Agassiz required his student to do. Refer to the previous blog. Keep looking and looking until you see the whole passage in all its marvelous beauty.”
“At this stage, we want to refrain from interpreting the text. That will come in time, but now we want to see details and figure the connections between the details. DO NOT ASK, ‘WHAT DOES THE TEXT MEAN?” Instead, ask, “WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY?” (Click the Tweet). In time we will put the little things we observe in their larger place. For now, it is what can we see? “
“Dr. Danny Akins, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary makes these points related to observations:”
“Observation is taking a good hard look at what is in the text.” He continues, “Learn to read intelligently, intentionally, and interactively. Observation requires concentration. It is not a difficult procedure. It is not a complicated process. It can be mastered with practice and diligence.”
“Akins suggests, “Learn to read as for the first time (the advantage of reading the text in the original language). Learn to read as a love letter (personal).” Finally, Akins offers six questions to ask when we read the Bible:”
“WHO? – is the author of the book? To whom is the book written? Who are the characters in the book? Who is speaking? To whom is he speaking?”
“WHAT? – What is the atmosphere of the book or passage? Friendly? Chastening? Loving? What is the author’s general topic? What is he saying about the topic? What is the CONTEXT? What are the key words? What do they mean? What? What? What?”
“WHEN? When was the book written? When did this even happen in relation to other events? When was this prophecy fulfilled or has it been? “When” questions are important to ask especially in narrative literature such as the Gospels. This will help give you the ‘time’ perspective.”
“WHERE? Where was the book written? Where were the recipients of the book living? Can you locate the places mentioned on a map? Where else does this topic appear in Scripture?”
“WHY? Why was the book written? Why does he include this material and not other things? Why does the author give so much space to that topic and so little to another?”
“HOW? How many? How many times does the author use the same word in this book, chapter, passage, verse? How long? How much? How does he do this? Say this? How does this relate to the preceding statement? To the succeeding statement?”
Since we are running out of time, I have made a couple of videos to help us with out study of Mark’s Gospel. I will introduce you to the concept of observing the text. Let me encourage you to go from what I briefly offer and see how many more observations you can make from Mark 1: 1-3.
The first video walks you through several categories to help you mark Sentences and Paragraphs. These come from J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd edition. The second video models how to mark and record your observations. May you find them helpful as we begin our study of Mark’s Gospel.
How have you made such observations from the Bible text? What method did you use?
Do you have any suggestions for myself and others who want to read the text carefully?
Sam was born April 13, 1837 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, Charles, and his mother, Sarah, raised Charles in a strict Christian home. Sam attended the Boston Latin School.
At the ripe age of sixteen years, Sam matriculated in William College (1853). Two of his professors were naturalist Paul Chadbourne and geologist Ebenezer Emmons. These men guided young Sam to develop an interest in natural history. His favorite area of study was entomology.
Upon reaching nineteen years of age, Sam dedicated himself to a lifetime career of studying insects. Finally in 1847 Sam graduated from Williams at the head of his class.
Sam enrolled in the Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School in order to study under Louis Agassiz. Sam knew that Professor Agassiz was the most influential scientist in American at the time.
Sam studied under Professor Agassiz for four years and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1862. He worked for his favorite professor for another two years. Sadly, Sam fell under the influence of a new theory of its day, Darwinism.
Now, you might say, Hugh why are you taking class time to tell us about Sam? I wanted you to meet Sam Scudder. Sam Scudder wrote 180 papers during his lifetime – – on grasshoppers.
In 1862 his first paper identified 105 species of grasshoppers. By the end of his career, he had described 106 genera and 630 species of grasshoppers. Again you ask, “So what, Hugh?”
It fascinates me that a man could see that many differences in grasshoppers. After all, a grasshopper by any other name is still a grasshopper! Right? Where did Sam Scudder gain his skills to see so many differences?
Let me share another story that some think Sam H. Scudder wrote and then I will make application with it as we prepare to begin to study Mark’s Gospel in detail next week.
“This is how Sam’ story begins, “It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history.
He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.
“When do you wish to begin?” he asked. “Now,” I replied.
This seemed to please him, and with an energetic “Very well,” he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol. “Take this fish,” he said, “and look at it; we call it a Haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen.”
With that he left me, but in a moment returned with explicit instructions as to the care of the object entrusted to me. “No man is fit to be a naturalist,” said he, “who does not know how to take care of specimens.”
I was to keep the fish before me in a tin tray, and occasionally moisten the surface with alcohol from the jar, always taking care to replace the stopper tightly. Those were not the days of ground glass stoppers, and elegantly shaped exhibition jars; all the old students will recall the huge, neckless glass bottles with their leaky, wax-besmeared corks, half-eaten by insects and begrimed with cellar dust. Entomology was a cleaner science than ichthyology, but the example of the professor who had unhesitatingly plunged to the bottom of the jar to produce the fish was infectious; and though this alcohol had “a very ancient and fish-like smell,”
I really dared not show any aversion within these sacred precincts, and treated the alcohol as though it were pure water. Still I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. My friends at home, too, were annoyed, when they discovered that no amount of eau de cologne would drown the perfume which haunted me like a shadow.
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of a normal, sloppy appearance.
This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face — ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters view — just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour, I concluded that lunch was necessary; so with infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for an hour I was free.
On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field.
I pushed my fingers down its throat to see how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me — I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.
With these encouraging words he added —
“Well, what is it like?” He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me; the fringed gill-arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshly lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment:
“You have not looked very carefully; why,” he continued, more earnestly, “you haven’t seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself. Look again; look again!” And he left me to my misery.
I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish? But now I set myself to the task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor’s criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,
“Do you see it, yet?
“No,” I replied. “I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.”
“That is next best,” said he earnestly, “but I won’t hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish.”
This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be, but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.
The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.
“Do you perhaps mean,” I asked, “that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?”
His thoroughly pleased, “Of course, of course!” repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically — as he always did — upon the importance of this point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.
“Oh, look at your fish!” he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
“That is good, that is good!” he repeated, “but that is not all; go on.” And so for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. “Look, look, look,” was his repeated injunction.
This was the best entomological lesson I ever had — a lesson whose influence was extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part.
A year afterwards, some of us were amusing ourselves with chalking outlandish beasts upon the blackboard. We drew prancing star-fishes; frogs in mortal combat; hydro-headed worms; stately craw-fishes, standing on their tails, bearing aloft umbrellas; and grotesque fishes, with gaping mouths and staring eyes. The professor came in shortly after, and was as much amused as any at our experiments. He looked at the fishes.
“Haemulons, every one of them,” he said; “Mr. ____________ drew them.”
True; and to this day, if I attempt a fish, I can draw nothing but Haemulons.
The fourth day a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odor had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old six-inch worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!
The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought into review; and whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz’s training in the method of observing facts in their orderly arrangement, was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.
At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favorite groups.”
— from American Poems (3rd ed.; Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879): pp. 450-54.
“Class, what is the point of Sam Scudder’s story, “The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz? David, what do you think?”
“Hugh, I think we rarely look at God’s Word with much depth and detail until we are like the student. We think we have seen all there is to see and so we quit. Hugh, we need a professor to teach us to look and see what God has written. May we be as dedicated to read, study, examine closely God’s Word as much as Sam Scudder was this fish.”
“David, you are correct. We will soon be taking a passage from Mark’s Gospel and examine it in detail. Why would we let scientists show us up in such detailed observations? See you next week!”
This is Dr. Lucas, If you are following this blog, please read Mark 1: 1-8 several times this next week. We will begin to examine these verses in detail. Read it 2-4 times per day each week. Make a few notes of what you see each day that you failed to see the day(s) before your current reading.
Dr. Lucas is an author, retired pastor and retired Professor of Bible from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky. Dr. Roy Lucas lives in the Appalachian Mountains in Harlan, Kentucky with his wife, Veda, also a writer.
He has articles in LifeWay’s Biblical Illustrator, Deacon Magazine, Senior Adult Bible Studies for Life, Lighthouse Bible Studies Refresh Magazine, CBN devotion, and the Revised Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2015). “Why are You Afraid?” appears in Food for Your Soul, Compilation 1 published by Lighthouse Bible Studies (June 2019). His weekly blog is Truth-Travelers.com.
He preaches, teaches, and serves as interim pastor. His doctorate is in New Testament studies. He excavated in the Tel Gezer Project and served with the Tel Gezer Survey Project. He leads tours to Israel.
He and Dr. John Ditty, Old Testament Professor of Bible at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky are leading a tour to Israel in March 2020. If you are interested, contact Dr. Lucas at his email address.
“Good morning folks. For our guests this morning, let me introduce myself, ‘I am Hugh. I am the teacher for this Sunday School class. A few of us have studied the purpose of Mark’s Gospel the last several weeks. Refer to the last 2 week’s blogs for information: ”
“Today, we will touch upon seven important backgrounds for the study of Mark’s Gospel. These backgrounds will supply us with important information each time we approach the study of Mark’s Gospel. These seven backgrounds will aid your study of any Bible book. These will aid you in determining the intended meaning of the biblical author, and ultimately, the Bible’s Author, God.”
“Before, I begin to touch on the seven important backgrounds, let me tell you an interesting story which hopefully illustrates my point about not knowing essential background information.”
“The Cilician pirates of the Aegean Sea in 75 BCE failed to consider the background of a Roman citizen they captured. This 25-year-old Roman nobleman had set out to study oratory in Rhodes when the pirates seized him. The story is recounted in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.”
“When the pirates asked for 20 talents for his ransom, this nobleman scoffed because they did not know who he was. He suggested they ask for 50 talents. The Roman nobleman sent men from his own entourage to raise the 50 talents for his ransom and settled in for a period of waiting.”
“In the meantime, this nobleman ordered the pirates to obey him. Wanting to sleep, he shushed them to silence. He recited poems and speeches to them, even when they didn’t want to listen. He mocked them and called them illiterate barbarians if they did not applaud his work. The nobleman played their pirate games with them. Yet, always, he ordered them as if he were their superior and they were his inferiors.”
“Being such an important Roman nobleman, he threatened the pirates with crucifixion. They laughed and saw these threats as coming from a jokester who was boisterous and slightly insane.”
“Thirty-eight days passed, and the ransom arrived. The Roman nobleman left the island, raised a naval force in Miletus, even though he did not hold any political office or military power. He set out to find his pirate captors.
He captured them and returned the pirates to the governor of Asia. The local ruler wasn’t sure he wanted to do anything about the pirates, so Julius Caesar stormed the prison where they were held and promptly crucified all the pirates. If the pirates had researched the background of the nobleman they had captured, things might have turned out different”.
“This week, we will seek to define seven important backgrounds that every student of the Bible needs to explore as much as possible before tackling a specific biblical text.”
“Hugh, can I ask a question before you get into our lesson this morning?”
“Of course, David.”
“Hugh, what difference does knowing this information make when we believe God is the ultimate author of the biblical text. His Holy Spirit inspired the writers to write what they recorded. So, does it really matter where the writers lived and what they experienced?”
“David, that is an excellent question. We have no doubt that God was the ultimate author of our biblical text as you say. But, God laid out eternal, theological truths in His Word. We want to know the principles he placed in the Word so we can extract from His Word what He intended us to live by in this world. Do we agree that God communicated to Abraham and Abraham obeyed what God told him to do? Didn’t that happen in a historical environment?”
“When Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians, Galatians, as well as 1, 2 Timothy and the others, wasn’t Paul living in a special geographical location? Aren’t many of his letters direct results to circumstances happening in those places or to those people?”
This helps us ascertain the proper method to apply God’s Word in our lives. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, say, “We do so because it offers us a window into what we must recapture God’s original intended meaning as reflected in the text and framed by the ancient historical-cultural context.’ Does that help answer your question, David?”
“Thanks, Hugh. That helps.”
“Alright, allow me to write my life of the seven backgrounds on the board before I start my explanation.”The author’s backgrounAuthor’s Background
The video will explain and illustrate the 7 background from scripture.
“Class, let me warn you about one thing related to the study of backgrounds. –
Please understand that these backgrounds are not always an end all. Sometimes details become the only thing one studies, and the principle of truth is lost or overlooked.
“For example, let me share this with you:
Matthew 19:23-24 mentions how possible it is for a rich man to enter heaven. The possibility is connected to the ‘eye of the needle.’ An explanation that never surfaced until the 6th century A.D. referred to a gate where a camel would craw through it in order to get inside Jerusalem at night.”
“The problem rests on the fact that the ‘eye of the needle’ refers to just that, ‘the eye of a sewing needle.’”
Jesus intended his
audience to understand the largeness of the camel and the smallness of the eye
of the needle. This illustration intended to show how hard it is for a rich man
to stop trusting in his worldly goods and turn to trust Christ for his daily
Do you value these seven backgrounds? Why or why not?
Do you spend time exploring these when you study a passage? why or why not?
Any other areas you feel should be studied? Why do you make this suggestion?
J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 117. The seven background are explained in this textbook as well.
“Hugh, There were five major natural disasters that devasted our country in 2018. Can you name them?”
“David, I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast, let alone something that happened last year. What were they?”
First, rain and mudslides devasted the wildfire area of Montecito, California. Twenty-one people were killed.
Second, Ellicot City, Maryland experienced devastating flooding when more than 8 inches of rain fell in a few hours.
The third devastating event in 2018 brought Hurricane Florence to the coasts of the Carolinas. Forty-three people died as a result of rainfall between 24 and 36 inches.
Fourth, the first Category 4 hurricane, Michael, hit the Florida panhandle with winds in the Panama City area exceeding 150 miles an hour. Michael killed 43 people.
And last, the California campfire swept through Paradise, California destroying 13,000 homes and burning 150,00 acres. Eighty-five people perished.” 
“Hugh I remember last week we asked the question, “Do the Professionals Know More than you?” We explored a few New Testament Introductions and Surveys. This week we were going to focus on New Testament Commentaries, weren’t we?”
“That’s true, David, but I am still hung up on the five major crises of 2018 and what they have to do with our study on Mark’s purpose?”
“Hugh, it seems that crises can serve as a catch-all for just about anything bad happening, including one of the purposes for why Mark wrote his Gospel.”
“I read a commentary by Robert Guelich. He explained some commentators say Mark intended to address the crisis created by the Jewish War of 66-70 A.D. which affected the Jewish view of eschatology (Luhrmann).”
“Also, he mentions Weeden, who we encountered last week, as postulating Mark’s purpose focused on correcting a crisis caused by the “Hellenization” of the mission with an orthodox Christology.”
“Hugh, listen to how Guelich concludes his discussion:
“Therefore, Mark wrote the Gospel pastorally to address a community under duress. This duress had given rise to questions about who Jesus was and the nature of the “Kingdom” he had come to inaugurate. Mark points back to the “good news concerning Jesus Messiah, Son of God,” to remind them of who Jesus was and what he had come to do as well as what he would do. The Gospel offered a renewed basis for their faith, made clear the dangers and pitfalls along the way, and offered the hope of the Kingdom future, the day of harvest, the mustard tree, the resurrection, and the ultimate consummation of God’s rule.”
“ David, I see where your references to the five natural disasters fits into our study now. Guelich postulated an interesting theory. But listen to what Vincent Taylor suggests:
The motives which led him to write must have been those which influenced all the Synoptic writers – the delay of the Parousia, the passing away of eyewitnesses, and the desire to preserve the oral teaching of the primitive communities. Other motives, apologetic, liturgical, catechetical, must have also have guided his undertaking.”
“David, let me sum Taylor’s evaluation on Mark’s apologetic motive. Taylor says that Mark’s primary motive related to apologetics was not to refute some heretical teaching, such as Docetism or answering questions related to the person of Jesus, but rather, Mark’s apologetic motive revolves around the truth of Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of God, the champion over Satan and all his powers, that Jesus endured suffering, was crucified, and rose again in three days.” (Click to Tweet) 
“Hugh, returning to Guelich’s comments on Mark 1:8:26, he insists that to know the purpose of Mark’s Gospel, one must begin at 1:1 where Mark says he set out to write the “gospel concerning Jesus Messiah, Son of God.”
“Guelich asserts that Mark’s purpose involved conserving the tradition since the early authorizing witnesses for the traditions were dying. By writing down the “gospel,” Mark preserved the Gospel from distortions or disappearance. Guelich criticizes this view by asserting that oral tradition had proved to be as reliable as the written resources in some cases.”
“That is helpful, David. Timothy J. Geddert said, “Mark wrote primarily for people already sharing his conviction that the Gospel traditions are reliable. Mark interprets Jesus, rather than trying to verify traditions about him.” (Click to Tweet) 
Geddert adds Mark penned his Gospel to have a specific impact on the reader as they study it from the beginning to the conclusion. He believes that Mark wrote his Gospel so that those who study each part in detail will be additionally impacted.
“David, Larry W. Hurtado explains another avenue related to the purpose of Mark’s Gospel. He offers some insight. He agrees that Mark is a Gospel about Jesus but asserts that it is also a book about discipleship, that is, how to live as a follower of Jesus.”
Hutado suggests that Mark concerned himself with explaining the cross as the major work of Jesus, but also the pattern for living the Christian life. Mark 8-10 highlight Jesus’ coming suffering and how it serves as a pattern for those following Jesus.
Mark designed his Gospel to be a correction for the notion that Christian disciples were destined to live easy, victorious lives. (click to Tweet) Thus, Mark grasped the deep theology of the Gospel of Jesus, but also had a deep grasp of the Christian life.”
“Hugh,” said David, “I ran across an interesting proposal by C. Bryan in his “A Preface to Mark, where he expounded his theory that one purpose of Mark’s Gospel was that it be read aloud. R. T. France quoted recent estimates that only about 10% or perhaps in some cities, 15-20% of the population could read. From such statistics, Bryan develops his theory that Mark’s Gospel had the purpose of being read aloud. He asks, “Was Mark written to be read aloud?” and his assertion is “yes: “Mark was designed for oral communication – and for transmission as a continuous whole – rather than for private study or silent reading.”
“Hugh, seems like our crisis over Mark’s purpose has been solved.”
Please view this short video where I summarize the 4 major purposes of Mark’s Gospel.
Does Bible study seem like a crisis to you? When? Why?
If you are a pastor or one who teachers regularly, does
the preparation ever seem like you go from one crisis to another? How can we overcome
such a crisis?
See 5 Natural Disasters that Devasted the US in 2018, https://abcnews.go.com/US/natural-disasters-devastated-us-2018/story?id=59367683
Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark, (London: MacMillan and Co., Ltd. 1957), 130.
 Robert Guelich, Mark 1 – 8:26 in Word Bible Commentary, Vol 34A, (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), xli.
 Timothy J. Geddert, Mark, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), 17–18.
Larry W. Hurtado, Mark in Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 11.
C. Bryan, A Preface to Mark: Notes on the Gospel in Its Literary and Cultural Settings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 22.
R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark in the New International Greek Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 9.
 C. Bryan, 22.
Hugh and David moved to a table in the library after they had gathered a few resources.
“David, let’s see how many purposes the “professionals” have identified for Mark’s writing his gospel using only New Testament Introductions and New Testament Surveys.”
“First, we will list the purposes without evaluating them. Then, over the next couple of weeks we will evaluate the various hypotheses we encounter. “
“We want to be precise with our sources, so we know who said what. Does that sound like a working premise for our task tonight? And next week we will discuss what some commentaries say about Mark’s possible purpose.”
“Hugh, that works well for me. Remember, you are the teacher.”
“David, if you will survey a few of the New Testament Introductions written by the professionals who have spent a lifetime studying the materials related to Mark. I will select a few commentaries so I can be prepared for our study next week. Ready? Set? Go!”
“You can share what you discover tonight in an hour. This way we can be home with our families before it’s too late tonight.”
After an hour passed.
“David, what did you discover from the New Testament Introductions?”
“Hugh, Dr. Thomas D. Lea reminds us that Mark did not provide a clear statement of purpose in the Gospel. Lea points out W. Wrede postulated that Mark wrote his gospel to cover up Jesus’ failure to declare He was the Messiah. Hugh, Wrede said that Mark put words into Jesus’ mouth so that Jesus prevented others from sharing his Messiahship.”
“David, that is interesting for sure. We will come back to evaluate some of these ideas in a couple of weeks. But tonight, we want to know what is said. What else did you learn?”
“Lea continued by pointing out that internal evidence points to some reasons why Mark wrote his gospel. For example, the very first verse of the gospel shows Mark’s interest in sharing the gospel of Jesus. I surmise this is an evangelistic purpose.”
“Lea cites 8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34 as evidence that Mark focused on the person and work of Jesus. He adds to this internal evidence Mark’s Gospel where there is a call for repentance in 1:15 along with Mark’s motif of servanthood where there is a strong focus on Jesus death (10:45).”
“Lea suggests a second possibility resting on Mark’s understanding that persecution would be encountered by the early Christians and he wanted them to be able to stand strong in obedience to Christ (10:29-30). I guess this is intended to be encouragement to endure suffering.”
“Hugh, another source I read was by Kostenberger, Kellum and Quarles. These scholars added that the major problem facing Mark was to explain the crucifixion of Jesus. After all, what Roman would believe in a Jewish Messiah who died by crucifixion on a cross?”
They explain that Mark wrote ‘an apology for the cross.” Mark’s theory stated that Jesus death on the cross proved Him to be the “Messianic King and the Son of God.” (Click to Tweet) Jesus continually predicted his death (8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34). A “ransom for many” stood as the reason for his substitutionary atonement for sin.”
They repeated Lea’s idea that the opening statement of Mark’s Gospel is the most likely purpose for writing the Gospel. They supplement Lea’s information by writing,
In the Gospel, God (who refers to Jesus as his ‘beloved Son” at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration; 1:11 and 9:7); demons (1:25; 3:11-12; 5:7); Jesus Himself (12:6; 14:61) and a Roman centurion (15:39) all agree that Jesus is the Son of God. In support of this claim, Mark’s Roman audience was treated to a dazzling display of Jesus’ miracle-working power
That shows his authority over the realms of nature, sickness, and death, and even the Supernatural (4:35-5:43).
Hugh, I found their summary most helpful:
“Overall, then, we can note four interrelated purposes in Mark’s Gospel, all of which revolve around Jesus’ identity as Son of God:
A pastoral purpose: to reach Christians about the nature of discipleship.
A missionary-training purpose: to explain who Jesus prepared His followers to take on his mission and to show others how to do so as well.
An apologetic purpose: to demonstrate to non-Christians that Jesus is the Son of God because of His great power and in spite of his crucifixion; and
An anti-imperial purpose to show Jesus, not Caesar, is the true Son of God, Savior, and Lord.”
“Hugh, I like those four purpose statements.”
“David, did you find anyone who had more than the purposes of Kostenberger’s group and Wrede’s notion that Mark wrote to cover up Jesus’ failure to preach He was the Messiah?”
“Hugh, Robert H. Gundry suggests a new twist. Gundry posited that some feel Mark wrote to soften the offensiveness of Jesus’ Messiahship for the Roman authorities. This is why Mark invented the “messianic secret.”
“Gundry also explained that Mark may have written his Gospel to encourage the persecuted believers by reminding them of Jesus’ own suffering and death.”
“David, that is really interesting and helpful for us to keep in mind when we begin to study the Gospel’s content soon.”
“And Hugh,” said David, “Donald Guthrie touched upon some important truths related to the purpose of Mark. I really like how he explains Mark’s purpose.”
“In summary, Guthrie says that Mark’s motivating intention was to write a “Gospel,” that is, to recount the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
“Guthrie adds, “This at once distinguishes the book from a biography and explains the large proportion of space devoted to the last three weeks of the life of Jesus. The cross and resurrection were the central features of the Christian gospel.”
“Guthrie explains that Mark possesses an evangelistic purpose which is to account for the historical events in the life of Jesus. Jesus did not need to be introduced so Mark omitted birth narratives and stories of Jesus’ early life. Mark confronts his reader with the contention that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark assumes his readers know who Jesus is.”
“Like some of the others already mentioned, Guthrie accepts the catechetical motive as possible while downplaying the liturgical purpose.”
“Being a professional scholar, Guthrie highlights D. E. Nineham’s suggestions behind the motive of Mark:
To show that Jesus as the Messiah was innocent of Jewish charges and that his sufferings were part of God’s purpose.
To explain why Jesus did not publicly declare Himself to be Messiah.
To explain why Christians have to suffer, i.e. because Jesus had to suffer.
To present the works of Jesus as triumph over the forces of evil.
“Guthrie brings his discussion to a conclusion when he affirms that not all scholars would hold to the four reasons provided by Nineham, but many scholars agree that each played a part in the motive for Mark penning his Gospel.”
“David, that is quite a lot of information for us to ponder over this week. I will share what the commentaries suggest next week. Then we will collectively determine what we believe are Mark’s motives or purposes for writing this Gospel.”
“Good night, David! See you at Wednesday night prayer meeting.”
“Night, Hugh. I plan to be there, Lord willing.”
Do you agree with the “professionals” as to what they suggest might be Mark’s purpose for writing his Gospel? Why or why not? If you have an idea, respond and let me know what you believe to be Mark’s purpose and support it with facts, please.
Thomas D. Lea, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996), 141-142.
Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Lion and the Lamb: New Testament Essentials from the Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2012), 80.
Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 151-152.
Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Inter-Varsity Press/Tyndale Press, 1970), 57.
The sting of last Sunday’s failure to answer David’s question about John Mark’s purpose for writing the Gospel of Mark continued to aggravate Hugh.
“Why didn’t I see that question coming? Why didn’t I study more?”
Hugh’s cell phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID: David Livermore. “This is what I need tonight, a reminder of my failure, thought David as he answered the phone.”
“Hello, Hugh. Do you have a minute for us to visit about my question in Sunday School?”
“Of course, David. How can I help?”
Hugh felt sweat popping out on his forehead, — again.
“Hugh, I know you study a lot to help us learn God’s Word and I wondered if you might tutor me, so I can learn the Word for myself?”
“David, I would be honored to share what I know. When would you have time to begin?”
“How would tomorrow night sound, Hugh? How about 6:30 am? Where would you like to meet?”
“David let’s meet at the church library, so we can have access to the commentaries and other materials there. Will that work?”
“That will be great. I didn’t know our church had a library. I have already learned something tonight. Thank you, Hugh.”
“You’re welcome, David. I look forward to our time tomorrow.”
“I do too. Good night,” said David. Hugh replied, “Good night.”
Hugh and David entered the church parking lot simultaneously.
“Hello, David.” ‘Good evening, Hugh.”
“Are you ready to work?”
“I am ready and excited. To be honest, Hugh, I am embarrassed that I had to ask you to tutor me. I have been a Christian for several years, but I don’t know much about the Bible or how to even begin to study it.”
“Tonight, David, I want us to discover better answers to your question as to why John Mark wrote his Gospel. Are you up for that exploration?”
“I would love to figure that out.”
“David, let’s take notice of the tools we have available in the library. This section has several translations of the Bible. Notice there are some Bibles called “Study Bibles.” These can be helpful. Usually they have brief notes at the bottom of the page. You can scan the titles: The MacArthur Study Bible, The CSB Study Bible, The NASB Study Bible, and the NKJV Study Bible, The ESV Study Bible, and The Ryrie Study Bible. You can see there are many more on the shelf.”
“And David, this group of books are Bible dictionaries. Next to those are Bible encyclopedias.”
“David, that is a great question. Bible dictionaries are like English dictionaries with the exception that they focus on what a word meant in the Bible. Some may include the Hebrew and Greek root words while others do not.”
“Bible encyclopedias are like the Bible dictionaries but have a greater amount of detail. Bible dictionaries offer a paragraph or two about the topic. The Bible encyclopedias explain the term with greater precision and usually have longer articles. The encyclopedias usually offer more topics on the culture, places, people, and life in the Bible.”
“Here are a couple of useful Bible dictionaries: The Tyndale Bible Dictionary and the Revised Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. A few useful Bible encyclopedia include the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, The International Standard Dictionary, and the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.
“Hugh, what about Bible handbooks? Are they useful? I have an old one. I haven’t really checked it out.”
“Yes, handbooks can be helpful. Check these out: The Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, Holman Bible Handbook and The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook.
“David, notice these books. They are called concordances. A concordance is intended to help locate things in the Bible. Most people use the internet or digital search engines today. The concordance allows you to search for things by topic, name, place or people.
“David, here are some of my favorite study tools: Bible atlases. Many people fail to check out the geographical relationships between places, the contour of the land, and the paths that people took as they traveled from one place to another. You will want to have a couple of these nearby all the time. Here is The Holman Bible Atlas, The Zondervan Bible Atlas and the MacMillan Bible Atlas.
“David, let me show you a couple of other helpful tools – New Testament Introductions and New Testament Surveys. These books assist the reader with important background materials such as author, date, intended audience, sources, and purpose.
You will find helpful information related to each book of the New Testament. The New Testament in Antiquity by Gary Burge et al., An Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson et al., A Survey of the New Testament by Robert H. Gundry, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown by Andreas Kostenberger et al., The New Testament: It’s Background and Message by Thomas Lea and David Allen Black, as well as New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie are all helpful and prominent works worthy of consideration. We will explore some of these for our purpose of Mark’s Gospel search.
“David, one of the things we will do at another time is to learn to do critical observations of the biblical text before we begin to interpret a specific passage. Observing the text and doing background research adds to the details of our study and information before we ever read a commentary.”
“What is a commentary, Hugh? I heard the pastor mention one a week ago in his sermon, but I had no idea what he was referring to.”
“David, commentaries vary in the depth of the study they go into. Some are more topical in nature – that is, they don’t do a verse by verse analysis, but more of a section by section explanation. Others are more critical and scholarly. They might delve into the original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Many do a verse-by verse explanation of the text.”
“Typically, commentaries provide extra materials like we are looking for tonight: the purpose of Mark’s Gospel. Most commentaries contain explanation relating to the author, the date of composition, the place of composition, the historical context of the author and the recipients along with a multitude of pertinent materials related to the individual book under study.”
“David, here’s the commentary section on Mark. Notice the titles of some of these: R.A. Cole, The Gospel according to St. Mark. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, James Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark. Pillar New Testament Commentary, R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Robert Stein, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.
“Now, David, let’s set down and see what we can discover about why Mark wrote his gospel.”
A Helpful website on the review and ratings of Biblical, Theological and Practical Christian works is: https://www.bestcommentaries.com/
Other helpful sources may include:
D. A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey, 7th edition.
John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference Survey 10th edition.
John F. Evans, A Guide to Biblical Commentaries and Reference Works, 10th edition.
In his second letter the Apostle Paul exhorts his young protégé Timothy not to wrangle or fuss about useless words that lead to the ruin of the hearers.
Paul shares with Timothy to avoid worldly and empty chatter that leads to further ungodliness.
Paul instructs Timothy to be a workman who does not need to be ashamed, but a workman who rightly handles the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
We must be ready for such a task and give ourselves to the labor so that we, as Paul, can entrust what we have learned to other faithful men and women who will be able to teach others.
In this article we will look at some secular challenges to proper exegesis. We as ministers and students of God’s Word must recognize many of these secular systems arise from preconceptions, pre-understandings, and presuppositions that are imposed upon the Word.
We are no doubt familiar with systems such as Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. These systems are both inherently Biblical in nature with the difference being in their respective starting points. While Dispensationalism begins at the beginning and moves forward, Covenant Theology begins in the New Testament and reads it backwards into the Old Testament.
These competing systems end up with differing ideas in places. While there is much to discuss here, there is still the desire for proper exegesis working through time, culture, language etc. to perform our best attempt at delineating proper authorial intent.
There are however scores of additional theological systems that we may find ourselves influenced by or notice while studying other works that one needs to be aware of, especially with regard to proper exegesis.
The rule to remember is that whenever a system is utilized, and not all are bad, whenever we come to an issue or nebulous spot in the Text, the “system” will make the decision with regard to exegesis.
While the exegete tries to present the meaning of truth; the theologian, the system of truth. Much of these issues arise out of authority and inspiration with regard to secular systems.
A frequently utilized secular system that offers challenge to proper exegesis is that of Liberation Theology. While its roots are in the Latin American Catholic church, its agenda is more political than theological, all the while using theology as its initial vehicle and standard for its (Liberation Theology) truthfulness.
Its ideas borrow initially from Kant, as well as Georg Hegel and Karl Marx, which throws up a huge red flag for orthodox Christians. They do not begin with any genuine inductive analysis of Scripture but instead read it through their lens of political ideology to interpret the Scriptures.
Liberation Theology violates the injunction of Scripture concerning submission to government as outlined in Romans 13. Their concern over social justice rolls completely over man’s sinfulness and his need for a savior. This exegesis ascribes a totally secondary meaning to the clear ordinary meaning of the Text.
Another secular system that challenges proper exegesis this article will discuss is that of Process Theology.
This is a bit of a misnomer and deceptive on the part of Process Theology as it is actually a philosophy instead of a theology. It is some what akin to Open Theism many of you have heard of. Open Theism is the more “biblical” version and allows for more nuances regarding Divine activity than does Process Theology.
I know of some of our own who have turned to Process Theology as they felt it helped them to deal with Theodicy. Process Theology sees God as in process and always developing and completing Himself. This notion rejects all ideas of supernaturalism and space for the miraculous.
Coming to texts like Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17 with such a paradigm does violence to the proper exegesis with regard to the Immutability of God. Any idea of sin and atonement are ignored. Carl F.H. Henry states that this school of thought says Creation becomes evolution, redemption becomes relationship, and resurrection becomes renewal.
This is beyond the bounds of sound exegesis to no real exegesis at all. Philosophy is not bad in and of itself, as we use it anytime we approach the Scripture to read and interpret, but I believe this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he warns in Colossians 2:8 not to be taken captive through philosophy and empty deception.
One of the secular systems we are often confronted with is Feminist Theology. While it is vital that women be honored and respected on a personal level, in the home, and provided with ministry opportunities that the Scriptures do afford, there is a secular camp that has brought their own agenda to the table in the name of theology and its exegesis does violence to the Text of God and that is born out in its exegesis.
Feminist Theology takes Galatians 3:28 as its proof Text, pulled from its context, and says that everyone is the same before God.
Not being any difference between bond and free did not mean Onesimus was set free from his Christian master.
The context is in a salvific sense. Feminist theology rejects Scriptures authority and now with regard to exegesis, makes decisions on exegesis based on experience and personal inclination. Feminist theology says Paul’s statements in Ephesians 5:22-6:9 are “local and temporary”, but who determines what is local or temporary?
The Feminist interpretation becomes a pick and choose method, with reason and culture sitting in judgement on Scripture. Feminists continue as they define kephale (head) as source. This brings great lexical difficulty and is a claim with no solid factual support.
Research bears out this reality and the feminist agenda is intellectually dishonest. This paradigm leads to a deterioration within exegesis. If the feminist definition of head as source is maintained, God becomes the source of Christ, which is a denial of Christs deity and thereby a denial of the Trinity.
These are but a few hindrances and systems we face with regard to proper exegesis. We may not fall prey to them but some we minister to will. It behooves us to know what is going on and how to best defend the Faith. Knowing some of the enemy’s tactics and techniques can prove helpful as we seek to properly exegete God’s Word.
If you found this helpful, please let Chad and myself know with a comment.
Chad Fultz is a husband, father, and Associate Pastor for Family Discipleship at First Baptist Church, Oneida TN.
Chad is a currently pursuing a PhD in Theology & Apologetics at the Rawlings Divinity School at Liberty University.
Chad desires to teach and equip the saints to better understand and defend their faith in Christ and His Word. Chad Fultz’s e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986), 17.
 Ibid., 640.
 Ibid., 627.
 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 672.
 Ibid., 674.
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