28 April 2014

Another Great Kiwi Read: Read Mark and Learn by Derek Tovey

by Dr Mark Keown

On the plane from New Zealand to the UK I read Derek Tovey’s short book on Mark’s Gospel. As New Testament Lecturer at the College of St John the Evangelist in Auckland, Derek is well known for his excellent scholarship and contribution to the church. In this work, Derek is to be commended from creating a very useful tool for Bible studies. It is the sort of book those who have not engaged in biblical study at tertiary level can read to get a taster of how to read the Bible at another level.

In the book, Derek helps lay readers deal with difficult questions like the original ending of Mark’s Gospel and Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13. His treatment is simple, thorough, and yet sound. Readers who engage with the book with the text of Mark open will get to know Jesus better and more fully understand what it means to be a disciple. They will also get a taste of narrative criticism, a vital tool for reading the Gospels as coherent stories. Mercifully there is no getting lost in critical analysis or historical debate. Yet, quite masterfully, Derek introduces readers to ideas from modern scholarship that will make them think. The book is short and something that today’s readers can manage.

Toward the conclusion of the book are five well-constructed studies which encourage those who have read the book to read the Gospel of Mark itself, and to discuss what they have read. When one considers the importance of Mark to understanding Matthew, Luke, Jesus, and the nature of discipleship, this is a book that is of real use. As such, I highly commend this book for small groups in local churches who want people to really engage with Scripture and are looking for resources with which to do that.

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