Long before the Gospel writers put pen to papyrus, the earliest Christians participated in powerful rituals that fundamentally shaped their understanding of God, Christ, and the world in which they lived. This volume offers a liturgical reading of the Gospel of Mark, arguing that the Gospel is a narrative interpretation of early Christian ritual. The Gospel begins with Jesus's baptism by John and ends with Jesus and his disciples gathered for the Lord's Supper. In between, the narrative story of Jesus unfolds as the beloved Son is sent to gather not just the Jews but Gentiles and women to the table of the one loaf.
This fresh, responsible, and creative proposal shows how cultural anthropology and ritual studies elucidate ancient texts, revealing how the rituals of baptism and the Lord's Supper shaped the earliest Christians and impacted their understanding of Jesus. In addition to scholars, professors, and students, its ecclesial and pastoral ramifications will be of interest to pastors and church leaders.
Charles Bobertz takes the bold but necessary step of restoring Mark's Gospel to its original context--not just to the first century or to some ancient Christian author or literary genre, but to the earliest Christian communities and gatherings, formed in the ritual crucible of baptism and Eucharist. This is not merely a 'liturgical' reading in any narrow sense, but a genuinely contextual one, which not only bears new insights into the ancient origin and setting of the Gospel, but offers modern readers fresh insight into its relevance for them as members of baptized and eucharistic communities.
—Andrew McGowan, President and Dean, Berkeley Divinity School, McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies and Pastoral Theology, Yale Divinity School
In an exhilarating journey through Mark's Gospel, Charles Bobertz shows how the evangelist drew continually upon the language and practices of baptism and Eucharist. Mark's overarching purpose in doing so, Bobertz contends, was to resolve discord over Gentiles' presence at the Lord's Table by showing that through Jesus's life, passion, and resurrection (in which Christians participate through the liturgy) God created a profoundly inclusive church. Bobertz's demonstration that Mark's Jesus--and his followers!--move through ordinary time yet also transcend it will fire imaginations and raise appreciation for Mark's gifts as narrator and for the power of Christian liturgy.
—Susan R. Garrett, dean and professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
All reconstructions of the Markan community are conjectural. Presented as a commentary on the Second Gospel, Professor Bobertz's proposal adopts a liturgical attitude toward diverse social pressures exerted upon Christian readers in the apostolic age. His argument is closely reasoned, well-researched, jargon-free, clear, and resolute. Those appreciative of Mark's literary artistry will find in Bobertz's interpretation a stimulus for the continued study of 'a story of deep symbolism and ritual complexity.
—C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary
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Charles A. Bobertz (PhD, Yale University) is professor of theology at St. John's University, where he has taught for over twenty years, and is a deacon of Pax Christi Parish in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He previously taught at Loyola College in Maryland.