In The Gospel of Mark, John Donahue and Daniel Harrington use an approach that can be expressed by two terms currently used in literary criticism: intratextuality and intertextuality. This intratextual and intertextual reading of Mark’s Gospel helps us to appreciate the literary character, its setting in life, and its distinctive approaches to the Old Testament, Jesus, and early Christian theology.
“Intratextuality” means we read Mark as Mark and by Mark. Such a reading expresses interest in the final form of the Gospel (not its source or literary history) and in its words and images, literary devices, literary forms, structures, characterization, and plot. Reading Mark by Mark gives particular attention to the distinctive vocabulary and themes that run throughout the Gospel and serve to hold it together as a unified literary production. “Intertextuality” comprises the relation between texts and a textual tradition, and also referring to contextual materials not usually classified as texts (e.g., archaeological data). “Intertextuality” is used to note the links of the text of Mark’s Gospel to other texts (especially the Old Testament) and to the life of the Markan community and of the Christian community today.
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“The term ‘wilderness’ (erēmos in Greek), which is virtually synonymous with ‘desert,’ is a word with broad resonance for Jews, recalling the years of wandering between the Exodus and the entry into the land and the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19–24), as well as the place where God would again deliver the people by bringing them back from exile (Isa 40:3). It has a dual connotation. It is used positively as the place of God’s saving acts and betrothal with the people (Jer 2:2–3; Hos 2:14–15; Pss 78:12–53; 105:39–45), and negatively as the site of testing and rebellion (Exodus 16; Numbers 11; Pss 78:17–22, 32–41; 106:6–43).” (Page 61)
“The obstacle posed by riches seems to be that the thought and energy given to accumulating and preserving one’s riches can distract from making God’s kingdom the focus of attention.” (Page 304)
“In addition to being the traditional site of John’s baptizing it has a symbolic value as the barrier between the wilderness and the land of promise.” (Page 63)
“By ‘intratextuality’ we mean reading Mark as Mark and by Mark. In reading Mark as Mark we express our interest in the final form of the gospel (not its sources or literary history) and in its words and images, literary devices, literary forms, structures, characterization, and plot. In reading Mark by Mark we want to give particular attention to the distinctive vocabulary and themes that run throughout the gospel and serve to hold it together as a unified literary production.” (Page 1)
This commentary stands as a serviceable, detailed, and clearly written survey of Mark’s Gospel. . . . Readers in search of a solid, traditional take on Mark will find this book by two veteran scholars well-suited to their needs.
—Eric Thurman, Drew University
This commentary does a great deal in one volume and does it, on the whole, very well. I appreciate what the authors are attempting to pull together, and I would, without hesitation recommend it to students and use it in a class on Mark. . . . The intentional presence of literary-critical insights gives this work what no other commentary on Mark in a major commentary series now offers: an encouragement to students to pursue close readings of the biblical text that privilege the horizontal dimensions of the text over the vertical ones. For this we should be thankful for the risk the authors have taken in breaking new ground in this commentary on Mark.
—Erik M. Heen, The Lutheran Theological Seminary
John R. Donahue, SJ, PhD, is the Raymond E. Brown Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland. He is also the author of The Gospel in Parable: Metaphor, Narrative, and Theology in the Synoptic Gospels.
Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, PhD, is professor of New Testament at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and general editor of New Testament Abstracts. He wrote The Gospel of Matthew and is the series editor of the Sacra Pagina series.