226: Mark by the Book by P. W. Smuts

by Gerard


226.306: Smuts, P. W. Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013. 225 pp. ISBN 978-1-59638-440-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 226: Gospels & Acts
  • 226.3: Mark
  • 226.306: Exegesis

If other books on Biblical scripture were like this one, I’d read more of them. The unfortunately-named Biblical scholar P. W. Smuts, in Mark by the Book, systematically dissects each passage in the Gospel of Mark and shows not only the meaning behind a straightforward reading of the text, but how the text is informed by the Old Testament, relates to the other Gospels, and helps in reading later passages of the New Testament. This model of straight-back-sideways-forward reading constitutes the “multidirectional” part of his method. His brand of hermeneutics (interpretation of the Bible) is refreshing and deep at the same time.

Smuts chooses Mark because it was the first written, in about 60 or 70 CE, and forms the basis for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (these three constitute the Synoptic Gospels). Each chapter can be a bit repetitive in its format, but I got used to it and came to enjoy the mental exercise in relating each passage  to all the other parts. As a reading aid, he includes a handy concordance of every biblical reference he uses as an appendix so you can find where he relates Mark to other books of the Bible. In a broader sense, this book is helpful for those trying to get the hang of literary criticism. Smuts demonstrates an ease with intertextual reading that is sometimes lacking in modern nonfiction. Sadly, though, this is Mr. Smuts’s only book so far. But, if he manages to get another out before I finish this quest and I need the section, I will gladly pick it up. He has a lot to teach about reading scripture.