William Boekestein. Bible Studies on Mark. Reformed Fellowship, 2016. See here to purchase the book.
William Boekestein pastors the Immanuel Fellowship Church, which is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His book, Bible Studies on Mark, goes through the Gospel of Mark, reflecting on stories and sayings of Jesus that are presented in that Gospel.
Here are some thoughts:
A. Boekestein says that he will focus primarily on the Gospel of
Mark, rather than what other Gospels present. Occasionally, he does
quote other Gospels, and he seems to have a rather harmonizing approach
to the text, treating all of the Gospels as consistent and as containing
the same Christian message. Boekestein interprets the Gospel of Mark
in reference to his larger Christian theology, which includes seeing the
Kingdom of God as a spiritual kingdom and Jesus being God incarnate.
There are biblical scholars who argue that such themes are foreign to
the Gospel of Mark. Boekestein does not usually highlight what is
distinct to the Gospel of Mark itself, as the stories that he discusses
are found in the other Gospels, as well. Overall, though, Boekestein
comments on the stories and sayings of Jesus as they appear in the
Gospel of Mark.
B. The book was a thoughtful and an engaging read. I agree with
Jason Van Vliet’s statement on the back cover of the book that
“Boekestein dishes up a delicious and nutritious spiritual meal.” A
recurring point that I appreciated was that we should not idolize
C. There were parts of the book that made me wince. On pages 74-75,
Boekestein states: “When churches really begin to imitate the apostles,
they find themselves dealing with the occult, with drug addicts,
pedophiles, homosexual offenders, pornographers, and the like (cf. 1
Cor. 6:9-11).” Boekestein was saying this in the context of discussing
the church’s war against spiritual darkness. Perhaps he could have made
this point without demonizing homosexuals, many of whom are good people
coping with a sexual orientation that they did not ask for. Moreover,
in my opinion, Boekestein also should have highlighted sins that
left-wingers condemn, such as greed, exploitation, and oppression.
The book also displays a Christian anti-Judaism stance (which is
critical of the Jewish religion, not the Jewish people). That made me
wince, since there were Pharisees, such as Hillel, who said beautiful
and spiritual things, and rabbinic literature has its share of edifying
insights. Perhaps Boekestein felt that he was being faithful to the
ideology of the Gospel of Mark, and that could be, though there are
interpreters who highlight the continuity between Jesus and Judaism in
the Gospel of Mark. The book would have been better had Boekestein
acknowledged that Judaism taught good things while saying that there was
corruption within its midst, as occurs in many religions.
On page 128, Boekestein states that “Thoughtful reflection on hell
should rattle a believer out of sinful self-absorption.” There was some
fire-and-brimstone in this book, and I do not fault Boekestein for
that, since there is fire-and-brimstone in the Gospel of Mark.
Boekestein’s focus in the book was not on fire-and-brimstone. Still, I
question whether thinking about hell is a psychologically healthy way to
become less self-absorbed. I can somewhat understand Boekestein’s
point: that thinking about hell can get our minds off ourselves and our
own glory and shake us out of self-absorption, but it can also lead to a
lot of fear. Plus, why do believers have to worry about hell, when
Jesus has saved them? Boekestein says that thinking about hell can
encourage believers to witness to others, but he also seems to imply
that believers, on some level, should have some fear of hell.
On page 135, Boekestein states: “Sadly, those who with an unbelieving
heart do such ‘big-ticket’ activities as worshiping, tithing,
witnessing or volunteering will still hear Christ say those dreadful
words: ‘I never knew you’ (Matt. 7:23).” Wouldn’t that lead to people
second-guessing themselves when they try to do the right thing? Is that
D. Boekestein writes from a Reformed perspective, which holds that
God must spiritually resurrect people from spiritual death for them to
believe. At times, this allows Boekestein to take parts of the text
seriously, such as Jesus’ statement in Mark 4:11-12 that he is telling
parables to confuse unbelievers. Boekestein explained that passage
E. There were occasions when this book taught me something, in terms
of information. This was particularly the case on page 160. On that
page, Boekestein addresses the question of whether Jews were allowed to
execute people in first century Palestine. He says that they could and
cites a secondary source. Although there are scholars who assert the
contrary, perhaps there were different rules at different times. In any
case, Boekestein provides a piece of the puzzle. Also on page 160 is a
quotation of Augustine, who says that Christians submitted to the pagan
emperor Julian out of obedience to God.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews. My review is honest!
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