Andrew T. Le Peau. Mark Through Old Testament Eyes. Kregel Academic, 2017. See here to purchase the book.
Andrew T. Le Peau is an editor and a writer. He has taught inductive
Bible studies of the Gospel of Mark for over a decade at InterVarsity
Christian Fellowship. Le Peau is also the series editor of Kregel’s
Through Old Testament Eyes commentaries.
Mark Through Old Testament Eyes goes through the Gospel of
Mark verse-by-verse, but it differs from many other commentaries in a
certain respect: it cites Old Testament parallels to elements that are
in the Gospel of Mark.
In some cases, this approach illuminates the Markan passage. For
example, Mark 1:13 states that Jesus was with wild beasts in the
wilderness, and Le Peau refers to Old Testament passages that refer to
wild beasts in an attempt to interpret the passage. Le Peau interprets
“Son of God” in the Gospel of Mark in light of Old Testament usage of
that term, to refer to Israel and the Davidic Messiah (though he
maintains that Mark’s Gospel has a high Christology). There are cases
in which Le Peau argues that Mark presents Jesus acting similarly to or
differently from an Old Testament character, in order to highlight
something about Jesus: for instance, Jesus, unlike Jonah, actually goes
to the Gentiles after sleeping on a boat rather than seeking to avoid
that task. On occasion, Le Peau offers a fresh insight, as when he
interprets Herod’s statement that Jesus was the resurrected John the
Baptist (Mark 6:14) in light of the spirit of Elijah falling onto
Elisha. Le Peau’s interpretation of the blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit and Jesus’ statement about cutting off one’s right hand or
plucking out one’s offending eye were also helpful, as he looked at Old
Testament references to intentional and unintentional sin and how the
hand and the eye can offend.
These are examples of where Le Peau’s approach illuminates Mark’s
Gospel (and there are many more), but Le Peau also maintains that Mark’s
indirect allusions to the Old Testament paint a sweeping picture of
Jesus’ mission: as a new Moses, conducting a new Exodus.
In some cases, Le Peau cited Old Testament passages, and it was
unclear how exactly they were illuminating a Markan passage. For
instance, in discussing the leper who did not obey Jesus’ command to go
to the priest after being healed (Mark 1:45), Le Peau referred to Saul’s
incomplete obedience in I Samuel 13. Does the story of Saul somehow
inform the story in Mark, though? At times, Le Peau perhaps should have
attempted to explain the purpose behind an element in a verse, rather
than just citing parallels; he did so a number of times, but not
always. There were cases in which Le Peau seemed to be throwing
everything in but the kitchen sink. Often, this provided a
comprehensive range of interpretive possibilities; sometimes, he
appeared to be citing parallels simply for the sake of citing parallels,
without the parallels really illuminating the Markan text.
In one case, Le Peau offered an intriguing parallel, but his
explanation of the parallel was incomplete. On pages 208-209, Le Peau
addresses Jesus’ statement that his disciples will be able to move this
mountain, if they have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed (Mark
11:23). Le Peau interprets “this mountain” as the Temple mount, and he
mentions Zechariah 4:6-7, in which “the temple mount ‘will become level
ground’ and be replaced with another temple” (Le Peau’s words). Le Peau
seemed to interpret Mark 11:23 to concern God’s judgment on the Temple
in 70 C.E., but he should have further clarified how that related to the
disciples moving the mountain.
At times, Le Peau cites parallels within the Gospel of Mark itself,
as when he proposed that there were parallels between Jesus’ predictions
in Mark 13 and his passion.
Interspersed throughout the book are gray sections, in which Le Peau
goes more deeply into an issue in the Gospel of Mark or makes
homiletical points. Some of these were convicting: the part about
counting the cost of following Jesus certainly highlighted where I fall
short! Some were infuriating: I think of his statement that a
Christian’s church family should take precedence over his or her
biological family. Some softened the draconian statements of Jesus
through interpretation; often, this was reasonable. With Jesus’
statement that the parables were intended to confuse, however, Le Peau’s
explanation was rather unconvincing, as he seemed to be concluding the
opposite from what the Markan passage was saying. Some sections had
anecdotes, personal or otherwise, which were instructive, inspiring, or
thought-provoking. Le Peau’s discussion of lament in prayer was not
earth-shakingly new, but it was helpful to me when I read it, as Le Peau
highlighted the importance of being honest with God.
The notes in the back were good. For example, Le Peau offered
arguments that Mark 1:41 says that Jesus was compassionate before
healing a leper, rather than angry. Bart Ehrman argues that “angry” was
the original reading and that later scribes changed that to
“compassionate” because they had issues with Jesus being angry before
healing a leper. But, as Le Peau notes, the texts of the Gospel of Mark
that present Jesus as compassionate in Mark 1:41 are not afraid to
acknowledge Jesus’ anger elsewhere.
The book is helpful in offering an interpretation of the Gospel of
Mark that is rooted in Old Testament texts. One should remember,
however, that time passed between the Old Testament and the Gospel of
Mark, so intertestamental literature may be relevant to what is in the
Gospel of Mark. There is hardly any reference to intertestamental
literature in Le Peau’s book.
There is also the question of the implications of Le Peau’s
approach. Some scholars, who are more liberal than Le Peau, have argued
that Gospel stories that echo the Old Testament are not
historically-accurate: that they are midrash, or they were crafted from
the Old Testament stories rather than reflecting history. Is this
conclusion avoidable? Le Peau should have addressed that.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
4 hours ago