Monday, February 15, 2016

Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: An Interview with Robert H. Stein on Mark 13

Robert H. Stein 
Awhile back, I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Robert H. Stein, Senior Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary about his recent book, Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13 (InterVarsity Press Academic; 2014). In my humble opinion, Stein does the best job to date unraveling Mark's most difficult section as he guides the reader through the issues of this enigmatic chapter.

Without further ado, on to the interview!

1. Did Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13, derive from your Mark commentary in the BECNT series, and if so, what led you to decide to dedicate a monograph to such a complex series of passages such as Mark 13?

Stein: While writing my commentary on Mark, I was unhappy with the material I wrote concerning Mark 13. I did not sense that I had come to a satisfactory understanding of what Mark meant by the chapter. Consequently, I kept reading this chapter in my Greek New Testament. Gradually I began to see the two questions asked by the disciples in 13:4 as the key to understanding what follows in 13:5ff. Attempts to see them as essentially unrelated or referring to two different events, as most commentators do, seemed less and less convincing. The text gave no such hint. I then began to work my way through the Gospel of Mark to find if elsewhere we found two questions placed side by side together. When I found such examples, I then sought to find whether they referred to the same thing or whether they referred to a totally different matter. I found that they refer to the same thing. (See page 68 for examples.) If they refer to the same thing, then the material following is in 13:5-23.

2. How do the two questions the disciples ask Jesus in Mark 13:4 provide the key to understanding the chapter as a whole?

Stein: I noticed that the two expressions “these things” and “all these things” occur again in the same order in 13:29 and 13:30. In the parallel account in Luke, who follows Mark more closely than Matthew, the order “these things” and “all these things” in Mark are translated “these things” and “these things", indicating that he understands these expressions as synonyms. (See pages 66-68.)

3. Much scholarly disagreement surrounds this chapter, not least of which, concerns the outlining of Mark 13. I was particularly fascinated and convinced by your interpretation of 13:24ff. and the manner in which Jesus/Mark alternates between discussing the Temple’s near future destruction along with the uncertainty of the arrival of the Son of Man. What are some of the interpretive payoffs of reading the passage in this way?

Stein: For one, it acknowledges that 13:23 (“I have told you all things”) forms an inclusio and brings to a conclusion the subject matter dealt with in 13:5ff. (“Then Jesus began to say to them . . . .”). Second, it allows 13:25 (And then you will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”) to be interpreted as a reference to the parousia (cf. pages 116-18). It also allows 13:28-31 which refers to “all things (13:29)” and “all these things (13:30)” to refer to a knowable event (13:30), and 13:32-37 to refer to a different, unknowable event (“no one knows" [13:30]).

4. You have provided a helpful interpretive translation at the end of the volume (136-138). Have you received feedback from other scholars concerning your translation and the book as a whole?

Stein: Unfortunately, it is too early for book reviews to appear,1 but some friends who have read the book have been positive and the blurbs on the jacket of the book have been kind and generous. (Perhaps, because most of them are good friends, these blurbs are more kind and generous than they should be!)

5. What are some of  the current projects that you are working on? 

Stein: Presently I am working on an essay and sermon for a two-volume issue on expository preaching in the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry. The title of the sermon is “If this were my last sermon.” Other than that, preparation for my Sunday School class and preparation for a week seminar on Mark Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminar this coming summer, I have nothing on my agenda.

1 Since the time of this interview, several online reviews have appeared. Here are some that I discovered:;;;;;;;

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