Tuesday, February 14, 2012

R.T. France's Philosophy on Commentary Writing

One of the reasons I enjoy reading R.T. France's commentaries is the approach that he describes in his Introduction section for his commentary on Mark:

I have tried to write the sort of commentary I like to use. Whether this is what other readers are looking for will depend on what they think a biblical commentary should be. But I hope there are enough other people who share my own expectations to make the enterprise worthwhile. Let me spell out what I mean.
This is, in my intention, a commentary on Mark, not a commentary on commentaries on Mark. I have commented on the matters which I regard as needing or deserving comment, and not necessarily on those which have been the traditional concern of other commentators. Much of the time the two coincide fairly closely, but I have not felt obliged to say something about every issue which other commentators have raised. My method has been first to write my own comments on each section of the text (moulded, of course, by many years’ awareness of the issues which have been current in Marcan studies), and only after that to look at other studies and commentaries on that passage. Where this reading raised further issues to which I have wanted to draw attention, these most often appear in the footnotes.
My concern is with the exegesis of the text of Mark, not with theories about its prehistory or the process of its composition. Where synoptic comparison is illuminating for understanding Mark’s text, I have tried to take this into account, but my object has always been the understanding and appreciation of Mark’s text as we have it rather than proposing explanations as to how and why Mark came to be different from or the same as Matthew or Luke. Nor have I generally felt it important to discuss which elements in a given passage may derive from earlier tradition and which from Mark’s own contribution. It is the Greek text of the gospel, however it may have come about, that is the given factor around which all critical theories revolve, and it is the exegesis of that text, not the exploration of the theories, which is the aim of this commentary. (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text [Grand Rapids, Mich.; Eerdmans, 2002; italics mine), 1.

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