Thursday, June 12, 2014

William Lane’s Mark: Celebrating Forty Years

“Lane is to be commended for his splendid work. It is the best English commentary on Mark today, and will be a standard for years to come.” –Harold W. Hoehner, The Gospel According to Mark: A Review ; Bibliotheca Sacra, 133 no 531 Jl-S 1976, p 266-267; here 267.

William L. Lane
 It was Mark Twain who famously stated that a “classic” is “…a book which people praise and don't read.” What Twain states above is probably true for most of us who own even the very best of commentaries in both the Old and New Testaments. Commentaries are consulted and cherry-picked, but are rarely read cover to cover by most. I am guilty of this charge as well. This is not to say that one needs to read a commentary cover to cover in order to pronounce a judgment over it, but in order to give a commentary the honorific adjective, “classic,” that commentary must have proved itself to be of the highest quality and also make a significant contribution to the state of scholarship during its time and beyond. The timeless quality of a piece of writing can only be determined, ironically, with the passage of time. William L. Lane’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark (NICNT), has persevered over a significant passage of time, forty years to be exact, and remains the last in this series to be replaced (eventually by Rikk Watts). For some perspective, eight Presidential administrations have been conducted since Lane’s The Gospel According to Mark, has been published. Lane’s commentary is to be celebrated not only for its longevity, but also for his insistence that Mark’s narrative be read as a literary whole, and the distinctive theological contribution of the evangelist was to take pride of place in his approach. This allowed Lane to place a strong emphasis on the literary structure of Mark's Gospel, eventually opening the doors to the approach of literary and narrative-critical studies that are prominent today in Markan scholarship.

My own interest in showing appreciation to Lane’s contribution stirred me to contact a couple of friends and colleagues, one Ardel Caneday, Professor of New Testament Studies and Biblical Theology at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul and J. Ramsey Michaels, professor emeritus of religious studies at Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri, and adjunct professor of New Testament at Bangor Theological Seminary, Portland, Maine, to offer some reflections on Lane’s commentary on Mark. Both men are in a good position to do so, as Caneday has taught Mark’s Gospel for over twenty five years and considers Lane’s contribution to be the most formative in his understanding of the second Gospel, and Michaels, was a lifelong friend and colleague of Lane’s, sharing much of their education and teaching experience together, as well as being connected in publishing venues. Over the next couple of weeks, their reflections will be posted on the EerdWord blog, and this blog will provide links to those reflections.

No comments: