• Gospel_according_MarkAuthor: Marie Noonan Sabin, Ph.D.
  • Paperback: 172 pages ($7)
  • Publisher: Liturgical Press (April 30, 2006)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814628614

Perhaps the most important element of a quality bible commentary book is the quality of the commentator.

The quality of this commentary shows throughout the book. It starts with the analysis of individual sentences, then relationship of the sentence to the paragraph, and the paragraph to the chapter and to the gospel as a whole. I found the analysis of the patterns within the chapters to be fascinating: healing, parables, sermons. Typically these were written in Mark’s Gospel in groups of two or three. The analysis the author provides shows the meaning and importance of the first, middle and last positions. This analysis of the structure is so important that a small four page chapter titled “Summary of the Design of Mark’s Gospel” is included in the book. This chapter, while small in size, is a key factor in understanding the meaning and intention of the original Gospel writer. With this structure in mind, Professor Sabin proposes that one specific mystery is the key point of Mark’s Gospel! (You have to read the book to find out…)

The other major reason to recommend this book is professor Sabin’s frequent use of alternative translations from the original Greek. In many key passages of the Gospel, the author’s expert knowledge of Greek is on display for the reader. These additional translations do not serve to re-translate the original texts, but to offer more details and greater depth of understanding of the original intent and meaning.

One of the most fascinating issues that this commentary brings out is the relationship between Jesus and women. During many passages Jesus is speaking with, teaching to, or healing women. I can almost read between-the-lines in Professor Sabin’s commentary that she thinks the Gospel writer(s) was a husband and wife team. This team perhaps went to learn from Saint Mark and then remembered and wrote down many of the stories pertaining to women.

The book is laid out with the Gospel Text at the top 1/3 of the page and the author’s comments for that text on the bottom 2/3 of the page. Each chapter is concluded with a summary. This format is very easy to follow and learn with. The book starts with a Introduction Chapter that covers the following: Gospel Author, Audience, Language, Date and Historical Setting, Relevance of Old Testament to New Testament, Genre, Keywords, Patterns and Design, “Key Mystery”, and Notes on the Translation. At the end of the book is an Index of citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a map of Palestine at the time of Jesus.

Professor Sabin has done a tremendous job with this book. The Gospel of Mark on its surface appears to be a plain and simple narrative of the life of Jesus. This would be especially true for a reader used to literary classics from authors such as J.R.R. Tolken and C.S. Lewis. Professor Sabin’s commentary illuminates the original intent of the Gospel author, and creates a commentary book that is both educational and captivating. I have read five books from the “New Collegeville Bible Commentary Series” and Professor Sabin’s commentary is my favorite of the five.