Book Review: A Theology of Mark by Hans F. Bayer

4 out of 5 Stars
Publisher: P&R Publishing (2012)

Buy: Amazon, CBD, or Monergism

Difficulty: Moderate


A Theology of Mark unpacks the themes and historical narrative of Mark with the tools of Biblical Theology and from the reformed worldview, all while making the content applicable for daily Christian living. We need more of these kinds of commentaries. Bayer first attacks the most basic questions surrounding Mark like structure, purpose, thematic framework, and questions about the person of Jesus and then develops the theme of discipleship from “a more comprehensive approach--that of Jesus with his own disciples” (Kindle Location 104 of 3008).

Jesus Disciples His Disciples

The work Bayers did on the topic of discipleship was refreshing. This discipleship emphasis made his work in section one (the foundational and background questions) come alive. The lay person may ask What does all this background information have to do with me? Of course, there is a major purpose for understanding the historical context and critical thought surrounding Mark but how can we make these truths meaningful for the lay theologian? Bayer accomplishes this by examining the how to of discipleship in light of these foundational issues.

Bayer asks two questions:

  • Who do you perceive yourself to be?
  • and Who do you perceive God to be?

He then says, “Authentic witness to Jesus brings forth authentic discipleship in the context of the growing messianic kingdom of God” (KL 174 of 3008). These themes (Messiah, Kingdom, & Gospeling) run throughout Bayer’s discussion of discipleship. You can catch a glimpse of these themes when he says,

The thematic connection between Mark 14:25 and the entire narrative of Mark shows that Jesus’ demonstrated authority is connected with his future kingly rule. The death and resurrection of the Messiah mark the actual imagination (see 14:22-24 and the “blood of the covenant”) of the eternal messianic rule (KL 811 of 3008)

Therefore, the disciples are not following “a mere human being, ready to suffer, he turns out to be God the Son” (KL 835 of 3008). And Bayer sees Jesus rise “as the climatic fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan . . . inaugurated in Genesis 3:15” (KL 846 of 3008). He closed by offering and unpacking these eight distinctives of discipleship as revealed in Mark’s theology.

  1. Surrendering (unconditionally)
  2. Believing and trusting
  3. Praying
  4. Watching over--and guarding--your heart (as as to beware of hard-heartedness and lack of understanding)
  5.  Being humble
  6. Forgiving
  7. Withstanding temptation
  8. Confessing Christ to all humanity

So, Bayer’s development of these themes is robust and distinctively reformed.

Not Another Reformed Commentary

There’s more than a few good commentaries and reformed folk have written more than their fair share. However, this series promises to be different because of its focus on Biblical Theology allowing the commentary to be connected to the greater story in Scripture. By understanding the background of Mark’s theology you will end up with a more robust understanding of discipleship as practiced by Jesus himself. We need more focused commentaries of this sort.

Bayer’s A Theology of Mark  would be a great launching pad for pastors starting a preaching series on Mark or for your average lay person who wants to dig a little deeper into Scripture. I could see this book being used to jump-start an extended study of the book of Mark for personal growth in Christ.
 The writing was scholarly yet accessible.

A free copy of this book was provided by P&R Publishing. If you plan on purchasing this book, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing it from  Amazon, CBD, or Monergism.

Mathew Sims is an average Joe who works a 9 to 5 and blogs on the side. He is an editor and writer for Grace for Sinners. He lives in Simpsonville, SC and loves spending time with  his two daughters, Claire and Maddy, and wife of seven years, LeAnn. He has a BA in English/Creative Writing and attended Geneva Reformed Seminary for two years completing nearly 40 hours hours of an Mdiv program. He and his family serve and are members at Grace Church. He loves reading, writing, the outdoors, music, cooking, and is an Apple fan boy. You can find him on twitter @GraceforSinners and Facebook. Please email me with any questions or comment below.