Deeper Waters Podcast 7/30/2016: Robert Stein

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Mark your calendars because this Saturday, we’re going to be talking about, well, Mark. The Gospel of Mark is usually seen as the first one written and yet is surrounded by questions. Who wrote it? If Mark, why do Matthew and Luke borrow so much from a non-eyewitness. Why does it leave out events like the virgin birth (Which I do affirm)? When was it written? Why does it seem to leave out the resurrection at the end and what is going on with the end? What happened to the end of Mark?

These are good questions and to discuss them, I wanted to get a scholar who has a high view of Mark. This would be a scholar who even says Mark is his favorite Gospel. For that, I chose Robert Stein. Who is he?

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I found Robert Stein largely through the work of IVP who I do reviews for. According to them, his bio is as follows:

Robert H. Stein is senior professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

He is the author of An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, Difficult Passages in the New Testament, Luke (New American Commentary), A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation and The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction.

I’ll also add that he has B.A. in biology from Rutgers, a B.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary, an S.T.M. in NT from Andover Newton Theological School, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Mark is a fast-paced Gospel but there is plenty in there to mine out and it is one worth discussing since most discussions about the Gospels usually begin with Mark.┬áThat could be one reason why there are so many questions about it. It is also often claimed that since he supposedly doesn’t give an account of the resurrection that it could be that the resurrection is a later development and lo and behold, the other Gospels just seem to make the story grander and grander.

When we discuss its origin, we also have to look at what someone like Papias said. Mark was said to be written in an orderly manner and nothing that he heard from Peter was left out. Is this the case? Is it also accepted in NT scholarship that the Gospel is in fact by Mark or is this more of a fringe position?

I’m looking forward to this discussion. Mark is usually a Gospel that is neglected and even was so by the church fathers because so much of it can be found in Matthew and Luke, but as Christians, we need to realize God wanted us to have this Gospel for a reason and we should seek to give it just as much diligent study as we give the other Gospels. I hope you’ll be listening in to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast when we discuss this with Robert Stein and I hope you’ll go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus, The Temple, and the Coming Son of Man

What do I think of Robert Stein’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There are many secondary debates in Christianity that I just don’t care for at all. I have no desire to touch a debate on Calvinism with a ten-foot pole for instance. Eschatology, however, is an exception. I’m not sure why that is, but I just happen to really enjoy eschatology. It could be in our culture if we live in America, we grow up in a culture that has what Gary Demar calls “End Times Madness” and we have to find our place in it.

When I started my journey, I was a pre-trib, pre-mill dispensationalist. I was a full supporter of the rapture and just couldn’t see why people couldn’t see that in the Bible. Now I’m pretty much opposite. I have reached the conclusion where I am an orthodox Preterist and wonder how it is that anyone can see a rapture in the Bible.

That’s one reason I was curious to see a book such as Robert Stein’s on Jesus and the Olivet Discourse, that is Mark 13. What was his view on the little apocalypse that Jesus gives in this chapter? Would he match up with my Preterist understanding or would he challenge it or would he fall somewhere in between?

Right off, any reader who is thinking he will affirm a view that is more in line with Left Behind will be sadly disappointed. In fact, that position is largely argued against in the footnotes. There really aren’t many people in the scholarly world, even those who are Christians, who take such a position any more. It’s largely also an American phenomenon.

I happened to agree with many of Stein’s viewpoints and interestingly, he places them in the context of historical Jesus studies not only showing what he thinks that they mean, but showing also how they fit in with the quest for the historical Jesus, which largely sought to remove much of the eschatology from Jesus or else totally redefine it with something that would fit in more with an Enlightenment point of view.

I also liked that he did say much of the discourse has to apply to 1st century Judea. It would not make sense otherwise and it would only apply to those who were living in Judea. There is no general command for all Christians to flee to the mountains. There is only the command to do so when you are in Jerusalem and you see what you will know as the abomination that causes desolation. (To which, his candidate for that is entirely plausible.)

I did disagree on some points. For instance, when it comes to the coming of the Son of Man, I do see that as a coming that is heavenly. It is the sign that Jesus has been vindicated. I base this largely on Daniel 7 where Jesus approaches the Ancient of Days. If He is doing that, then it is clear that He is going up. He is not coming down.

I also would have liked to have seen a bit more on the passage that no man knows the day or hour but only the Father. It would have been good to have seen how this would reflect the high Christology that Stein says is in Mark, especially when it says that the Son of Man will send forth His angels. (note the use of His.) This is indeed something the church would not have made up as it would be embarrassing, but how are Christians to understand it?

The book does have several helpful references in it including pointing out the hyperbole that is often used and the constant comparison to Old Testament language. If we are to understand Jesus, we must understand him in the cultural matrix He spoke in, which included a culture that was saturated with the Old Testament and the thinking of Second Temple Judaism. Much of our misunderstanding in eschatology comes because we do not make this distinction.

The points that I disagree with are not primary to eschatological understanding and overall, I agree with the bulk of Stein’s approach. I also find it interesting that he chooses Mark to focus on since so much of even the early church just didn’t seem to care too much for Mark. It’s good there is a scholar who does really appreciate this Gospel and wants to bring out all the gems we might have missed.

Therefore, if you want a good look at the eschatology of Jesus with some historical Jesus studies thrown in, I think this is one you should add to your library.

In Christ,

Nick Peters