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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 57, 2009

TIMOTHY C. GRAY, The Temple in the Gospel of Mark (WUNT 2/242; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). Pp. xl + 226. Clothback. €49.00.

This dissertation from Timothy Gray, Assistant Professor of Scripture at the St John Vianney Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado, examines “why Mark gives the temple such prominence in his Gospel” (1). Gray says that there is “no single monograph on the temple in Mark’s narrative” (6) and, in trying to fill that gap, he analyses the text of Chapters 11–15, from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem until his death.

Gray calls his study a “narrative analysis” (1) and begins by speaking of such literary terms as “plot,” “narrative world,” “point of view,” and “intention of the text” (2, 3), but these narrative concepts are largely absent from the body of his work as he focuses most of all on intertextuality, especially Mark’s use of and allusions to OT texts, although he also pays much attention to intratextual relationships. Despite saying that redaction criticism “stands in contrast” to narrative criticism (3), he does resort to making redaction claims from time to time (e.g. p. 24, on 11:11). He uses the word “rhetorical” occasionally, but does not place Mark’s text in the milieu of rhetoric in the Roman world, and makes no mention to the main tool of ancient rhetoric—appeals to the emotions of the listener.

He also pays virtually no attention to the intended reader in the early part of this study. He uses the term “the reader” from time to time, but gives no indication who this might be (a modern reader?). After initially recognising that Mark’s narrative world “was generated by the events surrounding the demise of the Temple” (4), his later finds that there are several clues that the reader knew the temple had been destroyed (38). Only when he comes to Mark 13 does he discuss dating and provenance briefly, as “even a narrative reading cannot ignore the historical questions that come with this text” (98), but only concludes that it was written “around the time” of the temple’s destruction. Later, however, he proposes a setting of Rome after the triumphal procession in 71, as the Christian community there “needed a theological answer” to the destruction of God’s temple by pagan Rome (154). In the book’s last sentence, he adds, “the temple’s possible importance for a Roman audience merits further investigation” (200).

Gray argues that the destination of ‘the way’ is not “simply” the cross because ‘the way’ is not mentioned once Jesus reaches Jerusalem; rather, ‘the way’ leads to the temple (19–20), as Mark shows that Jesus is “Lord of the temple” (13). However, surely the omission of ‘the way’ from these chapters says nothing about its destination, and 8:34 and 10:32–34 show that ‘the way’ for Jesus and his followers is being prepared to go to the cross.

Gray’s work has a strong focus on Mark’s apocalyptic and eschatological imagery and allusions. Mark has “a predilection for OT texts that embody prophetic eschatology” (200). For Mark, Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem is “the Lord’s eschatological return to the temple” that has not fulfilled its mission (198). At times he reaches a conclusion based on little evidence, such as his assertion that Jesus’ actions in the temple show the “greedy exploitation of God’s people” (25), with the authorities “fleecing” the people (28), and his claim that Jesus found a “lack of prayer and faith” in the temple, although Jesus says nothing about faith. Generally, however, his analysis is thorough and balanced, and he makes many good points: for example, 11:24–25 refer to the Christian community as the new temple where prayer and forgiveness will be found (46–55), although he makes no link to 2:1–12. His analysis of “this mountain” in 11:23 is very sound (48–53), as is his discussion of which veil was torn (188–94), and he does recognise (unusual in Markan scholarship) that Mark’s audience had people available to explain the text to them.

Although there is lengthy discussion of most sections of Chapters 11–15, it is odd that Gray skips over 12:13–34 in just five sentences. His omission of this large section of text leaves quite a lacuna in his analysis. There is only one sentence devoted to the question of the paying of taxes (12:13–17). As this question was asked in the temple immediately after repeated warnings that the temple was doomed, it is surprising that Gray does not see its relevance. Since he concludes that the setting was Rome immediately after 70, it would have been profitable to consider the dilemma of Jewish Christian readers who had to decide in 71 whether they should pay the new tax on Jews throughout the Empire to finance the rebuilding of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome (or expose themselves by claiming not to be Jews but Christians); surely this issue would have crucial for these readers who used to pay the Jerusalem Temple Tax.

Overall, this book is well written and well researched. Not all of his conclusions or readings are convincing, and he does not put these chapters sufficiently in the context of the rest of the Gospel, but his detailed analyses of the OT background of Mark’s text are admirable, and his book can be used as a most useful resource for the OT allusions and citations in these chapters.

Review by
Brian J. Incigneri
23 Gareth Drive
Burwood East VIC 3151