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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 50, 2002

Michael F. Trainor, The Quest for Home: The Household in Mark’s Community. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001). Pp 201. $US 19.95.

Michael Trainor’s study begins with the current worldwide phenomenon of homeless people seeking refuge. Given the urgency of this present social need, a reading of the Gospel through the lens of ‘the quest for home’ is both topical and ethical. Here is a book bringing fine biblical scholarship into dialogue with the contemporary world and as such provides a model of what good biblical exegesis is about.

The first part of Trainor’s book provides the necessary social and philosophical background for his reading. These chapters examine the meaning of the ‘house’ in both Greek and Roman societies. Here Trainor uses archaeological findings to describe the architecture of different types of houses: simple, courtyard, big mansion, shop-house and apartment. More significantly, he develops the place of the household within society through the writings of various philosophers: Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. In this section, as well as looking at the relationship between household and society, Trainor examines the inner dynamism of the relationships between members of the household. This is an aspect often overlooked in similar studies.

In examining the Gospel text, Trainor brings out the contrast between the religious institutions of Synagogue and Temple, and the household of disciples Jesus forms around him. The household Jesus forms brings him into conflict with the religious, economic and domestic worlds of his time. Reading the text with Trainor’s guidance, the theme of ‘household’ holds the action of the Gospel together. The household is formed, is sent on mission and experiences confusion when faced with suffering. The crucifixion becomes the ultimate symbol of homelessness as Jesus is abandoned by disciples and even by God. The resurrection vindicates Jesus and opens up for him and all disciples a divine home.

In the analysis of scenes, Trainor makes use primarily of narrative critical methods, having introduced historical and social context in the first part. Diagrams and structures are clearly set out with substantial footnotes to further scholarship.

I would like to have seen the resurrection theme as ‘the divine home’ given further treatment (for example, ‘Where is this “divine home”?’ ‘What is the divine household?’). More could be said on the theme of household in relation to the resurrection, particularly when other Gospel scenes were treated in greater depth. Here, the Gospel text may have limited Trainor’s exploration, since the original gospel ends without further ‘household’ scenes.

I certainly recommend this book, not only for the rich insights in offers in interpreting the text, but also as a guide in its methodology and contemporary relevance.

Review by
Mary Coloe
Australian Catholic University
Fitzroy, Victoria