Why I Wrote Mark Through Old Testament Eyes

For years now I have taught the gospel of Mark to InterVarsity college students. Often they would raise questions about confusing or troubling passages:

  • Why
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    does Mark mention what John the Baptist wore? He doesn’t tell us what Peter or Pilate or even Jesus dressed in.

  • Why does Mark say Jesus meant to pass by the disciples while their boat was struggling against the wind? Didn’t he see them? Didn’t he care?
  • Why does Mark mention the detail of the grass being green in describing the feeding of the five thousand? Does that really matter?
  • Why does he curse the fig tree? Doesn’t he care about the environment?

Whenever we begin studying a section of the gospel, I always give them a list of Old Testament passages. So when such questions arise I’ll ask, “Did you happen to look those up?” Blank stares. “OK, let’s do that now,” I say.

One by one volunteers read out each Old Testament quotation. As they do, around the room I hear, “Oh, I see,” “Aha,” and, “I get it.” Though the New Testament is supposed to be easier to understand than the Old, it was the Old that made the New clear.

Every teacher loves the “aha” moments, and so I urged my students to keep going deeper and deeper into the Old Testament, mining each vein of precious ore. Soon they would be digging into those passages without my prompting. The more we dug, the more rewarding it became.

As a result, I kept looking for books that did the same thing, and I found some dandies:

  • Joel Marcus’s The Way of the Lord
  • Willard M. Swartley’s Israel’s Scripture Traditions and the Synoptic Gospels
  • Rikki E. Watts’s Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark


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even these didn’t do what I wanted to help me with my students–uncover the Old Testament background in every verse, or at least every paragraph, of Mark’s gospel. I finally decided I was going to have to do it myself. But I didn’t mind. I looked forward to everything I was about to learn. Mark Through Old Testament Eyes was the result.

It was every bit the rich experience I hoped. Christopher Wright of Langham Partnership and author of many books on the Old Testament, offered this generous comment:

We are so often told that we must read the Old Testament through the lens of the New, and that we must make sure that all our preaching of Old Testament texts ultimately points to Jesus. I agree. But more rarely are we encouraged to do the reverse–to read the New Testament through the eyes of the Old, and especially to see Jesus in the light of the scriptures that were his, even though Jesus and his first followers and interpreters did so instinctively, reverently, and deeply. As does this book.

Andrew Le Peau has woven together a fascinating and illuminating tapestry of Mark’s Gospel, not only letting us marvel at the number and color and richness of the multiple threads that Mark draws from the Old Testament, but pausing regularly to survey the broader patterns and structures that Mark creates in order to introduce readers to the full significance of Jesus within the whole Bible story from creation to new creation. This is a wonderfully informative book, guaranteed to deepen our appreciation of the inspiration and coherence of the scriptures and our understanding of our Lord and Savior–as Mark would wish.

If that can happen for preachers, teachers, and students, I will be content.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

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