March 24, 2005

Land and Sea (Mark 4:1)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

One of the things I’ve appreciated most in R. T. France’s commentary on Mark is his inclusion, usually in footnotes, of odd and interesting views with which he disagrees. Often what strikes France as fanciful strikes me as helpful.

Take this for instance: In a footnote on page 188, France interacts with a comment by Mary Ann Tolbert.

Tolbert notes that in the first parable in Mark 4, the emphasis is on the four types of soil (ge). Jesus, she points out, is not on the “soil” (ge: land) but is sitting “on the sea,” while the crowd is “toward the sea on the land” (ge: the same word translated “soil”).

Thus Jesus is distancing himself from the crowd: they are on the land physically while he is on the sea, but in terms of the parable, they are soil while he is the sower. He isn’t just another person responding (or not) to the word which is sown; he is distinct from all the people who are on land, the people who are themselves soils.

France dismisses this comment, saying that Tolbert is interpreting “imaginatively,” but that this is “a lot to read out of” the sea/land language. I don’t know about that: I rather like it!

And that, as I said at the beginning, is the great thing about France’s commentary. His own explanations are often a bit bland, but he has these thought-provoking gems in his footnotes.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:32 pm | Discuss (0)

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