September 1, 2011
Discovering the Gospel of Mark
For the last ten years I have lived with the Gospel of Mark—poring over its text, tracing down every Old Testament allusion, reading books, commentaries and journal articles, teaching the book in week-long intensive courses, letting its currents roll over me. All this is no accident, because I am the inheritor of a tradition.
Mark is not my personal obsession. It has been handed down to me from a succession of mentors in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who have taught this Gospel to college students over the decades. Not only have they learned a book of the Bible, they have learned about Jesus, about his care for the whole person, about his authority in their lives, about the cost of discipleship, about the importance of hearing and asking questions and letting the text read us.
The tradition can be traced back to Paul Byer, who worked for InterVarsity in the 1950s. Mark became his book. He then used Mark to guide students into the life of Jesus. Paul’s work is legendary. And as a result, thousands of students and staff have been taught from this Gospel for five decades. I was one.
But Paul Byer had a mentor too. In the 1940s, he sat under the teaching of Jane Hollingsworth, who taught him the principles of inductive Bible study. Jane was one of the first U.S. campus staff for InterVarsity, working in the Northwest. As Linda Doll and I have told the tale, she had traveled extensively, visiting students on many campuses, and reported to her boss (Stacey Woods, the national leader of InterVarsity), “The students want to study the Bible, Stacey, but they don’t know how. They need some materials.”
“Well, Jane, write some!” he replied with his usual bluntness. And she did. The result was IVP’s first publication. And of course it was Discovering the Gospel of Mark, published in 1943.
Since then IVP has, by my count, published nine other volumes on the Gospel of Mark:
Two of the authors of these books (Hoover and Kerhaghan) were themselves mentored by Byer in Mark. And then there is a tenth book due next year:
We are, you see, inheritors of a tradition.