Thursday, January 9, 2014

R.T. France: One Aim in a Narrative Book?

I found the below quote by R.T. France to be helpful (from his NIGTC Commentary on Mark), and one that allowed me to regain my sanity.  What I mean by that is much time is spent finding the one purpose and aim of a given book.  I am especially acquainted with this debate in the Book of Acts, but it happens concerning other books as well.  Where there are different perspectives and contexts, there will be different conclusions, and thus debate.  Some debate being fruitful.  Some just causing me more reading (!).

However, commenting on the message of The Gospel of Mark, R.T. France gives wisdom that only a man, as he was by the end of his life and at the time of the writing of this commentary, could give.  He says,

It is in any case questionable whether it is realistic to expect to uncover so specific a purpose underlying the writing of a gospel.  Few books, especially narrative books as contrasted, for example, with a Pauline letter, are written with so restricted an aim. (23)
 Of course, France does not take away from Mark's literary abilities (he makes that quite clear earlier in the commentary), he simply says that "personal concerns" and "circumstances of the church" would have guided Mark's pen.  That is, what was said about Jesus was not without context.  The aim, thus, could probably be said to be to inform a Christian "what it meant to be [a follower of Jesus] and to inspire others to play their proper part in the movement he founded." (23)  But this is not always what scholarly debate is looking for.

To keep it brief, these principles are enlightening also when approaching other writings of Scripture, even the Pauline ones, that, for me, are not as clearly unified in aim as they are for France.


  1. I wonder whether you are confusing purpose (1st paragraph) with message (2nd paragraph). Purpose attempts to answer "why" something was written. Message attempts to answer a "what" question, that is, what was written.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Please leave you name in the future. I think using "message" in the second paragraph was not careful since the post is focused solely on purpose, as well as it can (since this was also simply a passing note). I guess purpose influences message. I appreciate the comment, however. It gave me a moment to think about what I was saying more clearly.