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The Impact of Mark as Story

July 21, 2010

I am currently co-editing a volume honoring the 30th anniversary of Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1982; 2nd edition, 1999). The original work by David Rhoads and Donald Michie was the first application of narrative criticism to a NT text. Its impact has been far-reaching as evidenced by the fact that it continues to be cited and used as a course text three decades later.

I have been working on the introductory essay where I look at the book’s initial impact among scholars who were largely focused on the world behind the text. In a guild where every book is subject to peer-review, it is not difficult to tell what a given scholar thinks about a given book. Most early reviews were sympathetic to the book but I have found one review that was not. Here’s an excerpt:

Rhoads and Michie succeed in summing up the narrative elements in Mark. Yet their survey cannot be called a significant contribution to the study of Mark or to narrative criticism. Their presentation of “the story as a whole” prevents them from confronting the questions of Marcan scholarship and results in some simplification and oversimplification. . . .This study does not easily recommend itself to any of the readerships existing inside or outside the scholarly community. NT scholars in need of a solid introduction to narrative criticism. . . .will have to look elsewhere for satisfaction (Susan Marie Praeder, review in JBL 103 [1984] 483-84; emphasis added).

This review struck me for two reasons: (1) it likely tells us a great deal more about the assumptions of the academic contexts into which Mark as Story made its entrance than it does about the book itself; and (2) the reviewer’s evaluation of the book’s potential usefulness is exactly the opposite of what has come to be over the last thirty years.

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