Writing and publishing books is actually easy, especially today. In the ancient world, the writer (or a later scribe) of Ecclesiastes famously complained, “Of the making of books there is no end.” Closer to our own time Flannery O’Connor was once asked whether writing programs stifle writers, and she, in her inimitable way, responded, that her opinion was that writing programs don’t stifle enough of them. If that was true in her not-so-distant day, it’s especially true in ours, when publishers have proliferated and self-publishing and self-promotion is a thing.
So there’s a lot of books out there on every subject. That’s especially true of books on the Bible and religion in particular, for whatever is happening with religion in the present day Jesus remains a subject of intense interest.
So out of years of study I wrote up a little book on Mark’s breakneck Gospel at a breakneck pace, Loosing the Lion: Proclaiming the Gospel of Mark. And I’ve been pushing it as hard as I can on social media and elsewhere.
Being a North Dakotan, I’m not given to self-promotion. My wife or kids say my name, I cringe because attention is being drawn to me. But I believe in this book, because I believe in Mark’s Gospel, because of his particular, radical presentation of Jesus. From the publicity for Loosing the Lion:
Drama. Irony. Betrayal. Miracles. A holy war with the whole world at stake. And it’s all packed into the shortest of the four Gospels. Written in an engaging, lively, oral style, Loosing the Lion tells us how, despite being misunderstood and neglected throughout most of history, the Gospel of Mark has recently been experiencing a scholarly revival. Theologians are beginning to see how it is actually an intense, wild, impossible story told at a breakneck pace with twists and turns that shock and surprise those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Readers will be captivated by the Gospel’s literary brilliance, which brings us to the threshold of an encounter with the living Jesus, who reveals his mysteries, and ultimately himself, to those who approach him and dwell in his presence. And when we do encounter him, “The proper response is repentance, joining God’s army to be liberated, and once liberated, advancing the liberation of the whole cosmos, which, ultimately, is the content of the Gospel Jesus calls us to believe in. Liberation is coming. Join the resistance.”
So what are my hopes for Loosing the Lion?
I hope it becomes a new Master of Surprise, the late Don Juel’s cult classic, an efficient work on Mark’s story. He was my mentor at Princeton, and in many ways my book is an updating of his work, with more attention to Mark’s literary dynamics, to sacraments, and to ecclesiology. That’s number one.
I hope the book is worthy of my mentors in Mark’s Gospel–the aforementioned Don Juel, Clifton Black (Princeton), and Jim Edwards (Jamestown College and Whitworth, now retired). Joel Marcus (Duke) too, but he’s more into historical-critical approaches, so I’m not sure what he’d make of it.
I hope my book helps free Mark’s Gospel from the shackles of academic conventions and “assured results,” especially the form-critical approach.
I hope the book helps Christians of all stripes read Mark rightly, as I pay attention to Mark’s particular way of telling the story of Jesus.
I hope that the book helps situate Mark’s story within the Church; without downplaying anything of Mark’s radicalism, Mark takes the Church and its sacraments seriously.
Here’s another one added 1/17: I hope that the book functions as a devotional companion for those who do the lectionary readings daily. It follows Mark’s order but is keyed to the lectionary, and I wrote it in a simple, oral style, so laypeople would benefit from reading it along with the daily Mass readings.
Above all, I hope the book helps its readers encounter Jesus more deeply, for that’s why Mark wrote his Gospel.
Thanks for your interest, and I hope my book encourages you to see Mark’s Gospel and Jesus himself with fresh eyes.