A Lion with Wings: A Narrative-Critical Approach to Mark's Gospel

Article excerpt

A Lion with Wings: A Narrative-Critical Approach to Mark's Gospel. By Stephen H. Smith. The Biblical Seminar 38. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996, 258 pp., $24.95 paper.

The gospel of Mark is a narrative, the narration of a story or series of events. It is a historical narrative but a narrative nonetheless. In recent years, the narrative features of Mark have received greater attention by NT scholars, and Smith's A Lion with Wings serves as a useful guide to such narrative-critical studies. As a detailed introduction, Smith's book does a good job of filling the gap between popular works on the subject and more technical studies concerning a particular aspect of Mark's narrative.

The first chapter of the book deals with the historical developments that led to the use of literary methods like narrative criticism and reader-response criticism. Smith explains the basic principles and terms of these approaches, paying close attention to the concepts of implied author and implied reader. According to Smith, narrative criticism addresses the "what" and "how" of Mark's story. The content ("what") of the story has to do with characters, plot and settings, issues addressed by Smith in the next three chapters. Narrative criticism also examines how the story is told, that is, the rhetorical strategies of the narrator and their effect upon the implied reader. Smith deals with topics related to narrative techniques in the last two chapters of the book.

The chapter on characterization covers all the significant individuals and character groups in Mark's gospel, analyzing them sometimes according to their traits and sometimes according to their role within the plot. Smith views Mark's plot primarily in terms of conflict and shows how Jesus' divine mission results in struggles with the religious leaders, the disciples and the demons. …