Peter's Preaching

The message of Mark's Gospel

Jeremy Duff

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Many people have found Mark's gospel to be the most gripping of the four gospels - a real page-turner - and here Jeremy Duff helps us to understand why. This analysis will deepen your appreciation of Mark's gospel, whether you have read it just once or you are a seasoned student. I commend it to all who long to respond to Jesus with the same conviction and passion as Peter.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury


Do you know who wrote Mark's Gospel?

At first glance, it may seem a ridiculous question. 'Mark, of course!' I hear you shout? But who was Mark?

Mark's name doesn't appear on the list of disciples, as Matthew's does. His Gospel doesn't start with a clear statement of investigation, as does Luke's, offering credibility. Yet, remarkably, large chunks of Mark's Gospel appear in both Matthew's and Luke's work. What's going on?

Jeremy Duff provides insightful answers in his new book Peter's Preaching, revealing how an ancient source describes Mark as Peter's translator to a Greek-speaking world. Intriguingly, though, this source also tells us that while Mark recorded Peter's preaching 'accurately', he did not record it 'in order'. Mark devised his own order of the stories, for his own purpose, using a structure and format that were as radical in the first century as ebooks are today.

But that is only the start of Jeremy's detective work in this stimulating book, which moves on to uncover Peter's thought on the key themes of the Christian message, found distributed throughout the Gospel. Jeremy pieces these themes together like a jigsaw to reveal how Peter understood them, and how that understanding helps us to appreciate the radical nature of first-century Christian faith.

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Many people have found Mark's gospel to be the most gripping of the four gospels - a real page-turner - and here Jeremy Duff helps us to understand why. This analysis will deepen your appreciation of Mark's gospel, whether you have read it just once or you are a seasoned student. I commend it to all who long to respond to Jesus with the same conviction and passion as Peter.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Jeremy's fresh insights and creative commentary on Mark's trend-setting Gospel not only widen our understanding of Jesus, but also pin point the way the record of Jesus' encounters with people encourage us to follow Him, be changed by Him and share Him with others.
Mark Bailey, Leader, Trinity Cheltenham

Jeremy Duff is an excellent teacher, who combines first-rate scholarship with rich experience of people and church life. This makes him an ideal guide to Mark's Gospel. This book is full of fascinating insights, presented in a thoughtful, accessible and enticing way.
Graham Tomlin, Principal, St Mellitus College

This is just sort of book which BRF should be producing. It is clearly written by a scholar who has also pastoral concerns and experience, who is concerned about people and knows how ordinary people think and react. It is designed to help people get to know Mark and his message about Jesus and the significance of Jesus for us all. Every chapter is written with a gentle warmth and even gentler humour, often starting with a gripping story or scene from ordinary life. The book opens with a persuasive section, arguing that Mark is the basic gospel and that he could have won this position only because he was the 'interpreter' of Peter. It was this that gave Mark the authority which led Matthew and Luke to follow his pattern. The book also argues that Mark may be held responsible for those other two interesting Christian initiatives (quite distinct from other contemporary literature) of using book-style rather than scrolls to be rolled and unrolled, and the distinctive Christian form of abbreviating sacred names.

The basic impression which one receives throughout is that Mark was a gospel written for real people, with our concerns, worries, efforts and timidity. It constantly gives the reader pause for reflection on the concepts of friendship, loyalty, discipleship. Jesus personally chose the Twelve primarily to be with him, creating a new society, a new Israel. This made their hardness of heart, their failure to understand, their desertion all the more bitter for him; the book helps a disciple to see the depths of betrayal - theirs and ours. Their half-sight so vividly mirrors our own experience and lack of commitment (p. 49). The book is full of striking insights: if you want to understand the parables, look for the twist, where the parable diverges from normal life (p. 208). The meaning of Jesus progress to his inevitable death is sensitively painted against its biblical background; the physical horror and especially the shame of the final hours of Jesus are portrayed delicately but with devastating awareness (p. 288).

It is especially helpful that long excerpts of the gospel text are given before discussion of their importance. One learns from the text!
Henry Wansbrough, Ampleforth Abbey

Author info

The Revd Professor Jeremy Duff is the Principal of St Padarn's Institute, responsible for discipleship and ministry training and ongoing development in the Church in Wales. Over the last 20 years, he has combined a teaching ministry including major universities in the UK, as well as within the church, with church leadership, most recently in a deprived urban community near Liverpool (where Peter's Preaching was written). For ten years, he was one of the commissioning editors for BRF's Guidelines Bible reading notes, and his book The Elements of New Testament Greek (2005) is one of Cambridge University Press's bestselling religion titles. He is also the coauthor, with the Revd Dr Joanna Collicutt McGrath, of Meeting Jesus: Human responses to a yearning God (SPCK, 2006).


Preach - Spring 2016

Confession time. I didn't enjoy lectures at theological college wrestling over which Gospel was written first and who used whose material to produce their Gospel. Up to that point, I had enjoyed reading each Gospel as it was presented, and to be honest I still do. However, reading Jeremy Duff's highly scholarly but refreshingly accessible work has been a real tonic.
The starting point for the book is a piece of detective work examining the evidence that Mark drew heavily on Peter's sermons to construct his Gospel. Duff presents Papias' views that support this in a compelling and convincing way.
The heart of the book is a treatment of eight themes that are central to Mark's Gospel, each of which are rewarding and enriching to explore. In addition, Duff helpfully provides his own translation of Mark's Greek, which was often rougher than the smoother versions we read today.
Particularly helpful is the explanation of what it means to be 'following on the way'. The picture of the disciple as one who follows Jesus and is ready to take up his cross is a vital corrective to our comfortable Christianity. As the crucifixion approaches, the disciples desert Jesus and flee, but surprising new followers come to anoint Jesus and carry his cross. The book ends, as does Mark's Gospel, with a challenge to go and meet with the risen Jesus.
For preachers who are in a hurry with a sermon deadline approaching, this book won't be the best source of last-minute help. However, for all who want to understand Mark's Gospel more fully, whether preaching or not, this is a deeply rewarding read.

John Birchall

The Reader Spring 2016

This is a latecomer to the Markan library, and is not a commentary but a guide to reading Mark's gospel. It is based on the idea that what we have in Mark's text is a kind of compendium of Peter's preaching, written down by Mark- who incidentally seems not to have been the young man who ran off naked after Jesus' arrest. The author presents us with a different way to read Mark's gospel, taking a thematic approach - miracles, the identity of Jesus, parables - and shows how carefully the original text was structured to make particular points. Duff writes accessibly and intermingles biblical exposition with some telling contemporary illustrations. There is a wealth of preaching material here and many helpful insights. The author also includes some interesting historical and contextual comments, such as that Mark was perhaps responsible for encouraging the use of the new codex format in preference to the more traditional scrolls. This highlights the one failing of Duff's book - the lack of references to any other literature. But this book is not offered as an academic text and his credentials are attested by his time as a New Testament tutor at Oxford - so we can take his word on trust. In the same way he encourages us to receive Mark's gospel as Peter's word to the early church - and to us - about the good news that is Jesus Christ.

Marion Gray

Methodist Recorder 8 January 2016

In Peter's Preaching: The Message of Mark's Gospel (BRF, GBP9.99), Jeremy Duff takes what is arguably the foundational document of Christianity.

It is argued that Mark has written down and edited some of what Peter has remembered from all that he heard of Jesus' public and private teaching.

The 10 chapters cover Peter's preaching thematically in a style which combines in-depth analysis and Bible reading notes. To this end, the book can be taken as a devotional, taking one section each day. The encouraging conclusion is that, despite our faults and failures, like Peter, we can pick ourselves up and meet Jesus again.

The Rev Paul Wilson is development worker for Methodist Evangelicals Together.

Book details

  • ISBN: 9780857463500
  • Published: 19 June 2015
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
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