Book Review: He Is Risen! (Humphrey)

"He Is Risen!": A New Reading of Mark's Gospel by Hugh M. Humphrey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Hugh Humphrey’s book, “He is Risen” is a contribution to the ongoing discussion and study of the Gospel of Mark.  Humphrey has several main themes that he discusses in this book, themes such as: Mark’s supposed concentric pattern, the historical context of Wisdom and the resurrection as the main them of the book of Mark

Concentric Structure
Led by his form and redaction criticism, Humphrey deviates from traditional outlines on the structure of the book of Mark towards a horizontal story-line of the story of Jesus’ life and death with a central section.  He calls this a concentric structure.  In other words, he sees the early portions of the book of Mark funneling and moving towards a central point.  Once the central point has been reached the story then reverses itself and moves away from the central point of the book.

From Humphrey’s concentric outline he deduces that Mark is presenting the person and work of Jesus founded upon and in the context of the Jewish wisdom scriptures.  The wisdom scriptures supposedly form the background of Mark’s writing in which they are very much tied to the person and work of Christ.  Humphrey’s assessment is that the Wisdom Literature, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, was tied to Mark’s writing of the Gospel.  The righteous man as described by the Wisdom of Solomon is applied to the person of Jesus Christ.

Finally, Humphrey adduces that the central focus of the book of Mark is not the crucifixion of Jesus but primarily the resurrection.  He claims that “Jesus’ resurrection is the ideal and the model of how all men and women are to live before God.”  According to Humphrey the resurrection is the turning point, it is the event that “alters the course of the situation of men irrevocably, for it confirms the truth of what Jesus taught as the righteousness expected by God.”

Reading Humphrey’s book is valuable in understanding the various exegetical and various renderings of the Gospel of Mark.  However, for me it was a painful read due to his form and redaction criticism presuppositions, as well as his mingling of Law and Gospel.

I struggle with Humphrey’s appeal to the Wisdom of Solomon as a contextual background application for the Gospel of Mark due to it not being a part of the cannon.  While there are many truisms that Jesus and the disciples hit on that are consistent with the Wisdom of Solomon, to my knowledge Jesus never quotes from this book.  For example, Humphrey appeals to the Wisdom of Solomon for exegetical help in diagnosing what is meant by the phrase “Kingdom of God.”  I personally feel much more comfortable appealing to an accepted canonical book such as the book of Daniel for exegetical help in fleshing out the meaning of this phrase.  (See Daniel 2:44-45 & Daniel 7:14)

I obviously struggle with Humphrey’s mingling of Law and Gospel.  Phrases like, “that he give up his life is made the model and paradigm and fundamental teaching of the ‘secret’ of entering into the kingdom of God.”  Also phrases like, “to teach them privately time and again what they must do to enter into the kingdom of God… who can teach his disciples what is pleasing to God.”  Humphrey’s exegetical use of the Wisdom of Solomon has mingled the Gospel with Law turning the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ from something that Jesus does for us into a model and example of what we must do.  I respectfully submit that Humphrey has made Jesus into a new Moses.

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