Book Review: “A More Christlike God” by Bradley Jersak

What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?


Jersak contends, if Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of God’s likeness,” what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike—the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed—a God who Jesus “unwrathed” from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.

A friend of mine and Theo–Mentor Tripp Fuller often says,

“God must be at least as nice as Jesus.”

I really think that this “Tripps” people up a lot (pun intended) because they don’t really understand how angry or mean their God is. And if they do make the connection, they are soon to be in a deep struggle with the concept on a daily basis as it relates to their everyday life and experiences. This book directly confronts some of the most pertinent and engaging questions Christians are asking today of some very established and long held theological beliefs. Those brave enough to take this journey will gain much needed insight and options necessary to continue the journey forward.

The format of the book is very user friendly. Terms are well defined throughout, and the style is fluid and conversational with questions and a prayer finishing out each chapter making this a great resource for a small group study. In fact, this would be a perfect resource for a youth or college group.

Some of the most compelling concepts Jersak brings up center around alternative ways of looking at scripture and how God is perceived by both the writers of scripture and Christians throughout the ages. Anyone asking the hard questions like, “How can a loving God allow evil to happen” seriously and without haste need to read this book. And don’t expect the same fare served up in Evangelical camps. Expect a whole new vision and a God more loving and present than ever before.

This book is beyond a welcome addition to my library and I will highly recommend it to anyone beginning to think outside the traditional theological box.

Oh, and did I mention what Richard Rohr had to say about it???

“This excellent and much-needed book confronts with both open heart and very good mind the major obstacles that we have created for people in their journey toward God! “Why didn’t people teach us this many years ago?” so many of us are saying. I am so very grateful that Brad Jersak is re-opening the door that Jesus had already opened 2000 years ago. It is so terribly sad that it was ever closed.”
– Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. Center for Action and Contemplation

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.


Brad Jersak’s website
A More Christlike God website
A More Christlike God on Amazon
Review on The Imperfect Pastor
Review on Faith Meets World
Review on Redeeming God
Interview of Jersak by Peter Enns
Foreword by Brian Zahnd



My Response to Kevin DeYoung’s 40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

On July 1st, Kevin DeYoung posted 40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags.

I noticed a few bloggers responding, and thought I would do the same.

These are my own answers, off the cuff, so to speak, so my answers won’t be as academic as usual. Nonetheless, they are the product of my studies and ministry over the last several years.

Here we go!OrdinanceAgainstRainbowFlagDraftedinLouisianna070713-300x198

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

The last several years or so. Andrew Marin’s “Love Is An Orientation” was pivotal for me.

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?

No one verse did it for me. I think the burden of proof for me is that if I truly believe God loves the world and wants to see it reconciled, then my calling is to proclaim that message to all. I am not called to distinguish or separate, but “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Therefore, love and unity trump judgment and division. God’s job is to determine who needs to repent…not me.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

What we are really talking about here is much more than just “sexual activity.” As such, that is not something I feel compelled to make a case for. Two people loving one another and desiring to celebrate and benefit from their relationship, well the same case for any marriage is applicable.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

Christ and the church is not the end all and be all symbol of marriage, so I do not feel the need to do so.

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?


6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

Because he was quoting Genesis? lol…

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

Sins of sexual malice or evil committed upon oneself or another.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

He was primarily referencing the domination of the Roman Empire. Neil Elliott’s “The Arrogance of the Nations” is a good read on this.

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?


10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

Sins of malice, hatred, premeditated evil and/or domination of one person over another. Clearly such things are not “kingdom” activities to be sure. One could even say they are “anti-Christ” but we’ll save that for another post!

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

That the Bible is not a rule book to be kept. That the Bible is not to be translated from a judicial point of view. that the Bible is primarily a narrative of God and man/woman relating to one another.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

I would start with redefining the terms from a biblical perspective. To think that our Protestant/Evangelical/Wester views are correct would be cultural and historical snobbery. Thousands of years of removal from the culture of the Bible necessitates humility and the realization that our last 1500 years of interpretation doesn’t necessarily equate with sound theology and practice.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

Not sure…ask them.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

Not necessarily.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

I have no personal research and that would be, to use a presidential quote, “above my paygrade.”

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

Churches can and should function as they fell compelled to do so.

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

Again, marriage is much more than sex.

18. How would you define marriage?

I don’t know…how about two becoming one?

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

Why??? Am I missing something here?

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

Interesting you should ask. Doesn’t the bible actually allow for polygamy? Ah, but to reference what I wrote in Q. 11 above, don’t worry, that wouldn’t necessarily be a sound interpretation.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

I have never been asked to do so. Further, California only allows two people to be married.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

Yes. I tend to like 18, but this is up to the government. If there were no law on this, I suppose we would judge on a case by case basis. Personally, I think the legal age for marriage should be like 35!

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

Sure, why not?

24. If not, why not?

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?


26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

Yes, but only if they aren’t blithering idiots about it.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

Of course.

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

I feel no compulsion whatsoever to have anything to do with Evangelicalism or its practices. Further, my job as a minister is not to ensure anything, but most of all any kind of control or coercion over anyone’s marriage. That is sacred between them and God if they are Christians.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

Maybe, maybe not. Each case would be as different as each person involved.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

Depends if they want to take on the “sin” label or not. I don’t see any reason to judge those who are not among Christian circles.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

Great question…I’m sure they each will figure it out on their own.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

In two ways. As a civil rights expression, it means love is to be regarded as equal among all people. As a Christian issue, reflecting on the civil rights issue, it means loving one another won over judging and dividing one another.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

How about all of the “love one another” passages in the NT?

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

Love God and love your neighbor as yourself…

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?


36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

My faith is always changing and in flux…it is a journey, a walk, an active discipleship.

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

I do not consider myself an Evangelical. As such, the distinctives listed above are not something I would say I am passionate about.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

This is a trick question, right? If you mean to imply that open and affirming churches do not do these things, then perhaps they do or do not. As a progressive, I would say that “sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples” are not the end all and be all of our faith. There is so much more…

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

Absolutely! Just keep in mind, that isn’t something going on in most Evangelical churches these days, so…

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

Sins of domination, manipulation, control as referenced by the rule of Empire. These things are contrary to the rule of love as expressed by Christians as we live in the Kingdom of God.

Book Review: Desire Found Me – Quite A Compelling Read!


“God seldom, if ever, reveals concepts about himself. He simply reveals himself. Such encounters deeply transform our concepts.” Kindle Ed., loc 37

If you have ever wondered how we learn to believe what we believe…especially in a setting such as a church or denomination this book might be for you. It answers a lot of questions regarding how tradition is passed on and why. Combining sociological perspective and theological wit, Rabe provides insight on a level I have yet to find at a popular level.

I found this book to be a bit enigmatic. I confess, I chose it mostly because I have been seeing quite a few references to Rene Girard and Mimetic Theory in my biblical studies. As such, I thought this book might provide some insight without having to attend to the primary sources. I think this is what took me so long to get through the book. I found it incredibly insightful, and yes, it did give me the Girardian basics I was looking for, but I couldn’t help but feel the writing style was either a bit disjointed or parts of the book were left unedited. Other than that, there were several chapters that are worth the price of the book alone: Paradox of Evil, History of Satan, Atonement Theories and Sacrifice, and Mimetic Atonement. These chapters, I believe, were well written and do a wonderful job of suggesting alternatives to the popular Christian thought on these topics. Overall, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in learning how to begin to apply Mimetic Theory to their understanding of the Bible or their faith and practice. Indeed, the disjointedness I experienced could well have been the fact that I was taking on a subject unfamiliar to me. That said, I sure highlighted tons of quotes that I expect to refer back to in my studies and teaching.

Disclaimer: Yes, I received a free copy of this book, but ultimately I chose to review it!

Want to see more?

Go here: – Andre’s site
Desire Found Me – book site
Andre on Twitter
Andre on Facebook
Andre on Youtube
Andre on Google+
Desire Found Me on Amazon


Book Review: The UNkingdom of GOD – Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance

UKGThis was an incredible read!

I will post my review on Amazon below, but I just had to comment that one of the most exciting components of the book was how the author explained and applied the whole concept of Empire into the understanding of scripture and how Christians live among the various empires throughout time. Further, Van Steenwyk gives many practical ways to live out our faith in spite of empire, including the ones we live in now. It is rare when an author writes such a theologically profound book that is so comlpetely accessible to all in the church. For that he is to be highly commended!

My review:

I’ll admit, this book caught me by surprise. Perhaps the title threw me off, as I couldn’t quite connect with the book at face value, but as I read it, it all fell into place and I have been compelled to read, think and act differently as a result…a feat that many Christian books simply cannot pull off well.

Mark does such a good job of engaging the reader by immediately connecting us to his own story of a disconnect with practicing his Christian faith. This is something he not only calls out, but so gracefully guides the reader to meaningful, real, and valuable ways to amend one’s thoughts and practices to better fit with the way of Jesus.

Inherent in this book is a very readable and accessible explanation of the biblical theme of empire and how the scriptures counter this at every turn. Perhaps, this was most exciting to me, since so much of that material is more academic and simply doesn’t tackle the practical ramifications for Christians in the real world. As such, this book would be an incredible resource for group study for those seeking more missional ways of living among their communities.

This message is prophetic in the truest sense of the word, and it is a message Christians in the West need to hear. Many Christians are pulling away from ineffective churches. Mark reveals a new path that can be taken, a new way of seeing the Bible and Jesus that will awaken, revive and inspire the reader to look for immediate, local, and purposeful ways of living out their faith.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was challenged in many ways that I never would have imagined. Highly recommended!!!

Professor April DeConick On Studying The Transgressors

OK, I freely admit that football season here in the states has slowed down my progress on 1 Timothy.

In one sense, this is good. It takes time to think through the project and come up with more questions to ask and more options to consider.

As an aside, I happened to listen to a video today and just had to post up the quote because it seems to apply to the 1 Timothy study quite well!

Starting at about 8:29  in the video, Professor DeConick states that she likes to study “the transgressors”…those “on the edges” and states that one of her professors told her,
“If you want to understand the really early traditions look at the people on the edges about a hundred years later because as the tradition norms, as it becomes more normal and less radical, those radical people in the beginning are pushed toward the outside and so are their ideas.”
Further, she asks, “Why did they become outsiders? Because at some point they were insiders.”
Very good questions to ask in an examination of a letter that appears to have been a power play to create just such an insider/outsider division.
A little something to tease the mind and consider as we look at the early church, who was in, who was out, etc…
You can peruse her most excellent site direct at:
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1 Timothy 1:1-2

1.1 Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus according to the authority of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope. 2 To Timothy, a true child in faith; grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (translation mine)

  • Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν2 Τιμοθέῳ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ ἐν πίστει· χάρις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

     1:1 Χριστο ησο WH Treg NA28  ] Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ RP     •      Χριστο ησο WH Treg NA28 ]  κυριόυ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ RP     2 πατρς WH Treg NA28  ] +  ἡμῶν RP

As usual, the first few verses of a New Testament writing set the scene so to speak and the same goes for these opening two verses. I will keep it brief, as much more can be found in standard commentaries on these verses.

Key words:

  • Verse 1: “according to the authority of God” ~ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ – No matter how one translates this it comes down to a matter of authority. The writer asserts that Paul’s authority/commission/command comes from God. Paul typically did assert his calling or service as an apostle, but this presents a whole new angle that more directly asserts authority for the words and instruction to follow. Again, this begs the question, would Paul have had to exert this much force with Timothy? It doesn’t seem necessary that he would have to do so. The strength of this thought will fore fully play out in verse 7 with those who “wish to be teachers.”
  • Verse 2: “true child” (of one born to a married couple) ~ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ – Another angle that asserts authority passed down legitimately from God to Paul to Timothy. In other words, what is to follow is pure teaching. Think in terms of contrast: true/false, real/fake, legitimate/illegitimate. These opening lines are setting up the discourse to follow in opposition to the way other Christians are interpreting, reading and living out their faith

The introduction is irregular compared to typical Pauline writings on at least several counts:

  1. Paul’s introduction is overly formal and overtly emphatic of Paul’s authority. In Paul’s letters to the churches this makes sense, but in a seeming private correspondence to a well known co-worker it would be unnecessary. Miller points out that John Calvin noticed this in his commentary when he wrote that Paul had “no need to set forth his titles and reassert his claims to apostleship, as he does here, for the name alone would have certainly have been enough for Timothy.” Further, Calvin concluded that the Pastorals must have been intended for a larger audience, but if so, then why was there no reference to them? (57, n.1)
  2. Nowhere else in Paul’s letter do we see him refer to God as Savior. Yet in the Pastorals it isused ten times. Six in reference to God (1 Tim. 1.1, 2.3, 4.10, Titus 1.3, 2.10, 3.4) and four to Jesus as Savior (2 Tim. 1.10, Titus 1.4, 2.13, 3.6). (Miller 57)
  3. The reference to Jesus as “our hope” is a phrase Paul uses five times in the PE and only five other times total in his other letters. A minor point, but still one that is unusual. Miller, citing C.K. Barrett, suggests that these items reveal liturgical additions and propose that Paul might have simply written, “Paul to Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (59)
  4. The language change from Christ as Savior to God as Savior as well as from Jesus Christ to Christ Jesus suggests a later writing borrowing from popular liturgical sayings as opposed to typical Pauline phrases. Further, the phrase “in faith” is not known to be something Paul might write. (Dibelius 13-14)
  5. It is interesting that the writer references Christ Jesus three times in these two verses, yet doesn’t go on to delve into any Christological themes as Paul was known to do. One might suggest that the corrective matters at hand took precedence. However, it also seems to stack the deck with another item pressing too hard for authenticity. (Krause 29-30)

The result yields an introduction that for all intents and purposes should sound Pauline, but in reality is a bit of a “clanging cymbal.”

This introduction, as well as 2 Timothy and Titus, seem to have become formulaic in usage. Let’s not forget that in our culture and age, we can readily examine several other Pauline letters just bu flipping a few pages in any Bible, so spotting a counterfeit is in some ways easier. It is quite possible that the intended audience, not necessarily Timothy alone, would have heard or read this introduction and accepted it as genuine simply because these words resonated with them as something Paul would say…”because these are things we say.”

This is, at least, one way to look at these two introductory verses as formulaic. They provided a formula of words that were quickly recognized as valid, as opposed to invalid. In other words, the writer is using words and phrases in such a way that the hearer/reader will immediately associate them with Paul…at least among themselves. The danger with formulaic phrases is that they can become catch phrases used to manipulate people, or in this case, those who heard or read this short letter.

Perhaps we, too, have become comfortable with the formulaic nature of certain phrases. Perhaps, upon tearing this letter apart and reconstructing it afresh in our hearts and minds we might be able to distinguish it for what it is and apply it accordingly. No doubt, this letter is a part of our Christian heritage and as such deserves a hearing.


One of the possibilities I would like to examine is that this writer was not Paul. It was someone, most definitely male, with authority among a group, church, group of churches or a region that was writing under Paul’s name to influence a change in teaching and practice toward what he thought was necessary. (Krause 29) So, in these first two verses alone, we already encounter “the others.” They are still off in the shadows, but make no mistake, they are the reason for this corrective letter. They have been called out and this author would prefer them to be silenced.


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The Pastoral Epistles – My Approach

I love that scene…take it for what it is, just a quick illustration of how simple making a choice can be without truly knowing the implications of that choice.

A word of caution, if you will, before I/we depart on this journey through what are commonly known as The Pastoral Epistles.

I am taking a critical path. One that will begin with the premise that the Apostle Paul did not write 1 & 2 Timothy or Titus. The texts I cite for the most part have already traveled this path in one manner or another. Likely, as I progress I will build upon my posts regarding methodology, approach and hermeneutic. But for now, this short advanced warning will do.

This is a bit of an experiment for me, since I have only been taught the standard Evangelical take on the matter: that Paul wrote these letters in one way or another and as such they are infallible, inerrant and authoritative for the church past, present and future. Yet, over the years, I have increasingly struggled with this point of view and have seen other ways of interpreting these texts. Since then, I have come to realize that I don’t need to win any arguments or prove anything to anyone.

Indeed, one of the most memorable moments of my time in seminary was when a professor introduced the word “plausible.” It didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now. For what I didn’t comprehend at the time was the incredibly deep and vast gray space he was opening up to us as students. Such a gray fog can be haunting to first year seminarians seeking the truth. Yet, I have come to rest in that space, realizing that we are so very far removed from the first Christians and their culture that connecting with them through the scriptures often takes time and effort.

Therefore, as we read, study, contemplate and live out our faith we would do well to embrace the plausible among the things we hold dear. Consider them, push their limits, milk them for all they are worth.

So, enough sermonizing. I appreciate that not everyone who landed on this page will enjoy this critical study, so for those who are looking for the more standard Evangelical and conservative fare, I can heartily recommend the following books:

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus – Gordon Fee

The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT) – Phil Towner

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 46, Pastoral Epistles  – Bill Mounce

For those, like me, who are curious and want to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes,” well, let’s begin!

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A Staggering Blow of a Book That Insists On Being Read

Made in the U.S.A. by Alisa Jordheim



This book is outside the scope of what I traditionally read but when I noticed what the book was about I picked it up for a few different reasons. The primary reason was because I feel that this is an issue that American Christians can and should be knowledgeable about and reacting to in a positive, loving and compassionate way.


You should know up front that his book was both incredibly easy to read and incredibly difficult to read. The writers and the story tellers do an incredible job of pulling you into the story and that is what makes it easy to read. What makes it incredibly difficult to read is the subject matter itself – knowing that this is no mere story, but a string of events that actually happened, and continue to happen daily right here in the good ‘ol USA.


Yet, that is why this book is so important and why I would highly recommend it – especially to leaders in the church. The bottom line is that the more people understand the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse, the more readily able they will be to initiate help, the one thing that was lacking in each of the stories in this book.


As a Christian leader and pastor, I believe that this issue is something that the church can immediately begin to acknowledge. Reading this book has opened my eyes to the gravity and depth of the situation as well as the immediacy and the locality of it among our own families, neighborhoods and communities.


I will be honest, I really didn’t want to read this book but I felt compelled to do so…I’m glad that I did.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.



Justice Society – Alisa Jordheim’s anti-trafficking organization
Made in the USA — Amazon
lisa Jordheim – Twitter





Posts On Journal Articles I Am Reading

I am going to start a new series covering quotes/highlights/thoughts, etc… on journal articles I am reading.

Unfortunately, I can’t post the entire article, but I do have them saved in a  PDF format, so if you want one of them, just ask and I can email it to you!

A new system at Claremont School of Theology Library allows for quick and easy scanning to PDF which can immediately be sent via email.

I love it!!!


Mark – What does this mean???

…just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’

Exodus 23:20

“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.

Malachi 3:1

“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (NLT)

Isaiah 40:3

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God! (NLT)

“All four Gospels include a quotation of Isaiah 40:3 (Mk. 1:3; Mt. 3:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn. 1:23) but only Mark combine this with words taken from Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1”[1]

The importance of the composite quote:

  1. It is located at the beginning of the Gospel, even before John and Jesus have been introduced.
  2. This is the only editorial quotation from Mark – all the other quotations (about 20) appear on the lips of Jesus or other characters in the story.
  3. The composite quotation of Ex. 23:20/Mal. 3:1 [cf. Mt. 11:10 and Lk. 7:27] is included before the citation of Is. 40:3, even though it clashes with the introductory formula (‘As it is written in the prophet Isaiah’)[2]

There have been two main ways of interpreting this…

“we need an ideology that can explain how Mark can both appropriate Isaiah’s promise of exodus (itself a development of the original exodus tradition), while offering, in Marcus’s words, a ‘radical, cross-centred adaptation of it’ (1992: 36). In terms of this debate, what we need is a more sophisticated biblical theology that can encompass discontinuity as well as continuity, and a more sophisticated literary theory that can combine insights from narrative criticism with insights from intertextuality (taking ‘texts’ in its broadest sense).”[3]

France, quoting Myers states the following:

“by omitting that part of Mal. 3:1 which envisages the Lord appearing in the temple and linking the passage instead to the wilderness location, Mark is already signalling the dismissal of the institutional life of Israel which will be a recurrent theme of his gospel.”[4]

There is more to unpack here, but what seems clear to me is the following:

  1. This being the only editorial quotation is highly relevant to the author’s purpose.
  2. The author did not feel compelled to use literal quotes, but instead took no small amount of liberty in combining texts to prepare his readers for the story.
  3. The quote is both a nod in the direction of the past prophetic tradition as well as a nod to a clear and present change in the thinking and life of the reader/hearer.

I’ll have more on this later.

Meanwhile, let me know what you think!

[1] Steve Moyise, Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New (London: T & T Clark, 2008), 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Steve Moyise, “How Deep is the Wilderness in Mark 1:1-13,” 2005, 86,

[4] R. T France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002), 63.


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