As I was teaching through the Gospel of Mark at CCBCY this past semester, I leaped at the chance to review Rikk Watts’ lectures through the book at Regent College. Rick Watts is known as an expert on the Gospel of Mark and these lectures filled a gap in my resources, as I wanted to hear the book taught in a college environment with 2 hour lectures over similar length semester to ours. It seemed the perfect choice. I was not wrong!
The Gospel of Mark
Watts teaches through the Gospel of Mark over the course of twelve recordings. Mark is divided across the lectures as below:
Sometimes Watts aims to cover a particular section of text in class and achieves his goal. Other times, as is often the case in classroom settings, he will run out of time and catch up in the next recording, or have extra time and begin a new section early. This is always handled naturally, but the only time it becomes an issue, in my opinion, is in the treatment of Mark 13. Mark 13 is a very difficult passage and it is a shame it was broken in half and needed to be rushed at this point in the course. I for one was looking forward to Watt’s treatment of the passage, as he reads it as entirely about AD70 and I wanted to hear a good argument for that viewpoint. Instead, the split over the lectures made it a bit jumbled.
The content of the lectures themselves is gold. Watts has a fresh approach to the text, but one that is grounded on the insights of others. Watts rarely detours into minority or odd views, but his major contribution is reading Mark in light of Isaiah’s New Exodus theme. Watts, convincingly to my mind, sees Mark as thoroughly steeped in Isaiah and constantly draws connections between the two books. These insights can be found in Watt’s Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark (though the book is difficult to find) and in his upcoming NICNT commentary on Mark, but what is unique here is hearing Watts teach this material. Hearing the material integrated into Watts teaching, and even “preaching” at times, makes these recordings distinct. How would one preach these insights? How do they make a difference practically? These lectures contribute to answering these questions.
Watts shows pastoral care and wisdom in his lecturing. For example, in returning to his treatment of Mark 13, he was sensitive to explain the dogmatism that some have towards the passage and difficulty to hear other views, and rather than criticising this attitude, he charged his listeners to show patience and care when discussing chapters such as this. To me, this reflects a Biblical (e.g. Rom 14-15) attitude of putting our brothers and sisters first. Watts is not using his scholarship to win arguments but build up the church. Other examples are found in the way he interacts with questions, which are all handled insightfully and patiently.
Watts has a special knack for shifting naturally to issues of application without causing his listeners whiplash. What is especially remarkable is that his application is virtually always closely linked to a careful and scholarly discussion of the text and is usually quite profound. This is a goal I hope to emulate in my own teaching, as it takes skill to integrate faithful application with solid scholarship. It is abundantly clear that Watts has a dynamic relationship with Jesus and draws his applications from a well of personal experience. At a number of times, his insights were used by the Lord to encourage me in my own life situations.
For a scholarly yet applicable, detailed yet listenable teaching through the Gospel of Mark by an expert in the book, I could not recommend anything higher than Rikk Watt’s lectures. Anyone can hear these and receive much from them. Here you will not only get some of the best scholarship of the book, but engaging, fun (and often funny) teaching, and powerful personal exhortation to love Jesus and live out your faith.
Many thanks to Regent Bookstore for providing these lectures for free in exchange for a review. Check out their website for a wealth of audio from top scholars and teachers.