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Dying to Live
Lessons From Mark
by John Churcher
Publisher:Circle Books imprint of John Hunt Publisjing Ltd
Published:03 March 2012
It is testament to the gospels as the Living Word of God that theologians can continue to find new ways of approaching well-worn texts and new insights into familiar stories. In Dying to Live, John Churcher has produced an accessible commentary on Mark that – chapter by chapter – will question many of the assumptions we have inherited about this first gospel during the past century of biblical scholarship.
Using Karen Armstrong’s differentiation between logos and mythos, Churcher begins by encouraging the reader to distinguish between two types of truth: the factuality of actual events that took place and stories that reveal truth despite being imaginary. Clearly, a story does not have to be true to reveal truth and the faith of someone who depends on actuality may be immature.
Applied to the Old Testament this distinction may not appear to matter; apply it to the personhood of Jesus and 1600 years of ecclesiology may come crashing down around us. This is the risky endeavour that Churcher bravely embarks upon in the tradition of Bultmann and more recently John Dominic Crossan.
For Churcher the church is not of central importance; the truth about the identity and purpose of Jesus, is. For Churcher Jesus was ‘so uniquely full of humanity that people experienced the fullness of the divine within him’. As a result Jesus lived a heretical or prophetic life (depending on your point of view) that brought with it the inevitability of confrontation with authority. And that, for Churcher, is the life of discipleship we are called to follow.
Dying to Live will comfort progressive Christians and those on the margins of the church cynical and suspicious of the divine claims made in Jesus’ name. For others it may make uncomfortable reading and be dismissed too readily. For all of us though there is truth here we should engage with if our church life is to retain integrity.
Reviewer: David Ford (30/07/12)