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Maybe Not the Best Book of the Bible for New Believers

I stole most of that title from an article I read this morning by David Quaod, arguing for the Gospel of Mark. It’s a good article (read it here), quite convincing, with which I can find no fault*. Mark’s Gospel is a good place to start for all the reasons listed. Nevertheless, I am going to take issue with directing new believers there.

I might recommend any one of the other Gospels (although the author’s caveats about John are worth considering), but my preference would actually be Genesis and Exodus, followed by the Gospels. I won’t expand on that at this time, but will go straight to my main point: Why not Mark?

The reason is mentioned under reason number 4 of Quaod’s article, that is, Mark 16:9ff.

A new believer reads this book, this gospel, and finally comes to the end, face to face with weird claims about handling snakes and drinking poison. (Quaod is a Continuationist, which might be why he only acknowledges that it’s a “difficult saying,” and not strangely out of context, incongruent in style, and freakishly weird in general.) Well, the Bible is full of things that seem strange, especially to unbelievers and those new to the faith, and are sure to raise questions, many of them uncomfortable. That’s fine, and we should be ready to answer those questions—if the text in question is actually inspired scripture. This passage is not,† so instead of explaining what it means, we have to tell them, “Well, uh . . . that doesn’t really belong there . . . it’s not really God’s Word . . .”

That is not a good start for someone immature in their faith and new to the Bible. John MacArthur has done an excellent job on the text, even demonstrating how it should actually increase our confidence in the Bible,† but I still don’t want to go down that road so soon in a young Christian’s life. I could be wrong, maybe I’m over-cautious, but that’s how I see it.

* Except for the passing nod to the redemptive-historical hermeneutic. The grammatical-historical hermeneutic is to be preferred.

† See a brief explanation of Textual Criticism (how we know which manuscript variations are authentic) and John MacArthur’s sermon on Mark 16:9–20 here.

Posted 2019·02·27 by David Kjos
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