New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 25: Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46. Also, BYU’s New Testament Commentary

Between a family reunion on the east coast, and a busy work week, I offer a few tidbits on today’s readings.

First, though, a note on my work. I’m at BYU for the summer working on their New Testament Commentary series, at the summer seminar. Many people don’t know about either the series or the seminar. This project has been in the works for years and is just now coming to light. This is a formal, scholarly, confessional series of New Testament commentary. S. Kent Brown’s volume on Luke is the first to appear in print, though others have seen early release in “beta” form. The printed versions of those volumes are likely to differ, even significantly, from the early Kindle releases.

Many LDS are not in the habit of using commentaries, and we can hypothesize several reasons for this: lack of obvious models, uncertainty about what is good to use, discomfort with non-LDS views, or even theological arrogance (e.g. “We have the restored Gospel and prophets; what can non-LDS scholars possibly have to teach us?”) We can categorize commentaries several ways.

Depth: Study Bible; Single Volume commentary; Multi-volume commentary.

A study Bible is the Bible text, but augmented heavily with footnotes and essays. A single-volume commentary rarely includes the bible text, just commentary. Multi-volume commentaries can extend to, e.g. Marvin Pope’s 800 page Anchor Bible Commentary on the Song of Solomon.

Intended Audience: Lay people;  pastors/teachers;  Academic. These are essentially degrees of technicality and focus.

Approach or bias: General or Confessional (e.g. Jewish, Evangelical, Mormon, etc.). This means, to what extent does a commentary reflect a particular theological viewpoint? Or none at all, in the case of general/academic volumes?

BYU’s New Testament Commentary Series is multi-volume, quasi-academic, and represents LDS perspectiveS.

I say quasi-academic because it includes Greek text and analysis, with terms like aorist and genitive. These things are explained in a not-yet-available volume to be written, addressing things like Greek language, LDS assumptions, the role of the JST, etc.

I bold and capitalize the S to emphasize that these are perspectives, not representing some monolithic or official doctrinal view of many of the topics treated.

So this commentary is much more like, say, the Word Biblical Commentary series than the Anchor Bible Commentary series.

There will be a conference on July 31 about the commentary series, focused on 1 Corinthians, with speakers such as Kevin Barney and Julie Smith.

For more information, see the commentary home page.


Today’s tidbits.

 1) Matthew 26:30/Mark 14:26 both record that before going to the Mt. of Olives, they “sang a hymn.” This was probably part of the hallel or “praise” Psalms  (think hallelu-yah, a plural form). Psalms 113-118 were often sung at Passover.

2) On the Mt. of Olives is a garden called Gethsemane is Gath-shemen “the oil press.” (Shemen rhymes with Brehmen) Because of all the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for passover, it is unlikely that Jesus and the disciples were completely alone there. More importantly, some Mormons have gone overboard in the past, playing up the events of Gethsemane and playing down Jesus’ death on the cross. (Protestant critics love to highlight those statements to argue Mormons aren’t Christians.) Both, however, are important and necessary, and such statements go out in official print with the missionaries and from President Hinckley.

“The Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as His suffering and death on the cross.” – Preach My Gospel, p. 32

I had my own file on this which I can’t find, so see the FAIRWiki collection instead.


Mark’s description of Jesus’ mental state is lost a bit in our 600-yr old English KJV.

Mark’s spare description of Jesus as “distressed,” “agitated,” “deeply grieved, even to death,” and throwing himself upon the ground, is filled with anguish- The Last Week.

Indeed, I recall a lecture at the BYU Jerusalem center from Jerome Murphy O’Connor, who translated as “out of his mind.” It is an intense emotional state of stress. Luke 22:44 says that Jesus, “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly.” Why the odd “an agony”? Gr. agonia is closely associated with agon, a struggle for victory, (athletic) contest, or conflict.

Originally agonia had the same meaning as agon, but came to designate the emotional tension, frequently connected with anxiety, experienced before a decisive conflict. –EDNT

If ever there were a decisive conflict or struggle causing emotional tension, surely this initial atoning moment in the Garden was it, as Jesus “trod the winepress alone.” For all its flaws, the initial scene of The Passion (now on Netflix) captures this better than some of our other art, and I recommend it.

In Mark 14:36, where Jesus prays in the Garden, he address the father as Abba. There’s a tradition that floats around in various circles that Abba means “Daddy,” which it doesn’t. So don’t pass that on.

Eventually, Judas shows up and identifies Jesus with a kiss. Who accompanies him?

The “crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders” refers to a group of temple police or temple soldiers. As local collaborators, the temple authorities were permitted by the Romans to have a small military force, more than a police force but less than an army. John’s gospel describes the arresting party very differently. Rather than being temple soldiers sent by the temple authorities (and probably a relatively small group), they are a group of six hundred imperial soldiers.- The Last Week.

Lastly, as always, you can support this site and my research by making Amazon purchases through this link, or the Support My Research links at the bottom of the About page. You can get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader.

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