My Favorite Biblical Book

When you write on the Bible, one of the things that you should avoid, if you can, is flippancy. People tend to get riled up when you are flippant about Scripture because flippancy, gone bad, comes off more as “disrespectful” than “light and airy.” As a result, the flippant writer, even if unintentionally so, comes off as arrogant and “puffed up” (to use a good Pauline phrase from the Corinthian correspondence: Greek, physio – see how biblical this post is already?).But I love lists and everyone on the Internet gets to make lists, so why shouldn’t a biblical blogger have lists? (I do not believe this is an argument from authority or reason; it is more along the lines of “but everyone else is doing it.”) Initially, though, I do not want to create a list myself – greatest historical Jesus books of the last century (quake in anticipation, it is coming), best biblical movies, or top ten NT disciples – but a) to ask you what your favorite biblical book is and b) why (OT or NT, but only one). I know this can be an almost impossible task to choose only one out of many inspired texts, but keep in mind that choosing one book does not indicate a diminution of or rejection of the other books of the Bible. It is just an attempt to get a sense as to how a particular book has spoken to you, transformed you, guided you and challenged you.

This is my choice: The Gospel of Mark. I surprised myself by coming back to the Gospel of Mark, even as I tried out other options mentally, over and over. I love the dramatic simplicity of Mark and the constant focus on Jesus. Whenever I read it, I am constantly challenged to reaffirm my answer to the question, “who is Jesus?” and to consider it in new and deeper ways. I love the humanity of Jesus and the subtle way in which his divinity is revealed throughout the Gospel.

Think about it and then leave your choices in the comments section below. 

P.S. I will send out a copy of one of my books to anyone who answers “Letter of Jude,” really, really means it and can give compelling reasons for this choice. This is not flippancy, by the way, just inquisitiveness.

John W. Martens

David Nickol
6 years 9 months ago
Did you ever see Alec McCowen's solo stage performance of Saint Mark's Gospel? I was amazed at how well it worked.  
Leo Zanchettin
6 years 9 months ago
John, like you I kept coming back to Mark. In my younger days, I saw Mark as a kind of rough-draft gospel that Matthew and Luke used to create their more finished versions-like Q, only on steroids. But I have grown increasingly fond of this gospel. I love the details that Mark includes in his stories. His account of Jesus' healing hemorrhaging woman, for instance, is very moving.

It's interesting, though. Where you are challenged to answer "Who is Jesus?" I find Mark challenging me with the question: "Are you his disciple?" No other gospel is as insistent on the call and cost of following Jesus. But Mark does this in a way that presents Jesus as so compelling that you can't help but want to be with him. Only in Mark does Jesus look at the rich young man and "love him," even as he is asking him to give up everything and follow him. And right after that, only in Mark, does Jesus "look" at Peter and the rest when he tells them that discipleship is impossible for man-but that all things are possible for God.

It's this intense look of Jesus, this gaze that both strips away my pretensions and loves me so warmly, that I find in so many places in Mark. I can't read this gospel without coming away undone, consoled, and rebuilt-all at the same time.
6 years 8 months ago
Dr. Martens,
Thanks, in advance, for this series.  As a pre-VII educated Catholic, I sense you are filling a chasm in our education.  My favorite book – The Psalms, then Proverbs.  Why?  Well, I am a “spiritual caregiver” ministering to patients in our local hospital. A great majority of patients, although not all, of those I see are non-Catholics. Those who state “no religious preference” as well as Catholics and members of other denominations find great solace, strength and yes, God’s love in various Psalms. As pray with and for a patient, sometimes a paraphrase of a Psalm, and sometimes read a selection, I see changes – indeed comfort in their eyes as they face uncertain and very trying circumstances.
Frank R. Siroky
Igor Driker
6 years 8 months ago
Tamzin Simmons
6 years 8 months ago
Good idea for a post, John.

I think I have to agree with Frank above and say that at the moment, the book of Psalms is my favourite (although my reasons are not so selfless.)

I find the psalms beautiful because they are words of someone who is discovering who they are and who God is. I can identify with the Psalmist's need for God, the struggles and the questions that go with a relationship with God, and the faith that he keeps coming back to in the end. They are a reminder that God is infinitely merciful, no matter how sinful we may be.

That is not to say I love the Gospels any less, and I feel inspired by the comments above to re-read Mark all the way through, but I would find it difficult to choose between them. If I try to, I will always remember a particular part of the narrative of another evangelist and feel the need to reconsider. I think in terms of reading and having a set time for prayer, the Psalms are really great to dip in and out of and are manageable.
david power
6 years 8 months ago
I agree that this is a very good posting and one that can help us to learn more from others.My favourite is Luke because it is written with a slightly sentimental bias and that is how I best encounter God.Through my sentiments.It would be an idea to prolong this blog entry to give more people a chance to comment or else branch it out to "favourite religious or spiritual book" that way Fr Martin could get a free plug on his books or else "Most formative spiritual experience" in which case God Himself could get a chance to plug His behind the scenes work.  

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