A Brief Review of
BINDING THE STRONG MAN:
A POLITICAL READING OF
MARK’S STORY OF JESUS (2oth anniversary edition)
by Ched Meyers.
by Chris Smith.
I was delighted to see that Orbis Books has released a twentieth anniversary edition of Ched Myers’s iconoclastic study of Mark’s gospel, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus. I originally read this book ten years ago, so I was glad for the opportunity to re-visit it. The most striking thing about Binding the Strong Man, however is that Myers wrote for a primary audience, not of insulated biblical scholars but of “church members and Christian social activists” (xxxiii). Unfortunately, I fear that the intensity and rigor of Myers’s scholarship has intimidated much of his intended audience and created a reality in which this book is read more frequently in seminaries than in churches. I pray that this new edition would provide an opportunity for this reality to be righted.
Myers is a brilliant mind and his diligent research combined with his perspective as an outsider to biblical scholarship make this a very refreshing book to read. He does an excellent job in the book’s first part of setting the socio-historical stage on which Mark’s gospel will unfold. He then proceeds in the following parts of the book to work carefully through the text of Mark emphasizing the political meaning of each passage. In the afterword and appendix, he briefly explores some ways in which his reading of Mark, and other socio-political readings of the life of Jesus, are relevant to the mission of the Church in the present age. The text of the book seems to be same as that of the original edition, but Orbis has added a new foreword, a new preface by Myers and a new introduction. Of these three new pieces, Myers’s preface is the most useful, commenting on the ways that this book has been read and used in the intervening decades. If you have not read this important work of scriptural reflection, now would be an ideal time to dive into the rich hermeneutic waters of Binding the Strong Man.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com