“The Cross of Christ is no minor matter, simply dealing with individual salvation. The salvation of individuals through the Cross of Christ unleashes a revolutionary force that transforms society to its core. The message of the Cross is the only force that can change the world for the better, and the only force that has actually proved that it can do so. It is time for the Cross of Christ to be proclaimed once again, loudly and strongly.
Jesus was not crucified by chance. It was all according to plan. But the divine necessity that took him to the cross was not a blind fate that led to resignation before the pain of human mortality, or to an isolating detachment from human relationships. Jesus went to his death as the climax of the … plans of a loving Creator. Jesus took on human mortality and, by experiencing the full force of the horrors of our mortal flesh, he brought redemption. Personal identity is now found in following the savior to the cross, in the sure hope of the kingdom of God. This journey brings profound freedom: a liberation that comes from having a secure future.”
Dr. Peter G. Bolt
“The Cross from a Distance; Atonement in Mark’s Gospel” – p. 79
I try to read at least one book on the Cross every year. Yesterday, I finished Peter G. Bolt’s “The Cross from a Distance; Atonement in Mark’s Gospel.” If you want something that is quite readable and serves the purpose of bringing out some rich detail in Mark’s Gospel concerning the Cross this is the book for you. Really, this is just the kind of book that ministers and laymen alike can pick up and profit from.
Bolt spends a good amount of time defending the idea that Christ’s death was vicarious, substitutionary, and penal but he does so drawing those ideas from Mark’s narrative and not by superimposing pre-existing theological categories on the text. Bolt also ties in the Cross with the Kingdom of God motif demonstrating that for Jesus the Cross was a necessary event prior to the Kingdom and that the Cross was the pivotal event to bring in the Kingdom of God. Bolt, in what I found fascinating, demonstrates that Mark’s narrative explicitly teaches that Jesus died under the wrath of God. The way that Bolt brings that out is really spell-binding. This exegesis alone is worth the price of the book. (Liberals hate the idea of God’s Wrath being visited on the Son.) Bolt does some interesting and thoughtful work tying the crucifixion together with Daniel 12. I don’t agree with Bolt completely on this score but it did set me to thinking on several of his points. Bolt also does a great job of showing God’s sovereignty in every detail of the cross. In a section, I wish Bolt had spent more time on he begins to limn out the irony found in the various mockeries of Jesus while on the cross. I was so drawn into that exegesis that I bought another book on Mark’s work on the Cross recommended by Bolt in which Bolt said that a full treatment could be found on the irony in those mockeries. Another strength is Bolt’s Biblical-theological approach to Mark’s text. Bolt did a really fine job of weaving in how the OT texts anticipated all that Mark brings out about the crucifixion. I’ve come to really enjoy the discipline of Biblical theology when it is well done and Bolt did a standup job here. Bolt also spends a good amount of time drawing out the Cross as a theodicy which of course is always helpful.
There were some weaknesses. Bolt insists that the death of Christ gets rid of religion. Now, Bolt is defining religion very narrowly but I’d still rather not use that language since I remain convinced that religion is an inescapable category. Bolt spends a good deal of time dealing with Christ’s cry of dereliction from the Cross (My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me…”) and I’m not satisfied with Bolt’s conclusions here. He dismisses several sets of interpretations as inadequate and ends that section by largely saying that cry is a mystery, going almost Barthian in the end. I do think Calvinists might have better answers on Jesus’ cry of dereliction than Bolt. Another weakness is that Bolt spends way too much time giving us the background of ancient pagan notions of apotheosis in the context of talking about the resurrection. Dealing with weaknesses as a partial Preterist I’m not satisfied in the least with Bolt’s interpretation of “Mark’s Little Apocalypse.” Finally, in terms of weakness, I’m fairly certain that Bolt is not a postmillennialist and that pessimism about future triumph shows.
At just less than 175 pages of text, you can’t go wrong as a layman or minister in picking this volume up and learning from Dr. Bolt.