Magazine Fall 2023 Bringing Both Heart and Mind to Teaching and Translating Scripture

By Connie Gundry Tappy '80

A longtime seminary professor and author of 20 books, MARK STRAUSS ’82 says he recognized his greatest strength early on: taking complicated subjects and clarifying and simplifying them for readers. He wrote

his textbook “Four Portraits, One Jesus” (Zondervan 2007; 2nd ed. 2020) with both students and scholars in mind. “Professors want a text that is accurate and up-to-date on scholarly issues,” he says. “Students want one that is accessible and enjoyable to read. My goal was to hit the sweet spot that does both.”

He brings this skill to his work as vice chair for the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. Years ago, a question from a student led Mark to consider the value of gender-inclusive language when translating the Bible. In “Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy” (IV Press 1998), he evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of inclusive language and generally supports its use. His work in translation studies led to an invitation to join the NIV Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) in 2005.

Mark’s 29-year tenure at Bethel Seminary as university professor of New Testament, his prolific writing and his contributions to biblical translation led Westmont to celebrate him as one of 85 honorees at the college’s 85th anniversary celebration in 2022.

A psychology major at Westmont, Mark also pursued his interest in religious studies, taking Greek and other biblical courses. “Little did I know that the latter would become my vocation,” he says. He earned Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees at Talbot School of Theology and completed a doctorate in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

“My Westmont education instilled in me the importance of both the heart and the mind in the Christian life — that a passion for the gospel should go hand in hand with critical thinking and a passion for truth,” Mark says. “Too often, Christians appear more interested in proving we’re right than in seeking truth. The Westmont ethos in my psychology and biblical studies courses was to pursue truth relentlessly, not just to defend or justify what we already believe.”

Mark relishes his work as both a scholar and a teacher. “I love to do research and to write,” he says. “There’s enormous joy when a book shows up in the mail. But I also love to teach. There’s something magical when I can see that students ‘get it.’” He values mentoring students and building relationships to equip the next generation of Christian leaders.

Much of Mark’s research has focused on the Gospels, including his commentaries on Mark and Luke and his exploration of Jesus’s most provocative words and deeds in “Jesus Behaving Badly: The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee” ( IV Press 2015). His book, “How to Read the Bible in Changing Times” (Baker 2011), sets out his perspective on interpreting Scripture. He continues to write about Bible translation as well. He co-authored “How to Choose a Translation for All It’s Worth” (Zondervan 2007) with internationally known New Testament scholar Gordon Fee, and he recently published “40 Questions About Bible Translation” (Kregel 2023).

“A passion for the gospel should go hand in hand with critical thinking and a passion for truth.”

Mark and his wife, Roxanne, walk and hike together almost daily. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and they value family time with their three adult children.

In 2015, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease brought major changes to Mark’s life. “As the disease has progressed — slowly, thankfully — I’ve had to make hard choices,” he says, such as giving up his 30-year practice of preaching and teaching in churches. “I’m constantly reminded that life is short and that we should make the most of the time we’ve been given.”