An Introduction to the Gospel of Mark

[Article still in progress of being written...]

The Gospel of Mark is probably the first Gospel written since Matthew and Luke contain about 93% of the material that is found in Mark. Also, when Matthew and Luke have different stories than Mark, they do not together list their stories in a different sequence than Mark.

Authorship

The Gospel of Mark was originally an anonymous document since the focus was on Jesus Christ, not who was the exact author of the text. Nowhere in the Gospel of Mark is there a specific claim regarding who authored the book. However, there is an early tradition that associated John Mark as the author of the Gospel. The Bishop Papias writing around 140? A.D. states that Mark interpreted the words of the apostle Peter accurately, but not in direct chronological sequence. Since John Mark probably wrote the Gospel, his association with Peter would tend to give historical credibility to the account since Peter was an eyewitness who knew Jesus while He was on this earth.

Date

It is uncertain when the Gospel of Mark was written. It most likely was written sometime between 45 to 70 A.D. Most scholars today would date it around 65-70 A.D. The main factors that scholars use to date the Gospel of Mark are based on how Mark 13 portrays the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The destruction of the Jerusalem temple occured in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus. There really are no clear time indicators in the Gospel of Mark that would allow us to know exactly when it was written.

Arguments for a 66-70 A.D. (or later) Date

Some of these scholars think that there are references to the outbreak of the Jewish war (66 A.D.). Therefore, this must indicate that the author of the Gospel of Mark portrayed Jesus as predicting the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.

Responses to Arguments for 66-70 A.D. (or later) Date

However, such a view is problematic for several reasons. First, many of the scholars who hold such a viewpoint assume that Jesus could not predict the future. If God exists and Jesus arose from the dead, thereby miraculously validating His claims, there is no reason that He could not predict the future as the Hebrew prophets did in the Old Testament (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 53; Psalm 22). Unfortunately, these scholars sometimes limit themselves due to their naturalistic assumptions. 

Second, as some scholars note, there were many people in first century Palestine who throught that the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed. For example, Josephus mentions a prophet named [?] who predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed. This prophet was later accidentally killed in the Roman seige of Jerusalem. Also, the Qumran community who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls also predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem temple since they thought it was corrupt (11QTemple).

The Gospel of Mark could not have been written later than 110 A.D. ? due to the possible references that Ignatius gives to the Gospel of Matthew. Since Matthew probably used Mark in writing his Gospel, one could have to reconstruct a sequence like this. Ignatius writes around 110 A.D. and alludes to various traditions found in Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew or similar sayings must have been circulating before Ignatius wrote his letter say sometime in the 90s A.D. Matthew had to have been written before his Gospel was circulated. This would date Matthew to the latest around 80 A.D. Since Matthew used Mark, Mark would have to have been written at least around 70 A.D. or earlier. 

Conclusion

It is difficult to be dogmatic regarding when the Gospel of Mark was written. However, Mark definitely was written before 80 A.D., definitely around 65-70 A.D., and possibly even as early as 55-65 A.D. 

Location

The traditional view was that Mark wrote this Gospel from Rome. There is no definitive way to prove one way or another whether this viewpoint is historically accurate. The best that we can say is that Rome is a possible origin. If the Gospel was written by John Mark then it could have been written theoretically anywhere in the Mediterrannean area.

Outline

1:1 - Jesus as the Son of God

1:2-8:26 - Jesus the mysterious individual

Themes

The Secret

Mark is the Gospel of the secret in which Jesus is a mysterious being who only reveals His teachings to select individuals.

Radically, it is demonic forces who recognize His true identity as the Son of God. People, on the other hand, do not understand who He is. Mark slowly lets the reader know who Jesus is. It is only later in Mark 8:26ff (?) where Jesus reveals to the disciples who He truly is. Ironically, the Centurion Servant (Mark 15:39) recognizes that Jesus is the Son of God at His death.

The Suffering Servant

Mark portrays Jesus as the suffering servant most likely in fulfillment of the servant passages in Isaiah specifically Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The key theme verse in Mark is found in 10:45 which says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." 

The Gospel of Action

Mark frequently uses the terms "straightway" or "immediately" in reference to Jesus' actions (cf. Chapter 1).

The Gospel of Irony

As mentioned briefly above under "The Secret" theme Mark portrays Jesus as being understood by the most unlikely people of society. Instead of Jewish religious leaders understanding the identity of Jesus, it is a despised Roman Centurion who confesses first that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Jesus as the Son of God

The Gospel of Mark explicitly portrays Jesus as the Son of God to the readers (or listeners) who would have heard the Gospel when it was first written. The opening verse 1:1 states, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Demons first understand Jesus' identity. Later, the disciples understand that He is the Son of God. Jesus explicitly reveals to the Jewish religious authorities that He is the Son of God at his trial (Mark 14:62). Finally, a Roman Centurion confesses it (Mark 15:39).

The Ending of Mark

The Gospel of Mark originally ended at Mark 16:8. The main reasons scholars believe verses 9-20 were added later include the following. First, our earliest and best manuscripts do not include the later ending. The first manuscript that has verses 9-20 does not occur until the ? century. Second, the language of verses 9-20 are non-Markan. There are terms that sound like the Gospel of John including "believe," "condemned," etc. Third,   Verses 9-20 were added later by scribes in order to harmonize Mark with the other Gospels in the New Testament. It appears that these scribes read later stories in the New Testament about Paul, for example, picking up deadly serpents and added that reference back into Mark 16. Fourth, Mark's theme is the Messianic secret so it makes sense for the Gospel to end in verse 8 with the women fleeing and not telling anyone about the empty tomb yet. Mark is certainly aware that Jesus was resurrected, but His focus is on Jesus as the suffering servant whose glory is found at the cross where the centurion realizes that He is the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison
 
 
CARM.org
Copyright 2014

CONTACT US:
CARM Office number: 208-466-1301
Office hours: M-F; 9-5 pm; Mountain Time
Email: [email protected]
Mailing Address: CARM, PO BOX 1353, Nampa ID 83653