The Gospel of Mark is the second of the four gospels in the New Testament, written by John Mark to Gentile Christians in Rome as an evangelism and discipleship manual. It recounts many of the events of Jesus' life in narrative fashion and focuses significant attention on the final week of His passion in Jerusalem.

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Author

Strictly speaking, the work is anonymous, in that no claim of authorship is inherently made within the letter itself. However, there is evidence both in Scripture and in history to support John Mark, cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), early traveling companion of Paul (Acts 12:25), and spiritual son of Peter (I Peter 5:13) as the author of the gospel.

Internal Evidence

The non-literary writing style and syntactical features probably indicate that the author's first language was not Greek, but rather a Semitic language such as Aramaic ^[1]^. The author also includes vivid details that are unnecessary to the flow of the narrative, an indication that the author is writing from eyewitness accounts ^[2]^. These factors can be interpreted as consistent with the traditional view that Mark, a Palestinian Jew, wrote the gospel using Peter as his source.

External Evidence

The internal evidence is corroborated by early attestations, including an ancient caption ("according to Mark"), and testimony by Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen ^[3]^. The nearly universal acceptance of Mark as the author of the gospel in light of the fact that he was neither an apostle nor a hero in the first century church lends credence to the validity of the traditional claim that John Mark wrote the gospel which bears his name.

Audience

Internal Evidence

The explanation of Jewish customs (e.g., 7:3; 14:12; 15:42) and the translation of Aramaic expressions into Greek (e.g., 3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 9:43; 10:46; 14:36; 15:22, 34) indicate that they probably were not Aramaic-speaking Jews (Wallace, 1998). Referring to four watches of the night (6:48; 13:35), Mark also employs a Roman system of time instead of the traditional Jewish three ^[4]^. The inclusion of transliterated Latin terms in reference to the military (e.g. legion in 5:9; praetorium in 15:16; centurion in 15:39), the courts (e.g. speculator in 6:27; flagellare in 15:15), and commerce (e.g. denarius in 12:15; quadrans in 12:42) implies a Roman destination, as Latin speakers would have been found most readily there ^[5]^. Additionally, it is likely that the identification of Alexander and Rufus as the sons of Simon the Cyrene (15:21) is because these men were known to Mark's intended recipients -- Roman Christians (Romans 16:13).

External Evidence

There is also substantial external, direct evidence to suggest that the intended readers were Roman Christians. Peter and Mark are believed to have been together in Rome (2 Timothy 4:11, 1 Peter 5:13) where Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus locate the writing of the gospel ^[6]^. Eusebius also claims that Papias wrote that Mark composed his gospel for Peter's hearers in Rome ^[7]^. Though it is impossible to be sure about the composition date, evidence points to the latter part of the seventh decade, likely after Peter's martyrdom in AD 64, but probably before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 ^[8]^. If he wrote in Rome, either while there with Peter, or perhaps shortly after Peter's death, then Mark probably was writing for the Roman Christians, and possibly to address the crisis in the church around the intense persecution that was beginning to be directed at them during this time.

Purpose

According to the apostle Paul, every word of Scripture is inspired and "is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). It follows that God would have caused Mark to write a narrative not merely to chronicle a series of events, but rather to build a theological argument allowing the man of God to "be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17). Two of the other gospel writers elucidate their reasons explicitly within their text -- Luke states his intent "to write an orderly account" that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:3-4), and John explains that "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31). Mark, however leaves only implicit clues as to his main purpose for writing.

Mark's gospel is characterized by action, vividly portraying the non-stop work of Jesus, making frequent use the Greek adverb meaning immediately or straightway and the conjunction translated as and, also, or even to tie events together, and giving miracles a prominent place in the record ^[9]^. His abundant use of the historical present tense, peppered with many personal touches, leaves the impression that the story is unfolding before the reader's eyes. Mark is careful not only to record the human emotions of Jesus - compassion (1:41, 6:34, 8:2), sighing (7:34; 8:12), indignation (3:5; 10:14), and distress (14:33-34) - but to pay attention to reactions of people around Him - amazement (1:27), criticism (2:7), fear (4:41), astonishment (7:37), and bitter hatred (14:1). He also documents over a hundred different questions, many of them asked of Jesus and even more asked by Him. After inquiring about others' opinion He asks, "But who do you say that I am?" (8:27). It could be said that Mark wrote his gospel to invoke a response from his readers to this most important question of all.

Mark thrusts his theological premise before his readers in the very first verse, declaring it to be the beginning, origin, or basis of the gospel, asserting that Jesus is not just the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, but the very Son of God. He then portrays Jesus as a sympathetic man, identifying with men, demonstrating compassion for them, and sharing their sufferings. The author devotes a significant portion of his text to the mutually supporting ministries of service and suffering. Two pivotal verses serve as bookends to the central section of the book in which Jesus first lays down the demanding standard of discipleship: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (8:34). He wraps up a series of three passion predictions by reasserting the standard with Himself as the model: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (10:45).

Through his candidly persuasive writing style, his deeply provocative questions, and his dramatic portrayal of the Suffering Servant, Mark leaves little room for the reader to miss his point. His Gentile audience in Rome would no doubt have identified with the themes he develops, being drawn into the story and forced to draw a conclusion about Jesus. If they agreed with their countryman who declared at the foot of the cross, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (15:39), they would then need to determine what to do with Him. Much more than a rudimentary recounting of the events surrounding Jesus, Mark's gospel can be seen as a clarion call for evangelism and discipleship. The argument of the book will therefore be traced to follow his purpose: Mark discloses the Son of Man as a compassionate savior through His acts of service and acts of suffering to summon unbelievers to become disciples and so that believers would understand what it means to be committed followers of Jesus.

Outline

I. Jesus is identified (1:1 - 1:13)

A. By the testimony of others (1:1 - 1:8) B. By His own witness (1:9 - 1:13)

II. Jesus ministers in Galilee (1:14 - 4:34)

A. Discipleship call #1 / Growing Popularity (1:14 - 2:12) B. Discipleship call #2 / Growing Opposition (2:13 - 3:30) C. Discipleship call #3 / Teaching in Parables (3:31 - 4:34)

III. Jesus begins to withdraw from Galilee (4:35 - 8:26)

A. Boat episode #1 - Ignorance / Ministry on the other side of the sea (4:35 - 5:34) B. Boat episode #2 - Cowardice / Withdrawal #1 - Ministry to the Jews (6:7 - 7:23) C. Boat episode #3 - Blindness / Withdrawal #2 - Ministry to the Gentiles (7:24 - 8:26)

IV. Jesus begins the journey to Jerusalem (8:27 - 10:52)

A. Passion prediction #1 (8:27 - 9:29) B. Passion prediction #2 (9:30 - 10:31) C. Passion prediction #3 (10:32 - 10:52)

V. Ministry in Jerusalem (11:1 - 13:37)

A. Jesus presented to unbelieving Israel (11:1 - 11:11) B. Jesus judges unbelieving Israel (11:12 - 11:25) C. Jesus rejected by unbelieving Israel (11:27 - 12:44) D. The Olivet Discourse (13:1 - 37)

VI. The Passion Narrative (14:1 - 16:8)

A. Final acts of service in preparation for suffering (14:1 - 14:42) B. Jesus is handed over to suffer at the hand of the Jews (14:43 - 14:72) C. Jesus is handed over to suffer at the hand of the Romans (15:1 - 15:32) D. Death, Burial & Resurrection (15:33 - 16:8)

VII. The Disputed Epilogue (16:9 - 16:20)

References

  1. ? Smith, B.D. The gospel of Mark. [1]
  2. ? Lane, W.L. (1974). The gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans
  3. ? Walvoord, J.F. & Zuck, R.B. (1983). The Bible knowledge commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
  4. ? Walvoord, J.F. & Zuck, R.B. (1983). The Bible knowledge commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
  5. ? Lane, W.L. (1974). The gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans
  6. ? Gæbelein, F.E. (2006). The expositor's Bible commentary, volume 8. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
  7. ? Smith, B.D. The gospel of Mark. [2]
  8. ? Gæbelein, F.E. (2006). The expositor's Bible commentary, volume 8. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
  9. ? Hiebert, D.E. (1994). The gospel of Mark: an expositional commentary. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press

Selected bibliography

  • Cole, R.A. (1977). The gospel according to St. Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Gæbelein, F.E. (2006). The expositor's Bible commentary, volume 8. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
  • Hiebert, D.E. (1994). The gospel of Mark: an expositional commentary. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press
  • Lane, W.L. (1974). The gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Miller, J. The journey: chronicles of a follower of Christ. [3]
  • Pentecost, J.D. (1981). The words and works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
  • Smith, B.D. The gospel of Mark. [4]
  • Thomas, R.L. (1978). A harmony of the gospels. Chicago: Moody Press
  • Walvoord, J.F. & Zuck, R.B. (1983). The Bible knowledge commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
  • Wiersbe, W.W. (1989). The Bible exposition commentary, volume 1. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

See also

External links

Online commentaries