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Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark is the second Gospel in the New Testament, though, based on the most commonly accepted solution to the synoptic problem, it is generally believed to have been the first to be written (Markan priority).

It was traditionally believed that the writer, known as Mark, derived his information mainly from the discourses of Peter, although the author is in fact unknown. According to the tradition, in his mother's house he would have abundant opportunities of obtaining information from the other apostles and their helpers, yet he was "the disciple and interpreter of Peter" specially. As to the time when it was written, the Gospel furnishes us with no definite information. Mark makes no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem, hence it must have been written before that event, and probably about A.D. 63. The place where it was written was probably Rome. Some have supposed Antioch (comp. Mark 15:21 with Acts 11:20).

The gospel of Mark was written primarily for an audience of Greek-speaking citizens of the Roman Empire. This appears probable when it is considered that it makes no reference to the Jewish law, and that the writer takes care to interpret Aramaic words and phrases which a Gentile would be likely to misunderstand, such as, "Boanerges" (3:17); "Talitha cumi" (5:41); "Corban" (7:11); "Bartimaeus" (10:46); "Abba" (14:36); "Eloi," etc. (15:34). Jewish usages are also explained (7:3; 14:3; 14:12; 15:42). Mark also uses certain Latin words not found in any of the other Gospels, as "speculator" (6:27, rendered, A.V., "executioner;" R.V., "soldier of his guard"), "xestes" (a corruption of sextarius, rendered "pots," 7:4, 8), "quadrans" (12:42, rendered "a farthing"), "centurion" (15:39, 44, 45). He only twice quotes from the Old Testament (1:2; 15:28).

The characteristics of this Gospel are,

  1. the absence of a genealogy for Jesus Christ,
  2. whom he represents as clothed with power, the "lion of the tribe of Judah."
  3. Mark also records with minuteness the very words (3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 14:36) as well as the position (9:35) and gestures (3:5, 34; 5:32; 9:36; 10:16) of Christ.
  4. He is also careful to record particulars of person (1:29, 36; 3:6, 22, etc.), number (5:13; 6:7, etc.), place (2:13; 4:1; 7:31, etc.), and time (1:35; 2:1; 4:35, etc.), which the other evangelists omit.
  5. The phrase "and straightway" occurs nearly forty times in this Gospel; while in Luke's Gospel, which is much longer, it is used only seven times, and in John only four times. In a more modern translation, this phrase would be stated as immediately or 'soon afterward'. It is this immediacy which makes the gospel "a transcript of life" according to Westcott[?].

In Mark we have no attempt to draw up a continuous narrative. His Gospel is a rapid succession of vivid pictures loosely strung together without much attempt to bind them into a whole or give the events in their natural sequence. This pictorial power is that which specially characterizes this evangelist, so that 'if any one desires to know an evangelical fact, not only in its main features and grand results, but also in its most minute and so to speak more graphic delineation, he must betake himself to Mark.'

The Gospel lacks some of the elements of the Gospel narratives found in the later Gospels. Mark makes no mention of a virgin birth, and there is some dispute among scholars as to whether the last 12 verses, which describe a resurrected Jesus, were actually part of the original Gospel, or if they were added on later. The oldest manuscripts do not contain these verses, suggesting that they were a later addition.

The leading principle running through this Gospel may be expressed in the motto: "Jesus came...preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Mark 1:14). Yet the Gospel also portrays Jesus as consistently attempting to hide his identity as the Messiah from the general public. This persistent theme is often referred to as the Messianic secret, and is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Mark in constrast with the other Gospels.

"Out of a total of 662 verses, Mark has 406 in common with Matthew and Luke, 145 with Matthew, 60 with Luke, and at most 51 peculiar to itself."

Critics charge that some of the passages about Jews in the New Testament have been used to promote and condone anti-Semitism.


See also: Mark 16 -- discussion of possible additions to the final chapter of Mark.



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