The Gospel of Mark
- Mark was probably a child or young teenager when Jesus was on his 3-year ministry.
- Mark was not an Apostle.
- The Last Supper was probably held at Mark's house. His mother, Mary, was most likely wealthy. (To read proof of the idea that the Last Supper was eaten in Mark's house, go here.)
- Mark was in the Garden when Jesus was arrested. (Mark 14:51, 52; this boy was probably Mark.)
- Mark knew and traveled with Paul and Peter.
- Mark was the secretary of Peter and wrote down what Peter remembered: this formed the Gospel of Mark.
- Later in life, Mark became the first Bishop of Alexandria (and the first bishop of Africa).
Place and Time of Writing
- Clement of Alexandria (150-215) wrote that Mark was written in Rome.
- Most scholars assign a date in the years 64-70. We will use the year 68.
- Mark is one of the Synoptic Gospels, along with Matthew and Luke.
- Mark was not an apostle. He got his information from Peter, who was one of the original Apostles.
- Peter and Paul probably died during the persecution of the Christians by Nero after the fire in Rome in 64. Mark may have witness one or both deaths.
- Extra: From Eusebius, an early church historian who lived in the 300's: "And the presbyter [who was the Apostle John] used to say this, 'Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed in order of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him, but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord's sayings, so that Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he head heard and to make no false statements in them.'"
- Mark is the shortest of the 4 Gospels.
- Matthew: 28 chapters
- Mark: 16
- Luke: 24
- John: 21
- Many scholars believe that Mark was probably the first Gospel written.
- Why? Think about this example: Suppose you were given a very important letter and told to copy it. Would you leave anything out? No. But if you had additional information, would you add it? Possibly. Therefore, the theory is that Mark wrote first, and then Matthew and Luke used Mark as an example and added information that they knew about. That would explain the connection between the three Gospels (similar stories and teachings) plus why Matthew and Luke are so much longer than Mark. Note: no one knows for certain, but this is a good guess.
- Gentiles (non-Jews). Mark was probably in Rome and the church members were mainly Gentile.
- Mark describes the mission of Jesus as Servant and Redeemer.
- Mark 10:45: "But even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many."
- Romans taught that people needed to serve and sacrifice to the gods. In return, the gods may or may not grant wishes.
- A short list of Roman gods: Jupiter/Zeus, Cupid, Mercury, Neptune/Poseidon, and Venus/Aphrodite.
- Mark showed that the true God is the opposite of this belief, instead God serves people who love him. Therefore Mark focused on showing Jesus serving people.
- To "redeem" something means to "bring it back."
- Mark showed that Jesus came to earth to bring people back to God. According the Garden of Eden story, people are separated from God and live lives of natural disobedience to God. Mark showed that God came to earth in the human form of Jesus in order to bring people back to God. Mark explained that it took someone who was totally innocent and perfect, Jesus, to bridge the gap between God and humanity. Jesus received the punishment that was meant for people because of their disobedience, and so died on the cross in their place. Therefore, Mark shows that by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice people can renew their relationship to God and be brought back to God.
Details about the Gospel of Mark
1. Jesus seems to be in a hurry
- Mark does not begin with a birth narrative, which Matthew and Luke have, but begins with the baptism of Jesus.
- Mark showed that Jesus was a Servant on the move. One Greek word used frequently in this Gospel is "euthus," which means "immediately." It appears more often in Mark, 42 times, than in any other book of the NT. Jesus is constantly on the move.
- Link that idea to the time when the Gospel was written: 68, when Israel and the Roman Empire were at war. Plus, the fire in Rome occurred just a couple of years before in 64 when Christians were persecuted and killed in the area around Rome. Peter and Paul were probably killed in the mid-60s, right after the fire in Rome. Therefore, Mark, realizing that he was in a time of war and that Christians who remembered Jesus were dying, decided to write a short biography of Jesus. After all, during a time of war, haste is needed.
- This also answers the question of why the Gospels were not written earlier, since Jesus died in 30 but the first Gospel (Mark) was not written until 68. As long as people were alive who knew and saw Jesus, a biography didn’t need to be written. But after many of those people died, the idea of a biography developed. For example, Mark traveled with Peter and Paul. Their deaths in the mid-60s might have caused him to realize that he needed to write a Gospel of Jesus soon.
2. Miracles are numerous in the Gospel of Mark
- The four Gospels have a total of 35 healing miracles. This does not mean that the four Gospels have only 35 healing miracles described, because the Synoptic Gospels repeat some miracles. But there are 35 different healing miracles in the four Gospels. A healing miracle is when Jesus healed someone or cast out a demon; for example, walking on water was not a healing miracle.
- Mark describes 18 out of the 35 healing miracles that Jesus performed, a higher percentage than any of the other Gospels.
- The four Gospels have a total of 7 nature miracles. These are miracles Jesus did that involved nature but not healing. An example would be walking on water.
- Mark describes 4 out of the 7 nature miracles that Jesus performed, a higher precentage than any of the other Gospels.
- Extra: Can you name the 7 nature miracles? To see if you are right, go here.
- But why does Mark contain so many miracles?
- Answer: because Mark was writing to Gentiles. Remember that Matthew wrote to Jews. In order to show Jews that Jesus was from God, Jews needed to see that Jesus was linked to Old Testament verses and prophecies. That was what was important to Jews.
- Gentiles did not care about the Old Testament prophecies. What interested Gentiles? To hear about Jesus performing many miracles. Remember that most Gentiles of that day worshipped Roman gods, and they believed that the Roman gods also performed miracles. But in order to get a Roman god to do a miracle for you, you had to worship, beg, and offer sacrifices. Instead, Mark wanted to show that God loves to help and serve people, and the best way to show that is to show Jesus performing miracles just because he cared about people. The people Jesus healed did not have to sacrifice, etc., Jesus healed because he loved people.
Timeline up to the Gospel of Mark
|63 B.C.||Romans conquer Israel.|
|27 B.C.||Pax Romana began and lasted until 180.|
|4 B.C.||Jesus born.|
|All dates after this are A.D. ["c." means "about"]|
|c.30||Jesus crucified, buried, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven.|
|64||Fire in Rome and Christians persecuted by Emperor Nero; Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded.|
|c.67||Gospel of Mark written.|
|70||Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Romans (it has not been rebuilt).|
|c.80||Gospel of Matthew written.|
|95||Persecution by Emperor Domitian; Apostle John exiled on island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation.|
|96||Emperor Domitian died; Apostle John probably moved to Ephesus.|
|c.100||Apostle John died; he was the last Apostle to die.|
|390's||NT canon "closed" at Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).|
|1200's||Chapters added to the NT.|
|1500's||Verses added to the NT.|
©2012, 2018 Mark Nickens