The Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark was written anonymously about 70 A.D. The title “The Gospel According to Mark” is not found in the earliest manuscripts. Mark’s name was not added to the manuscripts until the second century A.D., decades after the gospel was written. Most biblical scholars believe that Mark the assistant of Peter did not write the gospel. Although most biblical scholars do not believe that Mark wrote the gospel, they refer to the writer of this gospel as Mark for convenience.

Mark, like all the other New Testament writers, wrote in Koine (i.e. common) Greek, which is was the main written language of the eastern Roman Empire. Since the literacy rate was so low, almost all Christians heard texts read aloud. Mark’s Greek was somewhat mediocre.

Most scholars believe that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source for a lot of their stories about Jesus and when they incorporated material from Mark, they improved upon Mark’s grammar, as well made changes to suite their own particular theologies. (The issue of the relationships between the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is called the Synoptic Problem.)

The source for most of Mark’s stories about Jesus was oral tradition. In addition to writing down that oral tradition, Mark, like all the other gospel writers, interpreted those stories according to his own theology. Mark may have also used a written collection of Jesus’ miracles.

Mark was probably a Gentile (non-Jew), writing primarily to a Gentile audience. Mark gets confused about the geography of Palestine and has to explain Jewish customs to his listeners. He also has to explain the Aramaic words he uses, which suggests that the gospel was written outside of Palestine (Aramaic was the common language of Palestine and the language that Jesus, his followers, and most of his audiences spoke).

The Gospel of Mark is a very action packed gospel. Almost everything happens “immediately,” a word which is found frequently throughout the text. Jesus is primarily a healer in the Gospel of Mark and Mark does not contain as many of the teachings of Jesus as Matthew and Luke. In Mark, Jesus is the suffering Son of God, who was innocent of any wrongdoing, but was crucified anyway.

Another prominent theme of Mark is secrecy about Jesus true identity as the Messiah (often called the Messianic Secret). For example, Jesus gives secret teachings about himself and his death and resurrection to the disciples in private. He then tells them to keep secret what he revealed to them.

The Gospel of Mark does not have a story of the birth of Jesus (John does not have a birth story either, but Matthew and Luke do). Then comes the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Jesus teaches, heals, performs exorcisms, and does other miracles in Galilee.

Jesus then goes to Jerusalem where he teaches and predicts his death and resurrection. Next comes the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion (this story is often called the Passion Narrative).

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark show us that it did not originally have any stories of Jesus' resurrection. Mark originally ended at 6:8. The resurrection stories, which have a different style and vocabulary from the rest of Mark and seem to influenced by the resurrection stories from the other gospels, were added later.

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