Mark’s Gospel: Author, Audience, and Interpretation

Subject: Religion
Pages: 5
Words: 1239
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor

The Gospel of Mark: General Information

The Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels and was most likely written in Rome around AD 70. It is known from the Epistles that Mark wrote it for Gentile Christians. This is evident because there are few references to Jewish law and the Old Testament but many explanations of the meaning of Jewish words and customs. The gospel style indicates that Mark received his information firsthand from an eyewitness, most likely the Apostle Peter. Mark’s gospel recounts the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ dynamically, often focusing on the Savior’s spectacular actions. The most important is the Atonement, which Mark speaks of as the central event of Jesus’ mission as the long-promised Messiah.

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The Author of the Gospel

The author of this book is Mark, also known as John Mark. Although Mark was not one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ, he was later converted and became an assistant to the Apostle Peter. Mark and his mother, Mary, lived in Jerusalem, their home being a gathering place for some of the first Christians. He left Jerusalem to assist Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. Paul later wrote that Mark was with him in Rome, and they developed a strong relationship. A common view is that the author of the Gospel was not the apostle’s secretary. After a careful analysis of the text, it became clear to many theologians that he was not very familiar with the way of thinking about Peter.

Who is This Book Written for and Why?

The Gospel of Mark contains detailed information such as translations of quotations in Aramaic, expressions in Latin, and explanations of Jewish traditions. It was probably intended for Romans and other non-Jewish peoples and those who had converted to Christianity, most likely in Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. One-third of Mark’s Gospel recounts the Savior’s teachings and what happened to him during the last week of his life. Mark brought testimony that the sufferings of the Son of God ultimately triumphed over evil, sin, and death. This gives followers the encouragement of confidence that the Lord will help them and that his promises will come true.

What Are Some Distinctive Features of This Gospel?

Mark’s gospel begins abruptly and dramatically, maintaining a rapid pace of accounts of events occurring one after the other. Mark often uses words that give the impression of rapid pace and movement. More than 90 percent of the content in Mark’s Gospel can also be found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. However, Mark’s writing often includes additional information that helps people appreciate more fully the compassion of the Savior and the reactions of those around Him. Important themes in Mark’s Gospel include questions about who Jesus was and who understood his nature, as well as the role of the disciple.

A Comparison with the Other Gospels

Compared to the other New Testament texts, the evidence for Mark’s Gospel is few and mostly sketchy. The state of the text itself also raises a host of questions. In fact, the title and prologue in the traditional sense of ancient literature are missing. The ending of the text is also obviously damaged. Mark’s Gospel lacks the narrative of the birth of the Savior, the nativity narrative that Matthew and Luke have. The text immediately begins with Jesus going out to preach, which begs the question of the extent to which Mark, the evangelist, shared orthodox Christology. Compared to the more complex, developed, more grammatically correct Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Mark’s book appears to be clearly one of the first Gospels.

The Place Where the Gospel Was Written

Regarding the place of writing, along with many Arameanisms, the Gospel of Mark also contains many Latinisms, which distinguishes it from the other synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. Certainly, some say that Roman authority was already quite entrenched in Palestine, and so the common person living there, the peasant, was exposed to this Latin influence in one way or another. And especially when it came to the realities of Roman administration, he used these terms. But in reality, it is not only individual Latin words that were borrowed by the evangelist, who wrote in Greek, but also the tracing of entire phraseological expressions. This indicates a close connection between the appearance of Mark’s Gospel and the circumstances of the conflict in Rome between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

The Structure and the Content

Mark’s Gospel is divided into two parts, separated by the central event of the apostle Peter’s confession of Jesus Christ. In the first part, which is set in Galilee, the main theme is the question of who Jesus is. The second, in turn, takes place on the road to Jerusalem and Jerusalem itself. The central theme is the death of the Messiah as the fulfillment of the divine plan of salvation (Branscomb, 1967). Some scholars see a chiastic structure in Mark’s Gospel, comparing the beginning of the Gospel, which emphasizes the divine revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, with the end of the Gospel, where the risen Jesus ascends to the Father.

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Place in the Canon and History of Interpretation

The Gospel of Mark was perceived in the early Church as proclaiming the teachings of Peter, but this did not give it an advantage over the other canonical Gospels. Moreover, judging from the number of extant papyri and quotations from early Christian writers, this Gospel might have been lost if it had not become part of the Four Gospels. Probably the reason was that Matthew the evangelist did not simply include Mark’s text as one of the sources of his Gospel. However, he did so intending to replace the entire text of the 2nd Gospel with a new text that more fully revealed the Good News. Therefore, since the 2nd century, it has been traced that although Mark’s Gospel is widely known, everyone prefers to cite the other canonical Gospels.

In general, the Gospel of Mark was hardly studied or engaged in biblical scholarship until the reconstructed text of Westcott and Hort, based on the Vatican Codex. Until that time, most scholars relied on the Byzantine text. In the latter, the Gospel of Mark is harmonized as much as possible with Matthew and Luke, and so all the unique, distinctive features have been rather obscured. So this archaic, primordial nature of many aspects of Mark’s Gospel was not so obvious. That is, it was actually lost against the background of the other Gospels. Of course, Mark’s Gospel was at the forefront of scholarly critical biblical scholarship in the twentieth century. Most of the work, in one way or another, was concerned with this text.

Mark’s Gospel Summary

Thus, the Gospel of Mark is the shortest and earliest. It was written before the other Gospels, and its text was used in writing the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This text was intended for a Gentile audience; it does not contain much speech. The sermons and parables also take up less space in it. The miracles and healings that Jesus performed are constantly mentioned. Jesus’ disciples are presented in Mark’s Gospel as the community that, after the Savior’s death and resurrection, will change the world by preaching the risen Lord throughout the world (Branscomb, 1967). However, the author emphasizes their human frailty and constant misunderstanding of the depths of His preaching.

References

Branscomb, B. H. (1967). The Gospel of Mark. Hodder and Stoughton.

All Saints’ Church of Belmont. (2018). The Synoptic Gospels.

Fairchild, M. (2019). Introduction to the Gospel of Mark. Learn Religions.