Gospel of Mark

My wife is having some friends over to discuss The Gospel of Mark so it behooves me to take some notes here:

The very FIRST portion of the New Testament was Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians written in 52 C.E.

The Gospel of Mark was the first canonical gospel written as early as the mid 50’s or as late as 70 CE, after the failure of the First Jewish Revolt and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple at the hands of the Romans. That destruction shapes how Mark tells his story.


Before the first gospel was written (Mark, c 65-70), Paul the Apostle used the term εὐαγγέλιον gospel when he reminded the people of the church at Corinth “of the gospel I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15.1). Paul stated that they were being saved by the gospel, and he characterized it in the simplest terms, emphasizing Christ’s appearances after the Resurrection (15.3 – 8):

…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried; and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; And that he was seen of Cephas; then of the Twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once: of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some have fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. Last of all, he was seen of me also, as one born out of due time.

Εὐαγγέλιον in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament occurs only in the plural, and perhaps only in the classical sense of ‘a reward for good tidings’ (2 Sam 4:10 [also 18:20, 18:22, 18:25-27, 2 Kings 7:9])

These first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are called the synoptic gospels because they share similar incidents, teachings, and even much language.

Irenaeus declared that the four he espoused were the four “Pillars of the Church”: “it is not possible that there can be either more or fewer than four” he stated, presenting as logic the analogy of the four corners of the earth and the four winds (3.11.8). His image, taken from Ezekiel 1, or Revelation 4:6-10, of God’s throne borne by four creatures with four faces—”the four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and the four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle”—equivalent to the “four-formed” gospel, is the origin of the conventional symbols of the Evangelists: lion, bull, eagle, man. Irenaeus was ultimately successful in declaring that the four gospels collectively, and exclusively these four, contained the truth. By reading each gospel in light of the others, Irenaeus made of John a lens through which to read Matthew, Mark and Luke.


Estimates for the dates when the canonical gospel accounts were written vary significantly; and the evidence for any of the dates is scanty. Because the earliest surviving complete copies of the gospels date to the 4th century and because only fragments and quotations exist before that, scholars use higher criticism to propose likely ranges of dates for the original gospel autographs. Scholars variously assess the majority (though not the consensus [13]) view as follows:
Mark: c. 68–73,[14] c 65-70[3]
Matthew: c. 70–100.[14] c 80-85.[3] Some conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, particularly those that do not accept Mark as the first gospel written.
Luke: c. 80–100, with most arguing for somewhere around 85,[14], c 80-85[3]
John: c 90-100,[3] c. 90–110,[15] The majority view is that it was written in stages, so there was no one date of composition.

Matthew was probably written in Syria, perhaps in Antioch,[3] an ancient Christian center. Mark has traditionally been associated with Peter’s preaching in Rome, and it is well-suited to a Roman audience.[3] Various cities have been proposed for the origin of Luke, but there is no consensus on the matter. Ephesus, in Western Anatolia, is a popular scholarly choice for the place of origin for the Gospel of John.


There are several indications that this Gospel was written by a very young eyewitness. Unlike the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of Mark has very few economic parables that mean more to adults than to children. The accounts that Mark does include are those making a bigger impression on a child, such as the multiplication of the loaves (which Mark references twice).

Mark is also briefer than the others, and more focused on suffering and loss. Mark does not describe appearances by Jesus after the Resurrection, which again suggests authorship by a child who was not present with the older Apostles when Jesus appeared at their meetings. Mark’s writing style is simple and vivid, and has repetition that one expects from a child. Peter referred to Mark as his son (1 Peter 5:13), and once Paul became disillusioned at Mark’s impulsive return back to Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Mark was the first to circulate, which again suggests it was written by a young, less discretionary author rather than a cautious adult.

Most telling about the likely young authorship of the Gospel of mark is this unique description that appears only at Mark 14:51-52:

And there followed [Jesus during his arrest] a certain young man having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him; and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
Modern scholarship points out that this unusual description of a “certain” young man was most likely a personal admission. It is also possible that Mark was the child brought by Jesus before the other Apostles in order to make a point about humility and open-mindedness towards the Lord:

Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Mark doesn’t mention certain events mentioned by the other synoptic gospels. The genealogies, the birth story of Jesus, the birth story of John the Baptist, are all EXCLUDED in order to get right into the adult stage, beginning with John the Baptist preparing the way for the savior. Mark is much more concerned with Christ’s acts than with His teachings.

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