Background on the Gospel of Mark


The Gospel of Mark is attributed to Mark, also known as John Mark. We say attributed because the all of the gospels were written anonymously– the authors did not identify themselves; at least not explicitly.  Mark was always believed to be the author of this Gospel, and there are few, if any challenges to this statement. The Gospel of Mark was never a controversial gospel. The early church fathers accepted the Gospel as legitimate and there was no argument about including it in the canon. This means that no one doubted that it was an authentic account of the life of Jesus Christ.

Mark was a disciple of Peter, and was active in the early church. When Peter was miraculously freed from prison, he ran to the house of Mark’s mother, where Christians had gathered to pray (Acts 12:2). While Mark was not one of the “twelve”, the Apostle Peter led Mark to his conversion to Christianity, as he called Mark his spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13), and Mark used Peter’s teachings as a source for his Gospel. Mark was also a cousin of the early church disciple Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and accompanied both Paul and Barnabas on missions. Mark’s decision not to continue on with Barnabas and Paul on their first mission caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas, as Paul refused to take John Mark on a second missionary journey (Acts 15:37-39). However, the relationship between Paul and Mark was evidently repaired as he is noted to be with an imprisoned Paul (Col. 4:10), and In Paul’s final letter, before he was executed, he asked Timothy to send Mark to him (2Tim. 4:11).

Mark is the oldest of the Gospels, with scholars generally suggesting a date between 60 and 70 A.D. Some scholars date it back to 50 A.D., which would bring it  within a remarkable 20 years of Christ’s death and resurrection, which occurred in 33 A.D.  The next oldest Gospel would be the Gospel of Matthew, written in 70 A.D.

Mark is also the shortest of the gospels. Despite its brevity, being a mere sixteen chapters containing only 678 verses, the Gospel of Mark does not lack in character, detail, emotion, or truth when it comes to proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Gospel of Mark is a bright light of its own, and there are several attributes that illustrate it has a special purpose. The Gospel would later serve as a source for both Luke and Matthew as they composed their own Gospels.

Mark’s Gospel was written with the Gentile audience in mind. Mark wants to be sure those without a knowledge of Jewish traditions and background would understand the good news about Jesus. For instance, Mark does not include a genealogy, as it would not have been of interest to the Gentiles. He also explains Jewish customs (7:2-4; 15:42) and translated Aramaic words (3:17; 5:41; 7:11,34; 15:22,34). He would have learned and understood this style from his work with Paul and Peter.

In Mark, Jesus is a servant of divine authority.  Mark’s Gospel is an action-driven. It focuses  on the public ministry of Christ, more on what Christ did than what he said. It describes Christ as a teacher, a preacher, a healer, and a savior. The fast paced activity results in an imminent meeting with the cross for both Christ and the audience, where we must ask ourselves what we believe.




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