Know Your Bible: Gospel of Mark

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The Gospel of Mark is all about action. Like all the other gospels of the Bible, it goes through Jesus' life and death, but it also offers something a little different. It has its own lessons to teach us about Jesus, why he is important, and how he relates to our lives.

Who Is Mark?

First, it should be noted that the book of Mark does not necessarily have an attributed author. In the second century, the authorship of the book started being attributed to John Mark. Still, some biblical scholars believe the author is still unknown and that the book was written about CE 70.

But who was John Mark? It is believed that Mark had the Hebrew name of John and was referred to by his Latin name, Mark. He was the son of Mary. (See Acts 12:12.) It is believed he was a disciple of Peter who recorded everything he heard and saw.

What Is the Gospel of Mark?

It is widely believed that the Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the four Gospels (Matthew, Luke, and John are the others) and provides a great deal of historical reference regarding Jesus' adult life. The Gospel of Mark is also the shortest of the four gospels. He tends to write very much to the point without a lot of extraneous stories or exposition.

It is believed that Mark wrote the gospel with the intended audience being Greek-speaking residents of the Roman Empire or any gentiles. The reason many biblical scholars believe that he had a gentile audience was due to how he explained the Jewish traditions or stories from the Old Testament. If his audience had been Jewish, he would not have needed to explain anything about Judaism for readers to understand what was happening.

The Gospel of Mark tends to focus most on the adult life of Jesus, mainly on his life and ministry. Mark sought to prove the fulfillment of prophecy and that Jesus was the Messiah predicted throughout the Old Testament. He purposely described how Jesus was the Son of God by showing that Jesus lived a life free of sin. Mark also described a number of the miracles of Jesus, showing that he had power over nature. Yet, it was not only Jesus' power over nature that Mark focused on but also the miracle of Jesus' resurrection (or power over death).

There is some debate as to the authenticity of the end of the Gospel of Mark, as the way the book is written after Mark 16:8 seems to change, and Mark 16:9–19 "is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark," notes scholar James Tabor. Over the centuries, Tabor wrote, copyists and editors tried to remedy the lack of post-Resurrection sightings of Jesus in Mark by adding to it, by taking pieces of the other three gospels, and some of the additions have remained. It is believed by some that the last writings of the book may have been lost.

How Is the Gospel of Mark Different?

There are actually many differences between the Gospel of Mark and the other three books. For instance, Mark leaves out a number of stories that are reiterated throughout Matthew, Luke, and John, such as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' birth, his appearance after the discovery of the empty tomb, and a number of the parables we know and love.

Another area characteristic of the Gospel of Mark is that he focuses more on how Jesus kept his identity as Messiah secret. Each of the gospels mentions this aspect of Jesus' ministry, but Mark focuses on it far more than the other gospels. Part of the reason for presenting Jesus as such a mysterious figure is so that we can understand him better and that we don't just see him as a miracle-maker. Mark felt it was important that we understand what the disciples missed and learn from them.

Mark is also the only gospel in which Jesus admits outright that he does not know when the world will end. However, Jesus does predict the destruction of the Temple, which adds to evidence that Mark is the oldest of the gospels. Other evidence includes the fact that it's the roughest in literary style (when comparing gospels in the old Greek) and through an examination of the stories that are in common throughout the gospels to determine who borrowed from whom.

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Your Citation
Mahoney, Kelli. "Know Your Bible: Gospel of Mark." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Mahoney, Kelli. (2023, April 5). Know Your Bible: Gospel of Mark. Retrieved from Mahoney, Kelli. "Know Your Bible: Gospel of Mark." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).