Should We Follow The Gospel? Reading Mark

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WHO IS MARK?

According to tradition, the author, Mark is not an apostle himself. Not one of the original disciples, but rather the follower of one of them. Traditionally, he's supposed to be the disciple of Peter .... We don't know exactly where this Mark was or where he actually wrote. However, tradition places him at Rome, but one more tradition also has him located at Alexandria, and it may be the case that the story that we call Mark's gospel, which supposedly derived from Peter, is also an example of this passing on of an oral tradition. It owes its history to Mark, whether Mark is the person who actually wrote it down or not.

SIGNIFICANCE OF MARK

Why is the Gospel of Mark important, in early Christianity?

Mark's is the first of the written gospels. It's really the one that establishes... the life of Jesus as a story form. It develops a narrative from his early career, through ...the main points of his life and culminat[es] in his death. And, as such, it sets the pattern for all the later gospel traditions. We know that both Matthew and Luke used Mark, as a source in their composition and it's also probable that even John knew something of Mark in tradition. So, Mark is really the one that sets the stage for all the later Christian gospel writings.

The Gospel According to Mark (Greek: τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον, to kata Markon euangelion), the second book of the New Testament, is one of the four canonical gospels and the three synoptic gospels. It was traditionally thought to be an epitome (summary) of Matthew, which accounts for its place as the second gospel in the Bible, but most scholars now regard it as the earliest of the gospels.[1][2] Most modern scholars reject the tradition which ascribes it to Mark the Evangelist, the companion of Peter, and regard it as the work of an unknown author working with various sources including collections of miracle stories, controversy stories, parables, and a passion narrative.[3]

Mark tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb – there is no genealogy or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, healer and miracle worker. Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret, concealing it in parables so that even the disciples fail to understand. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as Suffering Servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.[4]

Date of Composition

The majority of scholarship places Mark's Gospel as the first to be composed. In order to properly date the Gospel it is important to consider the dating timeframe of all the Synoptics. If Luke is considered to be the latest of the Gospels, then it is important to date his Gospel first. The dating of Luke first depends on the dating of Acts which succeeds Luke (cf. Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1). Because the book of Acts has an abrupt ending with Paul waiting to go before Caesar, the best explanation is that Luke wrote it up to the events that had taken place. This would place the composition of Acts in the early Sixties. With this in mind, Luke could be placed in the late Fifties to early Sixties, Matthew in the mid to late Fifties, and Mark in the early to mid Fifties. These dates are debatable and have a certain degree of elasticity to them, but for the stated reasons they seem the most likely to the present author.

Location, Purpose and Audience

Unlike the date of the Gospel, there is considerable agreement (even amongst the church fathers) as to the location from which John Mark composed his Gospel. Rome is usually named as both the city from which Mark wrote his Gospel and the church to whom it was originally intended. Many scholars also conclude that Mark's presence in "Babylon" suggests that he was in Rome with Peter (1 Pet 5:13). Papias plainly states that "Peter mentions Mark in his first Epistle, and that he composed this [Gospel] in Rome itself." Clement of Alexandria also associates Mark with Peter in Rome. Mark's usage of Latin words may also help to support the idea of Roman composition (e.g. khnoV = census 12:14; fragelloun = flagellare 15:15). The Rufus in 15:21 is often connected with the Rufus in Rome (Rom 16:13). Lastly, Mark also explains certain Aramaic words or phrases which the Romans would not have naturally been able to understand. Curated from The Gospel of Mark.

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