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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New TestamentBengel's Gnomon

Book Overview - Mark

by Arend Remmers

Author and Time of Writing

Only one man in the New Testament bears the name of Mark. Since the 2nd century the Gospel according to Mark has been attributed to him. This Mark who was properly called John (and 'surnamed' Mark) was the son of a certain Mary who owned a house in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). This is the house where Peter went to when he was freed from prison. John Mark was also a nephew (or cousin) of Barnabas, who at times was a companion of the Apostle Paul (Colossians 4:10). Paul and Barnabas took John Mark with them as a servant during their first mission journey (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5). But Mark, probably still a young man, departed from them in Perga and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). When Barnabas wanted to take his relative with him for the second journey, Paul did not want to take him. This caused a separation (Acts 15:37-39). Only about 12 years later Mark's name reappears in the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24). We find him now in Rome - with the arrested Paul. In the Second Epistle to Timothy, shortly before his death, Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him who now was a useful servant (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark is also mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13. Here Peter calls him his son. This is probably to indicate the close spiritual relationship with Mark.

It was not only Paul who was very close to Mark but also Peter. According to very old traditions Mark is supposed to have written his gospel based on sermons and communications which Peter gave in Rome for the believers there. Up to the very day this thesis is partially based on the usage of divers Latin words, the habit to explain Jewish terms, the rare references to Old Testament passages and the poignant and lively style. To rightly divide this gospel, however, it is not necessary to know these traditions. Instead, the profound occupation with the contents and structure of this Bible book - inspired by the Holy Spirit - is essential.

It is not possible to determine precisely the time of writing of this gospel. The scientists' views vary between 55 and 70 AC.

Subject and Purpose of Writing

The Gospel according to Mark is the shortest gospel and in presentation the most dense one. Mark does not so much describe the teachings but more the actions of the Lord Jesus. Very often Mark uses the present time in his accounts instead of the past time. The word "and" (Greek: euthys) is very striking and appears more than forty times. Neither the genealogy nor the birth of Jesus are mentioned. In the very first chapter Mark starts his account of the Lord Jesus' ministry.

The Lord Jesus retires into a quiet place much more frequently than is mentioned in the other gospels (Mark 1:12; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:31; Mark 6:46; Mark 7:17; Mark 7:24; Mark 9:2; Mark 11:19). Mark mentions particularly often that the Lord Jesus did not want his actions to be made public (Mark 1:34; Mark 1:44; Mark 3:12; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:26; Mark 8:30; Mark 9:9; Mark 9:30).

The disciples do not once call Jesus "Lord" and he is called "Christ" (Anointed One) seven times only.

All these peculiarities show that the subject of this gospel is to present Christ as God's servant. He was not only the promised king of Israel as in Matthew's gospel but also the true servant of the Lord (compare Is. 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 52:13-15; Zechariah 3:8). According to his own words he has not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

But the Lord Jesus is also presented as the true prophet in the Gospel of Mark (compare Deuteronomy 18:15). As such He announced the good tidings of God, the gospel. This key word appears eight times in Mark, four times in Matthew and not at all in Luke (except for the Greek verb "evangelize") and neither in John. In Mark 1:38 the Lord Jesus explains with authority what His ministry was: announcing the Word of God as prophet: "Let us go into the next towns that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth."

God's servant is also the suffering servant. The report of the Lord's suffering and death occupies a relatively large place in respect to the length of the gospel. Four times the Lord Jesus announces His coming sufferings to his disciples: Mark 8:31; Mark 9:12; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:32-34.

As can seen from the "Overview over the four Gospels" Mark, in contrast to the two other synoptic gospels, tends to report events in chronological order.


Peculiar Things of the Gospel of Mark

Although Mark wrote the shortest gospel he reports facts which do not appear in the other gospels. Of these the following are to be mentioned especially:

Two Miracles

• The Deaf Man with an Impediment in Speech (Mark 7:31-37)

• The Blind Man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)

Two Parables

• The Seed growing by itself (Mark 4:26-29)

• Call to Watchfulness (Mark 13:34-37)

The Person of Mark

Mark was an unfaithful servant during his youth. And yet the Lord gave him the task to write on his life as the faithful Servant of God.

It is Mark only who tells us of the young man who followed the Lord Jesus when He was arrested and who fled naked from them when they laid hold on him (chap. 14:51-52). Based on an old tradition it is assumed that this young man was Mark himself.

The End of the Gospel of Mark

Much has been written concerning the last verses of the gospel (chap. 16:9-20), the reason being that they are missing in some of the old Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus). Other manuscripts, again, contain a shorter version. The editors of the scientific edition of the Greek NT (Nestle-Aland) do list verses 9 to 20 but they list the verses in double brackets, which means that they are very old but not considered to be original by the editors. As these verses are contained in most of the Greek manuscripts and old translations there is little doubt that the paragraph predates the manuscripts which omit or question it. The various scientists who do not consider the paragraph as original try to defend this opinion by advancing arguments to do with the style and contents of this passage. In my view, however, these have been contradicted sufficiently in the 19th century, amongst others, by H. Olshausen, J.P. Lange, J.W. Burgon, C.F. Keil and W. Kelly and in more recent times by W.R. Farmer and J. van Bruggen.

Overview of Contents

I. Mark 1:1-13 Introduction: the Coming of the Servant of God

II. Mark 1:14-45; Mark 2; Mark 3:1-6 Beginning of His Ministry in Galilee



Jesus' Baptism; Calling of First Disciples and First Deeds



Healings and Questions of the Pharisees

III. Mark 3:7-35; Mark 4-10 Main Part: Ministry of the Servant and Prophet of God



Healings and Discourses



Various Parables; Calming of the Storm



Healing of the Man with an Unclean Spirit and of the

Woman with Issue of Blood;

Resurrection of Jairus' Daughter



Sending Forth of the Twelve Disciples;

Death of John the Baptist;

Feeding of the 5 ,000;

Jesus on the Lake



Jesus Admonishes the Pharisees;

Healing of the Daughter of the Syrophenician Woman, and

The Deaf Man with a Speech Impediment



Feeding of the 4 ,000;

Warning against the Leaven;

The Blind Man in Bethsaida;

Testimony of Peter and First Announcement of His Sufferings



Glorification of Jesus;

Powerlessness of the Disciples Speech on Humility and Forgiveness



On Divorce; the Rich Young Man; Bartimaeus

IV. Mark 11-15 End of His Service in Jerusalem



Entering Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple;

The Unfruitful Fig Tree



The Evil Husbandmen;

The Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes



Jesus' Speech on the Last Times on Mount Olive



Jesus' Anointing in Bethany;

The Last Passover, Gethsemane and Arrest



Sentence, Crucifixion and Death of Christ

V. Mark 16 Close: Exaltation of the Servant of God



The Resurrection

The Mission of the Disciples, and

Christ's Ascension

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