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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Mark, Gospel of

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John Mark, the writer of Mark’s Gospel, was the young man who set out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5). Later he worked closely with Peter, so closely in fact that Peter called Mark his son (1 Peter 5:13; see MARK). There is good evidence that Peter and Mark visited Rome about AD 60 (just before Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner; Acts 28:16) and taught the church there for a time. Over the next few years Mark spent some time in Rome, while Peter revisited churches elsewhere. The Roman Christians asked Mark to preserve Peter’s teaching for them, and the result was Mark’s Gospel.

Mark, Peter and the Romans

Many features of Mark’s Gospel reflect the interests and character of Peter. Apart from the events in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, most of Jesus’ ministry recorded in Mark took place in Galilee in the north. Peter’s home town of Capernaum seems to have been Jesus’ base (Mark 1:21; Mark 1:29; Mark 2:1; Mark 9:33).

The account in Mark shows the characteristic haste of Peter in the way it rushes on from one story to the next. On the whole the language is more clearcut than in the parallels of the other Gospels, and reported statements are more direct. There is vivid detail, particularly in the record of Jesus’ actions and emotions (Mark 1:41; Mark 3:5; Mark 4:38; Mark 6:6; Mark 10:14; Mark 10:16; Mark 10:21; Mark 10:32). Peter’s genuineness is seen in that his mistakes are recorded (Mark 9:5-6; Mark 14:66-72), whereas incidents that might be to his credit are omitted (cf. Matthew 14:29; Matthew 16:17).

During the decade of the sixties, the Roman persecution of Christians increased, particularly after Nero blamed Christians for the great fire of Rome in AD 64. Just before this, Peter had written from Rome (code-named Babylon; 1 Peter 5:13) to encourage Christians who were being persecuted (1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 2:20-23; 1 Peter 3:14-17; 1 Peter 4:12-16). Not long after this he himself was executed (2 Peter 1:14; cf. John 21:18-19). Mark’s Gospel reminded the Roman Christians (by quoting from Peter’s experience of the life and teaching of Jesus) that they would need strength and patience to endure misunderstandings, persecution, false accusations and even betrayal (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:30; Mark 4:17; Mark 8:34-38; Mark 10:30; Mark 13:9; Mark 13:13; Mark 14:41; Mark 14:72; Mark 15:19; Mark 15:32).

Since the story of Jesus was set in Palestine, the Gentiles in Rome needed explanations of some matters. Mark therefore helped them by translating Hebrew or Aramaic expressions (Mark 3:17; Mark 5:41; Mark 7:11; Mark 7:34; Mark 15:22; Mark 15:34) and explaining Jewish beliefs and practices (Mark 7:3-4; Mark 12:18; Mark 12:42; Mark 14:12; Mark 15:42).

Mark’s view of Jesus

Mark’s Gospel records more action than the other Gospels, but less of Jesus’ teaching. Nevertheless, the book has a basic teaching purpose. Though Mark wrote in different circumstances from John and for different people, his basic purpose was the same, namely, to show that Jesus was the Son of God (cf. John 20:31). Mark makes this clear in his opening statement (Mark 1:1).

According to Mark, the ministry of Jesus from beginning to end showed that he was a divine person in human form, the God-sent Messiah. At Jesus’ baptism, the starting point for his public ministry, a statement from God showed what this unique ministry would involve. The statement, combining Old Testament quotations concerning the Davidic Messiah and the Servant of Yahweh, showed that Jesus’ way to kingly glory was to be that of the suffering servant (Mark 1:11; cf. Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; see MESSIAH). The heavenly Son of man, to whom God promised a worldwide and everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14), would receive that kingdom only by way of crucifixion (Mark 8:29-31; Mark 8:38; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:45; see SON OF MAN).

The death of Jesus is therefore the climax of Mark’s Gospel. That death came about through Jesus’ open confession to Caiaphas that he was both messianic Son of God and heavenly Son of man, and he was on the way to his kingly and heavenly glory (Mark 14:61-64). Demons knew Jesus to be the Son of God (Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7), his disciples recognized it (Mark 8:29), his Father confirmed it on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:7), Jesus declared it to disciples and enemies (Mark 13:32; Mark 14:61-62) and even a Roman centurion at the cross was forced to admit it (Mark 15:39).

Summary of contents

An introductory section deals with Jesus’ baptism and his subsequent temptation by Satan (1:1-13). The story then quickly moves on to deal with Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and other northern regions.

After gathering together his first few disciples (1:14-20), Jesus carried out a variety of healings (1:21-2:12) and added Matthew (Levi) to his group of disciples (2:13-17). Through several incidents he showed that the true religion he proclaimed was not concerned simply with the legal requirements of the Jewish law (2:18-3:6).

From Galilee Jesus appointed twelve apostles whom he could send out to spread the message of his kingdom (3:7-19). He illustrated the nature of that kingdom by dealing with critics (3:20-35), telling parables (4:1-34), overcoming storms, evil spirits, sickness, hunger and death (4:35-6:56), demanding moral rather than ceremonial cleanliness (7:1-23), and demonstrating by teachings and miracles the importance of faith (7:24-8:26).

The record of this part of Jesus’ ministry concludes with Peter’s acknowledgment of his messiahship (8:27-33), Jesus’ reminder of the cost of discipleship (8:34-9:1), the Father’s declaration at Jesus’ transfiguration (9:2-8), the disciples’ inability to heal a demon-possessed boy (9:9-29), and Jesus’ teaching on the necessity for humble submission in his kingdom (9:30-50).

Jesus’ ministry from his departure from Galilee to his arrival in Jerusalem dealt with such matters as divorce (10:1-12), children (10:13-16), wealth (10:17-31) and ambition (10:32-45). Near Jericho he healed a blind man (10:46-52).

On the Sunday before his crucifixion, Jesus entered Jerusalem as Israel’s God-sent Messiah (11:1-11). In the days that followed, he cleansed the temple and warned of the terrible judgment that was to fall on the Jewish nation because of its rejection of the Messiah (11:12-12:12). On many occasions the Jews disputed with him publicly (12:13-44), but privately he told his disciples of coming judgments and warned them to keep alert (13:1-37).

After his anointing at Bethany (14:1-11), Jesus prepared for the Passover, instituted the Lord’s Supper, then went and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:12-42). He was arrested (14:43-52), taken to the high priest’s house (14:53-72), brought before Pilate (15:1-20), taken away and crucified (15:21-47). On the third day he rose from the dead (16:1-8), after which he appeared a number of times to his disciples and gave them final teaching (16:9-20). (These last twelve verses are not in the oldest and best manuscripts.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Mark, Gospel of'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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