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Portrait of Jesus: The Victorious Suffering Servant

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Authorship: John Mark

The external evidence in support of Markan authorship is very strong. As early as the first half of the second century, the gospel was ascribed to him. Further, Papias, Irenaeus, the Muratorian Canon (most likely), Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Jerome all link the Gospel with Mark. The fact that Mark was not an apostle is significant for it might have given the church pause in connecting his name with a written gospel. Yet the tradition is unanimous in favor of him. Surely this speaks to the authenticity of the tradition. But, is there anything in the Gospel or in the NT that confirms or disproves this?

There is nothing in Mark or in the rest of the NT that disproves Markan authorship, but there is some evidence that tends to confirm it. Papias said that Mark was Peter’s “interpreter” (e.g., recorded the apostle’s sermons) and the fact that Mark’s Gospel roughly follows Peter’s gospel preaching (cf. Acts 10:36-411) seems to corroborate this idea. There is also ample evidence in the NT that John Mark is the one indicated. Peter and John Mark were associated in the early 40’s when they probably met regularly in John Mark’s mother’s house (Acts 12:12). Further, Mark is with Peter ca. 65 CE in Rome (1 Peter 5:13). It is noteworthy that in 1 Peter 5:13 Peter refers to Mark as “his son,” implying in this case a deep and long-time, mentor-oriented friendship. Finally, that Luke refers to Mark and Paul as “assistants” (uJphrevth") in Acts 13:5 and 26:16, respectively, where an “assistant” is someone who “handles documents and delivers their content to men,” may indicate Mark’s service in writing an account of the ministry and passion of Jesus—an account which Luke himself used.2

By way of summary, the external evidence in favor of John Mark is consistent and strong. The internal evidence (in Mark and the NT) corroborates this testimony. No other author was ever cited to contradict this twofold testimony. We therefore conclude that John Mark was the author of the gospel that bears his name.

Date: Late 50’s

As in the case of the authorship, so also with the date: there is both external and internal evidence to consider. As far as the former is concerned, the testimony seems quite consistent that Mark wrote his gospel in connection with Peter while the latter was still living. This is in keeping with Papias and Clement of Alexandria, though it differs with Irenaeus (which many scholars side with against Clement of Alex.).

The internal evidence is fairly complicated, but we will try and summarize the most important points. First, Mark 13:14 and the prediction of “the abomination of desolation,” prophesied many years earlier by Jesus, still seems to be a future event as far as Mark is concerned (i.e., still future from the time when Mark wrote his gospel). If the prophecy refers, at least in part, to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, then Mark was probably written before that. The background of suffering in the Gospel and attempts to connect it strictly with the Neronian persecution which broke out in 64 CE are not entirely convincing. Thus it is not necessary that a date of 65-69 CE be accepted.

Second, if Mark was written first and then Luke used Mark later, then the date of Luke would be decisive in establishing the terminus ad quem for Mark. But Acts is to be dated around 62-64 CE.3 This means that Luke was written in the late 50’s or very early 60’s since it precedes Acts. So then, if Luke used Mark, which seems fairly certain, then Mark was written probably some time in the early to mid fifties.

Destination and Recipients: Rome

It seems fairly certain that Mark wrote his gospel while living in Rome to the church in Rome. Thus he wrote primarily for Gentiles, though not exclusively. Such is the force of the external evidence. There are many good pieces of internal evidence, however, to substantiate this thesis: (1) latinisms in the book, some of which are very important (e.g., 12:42; 15:16);4 (2) certain Aramaic expressions are translated into Greek (3:17; 5:41; 10:46), and (3) Jewish religious customs are explained (7:3-4).

Occasion and Purpose

It seems that Mark had several purposes in the writing of his gospel. In large measure, however, his focus is taken up with sketching a true portrait of Jesus and what it means to follow him, especially in times of suffering and persecution. In Mark’s gospel Jesus’ ministry and his passion provide both the foundation of discipleship as well as the pattern (cf. 8:34-38).

The Gospels

The Gospels are unique in the ancient world in that there are no other literary documents quite like them. Comparison to other literature of the period, say Greco-Roman biographies, is helpful, but in the end, the nature of the four Gospels cannot be contained within such literary models. For one thing, the Gospels are heavily influenced by OT language, concepts, and customs, thus framing the understanding and proper interpretation of Jesus in light of his own words set against OT and contemporary Jewish messianic hopes. In short, the Gospels are a synthesis of history and theology all packaged in a literary structure designed to enhance the proper understanding and significance of the teaching and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Further, they were written primarily for Christian religious communities with specific questions. They are, in the end, Christian documents, explaining, defending, and applying the deeds and teaching of Jesus to the needs of several distinct, yet related Christian communities.

Special Terms







passion narrative


Teaching Outline of Mark

I. The Preparation of the Suffering Servant (1:1-13)

    A. The Title: Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1)
    B. The One To Prepare the Way of the Lord (1:2-8)
      1. The Promise of the Old Testament (1:2-3)
      2. The Preaching of John (1:4-8)
    C. Jesus’ Baptism (1:9-11)
    D. Jesus’ Temptation (1:12-13)

II. The Suffering Servant’s Ministry in Galilee (1:14-6:6a)

    A. Cycle One: Early Galilean Ministry (1:14-3:6)
      1. Snapshots of Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee
      a. A Programmatic Statement (1:14-15)
      b. Summary: The Choosing of Four Disciples (1:16-20)
      c. The Healing of a Man with an Unclean Spirit (1:21-28)
      d. Summary of Healing Ministry (1:29-34)
      e. Summary: Prayer, Purpose, and Mission (1:35-39)
      f. The Healing of a Leper: The Question of the Law (1:40-45)
      2. Five Controversy Stories (2:1-3:6)
      a. Healing: A Paralytic Man (2:1-12)
      b. Eating with Sinners: The Calling of Levi (2:13-17)
      c. Fasting and New Wine (2:18-22)
      d. Work on the Sabbath (2:23-28)
      e. Healing: Work on the Sabbath (3:1-6)
    B. Cycle Two: Later Galilean Ministry (3:7-6:6a)
      1. Summary of Mission (3:7-12)
      2. The Appointment of the Twelve (3:13-19)
      3. The Blasphemy of the Spirit and Jesus’ True Family (3:20-35)
      a. The Structure of the Story: 3:20-35 as a Whole
      b. The Accusations against Jesus (3:21-22)
      c. Jesus’ Response: Back to Issue of Family (3:23-35)
      4. Parables: The Kingdom of God
      a. The Parable of the Sower: Taught (4:1-9)
      b. The Purpose of the Parables (4:10-12)
      c. The Parable of the Sower: Explained (4:13-20)
      d. The Parable of the Lamp (4:21-25)
      e. Growing Seed (4:26-29)
      f. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:30-32)
      g. Summary Comment on Parables (4:33-34)
      5. Jesus’ Identity and Authority Demonstrated (4:35-5:43)
      a. Over Nature: The Stilling of the Storm (4:35-41)
      b. Over Demons: The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20)
      c. Over Death and Disease: The Healing of Jairus’ Daughter and the Sick Woman (5:21-35)
      6. Jesus Rejected at Home: Unbelief in Nazareth (6:1-6a)

III. The Suffering Servant Withdraws from Galilee (6:6b-8:21)

    A. To A Deserted Place (6:6b-52)
      1. Catalyst for Withdrawal: The Twelve Sent Out on the Way (6:6b-13)
      2. Catalyst for Withdrawal: John the Baptist Beheaded (6:14-29)
      3. Catalyst for Withdrawal: The Twelve Return and Report (6:30-34)
      4. Public Miracle: The Feeding of the 5000 (6:35-44)
      5. Private Miracle: Jesus Walks on Water en route to Bethsaida (6:45-52)
    B. To Gennesaret (6:53-7:23)
      1. Summary of Jesus’ Healing Ministry (6:53-56)
      2. The Issue of Ritual Purity: Confrontation (7:1-23)
      a. False Views of Defilement: They Rest on Mere Human Tradition (7:1-8)
      b. The Affect of Mere Human Tradition: Commandments Are Annulled (7:9-13)
      c. The Source of Real Defilement: Indwelling Sin (7:14-23)
    C. To the Vicinity of Tyre: Healing of Syrophoenician Woman (7:24-30)
    D. To the Region of Decapolis: A Deaf Mute Is Healed (7:31-37)
    E. To the Sea of Galilee: Feeding of the 4000 (8:1-9)
    F. To the District of Dalmanutha (=Magadan) (8:10-21)
      1. Confrontation Intensifying: Demand for a Sign (8:10-13)
      2. The Yeast of the Pharisees Exposed (8:14-21)

IV. The Suffering Servant: Revelation and Discipleship (8:22-10:52)

    A. Revelation: Blind Man Healed (8:22-30)
      1. Sight Restored (8:22-26)
      2. Peter’s Confession of Christ (8:27-30)
    B. Passion Prediction #1 and Discipleship Teaching (8:31-9:29)
      1. Prediction Proper (8:31)
      2. Peter’s Response: Misunderstanding (8:32)
      3. Jesus’ Rebuke and Teaching on Discipleship (8:33-9:1)
      4. Jesus’ Reassurance: Transfiguration (9:2-13)
      5. The Disciples Fail to Heal (9:14-29)
    C. Passion Prediction #2 and Discipleship Teaching (9:30-10:31)
      1. Prediction Proper (9:30-31)
      2. The Disciples’ Response: Failure to Understand (9:32)
      3. Jesus’ Teaches “The Way” of True Discipleship: Disciples Fail to Understand (9:33-10:31)
      a. Concerning the Paradox of the Kingdom: Humility (9:33-37)
      b. John’s Response: Misunderstanding (9:38)
      c. Concerning Preeminence (9:39-41)
      d. Concerning Dealing Drastically with Sin (9:42-50)
      e. Concerning Divorce (10:1-12)
      f. Concerning Receiving the Kingdom: Little Children (10:13-16)
      g. The Issue of Riches and the Kingdom of God (10:17-31)
    D. Passion Prediction #3 and Discipleship Teaching (10:32-45)
      1. Prediction Proper (10:32-34)
      2. The Disciples Misunderstand: James and John (10:35-40)
      3. Jesus Teaching on True Discipleship (10:41-45)
    E. Revelation: Healing Blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52)

V. The Suffering Servant Ministers in Jerusalem: The Temple (11:1-13:37)

    A. The Triumphal Entry (11:1-11)
    B. Portents of Judgment (11:12-25)
    C. Confrontation: Questions about Authority (11:27-12:44)
      1. Confrontation Concerning Jesus’ Authority (11:27-12:12)
      a. The Question: By What Authority? (11:27-33)
      b. The Response: The Parable of the Tenants (12:1-12)
      2. Question about Paying Taxes (12:13-17)
      3. Question about Marriage and Resurrection (12:18-27)
      4. Question about the Greatest Commandment (12:28-34)
      5. Jesus Asks a Question (12:35-37)
      6. Jesus Warns about Experts in the Law (12:38-40)
      7. A Studied Contrast: A Widow’s Giving (12:41-45)
    D. Jesus Pronounces Certain Judgment: The Little Apocalypse (13:1-37)
      1. The Sermon Proper (13:1-27)
      a. Introduction: The Temple To Be Destroyed (13:1-3)
      b. The Question of When: The Birthpangs (13:4-8)
      c. The Question of the Disciples’ Lives: Persecution (13:9-13)
      d. The ‘Abomination of Desolation’ (13:14-23)
      e. The Son of Man Coming in the Clouds (13:24-27)
      2. The Parable of the Fig Tree (13:28-31)
      3. Warning to be Ready (13:32-37)

VI. The Suffering Servant’s Death/Resurrection: Suffering & Victory (14:1-16:8)

    A. Preparation (14:1-31)
      1. The Chief Priests & Experts in the Law Plot against Jesus (14:1-2)
      2. A Woman Anoints Jesus (14:3-9)
      3. Judas’ Conspiracy with the Chief Priests (14:10-11)
      4. The Passover Meal (14:12-26)
      5. Gethsemane: Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (14:27-31)
    B. Passion Proper (14:32-15:47)
      1. Gethsemane: Jesus Prays and Disciples Sleep (14:32-42)
      2. Jesus’ Betrayal and Arrest (14:43-52)
      3. The Sanhedrin Condemns Jesus (14:53-65)
      4. Peter’s Three Denials (14:66-72)
      4. The Sanhedrin Hands Him over to Pilate (15:1-5)
      5. Barabbas Released, Jesus Handed over To Be Crucified (15:6-15)
      6. Jesus Is Mocked by Soldiers (15:16-20)
      7. Jesus Is Crucified (15:21-32)
      8. Jesus Dies (15:33-41)
      9. Jesus Is Buried (15:42-47)
    C. Jesus Is Raised: Victory (16:1-8)
    D. Note: The Authenticity of the Longer Ending of Mark (16:9-20)

1 Cf. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 10-12.

2 Lane, Mark, 22-23.

3 Cf. D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 190-94.

4 Lane, Mark, 24.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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