There are three pieces of evidence to consider: title, external evidence, and internal evidence.
As with Matthew’s Gospel, no manuscripts which contain Mark affirm authorship by anyone other than Mark.1 As with Matthew, this is short of proof of Markan authorship, but the unbroken stream suggests recognition of Markan authorship as early as the first quarter of the second century.
“So strong was the early Christian testimony that Mark was the author of this gospel that we need do little more than mention this attestation.”2 It is cited by Papias, Irenaeus, the Muratorian Canon (most likely), Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Jerome. Further, this testimony is universal in connecting this gospel with Peter. Papias, for example, writes:3
And the elder said this: “Mark became an interpreter of Peter; as many things as he remembered he wrote down accurately (though certainly not in order4) the things said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but he came later—as he said with reference to Peter who taught whenever the need arose,5 but he did not [teach] according to the arrangement of the oracles of the Lord,6 with the result that Mark did not err7 when he thus wrote certain things as he recalled them. For he planned out one goal ahead of time,8 namely, to leave out nothing which he heard and not to falsify any [of the words of Peter].”9
What is most remarkable about this external testimony is that Mark was by no means a major player in the NT. It is doubtful, therefore, that his name was picked out of thin air as it were. If this were the case, there would certainly be less than universal attestation. Further, as strong as the desire was to attach this gospel to an apostle, the patristic writers refrained from saying that this was Peter’s Gospel. Such restraint speaks volumes for the rest of the NT where they do affirm apostolic authorship.10 One simply cannot say that because these patristic writers surely wanted apostolic authorship they therefore invented such at their own convenience. Mark’s gospel flies in the face of that supposition.
There is not much evidence within either Mark or the rest of the NT to connect him with this gospel. Still, there is nothing against this supposition. And further, there is some evidence of Mark’s connection with Peter. The evidence is as follows.11
(1) John Mark had contact with Peter from no later than the mid-40s (cf. Acts 12:12). That the early church apparently frequented his mother’s house also indicates that Mark had been exposed to Peter’s teaching about Jesus of Nazareth. Not only this, but the Acts reference is so incidental that it implies that Peter and the early church had already spent some time at Mark’s residence. There is therefore the likelihood that the church met there from the mid-30s on.
(2) After joining Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:4), Mark turned back to Jerusalem before the completion of the trip (13:13). He may have stayed in Jerusalem until the famous Council at Jerusalem met to decide the status of Gentile converts. He may then have gone with Barnabas and Paul to Antioch whence Barnabas took him along to return to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-39).12 If so, then once again, he would have gained more exposure to Peter’s teaching.
(3) Acts is silent about the relation of Peter to Mark after this point, thought there is of course some likelihood that the two had continued contact, especially since both were connected with both Antioch and Jerusalem.
(4) Paul dispatched Mark from Rome to the Colossian church and to Philemon in c. 60-62. Hence, if Peter was in Rome during that time, once again Mark would certainly have had contact with him.
(5) In 2 Tim. 4:11 Paul instructs Timothy to bring Mark with him from Ephesus to Rome (c. 64). He may have been out of the capitol city since his departure in c. 62, though this cannot be said with any certainty.
(6) Mark is again with Peter in Rome in c. 65 CE (1 Peter 5:13). One certainly gets the impression that Mark returned to Rome at Paul’s request (64), and was still there when Peter penned his first letter. However, there is more. The fact that Peter calls him “my son” indicates that their relationship had not been hit-or-miss, but was an ongoing one for some time.
(7) The outline of Mark’s gospel corresponds to the Petrine kerygma recorded in Acts 10:36-41.13 The salient features are: (1) John the Baptist heralds the coming of the Messiah; (2) Jesus is baptized by John; (3) Jesus performs miracles, showing that his authority was from God; (4) he went to Jerusalem; (5) he was crucified; (6) he was raised from the dead on the third day. This suggests not only that Mark may have gotten the individual stories about Jesus from Peter, but that he also got a framework for the life and ministry of Jesus from Peter.
(8) Further, Peter takes it on the chin in this gospel. Not only does Jesus rebuke him for wanting a Messiah without the cross, but if the gospel ends at 16:8, Peter does not see the resurrected Christ. These two points belong together, but for now suffice it to say that either Mark’s gospel is actually hostile to Peter and the other disciples,14 or else it picks up the self-effacing attitude of Peter himself. The latter has fewer problems with it—and in fact argues implicitly that Mark not only got much of his message from Peter, but that he recorded it faithfully.
In sum, Mark had an ongoing and close relationship with Peter for at least ten or twenty years before he penned his gospel. At the same time, he had an ongoing and close relationship with Paul and Barnabas. This double association placed him in a unique position for writing a gospel to Gentiles (motivated by Paul’s mission) based on the teaching of Peter.
Besides this connection with Peter, there is some other internal evidence which may suggest Markan authorship. William L. Lane makes the interesting observation that Mark is called an “assistant” (ὑπηρέτης ) in Acts 13:5. “Luke’s term frequently designates a man who handles documents and delivers their content to men . . .”15 He mentions Acts 26:16 where Paul is appointed as a ὑπηρέτης and witness to the truth, and Luke 1:1-2 where “the evangelist links the servants [ὑπηρέτης] of the word with those who were the eyewitnesses and guarantors of apostolic tradition.” The connection of ὑπηρέτης with both Mark and Luke’s sources suggests that Mark’s Gospel may well have been one of those sources which Luke used to compile his gospel. In other words, Luke may be subtly indicating that John Mark wrote something about the life of Jesus and that Luke himself used this writing.16
In conclusion, there is no reason to doubt that John Mark, companion of both Peter and Paul, wrote the gospel which bears the name Mark. The MSS and patristic testimony are unanimous, and the internal evidence certainly corroborates this, even if only in subtle ways. When we examine the issue of date, we will look more carefully at some of the evidence, but for now Markan authorship, at least, is assumed.
The issue of the date of this gospel also revolves around external and internal evidence.
Not only does the early patristic evidence argue for Markan authorship, but it also makes a connection between Mark and Peter. As we have seen, Papias was the first to make this connection, and it is important to note certain features of his report. (1) He claimed to have received his information from “the elder.” In the preceding context (Fragments of Papias 2:4) the only individual called “the elder” in the singular is John. Whether this is John the apostle or a disciple of his is quite debatable; but suffice it to say that Papias’ source of information was at most one generation removed from the apostles themselves. (2) Papias also says that Mark recorded Peter’s sermons while Peter was still alive.
Clement of Alexandria confirms Papias’ statement that Mark wrote his gospel during Peter’s lifetime, but adds that he wrote it for Christians in Rome. This suggests at least that even if Clement borrowed some of his information from Papias, he also had other sources which stated the same thing, for Papias did not mention a Roman destination. Thus Clement’s statement might be regarded as independent testimony to Papias’ concerning when Mark wrote.
Irenaeus, however, states that “after the death of [Peter and Paul] Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter.”17 As Guthrie points out, “Most scholars prefer Irenaeus to Clement, but it should be observed that Irenaeus had just previously stated that Matthew was produced while Peter and Paul were still preaching, i.e., before Mark.”18 When we looked at Matthew, we noticed that Irenaeus’ information about Matthew’s Gospel was not entirely derived from Papias. However, here it seems that he wishes to refute Papias, for to him it was important that the first gospel be written by an apostle. Although most scholars believe that Irenaeus is correct about Mark being written after the death of Peter and Paul, they reject his testimony about Matthew being written during their lifetimes. Thus they want to have their cake and eat it too. There is another way of looking at the data, however.
The early external evidence can be summed up this way: (1) there is universal testimony that Mark got his material for a gospel from Peter; (2) there is conflicting evidence as to when he compiled this gospel, either before or after Peter’s death. The earliest testimony (Papias) suggests that Peter was still alive—and Papias claims an earlier source for this as well. This is confirmed by Clement of Alexandria who adds other information (Roman destination), showing some independence from Papias. Irenaeus, on the other hand, although he shows some independent knowledge about the formation of Matthew’s Gospel, states nothing new about Mark’s—except that it was written after Peter’s death. But this is not new information, but contradictory information. If, on other grounds, Mark’s Gospel can be dated within the lifetime of Peter, this element of Irenaeus’ statement ought to be discounted, for he also felt that Matthew wrote the first gospel. There is a built-in apostolic bias on Irenaeus’ part then. Moreover, he is further removed from the apostles than was Papias. Our conclusion from the external evidence is that Mark wrote his gospel while Peter was still alive, sometime before Matthew wrote his gospel (based on our conclusion about the synoptic problem). We will see that other considerations corroborate this.
There are several strands of internal evidence to be considered regarding the date. In some respects, the most important is outside of Mark, though within the NT. Much of this was covered earlier (Synoptic Problem, Matthew), and only needs a brief review here.
(1) Our solution to the synoptic problem argues that Mark should be dated before Matthew and Luke, since Matthew and Luke used Mark to write their gospels.
(2) The Olivet Discourse in the synoptic gospels was not entirely fulfilled in the Jewish War. hence, it is doubtful that for any of them it could be a vaticinium ex eventu. Most scholars hold to Markan priority and that Mark was written at the beginning of the Jewish War. If we could treat Mark in isolation of the other gospels, this might make sense.19 But this approach fails to explain both the vagueness and unfilled predictions in Matthew's and Luke’s Olivet Discourse. Hence, if Matthew and Luke are dated before 66 CE, Mark must precede them by some time. As Guthrie notes, “the key item in the internal evidence is the reference in Mark 13:14 to the ‘abomination that causes desolation.’ . . . If it be admitted that Jesus himself predicted the event, Mark 13:14 would cease to be a crux . . . The phrase used to describe the event is of such vagueness . . . that it is even more reasonable to assume that it belongs to a time well before the actual happenings.”20
(3) If Acts is dated c. 62 CE, then Luke—and hence, Mark—must be dated before then.21 It should be readily apparent that in solving the chronological issues of the synoptic gospels, the Olivet Discourse is pitted against the ending of Acts. For some scholars, the level of specificity in the Olivet Discourse, often coupled with a denial of Jesus’ predictive ability, render the date of Mark no earlier than 66 (the other gospels coming in the 80-90 range). But if Jesus could predict the future, and if the Olivet Discourse neither has all the earmarks of vaticinium ex eventu nor was indeed completely fulfilled in 66-70, then there should be every reason for dating all three synoptics before the fall of Jerusalem. If this is the case, then the ending of Acts may well give us a terminus ad quem of c. 62 for (Matthew and) Luke, with Mark coming a few years earlier.
(4) The biggest problem for this early date—apart from the Olivet Discourse—is the theme of suffering in Mark. Several scholars make mush of this, arguing that the only Sitz im Leben which fits this gospel well is sometime after the Neronic persecutions of 64 CE began.22 Mark does indeed seem to indicate that his audience was undergoing suffering and persecution (cf. 8:34-38; 10:30; 13:1-13). But does this mean that it all started with Nero? The evidence within the gospel is insufficient to indicate this. And further, there is a good deal of evidence that Nero’s pogrom was simply the crystallization and government sanction of popular sentiment toward Christians.23 Even in Nero’s first years of reign (54-59), the Christians were labeled as misanthropes because of their refusal to join in pagan festivals. Tacitus, for example, in his description of why Nero blamed the Christians for the great fire in 64 CE, spoke of “the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called) . . .”24 Further, he stated that “despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’s brutality rather than to the national interest.”25 What Tacitus’ comments show is that the Christians in Rome had been persecuted for some time before the official persecution of 64 CE. Just because it was not a governmentally-sanctioned persecution did not make it less painful to the Christians involved.26 In light of this, it is absolutely unnecessary to see the Neronic persecution as prior to the writing of Mark.
(5) Finally, as Lane argues, “the production of the Gospel of Mark must have an effective cause.”27 He finds this cause, as do most scholars, in the Neronic persecutions. But even though suffering and persecution are definite themes in this gospel, they are not the only ones—nor, indeed, the most predominant ones. One could argue equally well that the focus is on Christ as the fulfillment of the Law, thus rendering it null and void for Gentile believers. Further, no gospel was produced for only one purpose, or had merely one occasion in its background. When we come to occasion and purpose, we will see that a multivalenced approach accounts for all the particulars better.
In sum, Mark should be dated before the production of Luke’s gospel which we date no later than 62 CE. Sometime in the mid-50s is most probable.28
There is good evidence that Mark wrote to mostly Gentile Christians living in Rome. In all likelihood, he lived there too.29 Not only is the external testimony strong,30 but the internal evidence is also suggestive: (1) Mark explains Palestinian customs (cf. 7:3-4); (2) some of the retained Aramaic expressions are translated (in a gloss/midrashic fashion) into Greek (cf. 3:17; 5:41; 10:46); and (3) there are many Latinisms in Mark. Although some scholars do not think the Latinisms carry much weight,31 others see them as quite significant. Lane, for example, points out that “it is particularly significant that twice common Greek expressions in the Gospel are explained by Latin ones (Ch. 12:42, ‘two copper coins [lepta], which make a quadrans’; Ch. 15:16, ‘the palace, that is the praetorium’). The first of these examples is particularly instructive, for the quadrans was not in circulation in the east.”32
Hence, the evidence is quite strong for both a Roman destination and Gentile Christians as the recipients.
As we have suggested before, all the gospels had more than one reason for their production. Further, one of the strange features of this gospel is that its purpose is especially enigmatic. Guthrie lists the following options that scholars have seen: catechetical, liturgical, apologetic, conflict with the Twelve, Christological, ecclesiastical, pastoral, and editorial.33 His conclusion is that “Mark had several purposes in writing his gospel.”34 Though certainly true, Guthrie curiously omits the occasion for its production.
The occasion, if not found in the Neronic persecutions, must also be multivalenced. One of the factors hardly ever taken into account however is the fact that Mark is writing to Gentiles, though he got his material from Peter, the apostle to the Jews. Further, what is neglected is the fact that Mark had a strong connection with Paul—and that at one point was out of sorts with Paul.
Bringing these data to bear on the issue, we would like to propose the following tentative hypothesis: Mark wrote his gospel as a prelude to Paul’s intended visit to Rome. The evidence, though quite speculative in places, is as follows.
1. The church at Rome was established before the Jerusalem Council met in c. 50 CE. Seutonius’ statement that Claudius banned Jews from Rome in 49 because they rioted in reaction to “Chrestus” probably refers to the Jews’ reactions to Christians in that city.
2. The church was probably established shortly after Pentecost, since proselytes and Jews came from Rome (Acts 2:10). The church would have been quite immature since these converts had very little information about Jesus on which to base their lives. Still, it could have been founded by them.
3. Even though Peter and Paul ended up in Rome in the early-mid 60s, we have no record of either of them getting there in the 50s. It is very doubtful that any apostle founded the church (cf. Rom. 15:20).
4. The combined evidence from Acts and the epistles35 suggests that although Mark was not in Paul’s good graces in c. 50 CE (at the time of the Council meeting of Acts 15), he was so in 60-62 (when Paul dispatched him to the Colossians/Philemon from Rome). Thus, sometime in the 50s Mark certainly proved himself worthy of Paul’s confidence once again. The fact that he is in Rome when Paul commends him may be no accident.
5. In Acts 19:21 Paul expresses his intention to visit Rome for strategic missionary work. Though it is impossible to date this precisely, it must have occurred in the early 50s. Further, this may not have been the first time Paul expressed such an intention, even though it is the first mention by Luke. Surely Paul’s planned itinerary would be known to interested Christians in Jerusalem and Antioch.
6. One of the reasons why Paul wanted to get to Rome would have been the lack of apostolic guidance in that church. If the church was begun by proselytes returning from Pentecost in 33 CE, it would have had only hit-or-miss instruction about the faith for some time.36
7. There is some evidence that even though Paul did not found the church at Rome, it already had a distinctive Pauline flavor to it.37
8. Putting all this together, we see that there is a good bit of circumstantial evidence which suggests that someone from Paul’s circles had penetrated Rome with the gospel before he wrote Romans. Further, there is independent evidence that Mark wrote his gospel in the mid-50s. When considering the raison d’être for the production of this gospel, it is easy to see why Mark would be so highly motivated to get back into Paul’s good graces and precede Paul to Rome. All the data fit the supposition that Mark went to Rome in the early to mid-50s, with Peter’s sermons and Paul’s mission in the back of his mind. He then composed the gospel for the Roman Christians.38 In this light, it is no wonder that Mark’s gospel looks so Pauline in respect to the OT Law—even though he got it from Peter in large measure.
Although not intending to belittle this issue, there is excellent evidence both that the last twelve verses are not original (16:9-20) and that Mark intended to end his gospel at 16:8. Rather than get into the reasons why, our approach to the outline and argument will simply assume this.
Although Mark is ostensibly interested in the teaching of Jesus, he is most concerned with Jesus’ actions. The lack of a genealogy and the lack of much teaching material, coupled with the frequent use of “immediately” have been seen as sufficient indicators that Mark’s Gospel presents Jesus preeminently as the Servant. We might modify this slightly: the heart of this gospel can be seen in 8:27-33 where Peter wants to affirm that Jesus is the Christ without the necessity of the cross. In his stern rebuke of Peter, the servant-attitude of Jesus is thus seen to be intrinsically related to his own suffering. The verse which capsulizes this is 10:45 (“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”): Jesus is portrayed then as “The Suffering Servant.”39
Mark dramatically opens his Gospel with prophecies from Malachi and Isaiah (Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3) about Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptizer. Thus what is found in Matthew 3 and Luke 3 is placed up front in Mark’s Gospel. There is no genealogy, for the credentials of a servant are his actions.40 After a brief introduction to the work of John (1:1-8), Mark tells us about the beginning (cf. 1:1) of Jesus’ ministry: he is baptized by John (1:9-11) and tempted by Satan (1:12-13). The baptism was intended to show that the servant was authenticated by heaven, and the temptation was intended to show that God’s opinion of the servant was not mere “talk” (note that the Spirit “drove him into the desert,” 1:12): it was vindicated by Jesus’ successful stand against the devil.
In some ways, the book divides neatly into two halves: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1–8:21) and Jesus’ journey to and ministry in Judea (8:22–16:8). Clearly Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi is the turning point, regardless of whether the Gospel has two halves or seven parts. Up until 8:21 it is clear that Jesus’ ministry is as the servant of the Lord, while after 8:21 it is more focused: he is the suffering servant of the Lord. In our approach, the geography plays an important role: hence, there are six major sections (seven, if the opening section is included).
The first major section reveals Jesus’ work in Galilee (1:14–6:6a). As well, there are two distinct cycles involved, both of which start with a summary of Jesus’ activity, include a calling/appointment of disciples and a major confrontation with the religious leaders, and conclude with a rejection of the message and the man.
The first cycle of Jesus’ work in Galilee (1:4–3:6) reveals him proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom once John is put in prison (1:14-15). He then calls four fishermen near the Sea of Galilee to become his disciples (at least one of whom was already a disciple of John according to John 1:35-40). The servant’s authority over demons and disease is then demonstrated (1:21-45), with a subtle interjection as to the source of his authority: he relies on God (1:35-39). This sets the stage for both rounds of confrontations with the religious leaders (2:1–3:5; 3:20-30) who accuse him of relying on Satan instead (3:20-30).
In spite of this powerful demonstration of his authority, the religious leaders reveal their animosity toward him (2:1–3:5). In Capernaum, the city which Jesus made his home as an adult (2:1), he healed a paralytic and forgave his sins as well (2:1-12). In this miracle we see a glimpse, a foreshadowing, of the suffering servant, for the canceling of a debt can only come through a payment and the forgiveness of sins requires a substitutionary death. Further confrontations with the Pharisees occur over Jesus’ calling of Levi, a tax-collector, to be one of his disciples (2:13-17), and concerning regulations such as fasting (2:18-22) and the Sabbath (2:23–3:5). In these confrontations Jesus reveals three other aspects of his role as servant: (1) he came to serve the needy and the sick (2:17), and (2) the servant serves people (3:4), not the Sabbath—in fact, (3) the servant is Lord of the Sabbath (2:27). There is no contradiction in Mark’s presentation of Jesus as both servant and Lord, for Jesus himself said that the one who would be great in the kingdom must be servant of all. This first cycle ends with a statement about the Pharisees’ absolute rejection of Jesus, so much so that they plotted to kill him (3:6).
The second cycle of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (3:7–6:6a) repeats and expands on much of the same material found in the first cycle. It begins with a summary of his ministry (3:7-12; cf. 1:14-15), with an emphasis on his healing more than on his preaching this time.41 It continues with his appointment of the twelve (3:13-19; cf. 1:16-20) and a confrontation with the Pharisees (3:20-30; cf. 2:1–3:5)—a confrontation so great that the Pharisees charged Jesus with being empowered by Beelzebub. Rather than ending the second cycle at this point, however, Mark shows Jesus turning to the crowds with his message (3:31–4:34). he begins with an invitation to join his family by simply pleasing God (3:31-35), foreshadowing a time when those who had no blood relationship to God’s chosen people could still become his children. This invitation leads into a second invitation: to enter the kingdom (4:1-34).
In chapter four Mark treats us to his second largest section of didactic material (chapter 13, the Olivet Discourse, being the first). The parables were given in a context of both hostility (from the religious leaders) and enormous popularity (from the crowd). Ironically, the religious leaders had a better grasp as to who Jesus really was—better than the crowd’s, better than Jesus’ own disciples. Their rejection of him, therefore, is all the more damnable.
In Mark’s version, only five parables are given. The first group deals with the responsibility of the hearers (4:3-25). This includes two parables, as well as an aside to the disciples about the purpose of the parables. In the parable of the sower/seeds Jesus argues that his hearers are like seed that is sown; they are to grow and be productive (4:3-9; 4:13-20), though not all who hear will really listen and heed (4:10-12). The parable of the lamp (and measure) is given to show how those who hear should grow: by faithfulness (4:24-25) and courage of conviction (4:21-23). Then two parables about the nature of the kingdom are given (4:26-32). Both of these emphasize the growth of the kingdom from humble beginnings (especially the mustard seed [4:30-32]), as well as the inevitable, unstoppable nature of such growth (especially the parable of the growing seed [4:26-29]). A somber note concludes the parables’ segment: “He did not say anything to [the crowds] without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything” (4:34, NIV). This shows how the purpose of the parables (4:10-12) was carried out by Jesus.
Mark continues this second cycle with several miracles of Jesus (4:35–5:43), all designed to show that Jesus’ words were backed up by his actions. It must be remembered that he was primarily the servant of YHWH, and as his servant he was his ambassador. Thus Jesus could offer the kingdom as God’s spokesman; and to authenticate his message, he performed miracles. It is interesting that all of the miracles listed here (calming a storm [4:35-41], healing a Gerasene demoniac [5:1-20], and raising a little girl from the dead [5:21-43]) were done especially for the sake of the disciples (cf. especially 5:40).42 These miracles conclude with the familiar refrain of Jesus forbidding witnesses from telling others about what he did (5:43; cf. 1:44; 7:36; 8:26). The reason seems to be both that his popularity would be for the wrong reasons and such popularity would restrict his movement and alter his agenda.
This second cycle is concluded with Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6a; cf. 3:6), with Mark’s somber note that Jesus was unable to perform many miracles because of their unbelief (6:5).
The second major section, coming on the heels of this hometown rejection, shows Jesus withdrawing from Galilee (6:6b–8:21). But the catalyst for the withdrawals, in Mark’s presentation, is the very popularity of Jesus (6:6b-29)—which, as we have seen, affected Jesus’ mission and agenda. His popularity grew because of his own ministry (6:6b), as well as the delegated ministry of his disciples (6:7-13). News of Jesus went as far as Herod who thought that John had come back to life (6:14-29).
Mark then shows how Jesus withdrew successively to five different places (6:30–8:21): (1) to “a deserted place” (6:30–7:23) in which he still performed miracles (feeding the five thousand [6:30-44] and walking on the water [6:45-56]), and continued to have confrontations with the Pharisees (this time, over regulations of cleanliness [7:1-23]; here Mark adds that Jesus’ pronouncements “declared all foods clean” [7:23], again foreshadowing the opening of the gospel to Gentiles); (2) to the vicinity of Tyre in which he healed a Gentile woman’s daughter (7:24-30)—giving further evidence that the gospel was opening up to Gentiles; (3) to the region of Decapolis where he healed a deaf-mute (7:31-37); (4) to the Sea of Galilee where he again fed the multitudes (8:1-9); and (5) to Dalmanutha (= Matthew’s Magadan) where he instructed his disciples about the “fluff” in the Pharisees’ teaching (8:10-21).
It is significant that in the withdrawals of Jesus he never stopped serving, healing, or teaching. His disciples learned that a true servant does not quit in the face of opposition. And they were beginning to see that Jesus was more than a servant, too. They will soon learn another dimension to Jesus’ servant role.
The hinge, or turning point, in this Gospel is found in 8:22-38 (which comprises the third major section), for there Jesus reveals the true nature of his servanthood. Mark exploits this motif throughout the rest of the book to reveal the true nature of discipleship. As Jesus and his disciples continue their withdrawal, they come to Bethsaida, where Jesus performs a two-stage healing of a blind man (8:22-26). Jesus led the blind man out of the town (8:23) both as a witness against Bethsaida (cf. Mark 8:11-13; Matt. 11:20-22) and as a specific object lesson for his disciples to see and ponder. The lesson was in the healing process: Jesus took two steps to heal the man.
This sets the stage for Peter’s confession (8:27-30), for at Caesarea Philippi the disciples come to embrace Jesus as the Christ (first stage), but they want him without the cross (second stage). Caesarea Philippi was twenty-five miles north of Bethsaida, better than a day’s journey. There is great rationale in Jesus bringing his disciples so far north to this town: Not only was it far removed from Jerusalem (thus testing his disciples’ allegiance to him without the normal concomitant evidence of his linkage with the holy city), but it was built by Herod to honor Caesar. By way of contrast, Jesus there revealed that he was the Messiah (8:27-30). Immediately after he revealed this, he commanded his disciples to be silent about his identity (8:30). Why? Because they, like the crowds, did not fully understand who he really was. They were still half-blind! Their concept of the Messiah was shaped by their literature and national hopes. They could not conceive of the Messiah as suffering.
Immediately, after the revelation of his identity, he unveiled the nature of this Messiahship: he must suffer and die, but he would rise from the dead (8:31). Peter, who had made the great confession, now rebuked Jesus for this statement (8:32), for in his view of the Messiah, there was no room for suffering. Jesus’ counter-rebuke of Peter (8:33) revealed that Peter still did not grasp completely who Jesus was. He knew that Jesus was the Christ, but he did not know what that entailed. He needed the second stage of healing. Jesus follows up the rebuke with a lesson on true discipleship (8:34-38): true discipleship means that suffering must precede glory. It is this way with Christ and it is this way with us.
From this point on, Mark shows Jesus as the suffering servant, marching to Jerusalem to die. Throughout the rest of the book, he subtly beckons his readers to embrace Jesus as the true Messiah—one who had to suffer the pain of the cross before he could reign in glory—and to follow in his steps.
The fourth major section, then, details Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (9:1–10:52). All along the way, the emphasis is on his instructions of the disciples on true discipleship. The lessons take on a more somber tone in light of where they are headed, and why.
First, Jesus ministers to his disciples in Galilee (9:1-50). To encourage them in the face of his return to Jerusalem, he took three aside and revealed his future glory (9:1-13) via transfiguration. Then the instructions began (9:14-50). Jesus instructed his disciples concerning deep faith as a prerequisite to a healing ministry (9:14-30). Then he again predicted his own death and resurrection (9:31-32). This contrasted with an argument that broke out among the disciples as to who was the greatest disciple (9:33-37). As well, he taught them about allegiance to himself (9:38-41) and the gravity of causing others to sin (9:42-48).
When they reached Judea and Perea, more lessons were given (10:1-52). Again, in Mark’s presentation, these related especially to the nature of true discipleship. The instruction in Perea (10:1-31) dealt with: (1) fidelity to one’s spouse (10:3-10); (2) childlike faith as a prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom (10:11-16); and (3) finding one’s security and reward in Christ, rather than in one’s physical possessions (10:17-31).
In Judea, as they were approaching Jerusalem (10:32-52), Jesus predicted his death and resurrection for a third time (10:32-34), as a reminder of why they were headed to the holy city. This was followed up by a discussion—prompted by James’ and John’s request, and exemplified by Jesus’ own actions of healing a blind man—of what it really means to be great in the kingdom (10:35-52).
This last miracle—the healing of blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52)—placed in sharp relief the difference between the disciples’ view of greatness and Jesus’ view. Further, this episode functions as a crucial hinge both for what precedes and what follows. First, the scene of the healing is Jericho. Mark gives the impression that the discussion over greatness had just concluded before they entered the city. The NT Jericho was a winter palace built by Herod the Great near the ruins of the OT site. Surely the disciples would have gotten the visual object lesson: greatness according to the world’s standards always ends in ruins (cf. 10:42!), while greatness according to God’s standards results in true sight (10:51-52). Second, Blind Bartimaeus was healed because he recognized Jesus (10:47) before he ever received his sight. For only with the eyes of faith could this blind man see that Jesus was the “Son of David”, while the nation was truly blind for not perceiving this upon Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem (11:1-11). And the disciples? Were they still half-blind or could they perceive fully who Jesus was yet?43
The fifth major section in Mark displays the suffering servant ministering in the holy city (11:1–13:37). He comes to Jerusalem on an unbroken colt (11:1-6) and is recognized as the Messiah in his so-called “triumphal entry” (11:7-10). But the nature of his Messianic office was not perceived. He came not as a military king (cf. 11:10), but as the ultimate paschal lamb—on the very day in which the lambs were selected for the Passover celebration (Nisan 10). The suffering servant was about to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. 10:45).
In a proleptic gesture, he investigated the temple (11:11), only to cleanse it the next day (11:15-17). Mark brackets this with two other symbolic acts: the cursing/withering of the fig tree (11:12-14, 20-26) and the religious leaders’ plot to kill their Messiah (11:18-19). He will develop both themes in the next few chapters (in the Olivet Discourse and the passion narrative).
The “justification” for killing Jesus is further found in 11:27–12:44: Not only could the religious leaders not win any verbal battles with the servant of YHWH, they also were exposed for the hypocrisy of their own leadership. Thus taking his life is the only way to protect their “greatness.” The conflict begins when Jesus authority is once again questioned by these religious leaders (11:27-33). Jesus responds with the parable of the wicked tenants (12:1-12)—aimed at the vital organs of the religious leaders. Because they had defaulted on their stewardship before God—by killing his prophets and even his own son—the vineyard would be handed over to other tenants. This was again a foreshadowing of God’s simultaneous rejection of the nation and welcoming of “sinners” and Gentiles into the kingdom.
The final confrontation in which these religious leaders reject Jesus’ brand of Messiahship comes in four rounds (12:13-37a). First, the Pharisees and Herodians attempt to unmask Jesus as an impostor to the throne in the question of paying taxes to a foreign king, Caesar (12:13-17). Then, the Sadducees attempt to discredit all possibility of a spiritual kingdom with their question about Levirate marriage in the resurrected state (12:18-27). The final question of the day came from a scribe who wished to reveal Jesus’ lack of rabbinic training: Which is the greatest commandment in the Law, he asked (12:28-34). Jesus’ responses to these confrontational questions, in effect, turned each question on its head and made the questioners look foolish (although the last interrogator was beginning to see the light and hence “was not far from the kingdom of God” [12:34]). Then, he turned the tables by asking the crowd a question: Whose son is the Christ? (12:35-37a)—specifically, if he is David’s son how can he also be his Lord? (This picks up the theme found in 10:43, viz., whoever wants to be greatest must be servant of all).
At this juncture Jesus finished his instruction of the multitudes by making rather pointed remarks about the religious leaders (12:37b-44), contrasting them with true greatness (seen in the humble widow). It was futile for the religious leaders to win a war of words; they must try another way.
To complete his ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus takes his disciples to the Mount of Olives and gives them final instructions (13:1-37). But the Olivet Discourse—the longest dominical message recorded by Mark—was prompted by a question from one of the disciples who still did not grasp what true greatness was. For the third time a key event takes place with a monument erected by Herod as the background (cf. 13:1). But, like Jericho, this temple too would fall (13:3-37), though the day and hour of its final doom which would occur simultaneous to the glorious advent of the Son of Man (13:26) were a heavenly secret (13:32-37).44
The sixth and final major section of this Gospel fully unveils a different kind of greatness in the death and resurrection of the suffering servant (14:1–16:8). There are three parts to it: preparation, crucifixion, and resurrection. First, the preparations for Jesus’ death are seen in 14:1-52. Ironically, at Bethany there are three who are preparing for his death: a woman who anoints him (14:1-5), Jesus himself who recognizes what she is doing and predicts her memorial (14:6-9), and Judas who betrays him (14:10-11). After their final Passover celebration together—the very meal which symbolized what Jesus was about to do as suffering servant (14:12-26)—Jesus predicts that Peter would deny him thrice (14:27-31). Then, to complete the cycle, Jesus prays three times in the garden of Gethsemane (14:32-52) just before his arrest (14:43-52).
Second, the account of the death of the servant occurs in 14:53–15:47. He is first tried in a kangaroo court before the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin (14:53-65). And for the first time in his public ministry he acknowledges that he is the Christ (14:62). In this acknowledgment he speaks of his power and glory, not his servanthood—at the very moment when he was powerless to effect such a Messianic reign. To the end, he affirmed that the last shall be first.
While court was in session Peter, the very one to whom Jesus’ Messiahship had first been revealed at Caesarea Philippi, denied knowing Jesus three times (14:62-72). Meanwhile, the Sanhedrin had decided his guilt but needed the stamp of Rome to effect his death. He was brought to Pilate where once again he affirmed that he was king of the Jews (15:1-15). His kingdom was plainly seen as not belonging to this world. In an ironic twist of history, this Pilate, who represents Roman might, is powerless to prevent his execution. True greatness and power were being redefined in the passion of Jesus.
Jesus is then crucified between two thieves (15:16-41). The nature of his kingdom—and the foolishness of the gospel—is seen in his death, for the sign posted on his cross stated in three languages that he was “King of the Jews” (15:26). Entrance into the kingdom had to be through the cross. In his cry of anguish in which he quoted Psalm 22:1—the only time he addressed his Father as “God” (15:34)—Mark is indicating that the suffering servant of YHWH suffered at the hands of YHWH. But he is telling us more: The response of the crowd was a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words (15:35-36) as a final proof that they never understood him. At his death the curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom (15:38), symbolizing the end of the Jewish cult and free access to God through a new mediator. The irony of the entire narrative is that a lone Gentile, a centurion, interpreted the data correctly, recognizing that Jesus was the Son of God (15:39).
Jesus was then hurriedly buried in a rich man’s tomb (15:42-47), for the next day was the Sabbath. There is great irony here: the Lord of the Sabbath in his life had no power over it in his death.45
Finally, the Gospel closes very briefly with a truncated account of Jesus’ resurrection (16:1-8). On the day after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, three women visit the tomb to anoint the body (16:1-2). As they travel, they wonder who would roll away the stone (16:3). But the stone had been rolled away (16:4)! An angel spoke to the women and told them to tell Peter and the disciples to go to Galilee where the resurrected Christ would meet them (16:5-7). The gospel ends with a statement about them leaving in fear and telling no one (16:8). Thus the irony is completed: when Jesus asked people not to reveal his identity they did so; when they were asked to do so, they failed. Surely the reason the Gospel ends without any resurrection appearances is because Mark wants to draw his audience into the action. They have been subtly and skillfully invited all along to embrace Christ in his suffering. Since Peter failed to do so he becomes an example of those who are still “half-blind.” Would Mark’s Roman audience—an audience that knew well the shame and degradation of crucifixion—do the same? Or would they recognize that one cannot have Christ without the cross, that there must be suffering before glory? By ending his Gospel with such incredible abruptness, he forces the audience to put themselves in the shoes of the original disciples. Although his audience surely knew that the (eleven) disciples all saw Jesus in his resurrection body—and all, ultimately, embraced him fully—by ending his Gospel immediately he subtly invites his audience to make the same decision.
I. The Beginning of the Servant’s Ministry (1:1-13)
A. His Forerunner (1:1-8)
B. His Baptism (1:9-11)
C. His Temptation (1:12-13)
II. The Servant’s Ministry in Galilee (1:14–6:6a)
A. Cycle One: Jesus’ Early Galilean Ministry (1:14–3:6)
1. Introductory Summary: Jesus’ Message in Galilee (1:14-15)
2. A Call to Four Fishermen (1:16-20)
3. Authority over Demons and Disease (1:21-45)
a. An Exorcism in the Synagogue (1:21-28)
b. The Healing of Simon’s Mother-in-Law (1:29-34)
c. A Solitary Prayer (1:35-39)
d. The Cleansing of a Leper (1:40-45)
4. Confrontations with Religious Leaders (2:1–3:5)
a. Concerning the Healing and Forgiveness of a Paralyzed Man (2:1-12)
b. Concerning the Calling of a Tax-Collector (2:13-17)
c. Concerning Fasting (2:18-22)
d. Concerning Jesus’ Authority over the Sabbath (2:23–3:5)
1) Plucking Grain on the Sabbath (2:23-28)
2) Healing on the Sabbath (3:1-5)
5. Conclusion: Jesus’ Rejection by the Pharisees (3:6)
B. Cycle Two: Jesus’ Later Galilean Ministry (3:7–6:6a)
1. Introductory Summary: Jesus’ Activity in Galilee (3:7-12)
2. Appointment of the Twelve Disciples (3:13-19)
3. Accusation regarding Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons (3:20-30)
4. Invitation to Join Jesus’ Family (3:31-35)
5. Invitation to Enter the Kingdom (Parables) (4:1-34)
a. The Setting (4:1-2)
b. The Responsibility of the Hearers (4:3-25)
1) The Parable of the Sower (4:3-9)
2) The Purpose of the Parables (4:10-12)
3) The Parable of the Sower Explained (4:13-20)
4) The Parable of the Lamp (4:21-25)
c. The Parables of the Character of the Kingdom (4:26-32)
1) The Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29)
2) The Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:30-32)
d. Conclusion (4:33-34)
6. Miraculous Demonstration of Jesus’ Authority (4:35–5:43)
a. The Calming of a Storm (4:35-41)
b. The Healing of a Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20)
c. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and the Healing of a Hemorrhaging Woman (5:21-43)
7. Conclusion: Jesus’ Rejection in his Hometown (6:1-6a)
III. The Servant’s Withdrawals from Galilee (6:6b–8:21)
A. The Catalyst: The News about Jesus Spreading (6:6b-29)
1. By Jesus’ Activities (6:6b)
2. By Jesus’ Disciples (6:7-13)
3. As far as Herod (6:14-29)
a. The Report to Herod (6:14-16)
b. The Beheading of John (6:17-29)
B. The Withdrawals (6:30–8:21)
1. To a Deserted place (6:30–7:23)
a. Miracles Performed (6:30-56)
1) Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:30-44)
2) Walking on the Water (6:45-56)
b. Pharisees Confronted: Clean Vs. Unclean (7:1-23)
1) Confrontation with the Pharisees (7:1-13)
2) Declaration to the Crowd (7:14-15)
3) Instruction of the Disciples (7:17-23)
2. To the Vicinity of Tyre: The Healing of the Syrophoenician Woman’s Daughter (7:24-30)
3. To the Region of Decapolis: The Healing of a Deaf-Mute (7:31-37)
4. To the Sea of Galilee: The Feeding of the Four Thousand (8:1-9)
5. To Dalmanutha (= Magadan) (8:10-21)
a. The Withdrawal to Dalmanutha (8:10)
b. The Pharisees’ Demand for a Sign (8:11-13)
c. The Pharisees’ Teaching Warned Against (8:14-21)
IV. Revelation of the Servant’s Suffering at Caesarea Philippi (8:22-38)
A. Introductory Object Lesson: The Two-Stage Healing of a Blind Man at Bethsaida (8:22-26)
B. Peter’s Confession: Jesus is the Christ (8:27-30)
C. Jesus’ Disclosure: Death and Resurrection (8:31-38)
1. The Statement by Jesus (8:31)
2. Resistance by Peter (8:32-33)
3. The Principle: Suffering before Glory (8:34-38)
V. The Suffering Servant’s Journey to Jerusalem (9:1–10:52)
A. Lessons in Galilee (9:1-50)
1. The Transfiguration (9:1-13)
2. The Healing of a Demon-Possessed Boy (9:14-30)
3. Prediction of Death and Resurrection: Second Mention (9:31-32)
4. The Greatest Disciple (9:33-37)
5. Doing Good in Jesus’ Name (9:38-41)
6. Stumbling Blocks (9:42-48)
7. Worthless Salt (9:49-50)
B. Lessons in Perea and Judea (10:1-52)
1. In Perea (10:1-31)
a. Divorce (10:1-12)
b. Childlikeness (10:13-16)
c. Riches (10:17-31)
1) The Rich Young Man: Security in Riches (10:17-22)
2) The Disciples: Security in Christ (10:23-31)
2. In Judea (10:32-52)
a. Prediction Death and Resurrection: Third Mention (10:32-34)
b. True Leadership (10:35-52)
1) John’s and James’ Request (10:35-37)
2) Jesus’ Response (10:38-45)
3) Jesus’ Example: Healing of Blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52)
VI. The Suffering Servant’s Ministry in Jerusalem (11:1–13:37)
A. The Presentation of the Suffering Servant: Entrance into Jerusalem (11:1-11)
1. Preparation: The Unbroken Colt (11:1-6)
2. Coronation: The Recognition of Jesus’ Messiahship (11:7-10)
3. Prolepsis: Investigation of the Temple (11:11)
B. The Judgment of the Nation in Symbols (11:12-26)
1. The Entrance into the Temple (11:12-19)
a. Proleptic Rejection of the Nation: Cursing of the Fig Tree (11:12-14)
b. The Cleansing of the Temple (11:15-17)
c. Proleptic Rejection of the Messiah: The Plot to Kill Jesus (11:18-19)
2. The Withered Fig Tree (11:20-26)
C. Confrontations with Religious Leaders (11:27–12:44)
1. The Authority of Jesus Questioned (11:27-33)
2. The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12)
3. Paying Taxes to Caesar (12:13-17)
4. Marriage at the Resurrection (12:18-27)
5. The Greatest Commandment (12:28-34)
6. Whose Son is the Christ? (12:35-37a)
7. The Hypocrisy of the Religious Leaders (12:37b-44)
a. Condemnation of Hypocrisy (12:37b-40)
b. Commendation of the Widow’s Sincerity (12:41-44)
D. The Judgment of the Nation in Prophecy (13:1-37)
1. The Setting in the Temple (13:1-2)
2. The Discourse on the Mount of Olives (13:3-37)
a. Signs of the End of the Age (13:3-31)
b. The Day and Hour Unknown (13:32-37)
VII. The Culmination of the Suffering Servant’s Ministry: Death and Resurrection (14:1–16:8)
A. The Preparation for Death (14:1-52)
1. The Anointing at Bethany (14:1-11)
a. Anointing of Jesus by a Woman (14:1-5)
b. Prediction of her Memorial by Jesus (14:6-9)
c. Agreement to Betrayal by Judas (14:10-11)
2. The Last Passover (14:12-26)
3. The Prediction of Peter’s Denials (14:27-31)
4. Gethsemane (14:32-42)
5. The Arrest of Jesus (14:43-52)
B. The Death of Jesus (14:53–15:47)
1. The Trials of Jesus (14:53–15:15)
a. The Trial Before the Sanhedrin (14:53-65)
b. Peter Denies Jesus (14:66-72)
c. The Trial Before Pilate (15:1-15)
2. The Crucifixion of Jesus (15:16-41)
a. The Mocking of the Soldiers (15:16-20)
b. The Actual Crucifixion of Jesus (15:21-32)
c. The Death of Jesus (15:33-41)
3. The Burial of Jesus (15:42-47)
C. The Resurrection of Jesus (16:1-8)
1. The Empty Tomb (16:1-5)
2. The Angel's Announcement (16:6-7)
3. The Open Ending (16:8)
1The simplest inscription is κατὰ Μάρκον, found in Aleph B (“according to Mark”). As time progressed this became more elaborate: in the fifth century the title was customarily εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Μάρκον (A D W [“The Gospel according to Mark”), while still later it was called τὸ κατὰ Μάρκον ἅγιον εὐαγγέλιον (209 and others [“the Holy Gospel according to Mark”).
3My translation of Fragments of Papias 2:15 (also recorded in Eusebius, HE 3.39.15).
4τάξει could refer to the chronological order of the events in the Lord’s life (which seems most likely), to the arrangement which Peter made of the tradition, or perhaps even to a topical order (cf. 2:3).
5ὃς πρὸς τὰς χρείας ἐποιεῖτο τὰς διδασκαλίας—lit., ‘who used to do the teachings for the needs.’ Two implications might be drawn from this comment: (1) The statement sounds as if the passing on of the traditions about Jesus was a sacred duty which only a few (e.g., eye-witnesses?) were normally engaged in. (2) ‘For the needs’ indicates that the passing on of the traditions about Jesus were not done simply out of historical concerns to ‘preserve’ his life, but for the sake of paranetic concerns within the community. In other words, there is validity with looking at the third Sitz im Leben as we think through the meaning, purpose and occasion of the canonical gospels.
6σύνταξιν τῶν κυριακῶν ποιούμενος λογίων—Although most would see λόγιον here as broader than ‘oracles’ (in light of the context), it is just possible that Papias meant something like ‘Peter did not arrange the oral traditions (λογίων) about the Lord (κυριακῶν) according to their chronological order.’ If so, then the meaning of ‘oracles’ or ‘sayings’ for λογίων would be preserved, though such sayings would not be by the Lord, but about the Lord. Again, if so, this opens up a certain possibility in 2:16 about Matthew’s evangelistic endeavors.
7ἥμαρτεν—Perhaps Papias does mean ‘sin’ here; either way, apostolic sanction seemed a high priority to him in the Überlieferung of the gospel. Further, Papias seemed to have a very high view of scripture—one might even say that he viewed it as inerrant.
8ἑνὸς γὰρ ἐποιήσατο πρόνοιαν—lit., ‘for he did the foresight of one thing.’
9τι ἐν αὐτοῖς—lit., ‘anything in them.’
10Among other things, it renders (Stendahl’s view of the first gospel as being produced by a) “school of St. Matthew” (or any compilation theory for Matthew) as highly improbable, for otherwise the patristic writers would not have claimed direct authorship by Matthew.
11This is on the assumption that John Mark is the same as Mark. He is called John Mark three times (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37) and simply Mark at least five times (Acts 15:39; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13). In Col. 4:10 he is called Barnabas’ cousin “which clearly equates him with the John Mark of Acts” (Guthrie, 82). Further, the mention of Mark by Peter (1 Peter 5:13), just after Peter mentioned Silas (5:12), shows that this is the same Mark who had earlier been associated with Paul, just as Silas had been.
12It is equally possible that Mark left for Antioch shortly after returning on his own to Jerusalem.
13Cf. W. L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT), 9-11, for a helpful layout. C. H. Dodd was the most instrumental in promoting the view that form criticism does not answer all the questions about the make-up of the gospels. He argued cogently that not only individual pericopae, but a certain chronological framework was circulating in the oral period—and that it was part and parcel of the apostolic kerygma.
14So T. J. Weeden, Mark: Traditions in Conflict.
15Lane, Mark, 22.
16Further, there seems to be the implication that although Luke may not have been satisfied with all his sources, he apparently endorses Mark’s Gospel.
17Eusebius, HE 5.8.2-4, citing Against Heresies 3.1.2.
19Indeed, this may well be the most difficult problem to face for one positing a date in the mid-50s—specifically, why does Mark include the Olivet Discourse with its strong eschatological urgency if there were no particular occasion (such as the start of the Jewish War) to provoke it? In response, two things should be noted: (1) the theme of suffering was not out of place in the 50s (as we will show in our fourth point under internal evidence) and eschatological urgency is quite frequently, if not normally, found in the context of suffering; and (2) if Mark truly derived his gospel in large measure from Peter, then the tone of eschatological urgency should hardly be surprising, regardless of when this gospel was written. In Peter’s Pentecost address, the core of the message may be viewed as essentially that of eschatological urgency (Acts 2:14-39; cf. especially his use of Joel 2); in his first epistle, too, there is such a tone (1 Peter 1:5, 11, 13, 20; 2:12; 4:5, 7, 12-19; 5:4); and especially in 2 Peter do we see this (2 Peter 3:1-13). It would hardly be an overstatement in fact to speak of Peter as belonging to an apocalyptic-type of Christianity since the twin themes of suffering and eschatological urgency go hand in glove throughout his sermons and letters, stretching from 33 CE to 65 CE. Yet, if Peter wrote the two letters that bear his name, he must have done so before the Jewish War began. Thus what may first appear as a difficulty for a mid-50s date for Mark turns out to be very much for this view, provided that Peter stands behind the gospel.
21We will discuss the date of Acts more fully when we come to that book.
22Cf. Lane, Mark, 12-17.
23In this respect, it was not much different than Hitler’s plot against the Jews, for they were already a despised people.
24Cf. Tacitus, Annals 15.44.
26An apt analogy might be the non-official persecution of black Americans in the South, especially in the ’50s and ’60s.
27Lane, Mark, 17.
28Our reasons for dating it at this time rather than earlier, will become evident when we discuss occasion and purpose.
29In particular, Mark 15:21 mentions Rufus incidentally, as though he were well known to the readers. In Rom. 16:13 a certain Rufus (who lived in Rome) was greeted by Paul. The subtle connection to make is that Mark was probably in the same place as Rufus when he wrote, and since Rufus was in Rome in the late 50s, Mark was too. This is further supported by the NT references to Mark in Col. 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:13, which place him in Rome in the early-mid 60s.
30Though not unanimous: Chrysostom speaks of an Egyptian destination. But he is alone, and quite late.
31So Guthrie, 72.
32Lane, Mark, 24.
33See Guthrie, 65-71, for a complete discussion.
35See references and discussion under authorship of Mark.
36Even though Acts 18 records Priscilla and Aquila’s departure from Rome under Claudius’ edict, the distinct impression in this chapter is that they do not become Christians until after some exposure to Paul. Further, if Claudius was sending away Jews because they were against “Chrestus” (Christ), then Aquila and Priscilla would surely not have been believers when they were in Rome.
37Cf. F. J. A. Hort, Prolegomena to St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, 15-18.
38In this reconstruction we do not wish to suggest that Mark’s motives for such a monumental task were as petty as it might sound. Surely he wanted to get in good with Paul once again—and surely he wanted to prove himself worthy of the Gentile mission. But more than that, he wanted to serve his Lord Jesus Christ in the mission at which he had earlier failed. That this coincided with Paul’s mission is no accident, but Mark’s calling would have been higher than mere allegiance to the apostle.
39To put this bluntly, Mark is saying, “You cannot have Christ without the cross.” The open ending of this gospel at 16:8 is confirmatory of this view, for the disciples do not ever see the risen Lord, but they are invited to go to him. The dramatic and sudden end then functions as a direct invitation to the reader: What will you do with Jesus?
40This would, of course, relate well to the Gentile audience to whom Mark was writing, for Jewish genealogies were of no concern to them. Similarly, Luke gives a genealogy which links Jesus to all mankind and ultimately to God himself.
41This reveals a motif in Mark which is the opposite of Matthew: whereas Matthew uses the narrative as a framework of the didactic material, Mark uses the didactic material as a framework for the action sequences.
42Matthew’s parallel section (chapters 8-9) is different in two ways: (1) the miracles come immediately after the Sermon on the Mount rather than after the message on parables, and (2) there are more miracles, done in the presence of Pharisees, etc. Jesus’ authority in Mark, at this juncture, is very much focused on how the disciples perceived Jesus—far more than on the crowds or the Pharisees. The reason for this shift in emphasis is that Matthew’s concern is to reveal Jewish rejection of Jesus as an apologetic for his gospel of the kingdom, whereas Mark is more concerned with Roman Gentiles’ perception of someone who was nailed to a Roman cross. If they wish to follow Jesus they must follow him all the way. Hence, the group that the readers would identify with in Matthew is the Jews, while the group that the readers of Mark should identify with is the disciples.
43There may be some significance to the fact that the two crucial episodes in Jesus’ ministry both took place in towns which Herod had built (to contrast with the world’s idea of greatness), both were juxtaposed (or involved) a healing of a blind man, both dealt with Jesus’ ministry as suffering servant, and both involved a confession as to who Christ was.
44For more information on the Olivet Discourse, see our argument of Matthew (for his didactic material is the longest of any of the Gospels’).
45Although it hardly becomes explicit throughout the Gospel, this suffering servant motif is really the drama of Isa. 53 acted out in real life. This becomes one more subtle argument that Mark got his Gospel from Peter, for 1 Peter, in many ways, builds on the same passage. Further, the twin theme of Jesus as the suffering servant and our response to him to pick up our cross daily and follow him is also seen very strongly in 1 Peter.
46Although there is a definite chronological framework to Mark’s Gospel, much of the action is cyclical in nature. For example, the early Galilean ministry parallels the later Galilean ministry, confrontations with religious Jewish leaders, Jesus’ initiation toward the disciples, etc., all occur repeatedly. The main points of our outline will follow a chronological scheme, though the subpoints will pick up on the repeated themes and motifs. Further, we have borrowed heavily from J. D. Grassmick, Mark (BKC), 101-102 (and passim) as his insights into the structure of Mark are more convincing than other presentations (though we have not been fully convinced; hence, there are major differences between our approach and Grassmick’s).