Summary: An overview of the gospel of Mark for seekers, looking at his specific view of Jesus as hard working, suffering Son of God, ransom for the world.
We’ve all heard this phrase:
It’s the GOSPEL truth, man!
Which means we think something is absolutely true, there’s total veracity… but that’s not what it meant to the people who coined the term. The Greek word we get it from is actually a compound word: UANGELION…
- UOOS = GOOD
- ANGELION = MESSAGE
So it literally means good message, or good news. But the word GOSPEL was used in the ancient world ALSO to announce the coming of a new epoch, a history making, world changing event. It was said that the coronation of Caesar Augustus was gospel… a new epoch that had arrived, a world changing event…
So it’s appropriate that when the first writer who set about to get Jesus story down on paper wanted to coin a term for it… he used the word Gospel. Mark is the first of the four Gospels chronologically … and he opens with this line:
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
This is the start of the new epoch, a new era, a new age, the inauguration of a new period of good news and this gospel, this in-breaking of God is somehow centered in and revealed by a man called Jesus Christ.
That’s Mark’s story… but who was Mark and why should we listen to him? Well, Mark’s gospel is actually anonymous… but 4 early sources from the 2nd century tell us that the name of the author was Mark, a popular worker in the early church and a close companion and confidante of Peter – Jesus leading apprentice.
So Mark writes from sometime in the 60’s, probably just after Peter was killed during Nero’s persecution in Rome. This probably has something to do with the reason for writing.
- oral tradition
- Peter dying
- Need official account for posterity.
Now, some of you are wondering about the 30 year gap of oral tradition between Jesus life and anything in writing. How can we trust Mark with that huge gap there? Well, it’s not like this gap was a total vacuum of information.
- First, don’t minimize the ability of the ancient mind in a pre-printing press, pre-internet, pre-library age to commit large quantities of information to memory. We moderns don’t have to exercise those memory muscles but ancient folks had to and did. (Koran, Roots)
- Second, there might have been proto gospels written BEFORE Mark, which Mark used as sources. It’s been suggested that there were source documents that circulated just Jesus’ stories, another just his sayings… Next week we’ll see that Luke tells us MANY of these sorts of documents were flying around… that’s how earth shattering a life Jesus lived… this simple carpenter had lips and pens buzzing from the moment he hit the public arena.
- Third, we are talking about ONLY 30 years here.
Every Biblical Gospel was written within 3 to 6 decades of Jesus – that’s not so long that many, many eye witnesses wouldn’t be around to affirm or deny. Think about this in our modern context: imagine I wrote today that a very public and controversial figure from the 60’s, like MLK claimed to be the Son of God, did miracles and rose from the dead.