Summary: Introduction to the gospel of Mark
Who Was Mark?
Who, what, where, when and why of Mark’s gospel. Who was it written to? What was their life like at that time? Why write a gospel at all, as far as we can tell, no one wrote a gospel for at least 20 years after the resurrection. What is the Big Idea of this book?
The earliest gospel in the New Testament is called the Gospel according to Mark.
As far as we know, that title didn’t exist in the original manuscripts, but then - we don’t have any of the first manuscripts of any book in the Bible. However, our earliest copies don’t have Mark as the title, but the tradition of the early church Fathers says that Mark wrote it.
Tradition isn’t always right, but it isn’t always wrong either. 1700 years ago, Eusebius said that Mark was the author, and he was relying on information from of a bishop from Hierapolis named Papias who lived 60-120 AD, here’s what Papias wrote:
“Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered of what was said or done by the Lord, however, not in order”
Unpack “Not in Order”
Writers in those ancient times rarely claimed authorship like we do today, and often disguised themselves in the story. For example, John’s gospel has a “disciple whom Jesus loved” figuring prominently. There is one intriguing verse at the end of Mark’s gospel that many scholars believe was about events Mark was an eyewitness to.
Mark 14:50-52 Then all the disciples left him and fled. 51 A young man was following him, wearing only a linen cloth. They tried to arrest him, 52 but he ran off naked, leaving his linen cloth behind.
So if it was Mark streaking away, it is understandable that he didn’t add his name to it.
Most scholars agree that Mark was used by both Luke and Matthew as a primary source for their gospel writing. A huge part of Mark is found word for word in both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel. Don’t think of this as plagiarism!
Many believe that Mark is written in response to a historical event. That event caused great persecution to break out against the church. Mark was written in part to give hope and comfort to the Christians who were experiencing this persecution.
What was that event? It was the Great Fire of Rome – Circus Maximus
Video Intro to Mark’s gospel by Michael Card Christian Persecution in Rome
It was in the heat of summer, July 18th in the year 64 AD. It took 6 days to be brought under control. Rumors abounded about the origin of the fire. Maybe you have heard some of them
• Nero sent men out to set fire to the city while he sang and played his lyre (fiddle)
• Nero wanted to build the world’s greatest amphitheatre, and the land he wanted to use was already occupied, he started the fire.
• Nero himself claimed that the Christians started the fire.
So Mark’s book could be as early as 64 AD, just a few decades after Jesus was raised from the dead. And this is very important. Think of events that took place in 1980’s.
• Mt. St. Helens erupted
• Assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan
• ET released – along with Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Back to the future
• The Berlin wall comes down, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez and Space Shuttle disasters,
• Olivia Newton John sang Physical, Survivor Eye of the Tiger, Police Every Breath you take
• The WWW invented (thank you Al Gore)
So Mark records events that some living eyewitnesses can confirm. The crucifixion of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus. When Mark and others declare that there is a dead man walking, that someone burst forth from the grave, there were people living at the time who could very easily refute those statements, - unless they were true. The spine tingling truth of this is simply the absence of eyewitnesses declaring that there was a body more than 3 days after the resurrection. The truth is that there were many witnesses of Jesus’ life AFTER life!
What is the Big Idea of this book? Mark’s purpose is stated at the start.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Declares Jesus to be Messiah and Divine – ushering in God’s Kingdom.
And one of the greatest proofs of the resurrection of Jesus is that no one refutes the resurrection while there are still eyewitnesses alive!
We don’t have the original copies of Mark or any of the gospels. We at best have copies of copies of copies. But the oldest copies we do have list the title as “According to Mark”
So, who was Mark? – We are not entirely certain, but tradition and scripture give us some clues. He no doubt was younger than Jesus – but so were all of the 12