The Gospel According To Mark – History

After reading through the four Gospels, and recently finishing Acts, I have decided to work my way through a much more in-depth study of one of the Gospels.  Thanks to a good recommendation from a friend, I decided to work through Mark, which to some would be the last choice to go through, as it seems to receive far less attention than the other three.  The book I am going through is entitled, “The Gospel According To Mark” by James R. Edwards.  This will take me a while, as excluding the index sections at the end, this book weighs in at 512 pages.

I have been working through the introduction, and it has already been a fascinating read so far.  Here are some noteworthy details:

History of Interpretation

Only until recently has Mark’s Gospel received more attention.  It was assumed for along time that Mark was simply and abridged version of Matthew, and thus assumed it was written after Matthew.  Many critics have Mark have said things like, “Mark imitated Matthew like a lackey and is regarded as his abbreviator.”  Others would agree that, “In comparison to John with its lofty theology, Matthew with its narrative structure, or Luke with its inimitable parables and stories, Mark has often been judged as a rather artless and pedestrian Gospel, even by scholars.”  Often when Gospels are cited, even today, Mark is rarely used.

In the early nineteenth century, the understanding of Mark’s Gospel changed drastically.  According to historical evidence, it was actually hypothesized that Mark was indeed the earliest Gospel, and was actually a “primary source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.”

Authorship of Mark

While nowhere in Mark’s Gospel does it specify Mark as being the author, the clarity of Mark being the author comes from external sources such as the writings of Papias and Eusebius.  The authorship is not a debated topic.

It is interesting that Mark wrote a Gospel, though he was not a disciple, and was not with Jesus to see and witness the events and sayings he writes of.  Mark actually served as Peter’s interpreter.  Mark followed Peter, listened to his testimonies, and wrote them all down thus compiling his Gospel.  “The tradition that Peter was a key source for Mark’s Gospel – indeed, that the Second Gospel was in many respects ‘Peter’s memoirs’ – found, as far as we know, unanimous agreement in the early church.”

Date

The sources and information provided in this commentary are very interesting, and very detailed, so I will not go into them here.  The dating of Mark’s Gospel is difficult, and there is not enough evidence to know with certainty.  The author states, “In summary, although none of the foregoing arguments and evidence is conclusive in itself, a combination of external and internal data appears to point to a composition of the Gospel of Mark in Rome between the great fire in 64 and the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70, that is, about the year 65.”

Historical Context

“…the intent of the Gospel of Mark was to portray the person and mission of Jesus Christ for Roman Christians undergoing persecution under Nero.  There can be little doubt that Mark wrote for Gentile readers, and Roman Gentiles in particular.  Mark quotes relatively in frequently from the OT, and he explains Jewish customs unfamiliar to his readers.  He translates Aramaic and Hebrew phrases by their Greek equivalents.  He also incorporates a number of Latinisms by transliterating familiar Latin expressions into Greek characters.  Finally, Mark presents Romans in a neutral and sometimes favorable light.  These data indicate that Mark wrote for Greek readers whose primary frame of reference was the Roman Empire, whose native tongue was evidently Latin, and for whom the land and Jewish ethos of Jesus were unfamiliar.”

 

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