The divinely inspired record of the ministry of Jesus Christ written by John Mark. This account of “the good news about Jesus Christ” begins with the work of Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptizer, and concludes with a report of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. Hence, it covers the time from the spring of 29 to the spring of 33 C.E.—Mr 1:1.
This Gospel, the shortest of all four, is a rapid-moving and descriptive record of the ministry of Jesus Christ as the miracle-working Son of God. Frequent is the use of “immediately” or “at once.” (Mr 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 29) The account is almost evenly divided between conversation and action.
Source of Information. Ancient tradition indicates that Peter provided the basic information for Mark’s Gospel, and this would agree with the fact that Mark was associated with Peter in Babylon. (1Pe 5:13) According to Origen, Mark composed his Gospel “in accordance with Peter’s instructions.” (The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, VI, XXV, 3-7) In his work, “Against Marcion” (IV, V), Tertullian says that the Gospel of Mark “may be affirmed to be Peter’s, whose interpreter Mark was.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p. 350) Eusebius gives the statement of “John the presbyter” as quoted by Papias (c. 140 C.E.): “And the Presbyter used to say this, ‘Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. . . . Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.’”—The Ecclesiastical History, III, XXXIX, 12-16.
John Mark evidently also had other sources of information. Since Jesus’ early disciples met in the home of his mother (Ac 12:12), Mark must have been acquainted with persons other than Peter who had known Jesus Christ well, individuals who had seen him doing his work and had heard him preach and teach. Probably being the “certain young man” whom those arresting Christ tried to seize but who “got away naked,” Mark himself was apparently not totally without personal contact with Jesus.—Mr 14:51, 52.
Evidently Written With Non-Jews in Mind. While the good news according to Mark would interest and benefit Jewish readers, apparently it was not written specifically for them. It seems to have been composed primarily for non-Jewish readers, especially the Romans. Its conciseness and abrupt character have been viewed as particularly suitable for the intellect of Roman readers. Latin terms are sometimes transliterated into Greek, as when the Greek word prai·toʹri·on is used for the Latin term praetorium. (Mr 15:16, Int) Also, the Greek word ken·ty·riʹon is employed for the Latin word centurio, an officer in command of a hundred soldiers.—Mr 15:39, Int.
The account contains explanations that would not have been necessary for Jewish readers. It indicates that the Jordan was a river and shows that the temple could be seen from the Mount of Olives. (Mr 1:5; 13:3) It mentions that the Pharisees practiced “fasting” and that the Sadducees “say there is no resurrection.” (2:18; 12:18) This Gospel also explains that the Passover victim was sacrificed on “the first day of unfermented cakes” and that “Preparation” was “the day before the sabbath.”—14:12; 15:42.
Whereas it would not normally have been necessary to explain Semitic terms for Jewish readers in general, Mark’s Gospel provides many of such explanations. Interpretations are given for “Boanerges” (“Sons of Thunder”), “Talʹi·tha cuʹmi” (“Maiden, I say to you, Get up!”), “corban” (“a gift dedicated to God”), and “Eʹli, Eʹli, laʹma sa·bach·thaʹni?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).—Mr 3:17; 5:41; 7:11; 15:34.
Time and Place of Composition. According to ancient tradition, Mark’s Gospel was first made public in Rome, this being the testimony of such early writers as Clement, Eusebius, and Jerome. Mark was in Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment there. (Col 4:10; Phm 1, 23, 24) Thereafter he was with Peter in Babylon. (1Pe 5:13) Then, during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome, Paul asked that Timothy come soon and bring Mark with him. (2Ti 4:11) Probably Mark did then return to Rome. Since no mention is made of Jerusalem’s destruction in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, Mark must have compiled his account before that event in 70 C.E. His presence in Rome at least once, and likely twice, during the years 60-65 C.E. suggests that Mark may have completed his Gospel there sometime during those years.
Some Unique Features of Mark’s Account. Though largely covering material similar to that of Matthew and Luke, Mark also provides supplementary details. Some of these illuminate how Jesus felt about certain things. He was ‘grieved at the insensibility of the hearts’ of persons who objected to his healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. (Mr 3:5) When Jesus received a poor reception from people in his home territory, “he wondered at their lack of faith.” (6:6) And he “felt love” for the rich young man who asked about the requirements for gaining everlasting life.—10:21.
Also unique with Mark’s account are certain points regarding the end of Jesus’ earthly life. He reports that at Jesus’ trial the false witnesses were not in agreement. (Mr 14:59) The passerby impressed into service to carry Jesus’ torture stake was Simon of Cyrene, “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” (15:21) And Mark relates that Pilate made sure that Jesus was dead before granting permission for Joseph of Arimathea to take the body for burial.—15:43-45.
One of the four illustrations of Jesus found in Mark’s Gospel is unique. (Mr 4:26-29) The account mentions at least 19 miracles performed by Jesus Christ. Two of these (the healing of a deaf man who also had a speech impediment and the cure of a certain blind man) are contained only in Mark’s Gospel.—Mr 7:31-37; 8:22-26.
References to the Hebrew Scriptures. Although Mark appears to have written primarily for the Romans, this record does contain references to and quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. The work of John the Baptizer is shown to have been a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1. (Mr 1:2-4) Also to be found in the account are instances of Jesus’ applying, quoting from, or alluding to the Hebrew Scriptures. These include: Giving God mere lip service (Mr 7:6, 7; Isa 29:13); honoring parents (Mr 7:10; Ex 20:12; 21:17); the creation of man and woman and the institution of marriage (Mr 10:6-9; Ge 1:27; 2:24); various commandments (Mr 10:19; Ex 20:12-16; Le 19:13); Jesus’ comments regarding the temple (Mr 11:17; Isa 56:7; Jer 7:11); his statement about being rejected (Mr 12:10, 11; Ps 118:22, 23); Jehovah’s words to Moses at the burning thornbush (Mr 12:26; Ex 3:2, 6); the two great commandments on love (Mr 12:29-31; De 6:4, 5; Le 19:18); the prophetic words of Jehovah to David’s Lord on the subjugation of foes (Mr 12:36; Ps 110:1); the scattering of Jesus’ disciples (Mr 14:27; Zec 13:7); Jesus’ statement on being forsaken by God (Mr 15:34; Ps 22:1); his instructions to a healed leper (Mr 1:44; Le 14:10, 11); and his prophetic statement regarding the disgusting thing causing desolation (Mr 13:14; Da 9:27).
The references to the Hebrew Scriptures in Mark’s account amply illustrate that Jesus Christ had confidence in them and used those Scriptures in his ministry. The Gospel also provides a basis for becoming better acquainted with the Son of man, who “came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”—Mr 10:45.
Long and Short Conclusions. Some have thought that Mark 16:8, which ends with the words “and they told nobody anything, for they were in fear,” is too abrupt to have been the original ending of this Gospel. However, that need not be concluded in view of Mark’s general style. Also, the fourth-century scholars Jerome and Eusebius agree that the authentic record closes with the words “for they were in fear.”—Jerome, letter 120, question 3, as published in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vienna and Leipzig, 1912, Vol. LV, p. 481; Eusebius, “Ad Marinum,” I, as published in Patrologia Graeca, Paris, 1857, Vol. XXII, col. 937.
There are a number of manuscripts and versions that add a long or a short conclusion after these words. The long conclusion (consisting of 12 verses) is found in the Alexandrine Manuscript, the Codex Ephraemi Syri rescriptus, and the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis. It also appears in the Latin Vulgate, the Curetonian Syriac, and the Syriac Peshitta. But it is omitted in the Sinaitic Manuscript, the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209, the Sinaitic Syriac codex, and the Armenian Version. Certain late manuscripts and versions contain the short conclusion. The Codex Regius of the eighth century C.E. has both conclusions, giving the shorter conclusion first. It prefixes a note to each conclusion, saying that these passages are current in some quarters, though it evidently recognized neither of them as authoritative.
In commenting on the long and short conclusions of the Gospel of Mark, Bible translator Edgar J. Goodspeed noted: “The Short Conclusion connects much better with Mark 16:8 than does the Long, but neither can be considered an original part of the Gospel of Mark.”—The Goodspeed Parallel New Testament, 1944, p. 127.
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HIGHLIGHTS OF MARK
Mark’s concise, fast-moving account of Jesus’ life, presenting Jesus as the miracle-working Son of God
The shortest Gospel, it was the third to be written (c. 60-65 C.E.), evidently with non-Jews in mind
Jesus conducts a vigorous campaign of Kingdom preaching
He invites Simon, Andrew, James, and John to leave the fishing business and be his followers (1:16-21)
Levi, a tax collector, responds to invitation to be Jesus’ follower (2:14-17)
Jesus forms a group of 12 apostles to preach (3:13-19)
He uses many illustrations when teaching about the Kingdom of God so that only worthy ones get the full sense of what he says (4:1-34)
Jesus encounters lack of faith while witnessing in his home territory (6:1-6)
He steps up the preaching activity by sending out his apostles (6:7-13)
Jesus is transfigured in Kingdom glory (9:1-8)
Outside Jerusalem, he prophesies about ‘the coming of the Son of man with great power and glory’ (13:1-37)
The miracle-working Son of God
By curing a paralytic, Jesus demonstrates his power to forgive sins (2:1-12)
Sufferers crowd in from all parts seeking relief (3:1-12)
After calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee, he expels demons from a man and allows them to enter a herd of swine (4:35–5:17)
He heals a woman suffering from a flow of blood and resurrects Jairus’ daughter (5:21-43)
After feeding 5,000 with two fishes and five loaves, Jesus walks on the windswept Sea of Galilee (6:35-52)
He casts a demon from the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman and cures a deaf man having a speech impediment (7:24-37)
Opposers of God’s Son are unsuccessful
After Satan’s efforts at temptation in the wilderness, angels minister to Jesus (1:12, 13)
When scribes of the Pharisees criticize his eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus refutes them (2:15-17)
Later the Pharisees object to his disciples plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath and Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath; they join the Herodians in wanting to destroy him (2:23–3:6)
Jesus convincingly refutes the accusation that he expels demons by means of Satan (3:20-30)
Pharisees and scribes protest that his disciples disregard their tradition about hand washing; Jesus exposes their hypocrisy and explains the real source of uncleanness (7:1-23)
Pharisees question Jesus regarding divorce in order to test him, but without success (10:1-12)
He tells the parable of the vineyard to expose the opposition of the religious leaders to God’s will and their intent to kill Jesus; these seek to seize him but fear the crowd (12:1-12)
Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar; Sadducees pose a difficult question about the resurrection. All fail to trap Jesus (12:13-27)
Judas betrays Jesus; disciples stumbled; Jesus is arrested and the Sanhedrin judges him worthy of death; nevertheless, he foretells he will ‘sit at the right hand of power and come with the clouds of heaven’ (14:1, 2, 10, 11, 17-21, 27-65)
Pilate is pressured into condemning Jesus to death; Jesus dies on the stake and is buried (15:1-47)
Angels announce the resurrection of Jesus (16:1-8)