MARK, GOOD NEWS ACCORDING TO
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 Baptist, 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.—Mark 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.” (Mark 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. (1 Pet. 5:13) According to Origen, Mark composed his Gospel “as Peter explained to him.” (The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, Book VI, chap. 25) Tertullian’s testimony is: “The Gospel of Mark is maintained to be Peter’s, whose interpreter he was, . . . for it is possible that that which scholars publish should be regarded as their master’s work.” Eusebius (The Ecclesiastical History, Book III, chap. 39) gives the statement of John “the presbyter” as quoted by Papias (c. 140 C.E.): “And John the presbyter also said this, Mark being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy, but not, however, in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord, . . . Mark has not erred in any thing, by writing some things as he has recorded them; for he was carefully attentive to one thing, not to pass by any thing that he heard, or to state any thing falsely in these accounts.”
John Mark evidently also had other sources of information. Since Jesus’ early disciples met in the home of his mother (Acts 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.—Mark 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. (Mark 15:16, Kingdom Interlinear Translation) Also, the Greek word ken·ty·riʹon is employed for the Latin word centurio, an officer in command of a hundred soldiers.—Mark 15:39, Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
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. (Mark 1:5; 13:3) It mentions that the Pharisees practiced “fasting” and that the Sadducees “say there is no resurrection.” (Mark 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.”—Mark 14:12; 15:42.
Whereas it would not normally have been necessary to explain Semitic terms for Palestinian 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?”).—Mark 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; Philem. 1, 23, 24) Thereafter he was with Peter in Babylon. (1 Pet. 5:13) Then, during Paul’s second Imprisonment in Rome, he asked that Timothy come soon and bring Mark with him. (2 Tim. 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.
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. (Mark 3:5) When Jesus received a poor reception from people in his home territory, “he wondered at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:6) And he “felt love” for the rich young man who asked about the requirements for gaining everlasting life.—Mark 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. (Mark 14:59) The passerby impressed into service to carry Jesus’ torture stake was Simon of Cyrene, “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” (Mark 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.—Mark 15:43-45.
One of the four illustrations of Jesus found in Mark’s Gospel appears to be unique. (Mark 4:26-29) The account mentions at least nineteen 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.—Mark 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 Baptist is shown to have been a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1. (Mark 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 (Mark 7:6, 7; Isa. 29:13); honoring parents (Mark 7:10; Ex. 20:12; 21:17); the creation of man and woman and the institution of marriage (Mark 10:6-9; Gen. 1:27; 2:24); various commandments (Mark 10:19; Ex. 20:12-16; Lev. 19:13); Jesus’ comments regarding the temple (Mark 11:17; Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11); his statement about being rejected (Mark 12:10, 11; Ps. 118:22, 23); Jehovah’s words to Moses at the burning thornbush (Mark 12:26; Ex. 3:2, 6); the two great commandments on love (Mark 12:29-31; Deut. 6:4, 5; Lev. 19:18); the prophetic words of Jehovah to David’s Lord on the subjugation of foes (Mark 12:36; Ps. 110:1); the scattering of Jesus’ disciples (Mark 14:27; Zech. 13:7); Jesus’ statement on being forsaken by God (Mark 15:34; Ps. 22:1); his instructions to a healed leper (Mark 1:44; Lev. 14:10, 11) and his prophetic statement regarding the disgusting thing causing desolation.—Mark 13:14; Dan. 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.”—Mark 10:45.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. John the Baptist’s ministry (1:1-11)
II. Jesus’ activity from time of temptation by Devil until sending out twelve apostles (1:12–6:6)
A. Tempted by Devil; begins ministry in Galilee after John’s arrest (1:12-15)
B. Calls first disciples; expels demons and cures the sick (1:16-45)
C. Actions questioned by Pharisees and others; plotted against (2:1–3:6)
D. Cured many and expelled demons; selection of twelve apostles (3:7-19)
E. Charge of expelling demons by ruler of demons refuted (3:20-30)
F. Followers equated with brother, sister and mother (3:31-35)
G. Teaching: various illustrations, including sower, and mustard seed; private explanation for disciples (4:1-34)
H. Various miracles: windstorm quieted; demon-possessed man healed, woman healed of flow of blood, Jairus’ daughter resurrected (4:35–5:43)
I. Preaching in home territory (6:1-6)
III. Jesus’ ministry from sending out twelve apostles until his leaving the region of Tyre and Sidon (6:7–7:30)
A. Twelve apostles sent out (6:7-13)
B. News of Jesus’ powerful works reaches Herod (6:14-29)
C. Apostles come back with report about activity (6:30-32)
D. Jesus’ teaching and miracles, including feeding of 5,000, walking on sea and healing (6:33-56)
E. Issue on traditional washing of hands (7:1-23)
F. Demon-possessed daughter of Syrophoenician woman healed in region of Tyre and Sidon (7:24-30)
IV. From Jesus’ leaving the region of Tyre and Sidon until the beginning of his ministry in Perea (7:31–9:50)
A. Miracles: healing of deaf man; feeding of about 4,000 men (7:31–8:9)
B. Dispute with Pharisees about sign; warning about leaven of Pharisees and that of Herod (8:10-21)
C. Progressive restoration of sight to blind man at Bethsaida (8:22-26)
D. Peter’s identification of Jesus as Christ; his objection to things to befall Jesus; given reproof (8:27-33)
E. Requirements for being Jesus’ follower (8:34-38)
F. Transfiguration vision (9:1-13)
G. Healing of demon-possessed boy whom Jesus’ disciples were unable to cure (9:14-29)
H. Jesus foretells death and resurrection; corrects and teaches disciples (9:30-50)
V. Jesus’ ministry in Perea and around Jericho (10:1-52)
A. Jesus tested on matter of divorce (10:1-12)
B. Kingdom belongs to persons like young children (10:13-16)
C. Rich man told requirements for gaining everlasting life; blessings resulting from being Jesus’ follower (10:17-31)
D. Jesus’ future sufferings; request of James and John to sit at Jesus’ right hand (10:32-45)
E. Healing of blind Bartimaeus near Jericho (10:46-52)
VI. Final days of Jesus’ public ministry (11:1–14:16)
A. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11)
B. Fig tree cursed (11:12-14)
C. Temple cleansed (11:15-18)
D. Disciples taught about faith and prayer (11:19-25)
E. Chief priests and others question Jesus’ authority; his reply and illustration of vineyard and wicked cultivators (11:27–12:12)
F. Efforts to trap Jesus on tax question and resurrection; greatest commandment in Law (12:13-40)
G. Jesus observes those making contributions at temple; gift of poor widow (12:41-44)
H. Foretells destruction of temple; later provides “sign” in answer to disciples’ question (13:1-36)
I. Plot against Jesus; Judas agrees to betray him (14:1-11)
J. Preparations for Passover (14:12-16)
VII. Jesus’ last Nisan 14 on earth (14:17–15:41)
A. Passover celebration followed by institution of Lord’s Evening Meal (14:12-26)
B. Discussion about all being stumbled and Peter to disown Jesus three times (14:27-31)
C. Events in garden of Gethsemane (14:32-52)
1. Jesus prays; Peter, James and John fall asleep (14:32-42)
2. Judas betrays Jesus with kiss; mob takes Jesus into custody; all abandon Jesus and flee (14:43-52)
D. Jesus tried and held guilty of blasphemy; Peter’s denial (14:53-72)
E. Early morning consultation by Sanhedrin; Jesus before Pilate, who yields to demands for impalement (15:1-15)
F. Jesus mocked by soldiers, led away, and impaled; expires (15:16-41)
VIII. Jesus’ burial, resurrection (15:42–16:8); post-resurrection appearances (long conclusion; 16:9-20)
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 “they were in fear.”
There are a number of manuscripts and versions that add a long or a short conclusion after these words. The long conclusion (consisting of twelve verses) is found in the Alexandrine Manuscript, the Codex Ephraemi rescriptus and the Cambridge Manuscript. It also appears in the Latin Vulgate, the Curetonian Syriac Version and the Syriac Peshitta Version. But it is omitted in the Sinaitic Manuscript, the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209, the Sinaitic codex (in Old Syriac) 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, p. 127.