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Mark, The Book of (Gospel of)

RELATED: Apostle(s), Disciple(s), Galilee, Gentiles, Gospels, The; Jesus, John the Baptist, Lord's Supper, Mark (the Evangelist), Parable, Pilate, Sabbath, Sermon on the Mount, The Transfiguration
AUTHOR: Mark (the Evangelist)
READ: American Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible
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Easton's Bible Dictionary

It is the current and apparently well-founded tradition that Mark derived his information mainly from the discourses of Peter. In his mother's house he would have abundant opportunities of obtaining information from the other apostles and their coadjutors, yet he was "the disciple and interpreter of Peter" specially.

As to the time when it was written, the Gospel furnishes us with no definite information. Mark makes no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem, hence it must have been written before that event, and probably about A.D. 63.

The place where it was written was probably Rome. Some have supposed Antioch (Compare Mark 15:21 with Acts 11:20 ).

It was intended primarily for Romans. This appears probable when it is considered that it makes no reference to the Jewish law, and that the writer takes care to interpret words which a Gentile would be likely to misunderstand, such as, "Boanerges" (Mark 3:17); "Talitha cumi" (Mark 5:41); "Corban" (Mark 7:11); "Bartimaeus" (Mark 10:46); "Abba" (Mark 14:36); "Eloi," etc. (Mark 15:34). Jewish usages are also explained (Mark 7:3 ; 14:3 ; 14:12 ; 15:42). Mark also uses certain Latin words not found in any of the other Gospels, as "speculator" (Mark 6:27, rendered, A.V., "executioner;" R.V., "soldier of his guard"), "xestes" (a corruption of sextarius, rendered "pots," Mark 7:4 , 8), "quadrans" (Mark 12:42, rendered "a farthing"), "centurion" (Mark 15:39 , 44 , 45). He only twice quotes from the Old Testament (Mark 1:2 ; 15:28).

The characteristics of this Gospel are,

(1) The absence of the genealogy of our Lord,

(2) Whom he represents as clothed with power, the "lion of the tribe of Judah."

(3) Mark also records with wonderful minuteness the very words (Mark 3:17 ; 5:41 ; 7:11 , 34 ; 14:36) as well as the position (Mark 9:35) and gestures (Mark 3:5 , 34 ; 5:32 ; 9:36 ; 10:16) of our Lord.

(4) He is also careful to record particulars of person (Mark 1:29 , 36 ; 3:6 , 22, etc.), number (Mark 5:13 ; 6:7, etc.), place (Mark 2:13 ; 4:1 ; 7:31, etc.), and time (Mark 1:35 ; 2:1 ; 4:35 , etc.), which the other evangelists omit.

(5) The phrase "and straightway" occurs nearly forty times in this Gospel; while in Luke's Gospel, which is much longer, it is used only seven times, and in John only four times.

"The Gospel of Mark," says Westcott, "is essentially a transcript from life. The course and issue of facts are imaged in it with the clearest outline." "In Mark we have no attempt to draw up a continuous narrative. His Gospel is a rapid succession of vivid pictures loosely strung together without much attempt to bind them into a whole or give the events in their natural sequence. This pictorial power is that which specially characterizes this evangelist, so that 'if any one desires to know an evangelical fact, not only in its main features and grand results, but also in its most minute and so to speak more graphic delineation, he must betake himself to Mark.'" The leading principle running through this Gospel may be expressed in the motto: "Jesus came...preaching the gospel of the kingdom" ( Mark 1:14 ).

"Out of a total of 662 verses, Mark has 406 in common with Matthew and Luke, 145 with Matthew, 60 with Luke, and at most 51 peculiar to itself." (See MATTHEW .)


Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

(no entry)


Smith's Bible Dictionary

By whom written. --

The author of this Gospel has been universally believed to be Mark or Marcus, designated in ( Acts 12:12 , Acts 12:25 ; 15:37 ) as John Mark, and in ch. 5,13 as John.

When is was written. --

Upon this point nothing absolutely certain can be affirmed, and the Gospel itself affords us no information. The most direct testimony is that of Irenaeus, who says it was after the death of the apostles Peter and Paul. We may conclude, therefore, that this Gospel was not written before A.D. 63. Again we may as certainly conclude that it was not written after the destruction of Jerusalem, for it is not likely that he would have omitted to record so remarkable a fulfillment of our Lords predictions. Hence A.D. 63-70 becomes our limit, but nearer than this we cannot go. --Farrar.

Where it was written. --

As to the place, the weight of testimony is uniformly in favor of the belief that the Gospel was written and published at Rome. In this Clement, Eusebius, Jerome, Epiphanius, all agree. Chrysostom, indeed, asserts that it was published at Alexandria; but his statement receives no confirmation, as otherwise it could not fail to have done, from any Alexandrine writer. --Farrar.

In what language. --

As to the language in which it was written, there never has been any reasonable doubt that it was written in Greek.

Sources of information . --

Mark was not one of the twelve; and there is no reason to believe that he was an eye and ear witness of the events which he has recorded but an almost unanimous testimony of the early fathers indicates Peter as the source of his information. The most important of these testimonies is that of Papias, who says, "He, the Presbyter (John), said, Mark, being the Interpreter of Peter, wrote exactly whatever he remembered but he did not write in order the things which were spoken or done by Christ. For he was neither a hearer nor a follower of the Lord, but, as I said, afterward followed Peter, who made his discourses to suit what was required, without the view of giving a connected digest of the discourses of our Lord. Mark, therefore, made no mistakes when he wrote down circumstances as he recollected them; for he was very careful of one thing, to omit nothing of what he heard, and to say nothing false in what he related." Thus Papias writes of Mark. This testimony is confirmed by other witnesses. --Abbott.

For whom it was written. --

The traditional statement is that it was intended primarily for Gentiles, and especially for those at Rome. A review of the Gospel itself confirms this view.

Characteristics. --

(1) Marks Gospel is occupied almost entirely with the ministry in Galilee and the events of the passion week. It is the shortest of the four Gospels, and contains almost no incident or teaching which is not contained in one of the other two synoptists; but

(2) It is by far the most vivid and dramatic in its narratives, and their pictorial character indicates not only that they were derived from an eye and ear witness, but also from one who possessed the observation and the graphic artistic power of a natural orator such as Peter emphatically was.

(3) One peculiarity strikes us the moment we open it, --the absence of any genealogy of our Lord. This is the key to much that follows. It is not the design of the evangelist to present our Lord to us, like St. Matthew as the Messiah, "the son of David and Abraham," ch. 1:1, or, like St. Luke, as the universal Redeemer, "the son of Adam, which was the son of God." ch. 3:38.

(4) His design is to present him to us as the incarnate and wonder-working Son of God, living and acting among men; to portray him in the fullness of his living energy.

--Cambridge Bible for Schools.


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


The order of the Gospels in our New Testament is probably due to the early conviction that this was the order in which the Gospels were written. It was not, however, the invariable order. The question of order only arose when the roll was superseded by the codex, our present book-form. That change was going on in the 3rd century. Origen found codices with the order John-Matthew-Mark-Luke--due probably to the desire to give the apostles the leading place. That and the one common today may be considered the two main groupings--the one in the order of dignity, the other in that of time. The former is Egyptian and Latin; the latter has the authority of most Greek manuscripts, Catalogues and Fathers, and is supported by the old Syriac.

Within these, however, there are variations. The former is varied thus: John-Matthew-Luke-Mark, and Matthew-John-Mark-Luke, and Matthew-John-Luke-Mark; the latter to Matthew-Mark-John-Luke. Mark is never first; when it follows Luke, the time consideration has given place to that of length.


1. Scope

The Gospel begins with the ministry of John the Baptist and ends with the announcement of the Resurrection, if the last 12 verses be not included. These add post-resurrection appearances, the Commission, the Ascension, and a brief summary of apostolic activity. Thus its limits correspond closely with those indicated by Peter in Acts 10:37-43. Nothing is said of the early Judean ministry. The Galilean ministry and Passion Week with the transition from the one to the other (in Acts 10) practically make up the Gospel.

2. Material Peculiar to Mark

Matter peculiar to Mark is found in 4:26 - 29 (the seed growing secretly); 3:21 (his kindred's fear); 7:32 - 37 (the deaf and dumb man); 8:22 - 26 (the blind man); 13:33 - 37 (the householder and the exhortation to watch); 14:51 (the young man who escaped). But, in addition to this, there are many vivid word-touches with which the common material is lighted up, and in not a few of the common incidents Mark's account is very much fuller; e.g. Mark 6:14 - 29 (death of John the Baptist); Mark 7:1 - 23 (on eating with unwashen hands); Mark 9:14 - 29 (the demoniac boy); Mark 12:28 - 34 (the questioning scribe). There is enough of this material to show clearly that the author could not have been wholly dependent on the other evangelists. Hawkins reckons the whole amount of peculiar material at about fifty verses (Hor. Syn., 11).

3. Quotations

In striking contrast to Matthew who, in parallel passages, calls attention to the fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus, Mark only once quotes the Old Testament and that he puts in the very forefront of his Gospel. The Isaiah part of his composite quotation appears in all 4 Gospels; the Malachi part in Mark only, though there is a reflection of it in John 3:28. This fact alone might convey an erroneous impression of the attitude of the Gospel to the Old Testament. Though Mark himself makes only this one twofold reference, yet he represents Jesus as doing so frequency. The difference in this respect between him and Matthew is not great. He has 19 formal quotations as compared with 40 in Matthew, 17 in Luke and 12 in John. Three of the 19 are not found elsewhere. The total for the New Testament is 160, so that Mark has a fair proportion. When Old Testament references and loose citations are considered the result is much the same. Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek give Matthew 100, Mark 58, Luke 86, John 21, Acts 107. Thus. the Old Testament lies back of Mark also as the authoritative word of God. Swete (Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 393) points out that in those quotations which are common to the synoptists the Septuagint is usually followed; in others, the Hebrew more frequently. (A good illustration is seen in Mark 7:7 where the Septuagint is followed in the phrase, "in vain do they worship me"--a fair para-phrase of the Hebrew; but "teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men" is a more correct representation of the Hebrew than the Septuagint gives.) Three quotations are peculiar to Mark, namely, 9:48 ; 10:19 ; 12:32.

4. A Book of Mighty Works

Judged by the space occupied, Mark is a Gospel of deeds. Jesus is a worker. His life is one of strenuous activity. He hastens from one task to another with energy and decision. The word euthus, i.e. "straightway," is used 42 times as against Matthew's 7 and Luke's 1. In 14 of these, as compared with 2 in Matthew and none in Luke, the word is used of the personal activity of Jesus. It is not strange therefore that the uneventful early years should be passed over (compare John 2:11). Nor is it strange that miracles should be more numerous than parables. According to Westcott's classification (Introduction to Study of the Gospel, 480-86), Mark has 19 miracles and only 4 parables, whereas the corresponding figures for Matthew are 21 to 15 and for Luke 20 to 19. Of the miracles 2 are peculiar to Mark, of the parables only 1. The evangelist clearly records the deeds rather than the words of Jesus. These facts furnish another point of contact with Peter's speeches in Acts--the beneficent character of the deeds in Acts 10:38, and their evidential significance in Acts 2:22 (compare Mark 1:27 ; 2:10, etc.).

The following are the miracles recorded by Mark:

the unclean spirit (Mark 1:21 - 28),

the paralytic (Mark 2:1 - 12),

the withered hand (Mark 3:1 - 5),

the storm stilled (Mark 4:35 - 41),

the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1 - 17),

Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:22),

the woman with the issue (Mark 5:25 - 34),

feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6:35 - 44),

feeding the 4,000 (Mark 8:1 - 10),

walking on the water (Mark 6:48);

the Syrophoenician's daughter (Mark 7:24 - 30),

the deaf mute (Mark 7:31 - 37),

the blind man (Mark 8:22 - 26),

the demoniac boy (Mark 9:14),

blind Bartimeus (Mark 10:46 - 52),

the fig tree withered (Mark 11:20),

the resurrection (Mark 16:1).

For an interesting classification of these see Westcott's Introduction to Study of the Gospels, 391. Only the last three belong to Judea.

5. The Worker Is Also a Teacher

Though what has been said is true, yet Mark is by no means silent about Jesus as a teacher. John the Baptist is a preacher (Mark 1:4 , 7), and Jesus also is introduced as a preacher, taking up and enlarging the message of John. Very frequent mention is made of him as teaching (e.g. Mark 1:21 ; 2:13 ; 6:6, etc.); indeed the words didache, and didasko, occur more frequently in Mark than in any other Gospel. Striking references are made to His originality, methods, popularity and peerlessness as a teacher (Mark 1:22 ; 4:1 , 33 ; 11:27 - 12:37 ; especially 12:34). A miracle is definitely declared to be for the purpose of instruction (Mark 2:10), and the implication is frequent that His miracles were not only the dictates of His compassion, but also purposed self-revelations (Mark 5:19 ; 11:21 - 23). Not only is He Himself a teacher, but He is concerned to prepare others to be teachers (Mark 3:13 ; 4:10). Mark is just as explicit as Matthew in calling attention to the fact that at a certain stage He began teaching the multitude in parables, and expounding the parables to His disciples (Mark 4:2 - 11). He mentions, however, only four of them--the Sower (Mark 4:1 - 20), the Seed Growing Secretly (Mark 4:26 - 29), the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30 - 32) and the Husband-men (Mark 12:1 - 12). The number of somewhat lengthy discourses and the total amount of teaching is considerably greater than is sometimes recognized. Mark 4 and 13 approach most nearly to the length of the discourses in Matthew and correspond to Matthew 13 and 24 respectively. But in Mark 7:1 - 23 ; 9:33 - 50 ; 10:5 - 31 , 39 - 45 and 12:1 - 44 we have quite extensive sayings. If Jesus is a worker, He is even more a teacher. His works prepare for His words rather than His words for His works. The teachings grew naturally out of the occasion and the circumstances. He did and taught. Because He did what He did He could teach with effectiveness. Both works and words reveal Himself.

6. A Book of Graphic Details

There is a multitude of graphic details: Mark mentions actions and gestures of Jesus (Mark 7:33 ; 9:36 ; 10:16) and His looks of inquiry (Mark 5:32), in prayer (Mark 6:41 ; 7:34), of approval (Mark 3:34), love (Mark 10:21), warning (to Judas especially Mark 10:23), anger (Mark 3:5), and in judgment (Mark 11:11). Jesus hungers (Mark 11:12), seeks rest in seclusion (Mark 6:31) and sleeps on the boat cushion (Mark 4:38); He pities the multitude (Mark 6:34), wonders at men's unbelief (6:6), sighs over their sorrow and blindness (Mark 6:34 ; 8:12), grieves at their hardening (Mark 3:5), and rebukes in sadness the wrong thought of His mother and brothers, and in indignation the mistaken zeal and selfish ambitions of His disciples (Mark 8:33 ; 10:14). Mark represents His miracles of healing usually as instantaneous (Mark 1:31 ; 2:11 ; 3:5), sometimes as gradual or difficult (Mark 1:26 ; 7:32 - 35 ; 9:26 - 28), and once as flatly impossible "because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:6). With many vivid touches we are told of the behavior of the people and the impression made on them by what Jesus said or did. They bring their sick along the streets and convert the market-place into a hospital (Mark 1:32), throng and jostle Him by the seaside (Mark 3:10), and express their astonishment at His note of authority (Mark 1:22) and power (Mark 2:12). Disciples are awed by His command over the sea (Mark 4:41), and disciples and others are surprised and alarmed at the strange look of dread as He walks ahead alone, going up to Jerusalem and the cross (Mark 10:32). Many other picturesque details are given, as in Mark 1:13 (He was with the wild beasts); Mark 2:4 (digging through the roof); Mark 4:38 (lying asleep on the cushion); Mark 5:4 (the description of the Gerasene demoniac); Mark 6:39 (the companies, dressed in many colors and looking like flower beds on the green mountain-side). Other details peculiar to Mark are: names (Mark 1:29 ; 3:6 ; 13:3 ; 15:21), numbers (Mark 5:13 ; 6:7), time (Mark 1:35 ; 2:1 ; 11:19 ; 16:2), and place (Mark 2:13 ; 3:8 ; 7:31 ; 12:41 ; 13:3 ; 14:68 and 15:39). These strongly suggest the observation of an eyewitness as the final authority, and the geographical references suggest that even the writer understood the general features of the country, especially of Jerusalem and its neighborhood. (For complete lists see Lindsay, Mark's Gospel, 26.)


Of the 53 select readings noted by Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek (Into), only a few are of special interest or importance. The following are to be accepted: en to Esaia to prophete (Mark 1:2) hamartematos (Mark 3:29); pleres (indeclinable, Mark 4:28); to tekton (Mark 6:3; Jesus is here called "the carpenter"); autou (Mark 6:22, Herod's daughter probably had two names, Salome and Herodias); pugme (Mark 7:23, "with the fist," i.e. "thoroughly," not pukna "oft"). Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek are to be followed in rejecting pisteusai (leaving the graphic To Ei dune (Mark 9:23)); kai nesteia (Mark 9:29); pasa...halisthesetai (Mark 9:49); tous...chremasi (Mark 10:24); but not in rejecting huiou Theou (Mark 1:1). They are probably wrong in retaining hous...onomasan (Mark 3:14; it was probably added from Luke 6:31); and in rejecting kai klinon and accepting hrantisontai instead of baptisontai (Mark 7:4; ignorance of the extreme scrupulosity of the Jews led to these scribal changes; compare Luke 11:38, where ebaptisthe is not disputed). So one may doubt eporei (Mark 6:20), and suspect it of being an Alexandrian correction for epoiei which was more difficult and yet is finely appropriate.

The most important textual problem is that of Mark 16:9 - 20. Burgon and Miller and Salmon believe it to be genuine. Miller supposes that up to that point Mark had been giving practically Peter's words, that for some reason those then failed him and that 16:9-20 are drawn from his own stores. The majority of scholars regard them as non-Markan; they think 16:8 is not the intended conclusion; that if Mark ever wrote a conclusion, it has been lost, and that Mark 16:9 - 20, embodying traditions of the Apostolic Age, were supplied later. Conybeare has found in an Armenian manuscript a note referring these verses to the presbyter Ariston, whom he identifies with that Aristion, a disciple of John, of whom Papias speaks. Many therefore would regard them as authentic, and some accept them as clothed with John's authority. They are certainly very early, perhaps as early as 100 AD, and have the support of Codices Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, Bezae, Xi, Gamma, Delta, Zeta all late uncials, all cursives, most versions and Fathers, and were known to the scribes of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, who, however, do not accept them.

It is just possible that the Gospel did end at verse 8. The very abruptness would argue an early date when Christians lived in the atmosphere of the Resurrection and would form an even appropriate closing for the Gospel of the Servant (see below). A Servant comes, fulfills his task, and departs--we do not ask about his lineage, nor follow his subsequent history.


1. General Character

Mark employs the common coloquial Greek of the day, understood everywhere throughout the Greek-Roman world. It was emphatically the language of the Character people, "known and read of all men." His vocabulary is equally removed from the technicalities of the schools and from the slang of the streets. It is the clean, vigorous, direct speech of the sturdy middle class.

2. Vocabulary

Of his 1,330 words, 60 are proper names. Of the rest 79 are peculiar to Mark, so far as the New Testament is concerned; 203 are found elsewhere only in the Synoptics, 15 only in John's Gospel, 23 only in Paul (including Hebrews), 2 in the Catholic Epistles (1 in James, 1 in 2 Peter), 5 in the Apocalypse (Revelation) (see Swete, Commentary on Mark). Rather more than a fourth of the 79 are non-classical as compared with one-seventh for Luke and a little more than one-seventh for Mr. Hawkins also gives a list of 33 unusual words or expressions. The most interesting of the single words are schizomanous, ephien, komopoleis, ekephaliosan, proaulion, and hoti, in the sense of "why" (Mark 2:16; 9:11, 28); of the expressions, the distributives in Mark 6:7,39 f and 14:19, the Hebraistic ei dothesetai, and hotan with the indicative. Of ordinary constructions the following are found with marked frequency: kai (reducing his use of de to half of Matthew's or Luke's), historic present (accounting for the very frequent use of legei instead of eipen the periphrastic imperfect, the article with infinitives or sentences, participles, and prepositions.

There are indications that the writer in earlier life was accustomed to think in Aramaic. Occasionally that fact shows itself in the retention of Aramaic words which are proportionately rather more numerous than in Matthew and twice as numerous as in Luke or John. The most interesting of these are taleitha koum, ephphatha, and Boanerges, each uttered at a time of intense feeling.

Latinisms in Mark are about half as numerous as Aramaisms. They number 11, the same as in Matthew, as compared with 6 in Luke and 7 in John. The greater proportion in Mark is the only really noteworthy fact in these figures. It suggests more of a Roman outlook and fits in with the common tradition as to its origin and authorship.

For certain words he has great fondness: euthus 42 times; akathartos 11 times; blepo, and its compounds very frequently; so eperotan, hupagein, exousia, euaggelion, proskaleisthai, epitiman compounds of poreuesthai, sunzetein, and such graphic words as ekthambeisthai, embrimasthai, enagkalizesthai, and phimousthai. The following he uses in an unusual sense: eneichen, pugme, apechei, epibalon.

The same exact and vivid representation of the facts of actual experience accounts for the anacolutha and other broken constructions, e.g. Mark 4:31; 5:23; 6:8; 11:32. Some are due to the insertion of explanatory clauses, as in 7:3-5; some to the introduction of a quotation as in 7:11 f. These phenomena represent the same type of mind as we have already seen (II, 6 above).

3. Style

The style is very simple. The common connective is kai. The stately periods of the classics are wholly absent. The narrative is commonly terse and concise. At times, however, a multitude of details are crowded in, resulting in unusual fullness of expression. This gives rise to numerous duplicate expressions as in Mark 1:32 ; 2:25 ; 5:19 and the like, which become a marked feature of the style. The descriptions are wonderfully vivid. This is helped out by the remarkably frequent use of the historic present, of which there are 151 examples, as contrasted with 78 in Matthew and 4 in Luke, apart from its use in parables. Mark never uses it in parables, whereas Matthew has 15 cases, and Luke has 5. John has 162, a slightly smaller proportion than Mark on the whole, but rather larger in narrative parts. But Mark's swift passing from one tense to another adds a variety and vividness to the narrative not found in John.

4. Original Language

That the original language was Greek is the whole impression made by patristic references. Translations of the Gospel are always from, not into, Greek. It was the common language of the Roman world, especially for letters. Paul wrote to the Romans in Greek. Half a century later Clement wrote from Rome to Corinth in Greek. The Greek Mark bears the stamp of originality and of the individuality of the author.

Some have thought it was written in Latin. The only real support for that view is the subscription in a few manuscripts (e.g. 160, 161, egraphe Rhomaisti en Rhome) and in the Peshitta and Harclean Syriac. It is a mistaken deduction from the belief that it was written in Rome or due to the supposition that "interpreter of Peter" meant that Mark translated Peter's discourses into Latin. Blass contended for an Aramaic original, believing that Luke, in the first part of Acts, followed an Aramaic source, and that that source was by the author of the Second Gospel which also, therefore, was written in Aramaic. He felt, moreover, that the text of Mark suggests several forms of the Gospel which are best explained as translations of a common original. Decisive against the view is the translation of the few Aramaic words which are retained.


1. External Evidence

The external evidence for the authorship is found in the Fathers and the manuscripts. The most important patristic statements are the following:

Papias--Asia Minor, circa 125 AD--(quoted by Eus., HE, III, 39):
"And this also the elder said: Mark, having become the interpreter (hermeneutes) of Peter, wrote accurately what he remembered (or recorded) of the things said or done by Christ, but not in order. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him; but afterward, as I said (he attached himself to) Peter who used to frame his teaching to meet the needs (of his hearers), but not as composing an orderly account (suntaxin) of the Lord's discourses, so that Mark committed no error in thus writing down some things as he remembered them: for he took thought for one thing not to omit any of the things he had heard nor to falsify anything in them."

Justin Martyr--Palestine and the West, circa 150 AD--(In Dial. with Trypho, cvi, Migne ed.):
"And when it is said that He imposed on one of the apostles the name Peter, and when this is recorded in his 'Memoirs' with this other fact that He named the two sons of Zebedee 'Boanerges,' which means 'Sons of Thunder,' " etc.

Irenaeus--Asia Minor and Gaul, circa 175 AD--(Adv. Haer., iii. 1, quoted in part Eus., HE, V, 8):
"After the apostles were clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit and fully furnished for the work of universal evangelization, they went out ("exierunt," in Rufinus' translation) to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel. Matthew went eastward to those of Hebrew descent and preached to them in their own tongue, in which language he also (had?) published a writing of the gospel, while Peter and Paul went westward and preached and founded the church in Rome. But after the departure (exodon. "exitum" in Rufinus) of the, Mark, the disciple and interpreter (hermeneutes) of Peter, even he has delivered to us in writing the things which were preached by Peter."

Clement of Alexandria--circa 200 AD--(Hypotyp. in Eus., HE, VI, 14):
"The occasion for writing the Gospel according to Mark was as follows: After Peter had publicly preached the word in Rome and declared the gospel by the Spirit, many who were present entreated Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what he said, to write down what he had spoken, and Mark, after composing the Gospel, presented it to his petitioners. When Peter became aware of it he neither eagerly hindered nor promoted it."

Also (Eus., HE, II, 15):
"So charmed were the Romans with the light that shone in upon their minds from the discourses of Peter, that, not contented with a single hearing and the viva voce proclamation of the truth, they urged with the utmost solicitation on Mark, whose Gospel is in circulation and who was Peter's attendant, that he would leave them in writing a record of the teaching which they had received by word of mouth. They did not give over until they had prevailed on him; and thus they became the cause of the composition of the so-called Gospel according to Mk. It is said that when the apostle knew, by revelation of the Spirit, what was done, he was pleased with the eagerness of the men and authorized the writing to be read in the churches."

Tertullian--North Africa, circa 207 AD--(Adv. Marc., iv. 5):
He speaks of the authority of the four Gospels, two by apostles and two by companions of apostles, "not excluding that which was published by Mark, for it may be ascribed to Peter, whose interpreter Mark was."

Origen--Alexandria and the East, c 240 AD--("Comm. on Mt" quoted in Eus., HE, VI, 25):
"The second is that according to Mark who composed it, under the guidance of Peter (hos Petros huphegesato auto), who therefore, in his Catholic (universal) epistle, acknowledged the evangelist as his son."

Eusebius--Caesarea, circa 325 AD--(Dem. Evang., III, 5):
"Though Peter did not undertake, through excess of diffidence, to write a Gospel, yet it had all along been currency reported, that Mark, who had become his familiar acquaintance and attendant (gnorimes kat phoitetes) made memoirs of (or recorded, apomnemoeusai) the discourses of Peter concerning the doings of Jesus." "Mark indeed writes this, but it is Peter who so testifies about himself, for all that is in Mark are memoirs (or records) of the discourses of Peter."

Epiphanius--Cyprus, circa 350 AD--(Haer., 41):
"But immediately after Matthew, Mark, having become a follower (akolouthos) of the holy Peter in Rome, is entrusted in the putting forth of a gospel. Having completed his work, he was sent by the holy Peter into the country of the Egyptians."

Jerome--East and West, circa 350 AD--(De vir. illustr., viii):
"Mark, disciple and interpreter of Peter, at the request of the brethren in Rome, wrote a brief Gospel in accordance with what he had heard Peter narrating. When Peter heard it he approved and authorized it to be read in the churches."

Also xi:
"Accordingly he had Titus as interpreter just as the blessed Peter had Mark whose Gospel was composed, Peter narrating and Mark writing."

Preface Commentary on Matthew:
"The second is Mark, interpreter of the apostle Peter, and first bishop of the Alexandrian church; who did not himself see the Lord Jesus, but accurately, rather than in order, narrated those of His deeds, which he had heard his teacher preaching."

To these should be added the Muratorian Fragment--circa 170 AD--"which gives a list of the New Testament books with a brief account of the authorship of each. The account of Matthew and most of that of Mark are lost, only these words relating to Mark being left: 'quibus tamen interfuit, et ita posuit' ".

These names represent the churches of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, and practically every quarter of the Roman world. Quite clearly the common opinion was that Mark had written a Gospel and in it had given us mainly the teaching of Peter.

That our second Gospel is the one referred to in these statements there can be no reasonable doubt. Our four were certainly the four of Irenaeus and Tatian; and Salmon (Introduction) has shown that the same four must have been accepted by Justin, Papias and their contemporaries, whether orthodox or Gnostics. Justin's reference to the surname "Boanerges" supports this so far as Mark is concerned, for in the Gospel of Mark alone is that fact mentioned (3:17).

A second point is equally clear--that the Gospel of Mark is substantially Peter's. Mark is called disciple, follower, interpreter of Peter. Origen expressly quotes "Marcus, my son" (1 Peter 5:13 the King James Version) in this connection. "Disciple" is self-explanatory. "Follower" is its equivalent, not simply a traveling companion. "Interpreter" is less clear. One view equates it with "translator," because Mark translated either Peter's Aramaic discourses into Greek for the Hellenistic Christians in Jerusalem (Adeney, et al.), or Peter's Greek discourses into Latin for the Christians in Rome (Swete, et al.). The other view--that of the ancients and most moderns (e.g. Zahn, Salmon)--is that it means "interpreter" simply in the sense that Mark put in writing what Peter had taught. The contention of Chase (HDB, III, 247) that this was a purely metaphorical use has little weight because it may be so used here. The conflict in the testimony as to date and place will be considered below (VII).

There is no clear declaration that Mark himself was a disciple of Jesus or an eyewitness of what he records. Indeed the statement of Papias seems to affirm the contrary. However, that statement may mean simply that he was not a personal disciple of Jesus, not that he had never seen Him at all.

The Muratorian Fragment is not clear. Its broken sentence has been differently understood. Zahn completes it thus: "(ali) quibus tamen interfuit, et ita posuit," and understands it to mean that "at some incidents (in the life of Jesus), however, he was present and so put them down." Chase (HDB) and others regard "quibus tamen" as a literal translation of the Greek hois de, and believe the meaning to be that Mark, who had probably just been spoken of as not continuously with Peter, "was present at some of this discourses and so recorded them." Chase feels that the phrase following respecting Luke: "Dominum tamen nec ipse vidit in carne," compels the belief that Mark like Luke had not seen the Lord. But Paul, not Mark, may be there in mind, and further, this interpretation rather belittles Mark's association with Peter.

The patristic testimony may be regarded as summarized in the title of the work in our earliest manuscripts, namely, kata Markon. This phrase must refer to the author, not his source of information, for then it would necessarily have been kata Petron. This is important as throwing light on the judgment of antiquity as to the authorship of the first Gospel, which the manuscripts all entitle kata Matthaion.

2. Internal Evidence

The internal evidence offers much to confirm the tradition and practically nothing to the contrary. That Peter is back of it is congruous with such facts as the following:

(1) The many vivid details referred to above (III, 6) must have come from an eyewitness. The frequent use of legei, in Mark and Matthew where Luke uses eipen, works in the same direction.

(2) Certain awkward expressions in lists of names can best be explained as Mark's turning of Peter's original, e.g. Mark 1:29, where Peter may have said, "We went home, James and John accompanying us." So in Mark 1:36 (contrasted with Luke's impersonal description, Luke 4:42 f); Mark 3:16 ; 13:3.

(3) Two passages (Mark 9:6 ; 11:21) describe Peter's own thought; others mention incidents which Peter would be most likely to mention: e.g. Mark 14:37 and 14:66 - 72 (especially imperfect erneito); 16:7 ; 7:12 - 23 in view of Acts 10:15).

(4) In Mark 3:7 the order of names suits Peter's Galilean standpoint rather than that of Mark in Jerusalem--Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Perea, Tyre, Sidon. The very artlessness of these hints is the best kind of proof that we are in touch with one who saw with his own eyes and speaks out of his own consciousness.

(5) Generally Mark, like Matthew, writes from the standpoint of the Twelve more frequently than Luke; and Mark, more frequently than Matthew, from the standpoint of the three most honored by Jesus. Compare Mark 5:37 with Matthew 9:23, where Matthew makes no reference to the three; the unusual order of the names in Luke's corresponding passage (Luke 8:51) suggests that James was his ultimate source. The language of Mark 9:14 is clearly from one of the three, Luke's may be, but Matthew's is not. The contrast in this respect between the common synoptic material and Luke 9:51 - 18:14 lends weight to this consideration.

(6) The scope of the Gospel which corresponds to that outlined in Peter's address to Cornelius (Acts 10:37 - 41).

(7) The book suits Peter's character--impressionable rather than reflective, and emotional rather than logical. To such men arguments are of minor importance. It is deeds that count (Burton, Short Intro).

It may seem to militate against all this that the three striking incidents in Peter's career narrated in Matthew 14:28 - 33 (walking on the water), 17:24 - 27 (tribute money), and 16:16 - 19 (the church and the keys), should be omitted in Mark. But this is just a touch of that fine courtesy and modesty which companionship with Jesus bred. We see John in his Gospel hiding himself in a similar way. These men are more likely to mention the things that reflect discredit on themselves. It is only in Matthew's list of the Twelve that he himself is called "the publican." So "Peter never appears in a separate role in Mark except to receive a rebuke" (Bacon).

As to Mark's authorship, the internal evidence appears slight. Like the others, he does not obtrude himself. Yet for that very reason what hints there are become the more impressive.

There may be something in Zahn's point that the description of John as brother of James is an unconscious betrayal of the fact that the author's own name was John. There are two other passages, however, which are clearer and which reinforce each other. The story of the youth in Mark 14:51 seems to be of a different complexion from other Gospel incidents. But if Mark himself was the youth, its presence is explained and vindicated. In that case it is likely that the Supper was celebrated in his own home and that the upper room is the same as that in Acts 12. This is favored by the fuller description of it in Mark, especially the word "ready"--a most natural touch, the echo of the housewife's exclamation of satisfaction when everything was ready for the guests. It is made almost a certainty when we compare Mark 14:17 with the parallels in Matthew and Luke. Matthew 26:20 reads: "Now when even was come, he was sitting at meat with the twelve disciples"; Luke 22:14: "And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the apostles with him"; while Mark has: "And when it was evening he cometh with the twelve." The last represents exactly the standpoint of one in the home who sees Jesus and the Twelve approaching. (And how admirably the terms "the twelve disciples," "the apostles" and "the twelve" suit Matthew, Luke, and Mark respectively.) Such phenomena, undesigned (save by the inspiring Spirit), are just those that would not have been invented later, and become the strongest attestation of the reliability of the tradition and this historicity of the narrative. Modern views opposed to this are touched upon in what follows.


We have seen that, according to the testimony of the Fathers, Peter's preaching and teaching are at least the main source, and that many features of the Gospel support that view. We have seen, also, subtle but weighty reasons for believing that Mark added a little himself. Need we seek further sources, or does inquiry resolve itself into an analysis of Peter's teaching?

B. Weiss believes that Mark used a document now lost containing mainly sayings of Jesus, called Logia (L) in the earlier discussions, but now commonly known as Q (Quelle). In that opinion he has recently been joined by Sanday and Streeter. Harnack, Sir John Hawkins and Wellhausen have sought to reconstruct Q on the basis of the non-Markan matter in Matthew and Luke. Allen extracts it from Matthew alone, thinking that Mark also may have drawn a few sayings from it. Some assign a distinct source for Mark 13. Streeter considers it a document written shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, incorporating a few utterances by Jesus and itself incorporated bodily by Mark. Other sources, oral or written, are postulated by Bacon for smaller portions and grouped under X. He calls the final redactor R--not Mark but a Paulinist of a radical type.

In forming a judgment much depends upon one's conception of the teaching method of Jesus and the apostles. Teaching and preaching are not synonymous terms. Matthew sums up the early ministry in Galilee under "teaching, preaching and healing," and gives us the substance of that teaching as it impressed itself upon him. Mark reports less of it, but speaks of it more frequently than either Matthew or Luke. Jesus evidently gave teaching a very large place, and a large proportion of the time thus spent was devoted to the special instruction of the inner circle of disciples. The range of that instruction was not wide. It was intensive rather than extensive. He held Himself to the vital topic of the kingdom of God. He must have gone over it again and again. He would not hesitate to repeat instructions which even chosen men found it so difficult to understand. Teaching by repetition was common then as it is now in the East. The word "catechize" (katecheo) implies that, and that word is used by Paul of Jewish (Romans 2:18) and by Luke of Christian teaching (Luke 1:4).


The novelty in His teaching was not in method so much as in content, authority and accompanying miraculous power (Mark 1:27). Certainly He was far removed from vain repetition. His supreme concern was for the spirit. Just as certainly He was not concerned about a mere reputation for originality or for wealth and variety of resources. He was concerned about teaching them the truth so effectively that they would be prepared by intellectual clearness, as well as spiritual sympathy, to make it known to others. And God by His Providence, so kind to all but so often thwarted by human self-will was free to work His perfect work for Him and make all things work together for the furtherance of His purpose. Thus incidents occur, situations arise and persons of all types appear on the scene, calling forth fresh instruction, furnishing illustration and securing the presentation of truth in fullness with proper balance and emphasis and in right perspective.

Thus before His death the general character of that kingdom, its principles and prospects, were taught. That furnished the warp for the future Gospels. The essence, the substance and general form were the same for all the Twelve; but each from the standpoint of his own individually saw particular aspects and was impressed with special details. No one of them was large enough to grasp it all, for no one was so great as the Master. And it would be strange indeed, though perhaps not so strange as among us, if none of them wrote down any of it. Ramsay, Salmon and Palmer are quit justified in feeling that it may have been put in writing before the death of Jesus. It may well be that Matthew wrote it as it lay in his mind, giving us substantially Harnack's Q. John and James may have done the same and furnished Luke his main special source. But whether it was written down then or not, the main fact to be noted is that it was lodged in their minds, and that the substance was, and the details through mutual conference increasingly became, their common possession. They did not understand it all--His rising from the dead, for example. But the words were lodged in memory, and subsequent events made their meaning clear.

Then follow the great events of His death and resurrection, and for forty days in frequent appearances He taught them the things concerning the kingdom of God and expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, especially the necessity of His death and resurrection. These furnished the woof of the future Gospels. But even yet they are not equipped for their task. So He promises them His Spirit, a main part of whose work will be to bring to their remembrance all He had said, to lead them into all the truth, and show them things to come. When He has come they will be ready to witness in power.

The apostles' conception of their task is indicated in some measure by Peter when he insisted that an indispensable qualification in a successor to Judas was that he must have been with them from the beginning to the end of Christ's ministry, and so be conversant with His words and deeds. From the day of Pentecost onward they gave themselves preeminently to teaching. The thousands converted on that day continued in the teaching of the apostles. When the trouble broke out between Hebrews and Hellenists, the Seven were appointed because the apostles could not leave the word of God to serve tables. The urgency of this business may have been one reason why they stayed in Jerusalem when persecution scattered so many of the church (Acts 8:2). They were thus in close touch for years, not only through the struggle between Hebrews and Hellenists, but until the admission of the GentileCornelius and his friends by Peter had been solemnly ratified by the church in Jerusalem and possibly until the Council had declared against the contention that circumcision was necessary for salvation. During these years they had every opportunity for mutual conference, and the vital importance of the questions that arose would compel them to avail themselves of such opportunities. Their martyr-like devotion to Jesus would make them quick to challenge anything that might seem a misrepresentation of His teaching. The Acts account of their discussions at great crises proves that conclusively. To their success in training others and the accuracy of the body of catechetical instruction Luke pays fine tribute when he speaks of the "certainty" or undoubted truth of it (Luke 1:4). Thus Jesus' post-resurrection expositions, the experience of the years and the guidance of the Spirit are the source and explanation of the apostolic presentation of the gospel.

Of that company Peter was the recognized leader, and did more than any other to determine the mold into which at least the post-resurrection teachings were cast. Luke tells us of many attempts to record them. He himself in his brief reports of Peter's addresses sketches their broad outlines. Mark, at the request of Roman Christians and with Peter's approval, undertook to give an adequate account. Two special facts influenced the result--one, the character of the people for whom he wrote; the other, the existence (as we may assume) of Matthew's Q. It would be natural for him to supplement rather than duplicate that apostolic summary. Moreover, since Q presented mainly the ethical or law side of Christianity the supplement would naturally present the gospel side of it--and so become its complement--while at the same time this presentation and the needs of the people for whom he specially writes make it necessary to add something from the body of catechetical material, oral or written, not included in Q, as his frequent kai elegen, seems to imply (Buckley, 152). So Mk's is "the beginning of the Gospel." He introduces Jesus in the act of symbolically devoting Himself to that death for our sins and rising again, which constitutes the gospel and then entering upon His ministry by calling upon the people to "repent and believe in the gospel." The book is written from the standpoint of the resurrection, and gives the story of the passion and of the ministry in a perspective thus determined. About the same time it may be, Matthew, writing for Jewish Christians, combines this gospel side of the teaching with his own Q side of it, adding from the common stock or abridging as his purpose might suggest or space might demand. Later Luke does a similar service for Greek Christians (compare Harnack, The Twofold Gospel in the New Testament).

The only serious question about the integrity of the book concerns the last twelve verses, for a discussion of which see under III above. Some have suggested that Mark 1:1-13 is akin to 16:9-20, and may have been added by the same hand. But while vocabulary and connection are main arguments against the genuineness of the latter, in both these respects 1:1-13 is bound up with the main body of the book. Nor is there sufficient reason for denying Mark 13 as a true report of what Jesus said. Wendling's theory of three strata assignable to three different writers--historian, poet, and theologian--is quite overdrawn. Barring the closing verses, there is nothing which can possibly demand anything more than an earlier and a later edition by Mark himself, and the strongest point in favor of that is Luke's omission of Mark 6:45-8:26. But Hawkins gives other reasons for that.


Ancient testimony is sharply divided. The Paschal Chronicle puts it in 40 AD, and many manuscripts, both uncial and cursive (Harnack, Chronologie, 70, 124) 10 or 12 years after the Ascension. These Swete sets aside as due to the mistaken tradition that Peter began work in Rome in the 2nd year of Claudius (42 AD). Similarly he would set aside the opinion of Chrysostom (which has some manuscripts subscriptions to support it) that it was written in Alexandria, as an error growing out of the statement of Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, II, 16) that Mark went to Egypt and preached there the Gospel he composed. This he does in deference to the strong body of evidence that it was written in Rome about the time of Peter's death. Still there remains a discrepancy between Irenaeus, as commonly understood, and the other Fathers. For, so understood, Irenaeus places it after the death of Peter, whereas Jerome, Epiphanius, Origen and Clement of Alexandria clearly place it within Peter's lifetime. But it does not seem necessary so to understand Irenaeus. It may be that it was composed while Peter was living, but only published after his death. Christopherson (1570 AD) had suggested that and supported it by the conjectural emendation of ekdosin, "surrendering," "imprisonment" for exodon, in Irenaeus. Grabe, Mill and others thought Irenaeus referred, not to Peter's death, but to his departure from Rome on further missionary tours. But if we take exodon in that sense, it is better to understand by it departure from Palestine or Syria, rather than from Rome. Irenaeus' statement that the apostles were now fully furnished for the work of evangelization (Adv. Haer., iii.1) certainly seems to imply that they were now ready to leave Palestine; and his next statement is that Matthew and Mark wrote their respective Gospels. And Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 24) states explicitly that Matthew committed his Gospel to writing "when he was about" to leave Palestine "to go to other peoples." The same may very possibly be true of Mark. If the fact be that Romans in Caesarea or Antioch made the request of Mark, we can easily understand how, by the time of Irenaeus, the whole incident might be transferred to Rome.

If this view be adopted, the date would probably not be before the council at Jerusalem and the events of Galatians 2:11. It is true the New Testament hints are that the apostles had left Jerusalem before that, but that they had gone beyond Syria is not likely. At any rate, at the time of the clash at Antioch they had not become so clear on the question touching Jews and Gentiles in the church as to be "fully furnished for the work of universal evangelization." But may it not be that Paul's strong statement of the seriousness of their error actually did settle those questions in the minds of the leaders? If so, and if with new vision and ardor, they turn to the work of world-wide evangelism, that would be a natural and worthy occasion for the composition of the Gospel. The place may be Caesarea or Antioch, and the date not earlier than 50 AD. This is the simplest synthesis of the ancient testimony. Modern opinion as to date has ranged more widely than the ancient. Baur and Strauss were compelled by their tendency and mythical theories to place it in the 2nd century. Recent criticism tends strongly to a date in the sixties of the 1st century, and more commonly the later sixties. This is based partly on hints in the Gospel itself, partly on its relation to Matthew and Luke. The hints usually adduced are Mark 2:26 and 13. The former, representing the temple as still standing, has force only if the relative clause be Mark's explanatory addition. Mark 13 has more force because, if Jerusalem had already fallen, we might expect some recognition of the fact.

Two other slight hints may be mentioned. The omission by the synoptists of the raising of Lazarus, and of the name of Mary in connection with the anointing of Jesus argues an early date when mention of them might have been unpleasant for the family. When the Fourth Gospel was published, they may have been no longer alive. The description of John as the brother of James (Mark 5:37) may also take us back to an early date when James was the more honored of the two brothers--though the unusual order of the names may be due, as Zahn thinks, to the author's instinctively distinguishing that John from himself.

The relation of Mark to Matthew and Luke is important if the very widespread conviction of the priority of Mark be true. For the most likely date for Acts is 62 AD, as suggested by the mention of Paul's two years' residence in Rome, and Luke's Gospel is earlier than the Acts. It may well have been written at Caesarea about 60 AD; that again throws Mark back into the fifties.

The great objection to so early a date is the amount of detail given of the destruction of Jerusalem. Abbott and others have marshalled numerous other objections, but they have very little weight--most of them indeed are puerile. The real crux is that to accept an earlier date than 70 AD is to admit predictive prophecy. Yet to deny that, especially for a believer in Christ, is an unwarranted pre-judgment, and even so far to reduce it as to deny its presence in this passage is to charge Luke--a confessedly careful historian--with ascribing to Jesus statements which He never made.

The eagerness to date Matthew not earlier than 70 is due to the same feeling. But the problem here is complicated by the word "immediately" (24:29). Some regard that as proof positive that it must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem. Others (e.g. Allen and Plummer) feel that it absolutely forbids a date much later than 70 AD, and consider 75 AD as a limit. But is it not possible that by by eutheos (not parachrema), Christ, speaking as a prophet, may have meant no more than that the next great event comparable with the epochal overthrow of Judaism would be His own return and that the Divine purpose marches straight on from the one to the other? The New Testament nowhere says that the second advent would take place within that generation. See below under "Eschatology." There is therefore no sufficient reason in the Olivet discourse for dating Luke or Matthew later than 60 AD, and if Mark is earlier, it goes back into the fifties.


Older rationalists, like Paulus, not denying Mark's authorship, regarded the miraculous elements as misconceptions of actual events. Strauss, regarding these as mythical, was compelled to postulate a 2nd-century date. When, however, the date was pushed back to the neighborhood of 70 AD, the historicity was felt to be largely established. But recently theory of "pragmatic values" has been developed; Bacon thus states it: "The key to all genuinely scientific appreciation of Biblical narrative .... is the recognition of motive. The motive .... is never strictly historical but always etiological and frequently apologetic. .... The evangelic tradition consists of so and so many anecdotes, told and retold for the purpose of explaining or defending beliefs and practices of the contemporary church" (Modern Commentary, Beginnings of Gospel Story, 9). Bacon works out the method with the result that Mark is charged again and again with historical and other blunders. This view, like Baur's tendency-theory, has elements of truth. One is that the vocabulary of a later day may be a sort of necessary translation of the original expression. But translation is neither invention nor perversion. The other is that each author has his purpose, but that simply determines his selection and arrangement of material; it neither creates nor misrepresents it if the author be honest and well informed. The word "selection" is advisedly chosen. The evangelists did not lack material. Each of the Twelve had personal knowledge beyond the content of Q or of Mark. These represent the central orb--the one the ethical, the other the evangelic side of it--but there were rays of exceeding brightness radiating from it in all directions. Luke's introduction and John's explicit declaration attest that fact. And neither John nor Luke throws the slightest suspicion on the reliability of the material they did not use. There is no sufficient reason for charging them with misstating the facts to make a point. Bacon seems to trust any other ancient writers or even his own imagination rather than the evangelists. The test becomes altogether too subjective. Yet since Christianity is a historical revelation, perversion of history may become perversion of most vital religious teaching. In the last analysis, the critic undertakes to decide just what Jesus could or could not have done or said. The utter uncertainty of the result is seen by a comparison of Schmiedel and Bacon. The former is sure that the cry "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" is one of the very few genuine sayings of Jesus; Bacon is equally sure that Jesus could not have uttered it. Bacon also charges Mark with "immoral crudity" because in 10:45 he reports Jesus as saying that He came "to give his life a ransom for (anti) many." Thus, on two most vital matters he charges the evangelists with error because they run counter to his own religious opinions.

Plummer's remark is just (Commentary on Matthew, xxxiii): "To decide a priori that Deity cannot become incarnate, or that incarnate Deity must exhibit such and such characteristics, is neither true philosophy nor scientific criticism." And A.T. Robertson ("Matthew" in Bible for Home and School, 26): "The closer we get to the historic Jesus the surer we feel that He lived and wrought as He is reported in the Synoptic Gospels." The evangelists had opportunities to know the facts such as we have not. The whole method of their training was such as to secure accuracy. They support each other. They have given us sketches of unparalleled beauty, vigor and power, and have portrayed for us a Person moving among men absolutely without sin--a standing miracle. If we cannot trust them for the facts, there is little hope of ever getting at the facts at all.


1. The Gospel for Romans

Mark's purpose was to write down the Gospel as Peter had presented it to Romans, so say the Fathers, at least, and internal evidence supports them. In any additions made by himself he had the same persons in mind. That the Gospel was for Gentiles can be seen (a) from the translation of the Aramaic expressions in Mark 3:17 (Boanerges), 5:41 (Talitha cumi), 7:11 (Corban), 10:46 (Bartimaeus), 14:36 (Abba), 15:22 (Golgotha); (b) in the explanation of Jewish customs in 14:12 and 15:42; (c) from the fact that the Law is not mentioned and the Old Testament is only once quoted in Mark's own narrative; (d) the Gentile sections, especially in Mark 6-8.

That it was for Romans is seen in

(a) The explanation of a Greek term by a Latin in Mark 12:42;

(b) The preponderance of works of power, the emphasis on authority (Mark 2:10), patience and heroic endurance (Mark 10:17);

(c) Mark 10:12 which forbids a practice that was not Jewish but Roman.

Those who believe it was written at Rome find further hints in the mention of Rufus (Mark 15:21; compare Romans 16:13) and the resemblance between Mark 7:1 - 23 and Romans 14. The Roman centurion's remark (Mark 15:39) is the Q.E.D. of the author, and bears the same relation to Mark's purpose as John 20:31 to John's.

But one cannot escape the feeling that we have in this Gospel the antitype of the Servant of Yahweh. A.B. Davidson (Old Testament Theology, 365) tells us that there are two great figures around which Isaiah's thoughts gather--the King and the Servant. The former rises "to the unsurpassable height of 'God with us,' 'mighty God,' teaching that in Him God shall be wholly present with His people." The Servant is the other. The former is depicted in Mt, who also identifies Him with the Servant (Mark 12:18 f); the latter by Mark who identifies Him with the Messianic King (Mark 11:10 ; 14:62). Davidson summarizes the description of the Servant:

"(1) He is God's chosen;

(2) He has a mission to establish judgment on the earth. .... The word is His instrument and the Lord is in the Word, or rather He Himself is the impersonation of it;

(3) His endowment is the Spirit and an invincible faith;

(4) There is in Him a marvelous combination of greatness and lowliness;

(5) There are inevitable sufferings--bearing the penalty of others' sins;

(6) He thus redeems Israel and brings light to the Gentiles.

(7) Israel's repentance and restoration precede that broader blessing."

It is not strange that this Servant-conception--this remarkable blend of strength and submission, achieving victory through apparent defeat--should appeal to Peter. He was himself an ardent, whole-souled man who knew both defeat and victory. Moreover, he himself had hired servants (Mark 1:20), and now for years had been a servant of Christ (compare Acts 4:29). That it did appeal to him and became familiar to the early Christians can be seen from Acts 3:13 and 4:30. In his First Epistle he has 17 references to Isaiah, 9 of which belong to the second part. Temperamentally Mark seems to have been like Peter. And his experience in a wealthy home where servants were kept (Acts 12:13), and as himself huperetes of apostles in Christian service, fitted him both to appreciate and record the character and doings of the perfect servant--the Servant of Yahweh. For Roman Christians that heroic figure would have a peculiar fascination.

2. Plan of the Gospel

The plan of the Gospel seems to have been influenced by this conception. Christ's kingship was apprehended by the Twelve at a comparatively early date. It was not until after the resurrection, when Jesus opened to them the Scriptures, that they saw Him as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. That gave Peter his gospel as we have already seen, and at the same time the general lines of its presentation. We see it sketched for Romans in Acts 10. That sketch is filled in for us by Mark. So we have the following analysis:

Title: Mark 1:1

1. The Baptist preparing the way: Mark 1:2-8; compare Isaia 40:3 f.

2. Devotement of Jesus to death for us and endowment by the Spirit: Mark 1:9 - 3; compare Isaiah 42:1 ff.

3. His greatness--the Galilean Ministry: Mark 1:14 through 8:30; compare Isaiah 43 through 52:12.

(1) In the synagogue: period of popular favor leading to break with Pharisaic Judaism: Mk 1:14 through 3:6.

(2) Outside the synagogue: parabolic teaching of the multitude, choice and training of the Twelve and their Great Confession: Mark 3:7 ff through 8:30.

4. His lowliness--mainly beyond Galilee: Mark 8:31 through 15; compare Isaiah 52:13 through 53:9.

(1) In the north--announcement of death: Mark 8:31 through 9:29.

(2) On the way to Jerusalem and the cross--through Galilee (Mark 9:30 - 50), Peraea (Mark 10:1 - 45), Judea (Mark 10:46 - 52).

(3) The triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1 - 11).

(4) In Jerusalem and vicinity--opposed by the leaders (Mark 11:12 through 12:44); foretelling their doom (Mark 13); preparing for death (Mark 14:1 - 42); betrayed, condemned, crucified and buried in a rich man's tomb (Mark 14:43 through 15).

5. His victory--the resurrection: Mark 16; compare Isaia 53:10 - 12. What follows in Isaiah is taken up in Acts, for the first part of which Peter or Mark may have been Luke's main source.

Generally speaking the plan is chronological, but it is plain that the material is sometimes grouped according to subject-matter. This Servant-conception may also be the real explanation of some of the striking features of this Gospel, e.g. the absence of a genealogy and any record of His early life; the frequent use of the word "straightway"; the predominance of deeds; the Son's not knowing the day (Mark 13:32); and the abrupt ending at Mark 16:8 (see III).


1. Person of Christ:

The main one, naturally, is the Person of Christ. The thesis is that He is Messiah, Son of God, Author (Source) of the gospel. The first half of the book closes with the disciples' confession of His Messiahship; the second, with the supreme demonstration that He is Son of God. Introductory to each is the Father's declaration of Him as His Beloved Son (Mark 1:11 ; 9:7). That the sonship is unique is indicated in Mark 12:6 and 13:32. At the same time He is the Son of Man--true man (Mark 4:38 ; 8:5 ; 14:34); ideal man as absolutely obedient to God (Mark 10:40 ; 14:36), and Head of humanity (Mark 2:10 , 28), their rightful Messiah or King (Mark 1:1 ; 14:62)--yet Servant of all (Mark 10:44 f); David's Son and David's Lord (Mark 12:37). The unique Sonship is the final explanation of all else, His power, His knowledge of both present (Mark 2:5 , 8 ; 8:17) and future (Mark 8:31 ; 10:39 ; 14:27 ; 13), superiority to all men, whether friends (Mark 1:7 ; 9:3) or foes (Mark 12:34), and to superhuman beings, whether good ( 13:32) or evil (Mark 1:13 , 12 ; 3:27).

2. The Trinity:

The Father speaks in Mark 1:11 ; 9:7; is spoken of in 13:32; and spoken to in 14:36. The usual distinction between His fatherhood in relation to Christ and in relation to us is seen in Mark 11:25 ; 12:6 and 13:32. The Spirit is mentioned in Mark 1:8 , 10 , 12 ; 3:29 and 13:11. The last passage especially implies His personality.

3. Salvation:

As to salvation, the Son is God's final messenger (Mark 12:6); He gives His life a ransom instead of many (Mark 10:45); His blood shed is thus the blood of the covenant (Mark 14:24); that involves for Him death in the fullest sense, including rupture of fellowship with God (Mark 15:34). From the outset He knew what was before Him--only so can His baptism be explained (Mark 1:5 , 11 ; compare 2:20); but the horror of it was upon Him, especially from the transfiguration onward (Mark 10:32 ; 14:33 - 36); that was the Divine provision for salvation:

He gave His life (Mark 10:45). The human condition is repentance and faith (Mark 1:15 ; 2:5 ; 5:34 , 36 ; 6:5 ; 9:23 ; 16:16), though He bestows lesser blessings apart from personal faith (Mark 1:23 - 26 ; 5:1 - 20 ; 6:35 - 43). The power of faith, within the will of God, is limitless (Mark 11:25); faith leads to doing the will of God, and only such as do His will are Christ's true kindred (Mark 3:35). Salvation is possible for Gentile as well as Jew (Mark 7:24 - 30).

4. Eschatology:

The eschatology of this Gospel is found chiefly in Mark 8:34 - 9:1 and 13. In Mark 9:1 we have a prediction of the overthrow of Jerusalem which is here given as a type and proof of His final coming for judgment and reward which He has had in mind in the preceding verses. Mark 13 is a development of this--the destruction of Jerusalem being meant in Mark 13:5 - 23 and 28 - 31, the final coming in Mark 13:24 - 27 and 32. The distinction is clearly marked by the pronouns (tauta, and ekeines, in Mark 13:30 and 32 (compare Matthew 24:34 , 36). In each passage (Mark 9:1 ; 13:30) the fall of Jerusalem is definitely fixed as toward the close of that generation; the time of the latter is known only to the Father (Mark 13:32). Between Christ's earthly life and the Second Coming He is seated at the right hand of God (Mark 12:36 ; 16:19). The resurrection which He predicted for Himself (Mark 8:31 ; 9:31 ; 10:34) and which actually took place (Mark 16), He affirms for others also (Mark 12:24 - 27).


The works marked with the asterisk are specially commended; for very full list see Moffat's Introduction.

Commentaries: Fritzsche, 1830; Olshausen, translated 1863; J.A. Alexander, 1863; Lange, translated 1866; Meyer, 1866, American edition, 1884; Cook, Speaker's Commentary, 1878; Plumptre, Ellicott's, 1879; Riddle, Schaff's, 1879; W.N. Clarke, Amer. Comm., 1881; Lindsay, 1883; Broadus, 1881 and 1905; Morison, 1889; H.G. Holtzmann(3), 1901; Maclean, Cambridge Bible, 1893; Gould, International Critical Commentary, 1896; Bruce, The Expositor Greek Testament, 1897; B. Weiss, Meyer, 1901; Menzies, The Earliest Gospel, 1901; Salmond, Century Bible; Wellhausen2, 1909; Swete, 1908; Bacon, The Beginnings of Gospel Story, 1909; Wohlenberg, Zahn's Series, Das Evangelium des Markus, 1910. For the earlier see Swete.

Introduction: Eichhorn, 1827; Credner, 1836; Schleiermacher, 1845; De Wette, 1860; Bleek, 1866, translated 1883; Reuss, 1874, translated 1884; B. Weiss. 2nd edition, translated 1886; 3rd edition, 1897; H.J. Holtzmann, 1892; Th. Zahn, 1897, translated 1909; Godet, 1899; Julicher(6), 1906; von Soden, 1905, translated 1906; Wendling, Ur-Marcus, 1905; A. Muller, Geschichtskerne in den Evang., 1905; Wrede, Origin of New Testament Scriptures, 1907, translated 1909; Horne, 1875; Westcott, Introduction to Study of Gospels, 7th edition, 1888, and The Canon, 6th edition, 1889; Salmon, 1897; Adeney, 1899; Bacon, 1900; Burton, 1904; Moffat, Historical New Testament, 1901; Introduction to the Literature of New Testament, 1911; Peake, 1909; Gregory, Einleitung., 1909; Charteris, Canonicity, 1881; The New Testament Scriptures, 1882, and popular Intros by Plumptre, 1883; Lumby, 1883; Kerr, 1892; McClymont, 1893; Dods, 1894; Lightfoot, Essays on the Work Entitled Supernatural Religion, 1889; Sanday, Gospels in the 2nd Century, 1874; Stanton, Gospels as Historical Documents, I, 1903; II, 1909.

Mark and the Synoptic Problem: Rushbrooke, Synopticon, 1880; Wright, Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek, 3rd edition, 1906; Composition of the Four Gospels, 1890; Some New Testament Problems, 1898; H.J. Holtzmann, Die synopt. Evang., 1863; Weizsacker, Untersuch. uber die evang. Gesch., 2nd edition, 1901; Wernle, Die synopt. Frage, 1899; Loisy, Les ev. syn., 1908; Wellhausen, Einleitung in die drei ersten Evang., 1905; Blass, Origin and Char. of Our Gospels, English translation, xviii; Norton, Internal Evid. of the Genuineness of the Gospels, 1847; F.H. Woods, Stud. Bibl., II, 594; Palmer, Gospel Problems and Their Solution, 1899; J.A. Robinson, The Study of the Gospels, 1902; Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels; Burton, Some Principles of Literary Criticism and Their Application to the Synoptic Problem, 1904; Stanton, as above, and in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), II, 234; Turner, "Chronology of New Testament," Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), I, 403; J.J. Scott, The Making of the Gospels, 1905; Burkitt, Gospel History and Its Transmission, 1906; Salmon, Human Element in the Gospels, 1907; Harnack, Gesch. der altchristl. Lit., I, 1893; II, 2nd edition, 1904; Beitrage zur Einleitung in das New Testament, 4 volumes, translated in "Crown Theol. Lib.," Luke the Physician, 1907; The Sayings of Jesus, 1908; The Acts of the Apostles, 1909; The Date of the Acts and of the Synoptic Gospels, 1911; Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels, 1909; Hawkins, Horae Synopticae, 2nd edition, 1909; Denney, Jesus and the Gospel; Cambridge Biblical Essays, edition by Swete, 1909; Oxford Studies in the Syn. Problem, edition by Sanday, 1911; Salmond, Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), III, 248; Maclean, Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, II, 120; Petrie, Growth of Gospels Shown by Structural Criticism, 1910; Buckley, Introduction to Synoptic Problem, 1912.

The Language: Dalman, Words of Jesus, translated 1909; Deissmann, Bible Studies, translated 1901; Light from the Ancient East, translated 1910; Allen, The Expositor, I, English translation, 1902; Marshall, The Expositor, 1891-94; Wellhausen, Einleitung.; Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, 1889; Swete and Hawkins.

Text: Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, Introduction to the New Testament in Greek; Salmon, Introduction, chapter ix; Gregory, Text and Canon; Morison and Swete, in Commentary; Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark.

Special: Schweizer, Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1910; Sanday, Life of Christ in Recent Research; Emmet, Eschatological Question in the Gospels, 1911; Hogg, Christ's Message of the Kingdom, 1911; Forbes, The Servant of the Lord, 1890; Davidson, Old Testament Theology.



bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of mark, define, for gentiles, gospel of mark, jesus, new testament, no genealogy of jesus, ministry of john the baptist, passion week, resurrection, salvation, straightway, synoptics, written in rome



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