Gospel of Mark
|Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
Mark is considered to be one of two primary sources for the three synoptic gospels along with the Q document. Mark does not address the birth or infancy of Jesus. Instead, the reader is brought immediately into Jesus' theology and preachings as Jesus is being baptized by John. Mark is far less focused on Jesus' days of teaching than he is on the Passion which takes up the majority of the works of Mark.
Authorship and dating
- Main article: Authorship of the New Testament
Although written anonymously, the author of the Gospel of Mark is believed, per Christian tradition, to be Mark, the interpreter of Peter the Apostle. However, this tradition should be taken with a grain of salt, for Papias, the originator of this tradition, was, by far, no scholar. It has been suggested that the book was originally intended as fiction and further that its author understood the non-historicity of Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark is considered the first of the gospels written because the only material it contains that is not contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are a few insignificant details that anyone in his right mind would edit out. It can be dated to 67 CE by its apocalyptic Oliviet Discourse, for it mentions "wars and rumors of wars", a reference to the First Jewish Revolt, tells of the persecution of Christians under Nero, who died in the summer of 68 CE, tells the Judeans to "flee to the mountains", which would be stupid after the autumn of 67 CE, and, especially telling, prays that the flight of the Judeans may not be in the Winter. Documentation of these events sets the lower limit on the date of authorship at about 67 CE, but does not rule out the possibility that the gospel was actually written much later.
Contents of Mark
Mark begins with the baptism by John and the calling of the twelve. Mark 4 introduces some of the parables of Jesus. Mark 8 forward begins the discussions of Jesus' last days, with the actual entrance into Jerusalem to be found in Mark 11.
Theology and Style
Mark is written for a predominantly Greek audience. His allusions to the Old Testament tend to be a way of setting the scene, rather than direct fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. The one notable exception is the Passion, which does cast Jesus' trial and death as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. Throughout Mark, Jesus is not the "Son of God" as with the other three gospels, but the "Son of Man". The Jesus character in Mark is more political and direct than he is prophetic. The wording of Mark's parables emphasizes moral codes and spiritual behaviors that are grounded in this world.
When Jesus speaks of the end of human history he says, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." In this passage (which appears in Matthew as well) Jesus specifically exclude himself from this knowledge of eschatological timing, creating a breach in his alleged omniscience and the unity of the Trinity. This might suggest that the author of this text was an Arian.
Differences from Matthew and Luke
- Mark frequently explains Jewish ritual, another example that the book is intended for a Gentile audience.
- Jesus is addressed as the Son of Mary, as well as names his brothers and sister.
- "The Sabbath is made for man; man is not made for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27) does not appear in Matthew, Luke or Gospel of John.
- Strong emphasis on the role of John the Baptist including a detailed description of the beheading of John.
- Mark contains details obscure and unnecessary, such as Mark 3:21, Mark 6:5, and Mark 14:51, which do not appear in either Matthew or Luke.
- The phrase from verse 16:18, "and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them," is found only in Mark.
- Mark is more willing to provide negative material about Jesus, such as the disciples rebuking Jesus in Mark 4:38 and Jesus healing many but not all in Mark 1:34 (c.f. Matthew 8:16).
Mark is the only canonical gospel with significant various alternate endings. However, most of the contents of the traditional longer ending, verses 16:9-20, are found in the other gospels and are not unique to Mark. This longer ending appears to be an interpolation added early in order that Mark's ending resemble those of the other gospels. Further, Mark ends in what is apparently mid-sentence. The final two words are εφοβουντο γαρ, this is significant because nowhere else in ancient Greek is a sentence ended with the word γαρ (meaning "for").
Alternate endings include ending Mark at Ch. 16 verse 8 (original ending), a short ending summarizing the traditional longer ending, and a long ending detailing Jesus' role in defeating sin, inserted around the fifth century.
In the longer ending, Jesus went through a litany of signs that would identify those who believed:
- In Jesus' name they would cast out devils.
- They would speak with new tongues.
- They would pick up serpents without harm.
- They would drink poison with no ill effect.
- They would cure the sick by laying on hands.
Some of the Pentecostal churches took these precepts literally, particularly the ones about speaking in tongues and handling snakes. In Kentucky snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 to $250 fine. In 2008, 10 people were arrested and 125 venomous snakes were confiscated as part of an undercover sting operation against the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.
The Secret Gospel of Mark
- Main Article: Secret Gospel of Mark
In 1958 an American researcher claimed to have found a letter, in a library in Israel, from a Bishop named Clement of Alexandria which discussed a heretical version of the Gospel of Mark. According to this letter Clement was discussing the fact that this non-canonical version was not something Christians should read. If true it would explain a weird passage in Mark, but the explanation would be one that a lot of fundies wouldn't like. The canonical gospel mentions the fact that Jesus took a trip to Jericho and then the very next sentence describes him leaving Jericho leaving a question of what he did there. According to the alleged secret gospel Jesus apparently duplicated his Lazarus trick, raising a young man from the dead. Jesus then got to know this young man and decided to teach him some "secrets of the Kingdom of God" involving this kid dressing up in nothing but a loincloth and having night time meetings with Jesus. However, nobody else has seen this letter and it could just as easily be a hoax. Assuming it isn't a hoax, a longer version of Mark "for initiates only" while the shorter version has the wink-wink-nudge-nudge references to pederasty cut and more edifying material added, is an example of milk before meat. As the church ossified into a political institution, the shorter Mark would have become canonical and secret Mark would have been suppressed entirely.
- RationalWiki:Annotated Bible/Mark#Mark 13:32
- RationalWiki:Annotated Bible/Matthew#Matthew 24:36
- Marcan priority, Wikipedia, accesssed 28 January 2016