Survey of Mark
Book Type: The second book of the four gospels; the second book of the New Testament; the forty-first book of the Bible.
Author: Mark has unanimously been noted as the author since its earliest quotations in the second century. However, his name is not specifically mentioned in the book.
John Mark was the son of Mary and lived in Jerusalem during the time the church began (Acts 12:12). He was a cousin of Barnabas and traveled with Paul on Paul's first missionary journey. Mark left the trip early to return to Jerusalem, so Paul refused to take Mark on his second trip. Barnabas and Mark then ministered in Cyprus (Acts 15:38–40). Paul and Mark reconciled prior to Paul's first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24) and Mark's presence was requested at the end of Paul's life (2 Timothy 4:11). He served both Peter and Paul and was known as the founder of multiple churches in North Africa, particularly Alexandria until his death in AD 68.
Audience: The specific audience of Mark is not mentioned in the book itself. However, both external and internal evidence helps to provide information in this area. Externally, the earliest traditions associate Mark as being written based on the teachings of Peter while in Rome. This would indicate the audience included people in Rome interested in knowing more about the teachings of Jesus.
Since there is little emphasis on Jewish traditions and less citations of Old Testament passages, it is also likely the book was primarily written for a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience in Rome. Further, many Aramaic expressions are translated, and some Latin terms are included. The book also provides several teachings in the forms of sayings or short stories with abrupt transitions from one section to the next. This further supports the view that the Gospel of Mark is most based on Peter's teachings to Mark.
The audience of Mark would quickly grow beyond Rome, however, as church history indicates Mark took his Gospel to North Africa. His work also likely influenced the other Gospels, especially Matthew and Luke, that both appear to use Mark's writing as part of their own sources for their Gospels.
Date: Mark was most likely written in the early AD 60s when both Peter and Mark were ministering in the city of Rome. It was written no later than Mark's death in AD 68. Some suggest an even earlier date in the AD 40s or 50s. In any case, Mark is most likely the earliest of the four Gospels.
Overview: The focus of Mark is on Jesus as the servant of God (Mark 10:45). Chapters 1—2 bypass Christ's birth and infancy, moving directly into the ministry of John the Baptist and Christ's baptism, temptation, preaching, and miracles.
Chapter 3 continues to show Christ's miraculous powers as well as the calling of His twelve disciples. Chapters 4—8 include many of Christ's parables, further miracles, commissioning of the twelve, and other actions early in His ministry.
Chapter 9 transitions to Christ's transfiguration and a focus on His future death. Jesus preaches in Judea and Perea in chapter 10, followed by a focus on the final week of Christ's earthly ministry beginning in chapter 11. Chapter 14 offers early insight into the Lord's Supper, with Jesus' arrest, trials, and crucifixion to conclude the letter.
Much controversy surrounds the "longer ending" of Mark (Mark 16:9¬–20). In this passage, Jesus offers a concluding call to preach the gospel to all creation. While most (but not all) of the content is duplicated in other Gospels, debate centers around the inclusion of these particular verses in the text of Mark.
Key Verses (ESV):
Mark 1:11: "And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'"
Mark 1:17: "And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.'"
Mark 10:14–15: "But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, 'Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'""
Mark 10:45: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 12:30–31: "'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Mark 16:6: "And he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.'"