The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: M

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Mark, overview

According to most NT scholars, this is the earliest of the four gospels. The Gospel of Mark portrays the person of Jesus more by his actions, and portrays him particularly as a servant.

The Gospel of Mark is evidently written for Gentiles, and for Romans in particular. Mark translates Aramaic and Hebrew phrases (Mar 3:17; 5:41; 7:34; 14:36); he transliterates familiar Latin expressions into Greek, for example, "legion" (Mar 5:9), "quadrans" ("kodrantes": NIV mg) (Mar 12:42), "praetorium" (Mar 15:16), and "centurion" (Mar 15:39). Moreover, Mark presents Romans in a neutral (Mar 12:17; 15:1-10), and sometimes a favorable (Mar 15:39), light.

Mark begins his gospel with the statement, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mar 1:1); and the last human to speak in the gospel is the centurion who confesses at the cross, "Truly this Man was the Son of God!" (Mar 15:39).
Like the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark does not mention the name of its author.

One of the first people to identify the author was Papias (AD 60-130), a bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor (Turkey). Papias then noted that Mark had not followed Jesus during his lifetime, but later had written down Peter's recollections accurately, although not always in their proper order. This will account for the problem of sequential differences between the Gospels of Matthew & Mark.

The Mark believed to have written this gospel is John Mark. He was a native of Jerusalem (Act 12:12), and later became an associate of both Peter (1Pe 5:13) and Paul (2Ti 4:11). The gospel has many characteristics of an eyewitness account, for which Peter would have been responsible (Mar 1:29-31).
It may be that as a youth Mark was present at the arrest of Jesus and that he has left an "anonymous signature" in the story of the young man who eluded arrest and fled away naked (Mar 14:51,52).
Main themes

One of the unique points about this Gospel is what some term the "messianic secret." Mark records how, often following a miracle, Jesus would command persons healed, onlookers, disciples, and even those healed of demons to be silent about his great works (Mar 1:34; 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; 8:30; 9:9). It has long puzzled readers why Jesus, who came into the world to make himself known, would work at cross-purposes with his mission by trying to remain hidden.

A fair explanation is that Jesus' command to silence was intended to protect himself from false expectations of the Messiah that were current at that time. It seemed most saw the "messiah" or "anointed one" as a military hero who would come to overthrow the Roman rule of Palestine; such was the crowd's attitude at Christ's "triumphant" entry into Jerusalem. Jesus had no intention to play the part of a great warrior; rather, he took upon himself the attitude of a servant.


Mar 1:1 - 13: The Prologue

Mar 1:1 - 11: John the Baptist and Jesus' baptism

Mar 1:12 - 13: Jesus' temptation

Mar 1:14 - 10:52: The Ministry

Mar 1:14 - 20: The disciples called

Mar 1:21 - 3:12: In the synagogue; teaching and healing

Mar 3:13 - 35: Twelve chosen

Mar 4:1 - 34: Parables

Mar 4:35 - 5:43: Stilling the storm and other miracles

Mar 6:1 - 13: Further teaching

Mar 6:14 - 29: The death of John the Baptist

Mar 6:30 - 10:52: More teaching

Mar 11:1 - 16:20: The Crucifixion and Resurrection

Mar 11:1 - 26: Entering Jerusalem

Mar 11:27 - 13:37: Questions and answers

Mar 14:1 - 72: The approaching suffering

Mar 15:1 - 47: The trial and the crucifixion

Mar 16:1 - 20: The resurrection and ascension
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