The Gospel According to Mark

The Gospel According to Mark

The authorship of the Gospel of Mark is a bit complicated and often debated.  The majority of scholars have identified the writer as John Mark, a Christian from Jerusalem, cousin of Barnabas, and colleague of Paul and Timothy. As mentioned throughout the New Testament, John Mark was also a close friend of the Apostle Peter.

Papias, in the early 2nd century AD, wrote about a tradition from the late 1st century AD that Mark was the agent and scribe for Peter. Thus, one could say that the “author” of the Gospel was Peter, while the writer and publisher was Mark. The title “according to Mark” is found on all of the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel. Thus, most scholars give Mark the “writer’s credit,” with the understanding that Peter may have collected and composed the initial accounts. The period covered in Mark’s Gospel matches the period of Peter’s personal travels with Jesus, so this tradition clearly agrees with the textual evidence.

The Gospel according to Mark shows influence of Aramaic through the syntax of many passages and the transliteration of Latin constructions into Greek. This fits perfectly with a writer from 1st century Judea who traveled extensively and whose native language was Aramaic, but was also fluent in Greek and familiar with Latin. Linguistically, this suggests a native of Judaea who made his way to Rome. Historically, this matches what we know about the life of John Mark.

John Mark, with both a Hebrew and Roman name, and a cousin from Cyprus, would have had at least partially a Hellenistic cultural background and may have come from a family that was both Jewish and Greek. Examination of the format of Mark’s Gospel suggests that it was written primarily to a Roman audience unfamiliar with Jewish customs.

The date of composition, again prior to 70 AD and the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, was likely about 65 AD, just after the martyrdom of the Apostle Peter. Thus, it is possible that Mark was the latest Gospel written and not the earliest. According to the early church father Clement of Alexandria, the Gospel according to Mark was chronologically the third of the synoptic Gospels.

However, many modern scholars hypothesize that Mark was the first Gospel written and that the other Gospels copied from it as their main source. The only reason for this hypothesis seems to be that Mark is the shortest Gospel. Some scholars assume that shortest means earliest, and thus, they further assume that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark and the mythical “Q” source. In reality, there’s not a shred of evidence for a “Q” source. It is an imagined source for which no physical proof has ever been discovered or presented.

- Dave Stotts, host of Drive Thru History – “The Gospels”

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