Though Mark is the second book of the New Testament canon, it was the first Gospel written (that we still have). That is, chronologically, Mark is first, Matthew is second, Luke is third and John is fourth. Mark was written by an anonymous Christian sometime around the year 70 A.D., that is, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. Though, in recent years efforts have been made to date Mark as early as the year 60 and as late as 73. These dates, however, are simply not as likely as 70.
Again, it must be mentioned that the Gospels are all anonymous. It was only much later that the Church assigned authorship on the basis of tradition. The careful reader of the Gospels will know that nowhere in the text is the author named, nor does he name himself.
What, then, can we know of the author of this book? First, we can tell certain things about him by the way he writes and by what he writes. He was a speaker of Greek who was not an eyewitness to the events recorded who also did not live in Palestine (as he makes some inexact comments about certain features of geography). Most likely he lived and wrote in Rome, as his intended audience was probably the Church at Rome.
The text of the book is fairly certain, though some scribe or scribes added a lengthy segment at the end of the Gospel. That is, originally the gospel ended at 16:8 and some traditionalist added verses 9-20. No early manuscript of the Gospel contains this passage and its earliest attestation is in Codex L, which dates to the 9th century A.D.! To say it another way, no manuscript of the Gospel of Mark contained verse 9-20 until the 9th century! This passage is clearly secondary and will not be taken into account in our examination of Mark’s purpose.
Why, then, was Mark written. It seems clear that two passages describe the reason this book was composed. The first clue is found in the opening verse of the book- Mark 1:1, which says "The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God". The second clue is found very much towards the end of the book, in 15:39, where the Roman Centurion says "truly this man was the Son of God". The book opens and closes with the same phrase -- Son of God. At the beginning the claim is made and at the end the claim is verified, by a Roman soldier! It seems to me that Mark, living in Rome, wrote his Gospel in order to demonstrate to indeed Son of God -- even the Centurion knew and recognized this!
The form of the Gospel, that is, its outline, shows the development of this theme.
1- The Early Ministry of the Son of God (1:1-3:6)
2- The Master and His Disciples (3:7-6:6)
3- The Ministry of the Disciples (6:7-8:26)
4- The Manifestation of the Son of God to the Disciples (8:27-10:52)
5- The Last Days on Earth of the Son of God (11:1-13:37)
6- The Death and Resurrection of the Son of God (14:1-16:8)
ASSIGNMENT: Read Luke, and Chapter 9 of Brown’s Introduction.
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