Reading 1,25 - 16 Chapters - 678 verses - 15,171 words

Vital Statistics


Although there is no direct internal evidence of authorship, it was the unanimous testimony of the early church that this Gospel was written by John Mark ("John, also called Mark," Ac 12:12, 25; 15:37). The most important evidence comes from Papias (C. A.D. 140), who quotes an even earlier source as saying: (1) Mark was a close associate of Peter, from he received the tradition of the things said and done by the Lord; (2) this tradition did not come to Mark as a finished, sequential account of the life of our Lord, but as the preaching of Peter - preaching directed to the needs of the early Christian communities; (3) Mark accurately preserved this material. The conclusion drawn from this tradition is that the Gospel of Mark largely consists of the preaching of Peter arranged and shaped by Mark.

John Mark in the NT

it is generally agreed that the Mark who is associated with Peter in the early non-Biblical tradition is also the John Mark of the NT. The first mention of him is in connection with his mother, Mary, who had a house in Jerusalem that served as a meeting place for believers (Ac 12:12). When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from Jerusalem after the famine visit, Mark accompanied them (Ac 12:25). Mark next appears as a "helper" to Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Ac 13:5), but he deserted them at Perga in Pamphylia to return to Jerusalem (Ac 13:13). Paul must have been deeply disappointed with Mark's actions on this occasion, because when Barnabas proposed taking Mark on the second journey, Paul flatly refused, a refusal that broke up their working relationship (Ac 15:36-39). Barnabas took Mark, who was his cousin (Col 4:10), and departed for Cyprus. No further mention is made of either of them in the book of Acts. Mark reappears in Paul's letter to the Colossians written from Rome. Paul sends a greeting from Mark and adds: "You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him" (Col 4:10; see Phm 24, written about the same time). At this point Mark was apparently beginning to win his way back into Paul's confidence. By the end of Paul's life, Mark had fully regained Paul's favor (see 2Ti 4:11).

Date of Composition

Some, who hold that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a major source, have suggested that Mark may have been composed in the 50s or early 60s. Others have felt that the content of the Gospel and statements made about Mark by the early church fathers indicates that the book was written shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem en A.D. 70.

Place of Origin

According to early church tradition, Mark was written "In the regions of Italy" (Anti-Marcionite Prologue) or, more specifically, in Rome (Irenaeus; Clement of Alexandria). These same authors closely associate Mark's writing of the Gospel with the apostle Peter. The above evidence is consistent with (1) the historical probability that Peter was in Rome during the last days of his life and was martyred there, and (2) the Biblical evidence that Mark also was in Rome and about the same time and was closely associated with Peter (see 2Ti 4:11; 1Pe 5:13, where the word "Babylon" may be a cryptogram for Rome).


The evidence points to the church at Rome, or at least to Gentile readers. Mark explains Jewish customs (7:2-4; 15:42), translates Aramaic words (3:17; 5:41; 7:11,34; 15:22,34) and seems to have a special interest in persecution and martyrdom (8:34-38; 13:9-13) - subjects of special concern to Roman believers (and to Peter as well; cf. 1 Peter). A Roman destination would explain the almost immediate acceptance of this Gospel and its rapid dissemination.

Occasion and Purpose

1. The cross. Both the human cause (12:12; 14:1-2; 15:10) on the divine necessity (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34) of the cross are emphasized by Mark

2. Discipleship. Special attention should be paid to the passages on discipleship that arise from Jesus' predictions of his passion (8:34-9:1; 9:35-10:31; 10:42-45).

3. The teachings of Jesus. Although Mark records far fewer actual teaching of Jesus than the other Gospel writers, there is a remarkable emphasis on Jesus as teacher. The word's "teacher," "teach" or "teaching," and "Rabbi" are applied to Jesus in Mark 39 times.

4. The Messianic secret. On several occasions Jesus warns his disciples or others to keep silent about who he is or what he has done(1:34,44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9).

5) Son of God. Although Mark emphasizes the humanity of Jesus (3:5; 6:6,31,34; 7:34; 8:12; 10:14; 11:12), he does not neglect his deity (1:1,11; 3:11; 5:7; 12:1-11; 13:32; 15:39).

Special Characteristics

Mark's Gospel is a simple, succinct, unadorned, yet vivid account of Jesus' ministry, emphasizing more what Jesus did than what he sair. Mark moves quickly from one episode in Jesus' life and ministry to another, often using the adverb "immediately" (1:12). The book as a whole is characterized as "The beginning of the gospel" (1:1). The life, death and resurrection of Christ comprise the "beginning," of which the apostolic preaching in Acts is the continuation.

How to read Mark

All-news radio and TV stations capture the highlights of the world’s news in thirty minutes. Mark’s gospel offers a similar fast-paced report on the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Out of obscurity, this unique God-man explodes into the headlines as he preaches, performs miracles, and encounters both great popularity and deadly opposition. It is the greatest news story of all time.

Written by a young man who worked alongside the fisherman who had lived the story, this account is strong on action and wastes no extra words, giving us a vivid, firsthand portrayal of Jesus. His actions are center stage, as he “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mar 10:45). We see him hard at work, helping people in need, healing those who were sick, encouraging those who were without hope, setting free those who were in bondage, enlightening those who were in darkness.

Mark’s action-packed account of Jesus’ life culminates by immersing us in details of the suffering and sacrifice of his final week on earth. These powerful stories were written to strengthen the Roman believers suffering persecution, to both live and die fearlessly. Consider the implications of following the example of the supreme Servant, who calls you to a ministry of servanthood.

Mark Interpretive Challenges

Three significant questions confront the interpreter of Mark:

    1. What is the relationship of Mark to Luke and Matthew?

    2. How should one interpret the eschatological passages?

    3. Were the last 12 verses of chap. 16 originally part of Mark gospel?


Mark Horizontal

God's character in Mark

  1. God is accessible - 15:38

  2. God is unified - 2:7; 12:29

Christ in Mark

Omitting all accounts of Jesus' ancestry and birth, Mark emphasizes Jesus' role as the Suffering Servant of the Lord (10:45). More than any other gospel, Mark focuses on the humble deeds of Jesus over His teachings.