Gospel of Mark

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The Gospel of Mark is a bold and irreverent account by an outsider, an anti-Establishment and even Trumpian-style eyewitness. It contains a direct, easy-to-understand explanation of the teachings, miracles, and Passion of Jesus, emphasizing faith and deeds. It was written by Mark, seeing the events as an impressionable, open-minded young boy, who subsequently was the first to publish, perhaps without authorization. The Gospel of Mark begins and ends abruptly, makes no mention of Joseph, and omits the post-Resurrection gatherings by the Apostles who met without him, such that it is placed second rather than in its first place chronologically.[1]

The Gospel of Mark is Trump-like in its blunt, down-to-earth style critical of the elite and their practices:

  • only the Gospel of Mark declares boldly, Trump-like in style, that it is "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God";[2]
  • only the Gospel of Mark bluntly says that that Jesus was a mere carpenter;
  • only Mark quotes Jesus as expressing dismay at the Apostles by saying, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”[3]
  • only the Gospel of Mark brazenly demotes the Sabbath as being made for man, not vice-versa, as Jesus declared;[4]
  • only the Gospel of Mark explains that Jesus "looked around at them [his opponents] with anger,"[5] a theme echoed by the famous colonial sermon "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."[6]
  • only the Gospel of Mark endorses the right of unauthorized free speech: “But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.'”[7]
  • Mark's discussion of the Apostles is additionally more critical than the other Gospels, as in explaining Jesus's rebuke of Peter (Mark 8:32), in observing how the Apostles did not understand what Jesus was telling them and were too afraid to ask him (Mark 9:32), and in describing from the shore how Jesus "meant to pass by" the Apostles in their boat when he walked on water (Mark 6:45-56)[8]
  • only the Gospel of Mark is written from the perspective of a non-Apostle outsider, and Mark was never invited by the Apostles into their group;
  • the Gospel of Mark was the first to reject the traditional rule against blasphemy; and
  • the Gospel of Mark coined the anti-Establishment, Trump-like term of mockery -- the "Herodians" -- which Mark used twice while Luke and John declined to use the term, and Matthew used the term only once in copying from Mark.

Scientific testing confirmed that a recently discovered transcript from the Gospel of Mark dates from before A.D. 90, when Mark may have still been living given that he was merely a boy during the Ministry.[9] Indeed, the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark (and the Gospel of Matthew) are estimated to be from A.D. 60s.[10] Those oldest manuscripts are in Greek, and no ancient manuscript of the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Matthew has ever been discovered in Aramaic.[10]

There are several indications that this Gospel was written by a very young eyewitness. Unlike the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of Mark has very few economic parables that mean more to adults than to children. The accounts that Mark does include are those making a bigger impression on a child, such as the multiplication of the loaves (which Mark references twice). Mark's mother was a follower of Jesus, and Mark's account of the Resurrection was based on the account of the women disciples. Mark's description of the walking on water by Jesus is from the perspective of someone on the shore (where a boy would remain), in contrast with Matthew's and John's perspective of being in the boat while tossed in the waves.[11]

The Gospel of Mark is simpler and briefer than the other gospels, and more focused on suffering and loss.[12] Mark does not describe appearances by Jesus after the Resurrection, which again suggests authorship by a child who was not present with the older Apostles when Jesus appeared at their meetings. Mark's writing style is vivid and non-intellectual, containing repetition that one expects from a child.[13] Peter referred to Mark as his son (1 Peter 5:13), and once Paul became disillusioned at Mark's impulsive return to Jerusalem.

Most scholars agree that the Gospel of Mark was the first to circulate,[14] which again suggests it was written without authorization by the Apostles (although Peter may have encouraged it), and the Gospel of Mark was penned by a young, less discretionary author rather than a cautious adult.

The passages that appear only in the Gospel of Mark and not in the other Gospels tend to be parables or events that would impress a child more than an adult:

  • the admission that the grower of seeds does not know how they grow (difficult for adults to admit), yet is able to harvest the crop (4:26-29)
  • the withered fig tree (unlikely to impress an adult) and the power of faith (more difficult for adults to accept) (11:20-25)
  • the widow's mite, having a lesson that would more likely surprise and impress a child (12:41-44)
  • the lack of detail about how much money Judas Iscariot obtained for his betrayal of Jesus, as a child would not care about the actual amount (14:10-11)
  • the detail about Jesus's enormous personal anguish just prior to the Passion, which only a child could have observed without disrupting it or attracting attention by soldiers (Mark 14:35-40).

Most telling about the likely young authorship of the Gospel of Mark is this unique description that appears only at Mark 14:51-52:[15]

And there followed [Jesus during his arrest] a certain young man having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him; and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

Modern scholarship points out that this unusual description of a "certain" young man was most likely a personal admission.[16] It is also possible that Mark was the child brought by Jesus before the other Apostles in order to make a point about humility and open-mindedness towards the Lord:[17]

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."

More Critical of the Apostles and Jesus's family

Reflecting how the Gospel of Mark was written by an outsider, it is less favorable towards the Apostles than the the other Gospels are. For example, in describing the walking on water by Jesus the account by Mark, observing it from the shore, is that Jesus was not headed for the Apostles' boat but instead was walking past it. In describing Jesus' rebuke of Judas Iscariot for interfering with the anointing by Jesus of oil, Mark quotes a more direct rebuke than John does.[18]

Only Mark includes, implicitly criticizing Jesus's family, how they tried to seize him because they mistakenly thought he was out of his mind. See Mark 3:21.

Numerous verses in the Gospel of Mark directly embarrass the Apostles, including Mark 4:13 (uniquely observing that Apostles didn't understand the parables); Mark 8:14-21 (the Apostles did not understand what Jesus was teaching); Mark 8:32–33 (Peter is disrespectful to Jesus); Mark 9:14–29 (Apostles were unable to perform miracles); Mark 9:33-34 (Apostles argue over who was the greatest among them); Mark 10:35-40 (several Apostles demand positions of honor); Mark 14:37 (Apostles fall asleep when Jesus asked them to watch for merely one hour); Mark 14:72 (Peter denies Jesus three times); Mark 14:50–52 (Apostles flee when Jesus was arrested).[19]

Mark does include the ostensibly harsh statement attributed to Jesus about Gentiles, which is set forth at Mark 7:27-29 and Matthew 15:26-28.


Mark is generally believed to be the earliest gospel. Based upon common elements in Mark and the gospels of Matthew and Luke, it appears that Mark was used as the framework from which to expand. The first sentence of the Gospel of Mark constituted blasphemy under Jewish law punishable by death, and he was imprecise in describing Jewish custom, so it was almost certainly a Gentile.

The second Gospel is mainly concerned with the Galilean ministry of Christ, and the circumstances during the last week at Jerusalem. It begins with Jesus' baptism and temptation. The main portion of the Gospel concerns the public ministry, Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

Mark doesn't mention certain events mentioned by the other synoptic gospels. The genealogies, the birth story of Jesus, the birth story of John the Baptist, are all not included in favor of getting right into the adult stage, beginning with John the Baptist preparing the way for the savior.

Mark is much more concerned with Christ's acts than with His teachings, though two of these teachings 4:3-32 and 13:5-37 are fairly long. The miracles take up almost 25% of the Gospel. This impresses upon the reader Christ's almighty power and dominion over all physical laws. The first chapter shows three miracles: the casting out of an unclean spirit, the cure of Peter's mother-in-law, and the healing of a leper. Eighteen miracles are recorded and all but three occur in the first eight chapters. Only two of these miracles (7: 31-37 and 8:22-26) are peculiar to Mark. Mark, however, shows details not found in the other Synoptics. Mark has only four parables: the sower (4:3-9), the seed growing secretly (4:26-29), the mustard seed (4:30-32), and the wicked husbandman (12:1-9). The second is found only in Mark.

Mark gives a face to the human feelings and emotions of Christ. The frailties of the apostles are much more graphic than in the parallel narratives contained in the other two synoptic Gospels.

There are issues with the ending of Mark. The earliest manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20, a section of scripture that puts forth ideas that aren't found in the other gospels. Current thinking is that Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition and that the Gospel either ends with 16:8 or with original ending is now lost.


The author wrote as an outsider with imprecise knowledge of Jewish customs, while having greater fluency with Aramaic. Indeed, as shown above, this outsider was more blunt in his statements than the Apostles were, bolder in his claims.

An early tradition connects Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, with John Mark as "Peter's copyist," putting to paper what Peter preached. Irenaeus says: "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing what was preached by Peter."[20] Papius, Origen, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria also support a similar position.

John Mark is also mentioned in 2 Timothy.

Reportedly Mark became an apostle of Peter and a missionary companion of Paul, and ultimately founded Christianity in Egypt.


The audience is for Gentiles, and Mark may have been a Gentile himself as only he quotes Jesus for directly downplaying the Sabbath: Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”[21] That is not found in any other Gospel.[22] Mark describes Aramaic words and Jewish customs that would not be necessary for a Jewish audience. Mark was probably not Jewish himself, as he overstates the hand-washing ritual at Mark 7:3[23] by saying that "all the Jews" performed the ritual,[24] and his use of "the" suggests he did view himself as part of the group.

Also, only Mark declares that all foods are clean to eat now (but the rationale does not include unclean vaccination. See Mark 7:18-19. The other Gospels do not include this, and even the King James Version resists this by limiting the exemption to all meat.


The Gospel of Mark is bold and concise: it contains a total of only 14,949 words,[25] which can be easily read in its entirely in merely 2 hours. It has far less than half of the number of words in the Book of Genesis.

This Gospel, ordered as the second of the four Gospels, was written in Greek, being that Greek was widely spoken in the Roman empire in the first century. Greek was the lingua franca of the times. Paul wrote to the Romans in Greek.

The Second Gospel uses 1333 different words, of which 58 are proper names. Eighty words, exclusive of proper names, are not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Compared to Luke, which has more than 250 peculiar words, Mark has only a third as many unique words. Mark shares 150 words with the other Synoptics. 15 are shared only by John and 11 others by one or other of the Synoptic and the Gospel of John.

The Gospel of Mark contains 662 verses, of which 406 are also in the Gospels of Matthew and the Luke, while 51 verses are unique to the Gospel of Mark itself.[26]

Though generally the boldest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark does not make the claim in the Gospel of Matthew that some of the Apostles would see Jesus return before they died.

See also

Gospel of Mark (Translated)


  1. "Marcan priority" is the term used to describe the nearly universal acceptance today that the Gospel of Mark was the first chronologically among the Gospels.
  2. Mark 1:1 (ESV).
  3. Mark 4:13 (ESV).
  4. Only Mark quotes Jesus saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27 (ESV).
  5. Mark 3:5 (ESV, emphasis added).
  6. See Jonathan Edwards.
  7. Mark 9:39 (ESV). See also Biblehub.
  8. ESV.
  9. First-Century Mark Manuscript: More News? (web.archive.org)
  10. 10.0 10.1 http://www.levitt.com/essays/language
  11. https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/30437/why-is-it-only-matthew-who-records-peter-walking-on-water-in-matthew-1426-31
  12. See, e.g., Mark 8:35.
  13. For example, Mark uses the Greek word meaning "immediately", "soon" or "at once" more than 40 times!
  14. https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/synoptic-gospels
  15. This translation is from the King James Version.
  16. See, e.g., the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
  17. Matt. 18:4-5 (NRSV); also referenced in Mark 9:36-37.
  18. Compare Mark 14:1-9 with John 12:1-8. [1]
  19. https://rsc.byu.edu/vol-17-no-2-2016/marks-unique-contribution
  20. Against Heresies, 3.1
  21. Mark 2:27 (NASB).
  22. https://rsc.byu.edu/vol-17-no-2-2016/marks-unique-contribution
  23. https://biblehub.com/mark/7-3.htm
  24. http://www.logicandlight.org/busted-14-marks-error-regarding-jewish-handwashing-rituals/
  25. https://holyword.church/miscellaneous-resources/how-many-words-in-each-book-of-the-bible/
  26. https://christiananswers.net/dictionary/markgospelaccordingto.html