STUDY 6 - THE GOSPEL OF MARK
For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp.160-172; R.H.Gundry,
pp.125-158. Further reading: D.A.Carson, et al., An Introduction to the
New Testament, pp.89-109.
1. AUTHORSHIP, DATE AND PLACE OF THE GOSPEL
The Gospel itself does not indicate its author. "Tradition
identifies him as John Mark, the scion of a Christian family in
Jerusalem, the assistant and understudy of Paul, Barnabas and perhaps
Peter. He was the son of Mary, a friend of the apostles, who is
mentioned in Acts 12" (M.C.Tenney).  Note these references: Acts
12:12-25; 15:37,39; Col.4:10; Phlm.24; 2 Tim.4:11; 1 Pet.5:13.
His Gospel signature may be indicated by Mk.14:51-52.
Place of writing
The earliest witnesses connect Mark with the preaching of Peter in
Rome. Papias wrote:
"The Elder used to say this also: Mark became the interpreter
of Peter and he wrote down accurately, but not in order, as much as he
remembered of the sayings and doings of Christ. For he was not a
hearer or a follower of the Lord, but afterwards, as I said, of Peter,
who adapted his teachings to the needs of the moment and did not make
an ordered exposition of the sayings of the Lord". 
This observation connects the evangelist with an apostle, a
fact which supports the Gospel's acceptance into the NT canon.
The readers of the Gospel
Tenney associates the place of writing with Mark's readership: "The
Gospel of Mark is terse, clear, and pointed, a style that would appeal
to the Roman mind, which was impatient of abstractions and literary
inbreeding".  There are Latinisms in Mark, such as census for
'tribute' (12:14), speculator for 'executioner' (6:27), and centurio
for 'centurion' (15:39,44,45). The Gospel contains little reference to
Jewish law and customs, and when it does they are explained in some
detail (e.g., Mk.7:1-3). 
Date of writing
Some scholars argue that the Gospel was written in Nero's time, that
is, as the church in Rome was facing persecution. The Gospel's emphasis
on the sufferings of Christ, beginning with the thought that he was
'with the wild beasts' (1:13) to his death on the cross identifies the
Lord with his church. The example of Jesus would fortify those
suffering for Christ. But a date could fall between A.D. 68 (after
Peter's death) and A.D. 70 (or A.D. 56-66). 
2. THE CONTENTS OF THE GOSPEL
"The Gospel of Mark is a historical narrative that sets forth
a representative picture of the person and work of the Lord Jesus
Christ. It is not primarily a biography... It gives close
succession, probably in general chronological order, a series of
episodes in Christ's career, with some detail concerning the last week
that he spent on earth. It is almost entirely objective in its
approach... like a snapshot album devoted to one person, it gives
a series of characteristic poses of Jesus without attempting close
continuity between them" (M.C.Tenney). 
The purpose of the Gospel
The opening words, "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the
Son of God", indicate the purpose and contents of the Gospel. The
main purpose is evangelistic (cf., Jn.20:30-31). Then, unlike Matthew,
which follows chiefly the theme of the Messiah, Mark is concerned with
the activity of Jesus as the Son of God, who is also the Servant of
God.  Secondary aims may be indicated, such as that of strengthening
Christians who were suffering for the faith. The Gospel also
demonstrates that Jesus was innocent of the charges the Jews brought
An outline of the Gospel
M.C.Tenney demonstrates that Mark's basic outline is built on the
different localities of Jesus' ministry, including Nazareth, Galilee,
Decapolis, Tyre and Sidon, Caesarea Philippi, Judea and Perea, Jericho
and Jerusalem.  The Gospel falls into two parts, the pivotal point
being Peter's confession and the Lord's first prediction of his
suffering (Mk.8:27-32). M.C.Tenney's analysis of the Gospel is
involved, so here is an alternative:
Mark: the Gospel of the
Son of God
The beginning (1:1-13)
The Galilean ministry commences (1:14-3:6)
Later stages of the Galilean ministry (3:7-6:13)
Jesus outside Galilee (6:14-8:26)
The way to Jerusalem (8:27-10:52)
Ministry in Jerusalem (11:1-13:37)
The passion (14:1-15:47)
The resurrection (16:1-20).
3. THE EMPHASIS OF THE GOSPEL
A Gospel of the Servant of
Mark depicts Jesus as the Servant of Yahweh, who features in the
Servant Songs of Isaiah (e.g.. Isa.42:1-4). The word
'immediately' (Gk. euthus) is used some 42 times.  Mark's
observation of the servant's household role (Acts 12:13), and his
position as a 'helper' (Gk. huperetes, attendant, assistant, helper) to
the apostles (Acts 13:5), could enable him to reflect on the ministry
of Jesus. Mk.10:45 is a special verse: "For even the Son of Man
did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many". H.F.Vos simplified outline takes Mk.10:45 to be
the key verse of the Gospel:
Mark: The Gospel of the
Preparation of the Servant (1:1-13)
Proclamation of the Servant (1:14-8:30)
Passion of the Servant (8:31-16:20). 
A Gospel of action
Mark is more interested in deeds than in speculation. "Mark is a
Gospel of action. It has no prologue, except for the title.
Direct citations from the OT for purposes of prophetic interpretation
are very few, although there are numerous quotations and
allusions. Of 70 parables and parabolic utterances in the
Gospels, Mark has only 18, though some of them comprise only a sentence
apiece. For its size, however, Mark gives more space to the
miracles than does any other Gospel, for it records 18 out of a
possible total of 35" (M.C.Tenney).  This feature would be
attractive to the Roman mind. The works of Jesus are seen to
triumph over the forces of darkness. Mark illustrates how Jesus
came to destroy the works of the devil (cf., 1 Jn.3:8).
A Gospel of an eyewitness
The graphic style of the Gospel suggests the evidence of an
eyewitness. Personal gestures are observed (e.g., 3:5; 5:41; 7:3;
8:23; 9:27; 10:16). The eyes of Jesus are noted (e.g.,
3:5,34). Mark adds an important detail to the story of the
feeding of the 5000 - the fact that the crowd sat down - 'in groups on
the green grass' (6:39). He also notes the reaction of people to
Jesus and his ministry. For example, they are 'amazed' (1:27),
critical (2:7), afraid (4:41), puzzled (6:14), astonished (7:37) and
Material special to Mark
Some words, features, parables and stories are unique to the
Gospel. The observation that the Spirit 'drove' (Gk. ekballō)
Jesus into the wilderness compares with Luke's milder 'led'
(Lk.4:12). The use of the historic present is a feature of
Mark. A number of Aramaic words are preserved and translated (see
3:17; 5:41; 7:11,34; 14:36; 15:22,34). The Parable of the Growing
Seed (4:26-29) is only found in Mark. Collect examples for
4. THE CHARACTERS OF THE GOSPEL
"Mark does not mention as many persons as does Luke, nor does
he use them as patterns to the same extent that Luke and John do.
He seems to have been more interested in the progress of his story than
in the analysis of individual characters".  However, note his
reference to Simon the leper (14:3), the young man in the Garden
(14:51-52), and Alexander and Rufus (15:21; cf., "Greet Rufus, chosen
in the Lord" in Rom.16:13).
The messianic secret
On a number of occasions Jesus warns his disciples and others to keep
silent about who he is or what he has done (e.g., 1:34,44; 3:12; 5:43;
7:36-37; 8:26,30; 9:9). Some scholars take 'the messianic secret'
to be a literary motif used by the evangelist, who believed Jesus to be
the Messiah even though he did not make such a claim. But it is
possible that Jesus did not want to associate himself with contemporary
concepts of the Messiah. The Synoptic tradition is consistent in
stating that Jesus did not openly refer to himself as the Messiah, and
that his chief self-designation was the Son of Man (see Mk.8:27-31,
5. OTHER QUESTIONS
The questions which consider the Gospel literature, the
priority of Mark and the Marcan 'longer ending' (some MSS end at
Mk.16:8) are dealt with in: M.C.Tenney, pp.137-147; D.A.Carson, et al.,
An Introduction to the New
Testament, pp.19-45; 102-104.
1. M.C.Tenney, p.160.
2. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (c.A.D. 130), "Expositions of
the Oracles of the Lord", in Eusebius, H.E.III, 39. See:
H.Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, Oxford,
OUP, 1963, p.27.
3. M.C.Tenney, p.164.
4. Sometimes a Gospel explains Jewish laws and customs to
accommodate Gentile readers.
5. M.C.Tenney, p.171.
6. M.C.Tenney, p.163.
7. M.C.Tenney, p.167.
8. M.C.Tenney, pp.166-167.
9. Note kai euthus in reference to Jesus in Mk.1
10. H.V.Vos, Beginnings in the New Testament, p.36.
11. M.C.Tenney, p.170.
12. M.C.Tenney, p.171.