7. Gospel of Mark
Course: New Testament Survey - Gospels
Lecture: Gospel of Mark
Father we give you thanks for Jesus Christ our Lord. We thank you for the cooler weather, which is a relief to us. We thank you Heavenly Father for the joy of being your children, and we bless you in Jesus Name. Amen
We are going to talk about the gospels in the order of Mark, first because I have been arguing for the priority of Mark. As we look at this in the material, one thing you will notice is that we don’t talk about the authorship of Mark until the end. Now the reason for that is that’s not that important a question. We want to look at what the book teaches. The meaning of Mark, what Mark is seeking to teach — the gospel of Mark, the author of Mark — is not going to change if it was written by Mark or that plumber in Antioch we talked about named Herman. I mean it would be saying the same thing. So what’s crucial is not who wrote it but what it says.
Now, we are going to talk about who wrote it, but we will do that in the end. Now, one of the great clues in Mark is that the cross of Christ is central in this teaching. He spends a lot of time talking about the death of Jesus. In fact, one man by the name of Martin Kealer [phonetic] said the gospel of Mark is really a passion story with kind of an extended introduction. It so focuses on the death of Jesus.
Now, in the gospel stories, he talks about the role of the Jewish leadership in this. And it’s not really very politically correct to talk about any Jewish involvement in regard to the death of Jesus. Over the centuries some terrible things have been done against Jewish people because, quote, “They put Jesus to death.”
I don’t know if you ever saw the long, extended series called, “The Holocaust.” There is this one horrible scene in it where the women and the children are being lined up to go to the gas chambers. One of the Nazi guards says to them, “We are doing this because you crucified Jesus,” and I was very embarrassed at that moment. There is a sense of shame because I knew a lot of Christians had done things, quote, with that as an excuse.
Now please note. Turn with me to a couple of passages. Page 244 – 244. When we talk about the role of the Jewish leadership in the death of Jesus, we must be very careful not to simply equate the Jewish leadership and the Jewish people. It’s very dangerous, foolish and wrong to say the Jews put Jesus to death. I mean, are you talking about Mary, his mother? Are you talking about the disciples? You have to be more specific than that.
And if you look at Mark 12:12 after telling this particular parable, the parable of the wicked husband, we read that they who are the Jewish leadership. They tried to arrest them but feared the multitude, another words the majority of the Jews, the average Jew, for they perceived that they told the parable against them so they left him and went away. They feared the multitude. They feared the masses of the people, the Jewish people.
Now look at page 276, another passage here in Mark 14 in one and two which is the introductory scene to the story. It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of the love and bread. And the chief priest and the scribes, notice the leadership here, were seeking out to arrest him by stealth and kill him. For they said, not during the feast, less they be a tumult of the people.
We discussed the arrest and trial and death of Jesus. The greatest obstacle to the Jewish leadership and putting Jesus to death as they desired was the Jewish people. They did not arrest them publicly because there would have been a riot. Jesus was greatly respected and admired by the Jewish people. The leadership, something else again.
So as we look at this we can see on several occasions, we can look at one more example in 15:10 which is which is page 312. Another such example and this is a mark and insertion, which he puts into the text here. When Pontius Pilate says do you want me, top page 312, Mark. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews? Then he has this marking comment and marking insertion. For he perceived that it was out of envy that they chief priest had delivered him up.
And so you have the Jewish leadership being seen by Mark as primarily the one responsible for the death of Christ, and I think we need to be careful about saying, it was the leadership, not even all the leaders, but, you have Joseph of Eromosis [phonetic], a ruler of the Sanhedrin. He is not evolved in that but. The leadership in general, not the people.
Yet when you look at the real cause of the death of Jesus it’s not any human being. Turn to page 151. There is a divine case for the death of Jesus. Jesus dies for our sins, because this is the plan of God. his is why he dies. It’s not some tragedy, oh it’s unfortunate, maybe if the world were different, we could see that Jesus wouldn’t have to die.
Well, what kind of theology is that? Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He must die, and we read in verse 31, and he Jesus began to teach them, that the son of man must suffer many things.
Why must he suffer for these things? Because that’s the way life it? No. Cause there are mean people in the world? No. Because it’s a divine necessity. There is a divine necessity line behind all of this. 931, page 157, Jesus is teaching the disciples, the son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed after three days, he will arise.
This is not simply a prophesy, he is talking about the will of God. He will be delivered, and God stands behind all of this. It is the will of God that this take place.
Page 224, the third passion prediction. 224…Beginning at the very bottom of the page, verse 33 in Mark, behold we are going up to Jerusalem and the son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes and the will condemn him to death.
Then in 1045 on the next page, Jesus says but the son of man also came not to be served, line 41 on page 226, son of man also came not to be served, but the served give his life for a ransom for many.
So you have this emphasis on the divine plan of God which causes the death of Jesus. Now Mark emphasizes this and if you look at a lot of commentaries, they will try to explain why he emphasizes. Maybe they are people in his community that could not understand if he was the son of God, why then did he die? Or if he was the messiah why did he die or something like this. And maybe he is trying to assure them that it is all part of the divine plan.
I don’t know why he emphasizes it. I know he emphasizes it and he thinks it’s important and I think we can preach about the importance this in Mark. Not try to enter into the mind of Mark, into quote, his mental ax, unquoted. [unclear mumble] who are taking it. And then you would understand that we don’t assess to that. But we do have access to his emphasis on the death of Jesus.
He emphasizes the call of discipleship and there is a kind of unique pattern in the middle of Mark, in which you have a passion predictions, in 831, 931 and 1033 and after everyone you have, you have the same pattern. After every passion prediction there is an error on the disciples in some way. They talk about who will be the greatest.
Peter says no, it’s not going to happen; I won’t let it take place. And after that blunder there is an emphasis on teaching as to what it means to be a disciple.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. It was a kind of contrast in some ways to some of the self-fulfillment kind of emphasis we have in following Jesus.
I know there is a sense in which it makes sense. But long before Christians started talking about, “Be all that you can be”, I think the Army used that as a slogan. Be all that you can be and join the Army or something like that.
There are probably few people in the world that have pure German blood that I have. My mother and father were born in Germany. The idea of realizing my great potential frightens me, because some Germans have potential to do very evil things and maybe my potential really is to be a commandant in Auschwitz or Buchenwald.
I became a Christian because by the grace of God I didn’t want to become what I could be. I wanted him to keep me from becoming what I might be. And allow him to make me what he wanted me to be.
And Mark says that if you want to follow Christ, you die yourself and you take up and cross and follow him and become what God wants you to be. Why is this emphasis on Mark again? We don’t know, it is emphasized. We have this emphasis on the teaching ministry of Jesus. If you know it I have here that various places where the term teacher, teach, teaching rabbi are used.
Let me just compare them with their use in the gospel of Matthew. There are 12 times the word teacher is used in Mark and 12 times in Matthew. Oh, see they emphasize it the same. Well, wait a minute. Matthew 66 per cent longer. If you had an equal emphasis it would not occur 12 times, but 20 times in Matthew.
You have the word, the verb, to teach 17 times in Mark and only 14 in Matthew, but again Matthew is 66 per cent longer. You would expect more of these references. Five times you find the noun, teaching, 3 in Matthew. Four times rabbi, four times also in Matthew. Great emphasis on the teaching of Jesus. I don’t know why. Why this emphasis? I can’t say.
Another emphasis we find in the gospel of Mark that is very, very famous. Anybody who reads the commentary on Mark will come across the expression, “The Messianic secret”. And by that the mean, the many times Jesus and the gospel of Mark tells people not to let anybody know what he has done. Tells people not to say who he is.
We find examples of that, there is a sense in which it makes sense to understand why Jesus did not want people to know that he was the messiah.
If you ever really want to get a sense in flavor of the Jewish people and nation at the time of Jesus, I recommend to you the book Pontius Pilate, by Paul Maier. It’s in the bibliography. It’s a delight to read. Unfortunately, it’s a historical narrative, so it mixes history and fiction together. Sometimes the fiction gets to be a little, ah, strained I think.
But, if you read the book, get the sense that the land is a tinderbox. Ready to explode. A fire is going to light up the land. The people are in agitation and they are angry at the Romans. Their desire in life is for the Messiah to come and to deliver them. And they have people come and try to do this and its disaster on the people and it will lead to the disaster of the fall of Roman, ah or the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
If Jesus publicly says, “I am the Messiah”, what kind of messiah do you think they are looking for and think he is? The military revolutionary will get rid of these Romans. That’s their messiah they are looking for. And Jesus can’t say, I am the messiah but…and try to explain the differences in this understanding. It’s too late by that time.
A public decoration furthermore, would not be tolerated by Pontius Pilate. You talk about the kingdom of God. Rome is not interested in no kingdom of God, and so he talks in a Messianic secret way. How does he talk about the kingdom of God? What kind of a speech form does he use?
Parables, parables and so you can talk about the kingdom of God. Although, it’s an agitated subject, it doesn’t offer a lot of sense as far as the opponents are concerned. Pontius Pilate has one of his spies come and says, this man Jesus is drawing great crowds; he is talking about the kingdom of God coming. Pontius Pilate says, well the only kingdom I am interested is the kingdom of Rome. What is he saying? Well, he says it’s like a woman who put lemon in some bread, but that is about all he said.
Well, the mystery nature of this allows him to speak about a sensitive subject, but the title messiah one that when Peter confesses that he is of Christ, said don’t tell anyone and the reason is clear. Because if he is openly claiming he is the Messiah, Rome will immediately step in, and Jesus is willing to allow his death and resurrection define the Messiahship that the people later on will understand.
And after his death, they can openly call him the Messiah, because they know it’s not a political kind of thing. And now it’s defined clearly it doesn’t matter. We have this Messianic secret, don’t tell anyone. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to wonder how you are going to keep it a secret.
Gyros is told don’t tell anyone what happens. What is this, there is a funeral going on and Gyros is thinking, what exactly is meant. Well, it’s hard to know.
But certainly some of the miracles are clearly evident and people will see it. But he does not want this to be proclaimed too broadly.
Concerning the nature of Christ various miracles preformed there the healing miracles, nature miracles, exorcisms. Um, by the way, the exorcisms are seen as quite distinct from healing miracles.
Let’s look at a couple of examples of that rather quickly. Turn with me to 134, that would be page forty somewhere, let’s see, um yeah. Thirty-six – actually 36. Here you have a summary and notice the distinction. That evening at sundown they brought all to them all who were sick or possessed with demons.
There is no confusion between them. They are distinct, and if you go to verse 34…And he healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. The idea that they were all confused, that everybody thought every disease was demonic and so forth and so on. That’s not true. There is a distinction being made here.
But Jesus has power to bring healing in all those instances. There are assumption of Jesus and I will look at this more clearly when we look at the life of Christ and his own personal acclaims. But we find that he claims special authority, or unique authority you and I would never claim. The authority to forgive sins. He assumes that he has the right to cleanse the temple. When he cleanses the temple, the question immediately is, “Who gave you the right? By what authority are you doing these things?” His acts is this way, he is master of the Sabbath and so forth.
Now the explicit Christology involves various titles, and the titles that Mark emphasized I think is the Son of Man, remember the opening verse 1:1 Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, thus Son of God. And the very next account his baptism, God affirms that with the voice from heaven, “This is my beloved son”.
Another title that comes up, we are not going to talk about that title now, because we will spend time later, is the title, somewhat mysterious title, The Son of Man, which is Jesus favorite self-designation in the gospels.
And also we have the title Christ, it is used sparingly and often with the statement don’t tell anybody about this. Mark, there is also a theological emphasis the dullness of the disciples. Some people have said that, ah, Mark really has a vendetta against the disciples.
He wants to tell his readers that the disciples were not really great people, should not be followed, and had a false Christology and so on. That’s silly. That’s silly, um. The gospel ends with Jesus telling the disciples, I’ll go and meet you again in Galilee.
And unless it was very clear that he wanted to demean the disciples, the reader would not see it that way. In fact they didn’t see it that way until somebody found it in 1950 and 60 and so forth and so on. After 1900 years if you find something in the bible, that no one has ever seen before, take a deep breath for a while and just sit and think am I a genius or do I Just have a great imagination?
The traditional understanding was that Mark obtained much of this information from Peter and Peter was simply dull and disgusting. That is historically true. Now interestingly enough sometimes that dullness is minimized in Matthew and Luke. But not in Mark.
Personally, I find it very helpful, because if God could use dull disciples, maybe he can use dull professors too and dull pastors. So there is hope for that I think. I think of it a very practical way, it is very helpful for the reader, probably for Mark’s readers to realize that the disciples were not perfect.
Sometimes, we have, we have so sanctified the followers of Jesus, removed their flaws and we look at that and we can’t identify with them. We look at Adnear Judson [phonetic] this great man of faith who was such a saint and it will never be like that.
The first biography of Adnear Judson [phonetic]. The author talked about the time when he was imprisoned, when he lost his wife and child and almost lost his faith. That was excised from the book.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful for people to go through times of struggle like that, to see how this great saint went through it and came out of it and continued to serve the Lord. Sometimes we, you know, when you as a pastor start romanticizing the great commitment and dedication to the Lord of the early church, I just want to remind you that it is probably very unlikely that you will ever preach a sermon like Paul says to the Ephesians, don’t be continually drunk with mind, but be filled with the spirit.
They were not saints, in the sense of perfect people. They were saints in that they were God’s people, set apart from him. So our people are that way and have their flaws as well and sexual immorality, all of that was in the early church too. They were not perfect. Yeah, let’s hope not get to that.
Concerning the audience of Mark, it’s evident that Mark writes to an audience that does not know Aramaic and that does know Greek. So, it’s a Greek speaking, non-Aramaic audience. It’s also an audience that you have seen in your assignment that does not — that does not know Jewish customs very well. Probably therefore they are a Gentile audience, unacquainted with these things.
Another example of that is that he explains various Jewish customs in Mark 14:12, page 280. Mark begins the story of the Last Supper, page 280. Notice, he starts out and on the first day of unleavened bread, and then he comments, when they sacrifice the Passover lamb.
I don’t think you would have to explain that to a Jew. They would know that. The Gentiles wouldn’t. The audience seems to be familiar with some Latin terms and the like. One of the clearest examples of that is Mark 12:42. mark 12:42, that would be page 254. Now, it’s the story of the widow’s mights. They are sitting opposite the treasury and watching the people come. Verse 42, a poor woman came and put in two copper coins.
Then you have Mark giving the comment, explanatory [phonetic] comment, which make a penny. In other words, Mark’s readers do not know about these two copper coins and the value because that is the kind of stuff they used in Palestine.
But, a penny is a Roman coin. So, maybe this well means that it’s a Latin expression that he is writing to audience who understands what a penny is. It would be like saying, “Which make up a yen.” Well who are you writing to? A Japanese audience. “Which make up a marc,” a German audience. “Which make up a franc,” that’s a French audience you are writing to – or a Swiss perhaps as well.
So what we have here is some understanding of this that probably suggest an audience familiar with some Latin, coinage and probably Rome. There is a Roman reckoning of time in 648, page 138. Here you have verse 48 line 10. And they saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking on the sea.
Fourth watch of the night. Now a lot of translations will do that early in the morning or something like that. Which is fine, ah, because most people are not interested in observing some of the things we are observing. Theoroses [phonetic] very good this way. I am very satisfied in the most part with his translation.
In the Jewish reckoning of time, the night had only three watches. In the Roman reckoning of time, there were four watches. So, here you are using for your audience the Roman understanding of time. Which again, [inaudible] talks about an audience that is further removed from Palestine. Probably a Gentile audience that may very well be Rome as the tradition argues.
Another one that you can look at would be the reference in 15:16 to the Praetorium. He explains the palace as follows…they brought Jesus during the trial, 1516, page 315, 315, Mark 15:16. And the soldiers lead him away into the palace and I had the explanatory comment the is the Praetorium.
I think he is explaining to a Roman audience here what the palace really was, “well it was like the Praetorium”, which they would have been more familiar with.
All this suggest that probably the gospel was written to an audience, Greek. Not know Aramaic, not know Jewish customs, using Latin terminology and Roman coinage, a Roman audience and that is what the tradition is saying so, I think the tradition is being supported by itself by these things.
Now regard to the authorship of Mark, please note they are all anonymous. Not Mark and apostle Jesus Christ, to the church at Rome, to the being of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God and so forth.
There is nothing like that. Every gospel is anonymous. Now that doesn’t mean the people did not know who wrote it when they came, it just means they didn’t put their names on it.
See, I would of never of done that, I would have done it and said the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God, by Robert H. Stein copyrighted, you cannot use this without permission of the editor. But apparently the gospel writers are less concerned with who is writing it, then what is being written then what is being said for their audience.
But now there a long tradition and ah that tradition goes back to Tapeus [phonetic] who said it, but it is recorded in Rocebeus [phonetic] . Rocebeus was the great church historian around 400, no actually 325 is it? 325? I think in the mid 300’s, who gathered many of the writings of the early writers and summarized the history of the early church.
He quotes Tapeus with regard to what he said about Mark’s gospels as follows. Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed in order of the things that are done by the Lord. That is an interesting insight on 130. That he sees Mark not as a chronological biography and a lot of Christians don’t understand it and the try and impose all biographical expectation on the gospel of Mark, this is not in order of the things that are done by the Lord.
For he had not heard the Lord nor followed him but later on as they said followed Peter who used to give teaching as necessity demanded. But not making as it were an arrangement of the Lord oracles. So Mark did nothing wrong and thus writing single points as he remembered them. For one thing he gave attention to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.
So you had this very early 130, maybe 60 years after the gospel actually came out. Time no doubt where original eye witnesses were present when that gospel was read, might spread it on to Tapius himself.
Now the Anti-Marcionite prologue. Marion his heretic wrote his own Christian canon or his Heretical Christian canon. It consisted of Luke and ten of Paul’s letters and he gave introductions to them. And the church counteracted his claims and comments by having Anti Marcionite prologues. Dating around 150 to 180 and in that prologue, Mark is described as one who is called “stump finger”, because for the size of the rest of his body, he had fingers that were too short. He was the interpreter of Peter. After Peter’s death, the same man wrote his gospel and the regions of Italy.
Justin Martyr, talks about Mark being the author and writer of the memoirs of Peter. Irenaeus, 170, after the death of Mark, after the death of Peter, Mark transmits these things. Comment of Alexandria 180, Peter having preached this. Mark choose to write them down and here is an unusual amount of comment of Alexandria, because it’s not after Peter’s death, and Peter actually checks out the gospel and okays in some way or other. It’s very unlikely, because all the others have Peter dead when Mark writes.
Eusebius, also saying the same thing to tie with of Mark the author with Peter, Totelion [phonetic] 200 and Jerome in 400. So you have all sorts of church f-. Further talks about the author of this book and they all unanimously agree, it’s Mark.
Now, when you look at tradition like this. How do you look at it? There was a time when the Roman Catholic Church tradition was placed almost the same level as scripture, and so there was never an error in tradition. You just believed that anything that tradition said was true, period.
Now the pendulum of that extreme is now counteracted by some people today who when they look at tradition, there attitude is, the only thing we really know about this tradition is that it is not true, and you have the opposite extreme. I think what you have to do is you have to look at the tradition and if you look at tradition like this, they are some weighty things about it. It’s unanimous for one.
Secondly, do you remember the Apocryphal Gospels and some of the names given to them? Can you think of any names? [audience response] All right, Thomas, James, Bartholomew, What about those names. Who are those people? They are all apostles. The tendency is to credit what they write to an apostle. Here you have a tradition that doesn’t do that. They credit this book to a non-apostle, and that I think has to be weighted very strongly.
Because that’s against the tendency to have an apostle to write these things. An apostle didn’t write this book, it was Mark. A non-apostle who wrote it. I that says you have to weigh this tradition very heavily, and another thing is you have a tradition about the author of this book, which tends to be very negative. Not negative about him as a whole, but negative about some things.
For instance, if you were going to describe Mark, the writer of this gospel, I know how I would do it, I would say, “Mark, the writer of this gospel was given by God a beautiful pair of hands, because with them he would pen the very word of God concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Heck, I’m Stumpfinger [audience laughter]. Why would you call someone Stumpfinger, unless you had good tradition about that he had stump fingers in some ways.
When you find tradition that tends to be negative in some ways about the hero being discussed, here in the case, Mark. You have to way it more heavily and I think it argues for its historicity.
There is another tradition that doesn’t have anything to do with Mark, it occurs in the Apocryphal book called the Acts of Paul and Thectla. In that particular tradition, Paul, the hero of the story is described as coming, they see him from a distance, and he is described this way. He is short, he is bowlegged, he is balding, he has little hair, characteristic of great theologians in general, [audience laughter], he has a hooked nose, full of grace, one eyebrow, from one side of the head to other.
Now, why would you do that, unless in some way, there is a tradition about Paul that goes back to his actual description? You wouldn’t create it. I mean if you had, if you are really creating things, you would talk about, “And Paul came jogging down the road, 6’2. Blond hair flowing in the breeze, carrying a hundred pound barbell in each hand, [audience laughter] and running the last part of his marathon and so forth and so on. You would build it up and it doesn’t do that so the fact that you have a tradition doesn’t do that but is contrary means that you take that tradition more seriously.
Probably Paul was bowlegged and short and so forth and so on. So the tradition here weighs strongly in favor of its being true. Now Mark is the author of this gospel. I think it’s just extreme skepticism that would argue against that.
Now, why is this such a big deal? Why is it that Evangelical Christians argue for Mark in authorship. Matthew, Luke and Joanne authorship, but let’s stay with Mark and non-Evangelicals, liberals arguing against Mark in authorship for Matthew, Luke and Johanne authorship. Why is it that you have the great attempt to defend Mark is, Mark’s authorship of this book and by our side and to deny it from one part to the other? What’s at stake here?
Yeah, it deals with our view of the book. Now you say, we want Mark to be the author because probably that would be a better argument for its historicity. It’s easier to assume the truth of these things if Mark who worked with Peter was actually the author. So we have no bias. But think of the other side. There is no way Mark can be the author. Because you see Mark is writing about a Jesus who did all these miracles and he didn’t do any miracles. Therefore, you have to separate the author of this gospel from Jesus and such as the eyewitness, such as Peter.
So, therefore this tremendous concern to argue against Mark in authorship of the Lord. So there is a bias there as well and we need to know that. This has to do in Hermeneutics of the significance we attribute to the book, not the meaning. What the book says is the same as Mark wrote it or someone else did, because we are dealing with the meaning of this book, whoever wrote it, and that is why we deal with it first.
Authorship issues involves how people tend to respond to the meaning of this book. If they accredit Mark in authorship, Evangelicals, are they readily able to believe it. Some of them are affected that way. But, on the other hand a non-Evangelical can’t have that because you have to separate Mark from Peter, who is an eye witness to these things. But we deal with authorship issues. We are not dealing with meaning. We are dealing with the significance of this book for us as believers. That means it’s important, but it has nothing to do with meaning.
Concerning the date. None of these books have dates on them. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a scroll and it say that the original gospel of Mark, written A.D. 67. You are not going to find it. But we have our traditions and our traditions all date this shortly after the death of Peter. So, tradition argues that this book was written before 70 A.D. Sometimes 69 to 70 A.D. Comment of Alexander’s commentary is just strange, just strange, ah.
There is probably a second kind of thing that bares witness to earlier, pre A.D. 70 dating and that is there does not seem to be anything in the sayings concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. That would make you think that it was written after the fact. If it was written after, would you mind express the destruction of Jerusalem more graphically.
And we do find in Luke, for instance, a much more graphic description of prophecies concerning the fall of Jerusalem. Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. They rant and raised against it and so forth and so on and we know that kind of thing took place.
Mark doesn’t have any that so it looks like it’s before A.D. 70. So I would date Mark 67 to 70 right after Peter’s death. I argue for Mark in authorship. I think the tradition is solid here and the tradition being negative at times and also attributing it to a non-apostle. Very strong arguments for Mark in authorship.
The meaning of course is not dependent on that but somehow the way we respond and evaluate the material, maybe.