Last modified on May 24, 2024, at 23:50

Gospel of Mark

The Gospel according to Mark, often referred to as the Gospel of Mark, is a bold and irreverent account by an outsider eyewitness who had a youthful charm in his clever references to himself, and an enthusiasm characteristic of youngsters. Its style is anti-Establishment in its simple wit, and 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. Mark's Gospel was likely the first one written,[1] and is by far the shortest Gospel at only 14,949 words.[2] This entire Gospel can be read in merely about an hour.[3]

The Gospel of Mark is the most corroborated testimony in all of Scriptures and recorded history, as the independent eyewitness Matthew incorporated nearly all of it into his own Gospel of Matthew, and John the Apostle corroborates much also. Mark preceded Matthew in following Jesus.[4]

The Gospel of Mark is the original source for how John the Baptist was executed, while most Apostles (including John) apparently did not know the details. The Gospel of Matthew confirms Mark's account but without all of the details. In addition, the Gospel of Mark was the first to say that all the Apostles abandoned Jesus at the beginning of the Passion.

The Gospel of Mark is bluntly critical of the elite and their practices:

  • only the Gospel of Mark begins by boldly declaring that it is "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God";[5]
  • only the Gospel of Mark refers to the "gospel of God," a phrase repeated by Paul and Peter in their letters which suggests they had heard Mark's account;
  • the Gospel of Mark portrays the disparagement as regional, rather than ethnic, in Jesus's reference to a Greek woman's daughter as a "dog" (better translated as "puppy") in Mark 7:24-30 , while the subsequent Gospel of Matthew retells the same story with an anti-Gentile ethnic connotation in Matthew 15:21-28 ;
  • only the Gospel of Mark bluntly says 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?”[6]
  • only Mark criticizes the Apostles for hardening their own hearts against Jesus, see Mark 6:52 and Mark 8:17 ;
  • only the Gospel of Mark brazenly notes the Sabbath as being made for man (and not only for the Jews), not vice-versa, as Jesus declared;[7]
  • only the Gospel of Mark explains that Jesus "looked around at them [his opponents] with anger,"[8] a theme echoed by the famous colonial sermon "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."[9]
  • 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.'”[10]
  • 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)[11]
  • 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;
  • only the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus "could not do any miracles" in his hometown (due to the people's lack of faith), with a few minor exceptions, Mark 6:5 ;[12]
  • the Gospel of Mark is the only one to include the parable about achievement without knowing how: The Parable of the Seed that Grows Itself (Mark 4:26-29 ); and
  • the Gospel of Mark coined the anti-Establishment term—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.[13] Indeed, the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark (and the Gospel of Matthew) are estimated to be from A.D. 60s.[14] 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.[14]

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.[15] The Gospel of Mark lacks references to prostitution (mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke) or to the Samaritan woman who had been married five times (per the Gospel of John).

The Gospel of Mark is simpler and briefer than the other gospels, and more focused on suffering and loss.[16] 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.[17] 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,[18] 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:[19]

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.[20] 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:[21]

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 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.[22]

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).[23]

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.

Different use of the Old Testament

Scholars agree that Mark's use of the Old Testament is completely different from the use of it by the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.[24] Mark did not use the Old Testament either to show the fulfillment by Jesus of prophecies, or to quote it as proof of anything.


Mark is generally believed to be the earliest Gospel, possibly preceding the others by many years.[25] 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. There are only 30 verses in the Gospel of Mark that are not in either the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Luke, and the chronology in the Gospel of Mark is confirmed by one or both of the other two Gospels. Furthermore, Mark's ordering of events in some instances corresponds directly to that of Luke's Gospel yet not with Matthew's; had the Gospel of Matthew been written first, it would have been highly unlikely that Mark and Luke would differentiate their ordering of events from Matthew yet maintain harmony with each other.

Date of Creation

There is extensive debate over when the Gospel of Mark was written. Paul quoted from the Gospel of Mark during Paul's ministry at Antioch of Pisida in AD 48, see Acts 13:25 ,[26] so the Gospel of Mark was written and circulated well before then.

Liberal denial pushes for a later date, such as AD 70, while others say an early date is likely. A very expensive book available on as published in 2004 argues that "Mark's gospel was not written as late as c. 65-75 [AD], but dates from sometime between the late 30s and early 40s [AD]."[27] Other scholars argue as follows:

Wallace writes:

“In sum, Mark should be dated before the production of Luke’s gospel which we date no later than 62 CE. Sometime in the mid-50s is most probable.”

Addendum: Other scholars for early dating of Mark:

John Wenham, in his book, Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke, puts the Gospel of Mark at 45 AD.

John A. T. Robinson, put the Gospel of Mark also at 45 AD, and makes the case for all of the New Testament having been written before 70 AD, in his famous book, Redating the New Testament.[28]

Opening and Ending

The first sentence of the Gospel of Mark constituted blasphemy under Jewish law punishable by death, and he was imprecise in describing Jewish custom, indicating that its author was likely a Gentile.

This 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.

More Concise

Mark doesn't mention certain events mentioned by the other Synoptic Gospels. The genealogies, the birth story of Jesus, and 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 an original ending that is now lost. This is considered a Deuterocanonical part of the Gospel.

Mark is sometimes called a "three-act play," whereby its third act is its extensive account of the Passion.[29]


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, and bolder in his claims.

Mark uses Aramaic far more than the other Gospels, which again suggests that Mark had a different, probably Gentile, background.[30]

An early tradition connects Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, with John Mark as "Peter's copyist," putting to paper what Peter preached. John Mark is mentioned in 2 Timothy. Irenaeus says: "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing what was preached by Peter."[31] Papius, Origen, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria also support a similar position. It is based on this theory that the date of authorship is estimated to be the mid-60s A.D., or shortly after 70 A.D. But if the author was not John Mark, then that estimated date of authorship loses its basis. Most scholars today reject the notion that John Mark was the author of Mark.

Reportedly Mark became an apostle of Peter, although this seems unlikely in light of Mark's omission of Peter walking on water. Other reports are that Mark was a missionary companion of Paul, quoting this: "Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry." 2Timothy 4:11 [32]

Greater evidence supports the tradition that Mark ultimately founded the Christian church in Egypt.


The audience is for Gentiles, and Mark may have been a Gentile himself as only he quotes Jesus noting the Sabbath's application for all of mankind and not only Jews: Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”[33] That is not found in any other Gospel.[23] 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 in Mark 7:3[34] by saying that "all the Jews" performed the ritual,[35] 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,[2] which can be easily read in its entirety 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.

This 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.[36]

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

The Gospel of Mark contains only ten parables, which is fewer than those contained by each of the other Synoptic Gospels.[37]

The tenses used by Mark include the present tense, the imperfect, and the aorist. While other writers typically vary their use of a connecting particle, Mark does not and instead always uses the simplest one "kai", meaning "and".[38] Ancient Greek did not have punctuation to end sentences, and thus connecting participles were often used.

Mark's Greek

Particular characteristics of Mark's Greek include the following:[39]

  • Use of historical present tense verbs
  • Use of first-person plural as the narrative
  • Use of a singular verb to follow an impersonal plural verb
  • Clarification in a parenthetical style
  • γάρ-clauses
  • Paratactic καί
  • Anacoluthon - "syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence,"[40] but the one at the end of Mark 16:8 is not really Mark's
  • Chreia
  • Aramaic quotations
  • Some repetitive wording, along with some unusual words or constructions

Early church

Ironically, the Gospel of Mark was the most neglected by the early church among the four Gospels. "Indeed, no commentary was written on it until the sixth century!"[41] Augustine of Hippo, an influential early church leader, mistakenly viewed the Gospel of Mark as merely an abbreviation of the other two Synoptic Gospels. The Augustinian hypothesis attempts to resolve the Synoptic problem by supposing that Matthew's Gospel was written first, followed by Mark, with Luke subsequently using both.

St. Augustine's theory of Mark as an epitomizer of the Gospel of Matthew

St. Augustine espoused a theory that Mark epitomized (shortened) the Gospel of Matthew in writing the Gospel of Mark. This theory is debunked by much evidence to the contrary, including how some of the most important descriptions in the Gospel of Mark are longer than in the Gospel of Matthew.[42]

See also


  1. "Markan 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. 2.0 2.1
  3. Adults read silently at about 238 words per minute, and aloud at about 183 words per minute. [1]
  4. Mark describes, as an eyewitness, the calling of Matthew (Levi) to be an Apostle; Mark records Jesus calling "Levi," while Matthew's Gospel never uses his old name. Mark 2:14 Matthew is the corresponding Greek equivalent for the Hebrew name Levi.
  5. Mark 1:1 (ESV).
  6. Mark 4:13 (ESV).
  7. Only Mark quotes Jesus saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27 (ESV).
  8. Mark 3:5 (ESV, emphasis added).
  9. See Jonathan Edwards.
  10. Mark 9:39 (ESV). See also Biblehub.
  11. ESV.
  12. Matthew, while copying from Mark, toned this down by saying "he did not do many miracles there" Matthew 13:58 .
  13. First-Century Mark Manuscript: More News? (
  14. 14.0 14.1
  16. See, e.g., Mark 8:35.
  17. For example, Mark uses the Greek word meaning "immediately", "soon" or "at once" more than 40 times!
  19. This translation is from the King James Version.
  20. See, e.g., the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
  21. Matt. 18:4-5 (NRSV); also referenced in Mark 9:36-37.
  22. Compare Mark 14:1-9 with John 12:1-8
  23. 23.0 23.1
  26. Timeline of Paul's ministry.
  29. (see its pdf p.4).
  30. Aramaic was more popular among Gentiles than Greek was
  31. Against Heresies, 3.1
  32. ESV is quoted here.
  33. Mark 2:27 (NASB).
  39. Citing Ben Witherington in The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (pp. 18-9) [2].