Introduction to the Gospel of Mark, Part 1

According to Bible Scholars the Gospel of Mark was the first one to be written, even though it is not the first one in the canonical order (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Tradition attributes authorship “according to Mark’, even though the gospel itself is silent about its authorship. It is important to mention in the religious education class setting that this introduction is aimed for, that the inspired nature of the text is not dependent on our knowing the exact authorship of a given text. The dating of the Gospel most scholars agree upon is around the year 70 A.D. The place of composition traditionally is Rome, although many other locations are suggested also (Syria, the Decapolis, Galilee, etc.). According to scholars, the location in Rome is supported by Latin loanwords in the Greek text, and this also explains the sense of persecution in the text echoing the persecution of the Roman community in the 60’s A.D. The Gospel of Mark is described as directed to an audience of Greek-speaking residents of the Roman Empire. This is supported by the explanation of certain Arameic terms used in the gospel. The Gospel of Mark may be divided in a number of ways, the simplest one consisting of two parts: from chapters 1:1 to 8:26 comprising the Ministry of Jesus (his preaching and healing in Galilee) and the second one chapters 8:27 to 16:8 comprising his suffering predicted and ultimately his death in Jerusalem. We could mention a number of sources available to the author of the Gospel: sayings, parables, controversies, healing stories and miracles, a passion narrative, etc. What ever sources Mark used, we should recognize the literary genius that arranged this material creating a work that contains historical elements, but it is not a history, contains bibliographical information, but is not merely a biography. The author of the Gospel of Mark used a number of sources and employed a number of literary devices to write a work designed, in the words of Raymond Brown “to promote and strengthen a faith that would bring people closer to God”.

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