Unger's Bible Dictionary: Mark



MARK, GOSPEL OF. The second gospel by order in the English Bible.

Theme. In all the gospels one unique personality dominates. In Mark we have Christ as a Servant, just as He appears as King in Matthew, Man in Luke, and God in John. But Mark's Servant is also King, Man, and God. In Mark, Jesus is seen as the Mighty Worker, rather than as the Great Teacher. It is preeminently the gospel of Jehovah's Servant, "the Branch" (Zech 3:8). Chapter Mark 10:45 describes the scope of the book, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve." No genealogy is included, for such is not important for a servant. In this gospel Christ appears as a lowly servant who, "although He existed in the form of God, . . . emptied Himself, . . . being made in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:6-8). This lowly Servant was nevertheless the mighty God (Isa 9:6). In keeping with the servant character, the gospel is one of deeds rather than of words.


Attestation-External Evidence. The gospel circulated early among Christians. By the middle of the second century it was included by Tatian in his Diatessaron, or "Harmony of the Four Gospels" (c. A.D. 168). It is quoted by Irenaeus in the last quarter of the second century as being Mark's. Others before him, such as Papias, assert that Mark was both Peter's disciple and interpreter. Mark's close association with Peter is corroborated by numerous details of internal evidence, suggesting eyewitness testimony. But Mark evidently used other sources besides Peter. Quite a bit of material reveals Aramaic coloring. Rome is fixed by tradition as the place where the gospel was written by Mark. If so, it must be dated around A.D. 65 AD - 68 AD, but if Luke's gospel was written before A.D. 63 AD, Mark must be dated still earlier.


Author. Internal evidence agrees with the traditional Markan authorship. The writer is clearly a Christian Jew. He knows Jewish thought and life. He is acquainted with Aramaic. He writes with a thorough knowledge of Palestine.


Sources. Recent criticism accords this shortest and simplest of the four gospels a place of priority in time and primacy of importance. The reason for this is that it is now viewed as a basic source for Matthew and Luke, and especially underlies John. But in early traditional lists it appears in second, third, and fourth places, never in the first. Until Lachmann's "discovery" of the priority of Mark in 1835 the gospel had little interest in critical circles. But this critical view is unsound and is not to be accepted without stern challenge. There is, however, a sense in which Mark is dependent not upon any canonical gospel but upon Peter the apostle. See Attestation.



BIBLIOGRAPHY: V. Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (1952); C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According to St. Mark. Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary (1959); R. A. Cole, The Gospel According to St. Mark. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1961); C. F. D. Moule, The Gospel According to Mark (1965); D. E. Hiebert, Mark: A Portrait of the Servant (1974); W. L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. New International Commentary on the New Testament (1974); W. Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (1975); E. Trocme, The Formation of the Gospel According to Mark (1975); H. B. Swete, Commentary on Mark (1977); H. Vos, Mark (1978); J. A. Alexander, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (1980).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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