Fausset's Bible Dictionary

The Gospel According to Mark

"John (his Hebrew name) whose surname was Mark" (his Roman name): Mar 12:12; Mar 12:25; Mar 13:5; Mar 13:13; Mar 15:39; Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 1:24. The Roman supplanted the Jewish name, as Paul did Saul. The change marks his entrance on a new and worldwide ministry. The fathers unanimously testify that Mark was "interpreter" (hermeneutees, Papias in Eusebius, H. E. iii. 39; Irenaeus, Haer. iii. 1,10, sec. 6) to Peter; meaning one who expresses and clothes in words the testimony of another. Papias, or John Presbyter (in Eusebius, H. E. iii. 39), states that Mark wrote "not in order," i.e. he wrote "some" leading facts, not a complete history. He attests Mark's accuracy, saying "he committed no error," but made it his aim "to omit nought of what he heard and to state nothing untrue."

Peter's name and presence are mentioned on occasions where apparently there is no reason for it; Mark herein wished to bring the apostle forward as his authority (see Mar 1:36; Mar 5:37; Mar 11:20-26; Mar 13:3). There are indications of the author having been a Galilean, which Peter was. Thus, Herod the tetrarch is styled "king"; the "lake' (as Luk 8:22 calls it, for he knew larger sects) is called "the sea of Galilee" (Mar 5:1). Only in Mar 6:30 the term of dignity, "apostle," is found; in Luke, as writing later, it frequently occurs. Things to their discredit are ingenuously stated by Matthew and Mark (Peter), as we might expect from apostles writing about themselves; but are sparingly introduced by Luke (Mat 16:9; Mar 7:18; Mar 10:41; Mar 14:31; Mar 6:52; Mar 9:10; Mar 10:32, the last three not in Matthew).

The account of many things is marked by vivid touches suitable to an eye-witness only, which Peter was; e.g. Mar 6:39, "the green grass" in the feeding of the 5,000; "the pillow of the ship" (Mar 4:38); Mar 10:50, "casting away his garment"; Mar 11:4, "the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met." The details of the demon-possessed Gadarene: "no man could bind him, no not with chains, because he had often been bound, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, crying, and cutting himself with stones," etc. (Mar 5:2-5); and also the wild cry of another reproduced, "Ea" ("Ha!" not as KJV, "let us alone"), Mar 1:24.

Jesus' looks, Mar 3:5, "He looked round about on them in anger" (Mar 3:34); Mar 8:33; Mar 10:21-23, "Jesus beholding loved him," etc.; Mar 8:12, He sighed deeply in spirit ... why doth this generation seek after a sign?" Mar 1:41, "Jesus moved with compassion put forth His hand" touching the leper. All these minute touches, peculiar to him, show his Gospel is no epitome of the others but an independent witness, Mark tells Peter's humble origin (Mar 1:16-20), his connection with Capernaum (Mar 1:29), that Levi was son of Alphaeus (Mar 2:14), that Boanerges was the title given by Christ to James and John (Mar 3:17), that, the ruler of the synagogue was named Jairus (Mar 5:22), that Jesus was a "carpenter" (Mar 6:3), that the Canaanite woman was a Syrophoenician (Mar 7:26). Mark gives Dalmanutha for Magdala (Mar 8:10; Mat 15:39).

He names Bartimaeus (Mar 10:46), states that "Jesus would not suffer any to carry any vessel through the temple" (Mar 11:16), that Simon of Cyrene was father of Alexander and Rufus (Mar 15:21). Peter would be the probable source of these particulars of Mark's information. Jesus' rebuke of Peter is recorded, but His preeminent praise of him is omitted (Mar 8:32-33; compare Mat 16:18; Mat 16:23). The account of the thrice denial is full, but "bitterly" is omitted from his repentance (Mar 14:72). This is just what we might expect from an apostle writing about himself. The Roman character preponderates, abounding in facts rather than doctrines, and practical details told with straightforward, energetic, manly simplicity.

Of passages peculiar to Mark are Mar 3:20-21, Christ's friends' attempt on Him; Mar 4:26-29, parable of the seed growing secretly; Mar 7:31-37, healing the deaf mute; Mar 8:22-26, gradual cure of the blind; Mar 11:11; Mar 14:51-52; Mar 16:7, the special message to Peter after the resurrection, to cheer him in his despondency after the thrice denial. Only twice Mark quotes Old Testament himself (Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3), namely, Mar 1:2; Mar 1:3; but often introduces Christ and those addressing Him quoting it. The Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus manuscripts omit Mar 15:28, which is an interpolation from Luk 22:37. Mark alone has "the sabbath was made for man" (Mar 2:27), and the scribe's admission that love is better than sacrifices (Mar 12:33); all suited for Gentile readers, to whom Peter, notwithstanding subsequent vacillation, first opened the door (Acts 10).

He notices Jesus being "with the wild beasts" when tempted by Satan in the wilderness; contrast Adam tempted amidst the tame animals in Eden (Genesis 2; 3). Adam changed paradise into a wilderness, Jesus changes the wilderness into paradise. Other scenes to Peter's honor omitted are Luk 5:1-11, his walking on the sea (Mat 14:28-31), his commission to get, the tribute money from the fish (Mat 17:24-27), Jesus' special intercession for him (Luk 22:31-32), his being one of the two sent to prepare the Passover (Luk 22:8). Mark's explanations of Jewish customs and names (Jordan is called a "river"; the Pharisees' fasting and customs, Mar 1:5; Mar 2:18; Mar 7:1-4; the Sadducees' tenets, Mar 12:18; the Passover described, Mar 14:1; Mar 14:12) which Jews would not need, and the absence of appeals by himself to Old Testament prophecy, also of the genealogy and of the term nomos, the Mosaic "law," show he wrote for Gentiles not for Jews.

Accordingly he omits the offensive references to the Gentiles found in Mat 6:7-8; Mat 10:5-6; compare Mar 6:7-11; so Luke writing for Gentiles (Luk 9:1-5). Moreover Mark (Mar 11:17) inserts what is not in Matthew or Luke, cf6 "My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer." He abounds in Latinisms, agreeably to the theory that he wrote for Romans, whose terms his and Peter's intimacy with them would dispose him to use: thus "centurion" for hekatontarchos elsewhere in New Testament, paidiothen = "a puero", kodrantes = "quadrans", denarion = "denarius", halas analon = "sal insulsum", "specoulator", "censos", "fragelloo" (flagello), xestes (sextarius), megistanes = "magnates", legeon = "legio". The explanation of a Greek term aulee by the Latin proetorium (Mar 15:16) could only be for Roman readers. Style. Unusual Greek expressions occur: exapina, epistentrechein, pistike, eneileo, efie, proelaben murisai, alalos, enangkalizesthai. Diminutives abound, thugatrion, korasion, otarion, kunaria.

He employs as the phrase most characteristic of his Gospel eutheoos, "straightway," "immediately," 41 times. His use of the present tense for the past gives vivid present reality to his pictures. He details minutely localities, times, and numbers. He introduces persons' speaking directly. He is often abrupt as he is graphic, e.g. Mark 1, where he hurries on to our Lord's: official life, which he sketches with lifelike energy. "While the sequence and connection of the longer discourses was that which the Holy Spirit peculiarly brought to Matthew's mind, the apostle from whom Mark's record is derived seems to have been deeply penetrated by the solemn iterations of cadence and expression, and to have borne away the very words themselves and the tone of the Lord's sayings" (Alford), e.g. the sublime reply Mar 9:39-50, the thrice repeated "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched," sounding in the ears as a peal of doom.

This Gospel especially pictures Jesus' outward gestures, e.g. His actions in curing the deaf (Mar 7:33-34), He takes him aside from the multitude, puts His fingers into his ears, spits, touches his tongue, looks up to heaven, sighs, and saith, "Ephphatha". Hebrew (Aramaic) words are used, but explained for Gentile readers: Mar 3:17; Mar 3:22; Mar 5:41, Talitha kumi; Mar 7:11, korban; Mar 9:43, gehenna; Mar 10:46, Bar-timaeus; Mar 14:36, Abba; Mar 15:22, Golgotha. The style, though abounding in Latinisms, is more related. to the Hebraistic style of Matthew than to Luke's pure Greek.

From the Latinisms, and the place where, and the persons to whom it was written, it was thought originally to have been in Latin; so the Syriac version states, and many Greek manuscripts, "it was written in Rome, in the Roman language." But Mark's assuming his readers' acquaintance with Jewish localities is opposed to the opinion that he wrote at Rome (after Peter's departure from or decease in that city) which John Presbyter and Irenaeus endorse. In the New Testament record of Paul's labors in and for Rome no allusion occurs to Peter in connection with Christianity there. The internal evidence of Mark's Gospel is in favor of its being early in date; this it could not be if it were written after any supposed date of Peter's having preached at Rome. If Peter ever was at Rome it must have been after Paul's two years spent in Rome, and after the writing of Acts which records it. Paul and Luke, the writer of Acts (Acts 28), evidently knew nothing of Peter having founded a church there.

All is clear, if Mark wrote the Gospel in connection with the Roman Caesarea. Here Peter first preached, and it was for his converts that Mark, his son in the faith, wrote a Gospel suited in style to the energetic character of their nation, and embodying the teaching of the first apostolic missionary to them, Peter. In exact agreement with the date which this would presume, Eusebius (Chronicle) fixes on the third year of Claudius, A.D. 43, shortly after Cornelius' conversion, a date when certainly Peter was not at Rome notwithstanding Eusebius' statement, to which he probably was led by the early circulation of Mark's Gospel at Rome by Roman converts passing there from Caesarea; hence probably originated the story of Peter's visiting Rome.

Possibly the last 12 verses of Mark 16, not found in the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus manuscripts but found in the Alexandrinus manuscript, were added at the later date assigned by Irenaeus, i.e. A.D. 64. This will agree with Mar 16:20, "they went forth and preached everywhere," which implies that by this time the apostles had left Judaea and had preached in most lands, though they had not done so before the Gospel itself was written. As Matthew's Gospel, adapted to Jewish readers, and probably written in and for Jerusalem or Judaea, answers to the earliest period (Acts 1-11), the Hebrew period ending about A.D. 40, so Mark answers to the second or Judaeo-Gentile period, A.D. 40 to 50, and is suited to Gentile converts such as the Roman soldiers concentrated at Caesarea, their head quarters in Palestine, the second center of gospel preaching as Jerusalem was the first, and the scene of Cornelius' conversion by Mark's father in the faith, Peter.

The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts omit Mar 16:9-20, but Alexandrinus and Beza and Paris manuscripts and Vulgate support them, and "they were afraid" would be a strangely abrupt close of the Gospel. Irenaeus (iii. 10, sec. 6) quotes from them. Justin Martyr quotes Mar 9:44; Mar 9:46; Mar 9:48; Mar 12:30; Mar 3:17. The motto of this Gospel may be taken from its probable author, Peter (Act 10:38) "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him."

Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)