An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 1 - Section 26


§ 26. The Gospel according to Mark

[Cf. works mentioned in §§ 23 and 24. Besides these, H. A. W. Meyer, i. 2, 1892, by B. and J. Weiss; ʽInternational Critical Commentaryʼ (1896), by E. Gould, and P. Schanzʼs work mentioned in § 25. A. Klostermannʼs ʽDas Marcusevangelium nach seinem Quellenwerthe für die evangelische Geschichteʼ (1867) is a defence in the apologetic interest, in parts full of caprice, of the priority of Matthew to Mark, but in wealth of material and in sterling quality it has not been equalled by any later work, and certainly not surpassed by that of W. Hadorn, ʽDie Entstehung des Marcusevangeliumʼ (1898). For par. 5 (end) see Conybeareʼs article in the ʽExpositorʼ for 1893, entitled ʽAristion, the author of the last 12 verses of Markʼ (p. 241); P. Rohrbachʼs ʽDer Schluss des Marcusevangelium, der Vierevangelienkanon und der kleinasiatische Presbyter,ʼ (1894); Adolf Harnack in ʽTexte und Untersuchungenʼ (1894), xii. 1b, p. 6, and also his ʽChronologie,ʼ vol i. pp. 696 fol.]

1. As regards the early evidences for Mark, the state of the case is precisely as with those for Matthew. They go back to Papias,1 who had heard from the ʽPresbyterʼ that Mark had been Peterʼs interpreter, and had noted down the sayings and doings of Jesus accurately, as far as his memory served him, but not in the right order.2 The want of order he excuses by saying that Mark himself was never a hearer or follower of the Lord, but derived all his knowledge from the discourses of Peter, which in their turn were always adapted to the needs of the moment, so that they could not be called a compilation of the words of the Lord. Mark, therefore, was not at all in a position to arrange them in the right order and to produce a complete Gospel; he rightly attached the greatest importance to omitting nothing and falsifying nothing in what he had heard. How far Papias, who measures Mark by the standard of another Gospel (probably that of John3) and who thinks himself obliged to excuse his deficiencies, is here mingling his own reflections with the naturally shorter account given by the Presbyter, is no business of ours to decide; the statement concerning the authorship of Mark is certainly the oldest kernel of the story, and we who recognised a sound kernel in the parallel statement concerning Matthew, certainly have no cause to reject it here without a hearmg. The First Epistle of Peter also assumes the presence of a Mark in the following of Peter.4 Col. iv. 10, where ʽMark, the cousin of Barnabas,ʼ is mentioned as the companion of Paul,5 makes us think of ʽJohn Markʼ in the Acts,6 whose relations with Paul were not always of the best, and whom nothing could deter from joining Peter later on. The knowledge of Greek and Hebrew which would qualify him for the title of interpreter may without hesitation be attributed to a relation of Barnabas, and the writer of the Gospel possesses this knowledge: he preserves Aramaic words, but translates them correctly into Greek, as, for instance, ʽtalitha cumi, which is, being interpreted, Maiden, I say unto thee, arise.ʼ7

It is true that we shall have to give a different answer from that given by Papias or the Presbyter, to the question whether Mark arranged his material in the chance order into which Peter threw the words and deeds of Jesus in his teaching. Papiasʼs account of Markʼs procedure is, in my opinion, psychologically untenable. In reality Mark has the best τάξις of all the Evangelists, for, broadly speaking, the life of Jesus did unfold itself in the way in which Mark describes it. At first the object of universal wonder, he soon provoked opposition, and by dint of his successful efforts towards the moral elevation of the people and their liberation from the yoke of the Pharisees and the tutelage of the Seribes, he drew down upon himself that mortal enmity of the upper classes which drove him gradually to withdrawal, to flight, and the limitation of his work to a small circle of disciples, until at last the opportunity came for his complete destruction. But Papiasʼs mistake is one of judgment only, and does not in the least affect the fact attested by him: that John Mark wrote a Gospel founded on reminiscences of the Petrine circle. The writer of our Mark never pretends to have been an eye-witness. The anecdote told by him alone,8 of the mysterious young man who followed Jesus after his capture, when the disciples had already fled, and then when hands were laid on him, left his fine linen cloth, and fled naked, can be taken, as many wish, to refer to the narrator, without the Mark-hypothesis being in the least endangered thereby; for this young man, who only appears once, is not represented as being an actual ʽhearerʼ of the Lord, which Mark himself certainly was not. The probability is that we have in this story a piece of the very oldest tradition, just as we have in the saying9 that Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross, ʽwas the father of Alexander and Rufus.ʼ The persons in question were still known to Mark, but the other Evangelists pass them over in silence, because they know nothing of them and no religious interest attaches to such statements.

There is no doubt that Peter is especially prominent in this Gospel. The public ministry of Jesus begins with the calling of Peter10; and the healing of his wifeʼs mother11 is surely mentioned only because of his own grateful remembrance of the incident. Exactly at the right point in the narrative Mark brings about the distinction between the two names Simon and Peter12; later on13 a saying is put into the mouth of Peter (Matthew attributes it to ʽthe disciplesʼ14) which could perfectly well have been said by any other follower. Still more striking is the way in which Peter is expressly named beside ʽhis disciplesʼ in xvi. 7 as the recipient of the command to go before into Galilee, where the risen Lord would show himself. Nevertheless, the Gospel of Mark cannot be called Petrine in the sense of having been compiled at Peterʼs dictation, or as forming a valuable authority not only for Peterʼs recollections of the life and sufferings of Jesus, but also for the Petrine theology, and even for the personality, temperament and disposition of the Apostle. It is perhaps possible that Peter might not have withheld from the knowledge of his brethren stories so deeply discreditable to himself as that of his denial15 or that of viii. 32 fol., where Jesus rebukes him as ʽSatanʼ; it is perhaps possible that many a mythical feature may have found its way into his picture of Jesus, especially in his story of the last days, that he was capable of taking pleasure in miraculous tales like that of the destruction of the two thousand swine,16 and that a half visionary experience like that of the Transfiguration scene17 may not have been improbable in his case; but could he have related anything so purely legendary as xv. 36, or as the two stories of the feeding of the multitude? If Papias had not suggested the idea, in fact, we should scarcely have thought of claiming Peter as the authority for the statements made in Markʼs narrative; Markʼs intention was to give us the Gospel, not the Gospel according to Peter. He shows himself, besides, to be so skilful a narrator and so fully master of his materials that we should be doing him an injustice in placing him arbitrarily in dependence on Peter, as the ancients wished to do, out of ecclesiastical considerations. Nowhere does the Gospel suggest the idea that its author was fettered by his material; all he tells seems to come straight from his heart, the Gospel he offers is complete in itself:—would this have been so successfully accomplished if he had confined himself to what he had casually learnt from Peter? Moreover, if we believe that Mark was using a written document in chap. xiii., we must by so doing abandon the Petrine foundation.

No, Mark too, like Luke, was a collector; his work did not grow up under the shadow of one mighty name alone. A man who, though a friend of Peter, had had opportunities, for many decades, of hearing other reports from other men concerning the great age of salvation, must have written a Gospel different indeed from one which Peter himself or his simple interpreter might have produced.

2. All that this Gospel reveals concerning the theological position of its author agrees with the result just obtained. Different critics have imputed the most opposite tendencies to him: some declare that his Gospel is directly Pauline; others, that it breathes the purest Apostolic tradition; others, again, that it is the Gospel of conscious neutrality, intended to effect a general reconciliation, by the avoidance of extreme utterances on either side, of all parties on a common Evangelistic ground. All this, however, is theory forced upon it from outside. In the writer himself we can trace no tendency but that of telling the Gospel of Jesus Christ as movingly as possible, and of demonstrating his glory through his own words and deeds—the tendency, in fact, which every Gospel must display. The author did not wish to gain favour with any particular creed, school or party. His leanings towards Pauline views, which Volkmar discovered in him in so many places,18 are of just as problematic a nature as the contrast in which Mark is supposed to stand to the anti-Pauline Apocalypse of John.19¯ Phrases that sometimes have a Pauline ring, like ʽAbba, Father,ʼ20 or the saying about the fulfilling of the time,21 need not—if we must insist at all upon direct authority for such trifles—lead us to doubt the authorship of Mark, for Mark certainly came under the influence of Paul. But the material which the writer wishes to reproduce—and to reproduce faithfully and without any subjective additions —had its origin in the Primitive Community, and Mark would certainly not have been the man to Paulinise it, or to have consciously coloured it in any way. From the Gospel itself we derive but one impression concerning the author: that he was a born Jew, familiar with the circle of the original Apostles, and especially interested in Peter, but also a much travelled person, rejoicing in the fact that the Gospel was to be preached to all the nations.22

The confession which he puts into the mouth of the Gentile centurion beside the Cross, ʽTruly this man was the Son of God,ʼ is characteristic of his attitude towards the Gentile mission. Judaistic leanings, Law-bound anxieties, are both outside his horizon; in his eyes the religion of the crucified and risen Son of God was a new world-religion.

We shall never know whether Mark originally wrote for a limited circle of readers or not. He certainly did not write for Palestinian readers, for there would have been no need to translate Golgotha and other words of the kind for their benefit, and it would have been superfluous to explain to Jewish Christians in general the time-indication ʽthe first day of unleavened breadʼ by the addition ʽwhen they slew the passover.ʼ23 These little parentheses, however, cannot be explained away as the additions ofa translator, for the suggestion that there is an original Hebrew or Aramaic document at the bottom of our Greek Gospel is conspicuously ill-judged. No translator could have created the originality of language shown by Mark. The tradition, according to one branch of which Mark was written in Alexandria, while another and considerably older branch assigns it to Rome, is here of little use to us: the first is the outcome of the legend that Mark was Bishop of Alexandria; the second springs from the remembrance of Peterʼs activity in Rome, and the assumption that the interpreter must have worked in the same place as his master was then an exceedingly natural one. According to Philemon and Colossians, Mark really went to Rome, and it is very possible that he stayed there a considerable time, and perhaps even that he received the impulse to begin his work there, and stayed to complete it. The influence of the Latin language upon the Greek of Markʼs Gospel has been urged in support of this hypothesis, which, however, still remains a mere hypothesis. Some Latin words he takes over bodily (like ΛεὙεών, κῆνσος, κεντυρίων), and the widowʼs two mites24 he reckons in Roman coinage—ʽwhich make a quadrans.ʼ But we must not lay too much stress on isolated instances like these, for with the expansion of the Roman Empire, Latin terms, especially those connected with the law, the army and the taxes, would be sure to make themselves used throughout the world. It is therefore more than bold to point to x. 12 —which is peculiar to Mark—as a proof of the Roman origin of the Gospel. The words ʽAnd if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery,ʼ are certainly surprising from the lips of Jesus, for the divorce of a husband by the wife was unknown to the Jew. But are we to suppose that Mark, the Jew, was here seeking to accommodate the words of Jesus to the Roman marriage-law? If so he must either have become accustomed to the ideas of Roman Law with marvellous rapidity, or else have developed an incredible degree of subtlety. A much simpler explanation is that he made this addition—the wording of which is in any case incorrect—to the genuine Logion of verse 11 out of a love of parallelism and of symmetry; it seemed important to him to declare that in the Kingdom of God the duties and transgressions of men and women counted alike. 3. As to the date at which the Second Gospel was composed, the development of the tradition is interesting. According to Irenaeusʼs interpretation of him,25 Papias (about 150 A.D.) seems to imply that during the composition of his book Mark was no longer able to appeal to Peter for emendations or advice; Clement of Alexandria, on the other hand, tells us26 that when Peter heard of Markʼs scheme, he neither hindered nor encouraged him, while Eusebius himself maintains27 (about 325 A.D.), on the authority of Clement of Alexandria and Papias, that by revelation of the Holy Spirit Peter had expressed himself well pleased that Mark had been moved to write a Gospel, and had verified (or corroborated) the work (κυρῶσαι τὴν γραφήν). Post-Eusebian theologians simply make Peter commission Mark to do the work, taking the former as the actual author, Mark merely as the scribe. In this gradation the ideal of Apostolicity is realised. Of course, the older theory is the more sensible, for the true Apostles never had anything to do with the revision of books. That consideration would not, however, prevent Markʼs Gospel from having been written during Peterʼs lifetime, for Mark certainly did not hold a life appointment as Peterʼs secretary. On the other hand, it is merely fanciful to suppose that there is any special probability in the assumption that Mark wrote down the recollections of Peter immediately, or atany rate soon after his death: as a matter of fact we are thrown back upon the Gospel itself as our sole authority for the determination of its date. Well, then, the farewell speech of chapter xiii. certainly contains a few expressions, especially verse 14, which seem to belong to the years before 70, but in these cases Mark is undoubtedly dependent on an older source, while his own point of view is betrayed by vv. 1 fol. and 9 fol. as that of the later comer. The most significant fact, however, is that here the last catastrophe is foretold for the days ʽafter that tribulationʼ28 without the addition of the ʽimmediatelyʼ (εὐθέως) so characteristically preserved by Matthew29 and coming from an earlier source. And so, though we are not at all convinced by Volkmarʼs positive dating of the Gospel at 73 A.D., we should still regard the year 70 as the terminus a quo. The lower limit can in our opinion only be found by comparison with Matthew and Luke, but the fact that it was in Markʼs lifetime confines us to the first century.

4. Mark is distinguished by a power of lively presentation; he aims at clearness and at complete pictorial reproduction. All through he speaks in the language of the people, without any attempt at elegance or symmetry. Hence we find him reporting short phrases in oratio recta,30 running the sentences together with καί,31 avoiding the use of the relative pronoun,32 and using αὐτός very frequently in the oblique cases.33 His style is distinguished by a lack of connecting particles between separate paragraphs, and by a certain monotony in the introductory forms; his mode of presentation is in fact typically anecdotic. He avoids abstract expressions, and would rather be long-winded than use them34; he is not afraid of vulgarisms like κράβαττος,35 which Matthew and Luke always replace by κλίνη or some such word. In Mark we find also a piling on of negatives, and the use36 of such careless colloquialisms as ʽthey uncovered the roof where he was.37 ʽHe uses the present tense by preference, and likes paraphrasing a preterite by the phrase ʽand he began,ʼ38 just as he likes saying too much rather than too little for the sake of greater vividness. Note, for instance, the superfluous ἐξορύξαντες in ii. 4, the phrase ʽwhat manner of stones and what manner of buildingsʼ in xiii. 1, and the explanatory details about the time in xiii. 85—ʽwhether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning.ʼ He has an especial fondness for the adverb ʽimmediatelyʼ (εἐθύς) and similar hyberbolical turns of phrase. Hence it is that there is something fresh and strong and primitive about his whole presentation, particularly in its very awkwardnesses. Now and then his taste reminds us of that displayed by an old ʽreviserʼ of Codex D,39 in dealing with the texts of the Gospels, or more particularly with the Acts; in many cases his downright, pleonastic mode of expression sounds like an intentional strengthening of that of his fellow-Evangelists, with its lack of energy and nerve, and this perhaps partly explains the hypothesis of Griesbach and Baur, which regards Mark as a mere excerptor from Matthew and Luke. But in reality his naive freshness is a very different product from the reflectiveness of a later generation, as shown by these emendators, and in the comparatively rare instances in which Codex D strikes the true, primitive note of Mark, in its version of the Acts, Matthew or Luke, it also is reproducing the genuine, earliest text. 5. The integrity of Mark has been the subject of endless discussion among the critics. I do not mean to refer to the excessive amount of early ʽemendationʼ which gathered round his text during the first centuries, out of the wish to bring it into closer accord with the texts of Matthew or Luke, but to the hypotheses of an ʽoriginal Mark,ʼ which according to some was shorter than the form we now have, according to others longer. Indeed, some have actually gone so far as to distinguish a first, second and third Mark. The least hazardous of all these theories is that of the existence of later interpolations, such as vv. i. 2, 3; the line between them and the abovementioned ʽemendationsʼ is indeed not easy to draw. But even here it is well to proceed with caution; Mark i. 5-8, for instance, can no longer be taken as an interpolation direct from Matthew, as soon as the reader follows Codex D40 in reading, as against all other versions, ʽclothed in a garment of camelʼs skinʼ (δέρριν καμήλου) instead of ʽclothed in camelʼs hair with a leathern girdle about his loins.ʼ41 The hypotheses of an original Mark arise, however, only from the wish for a simpler solution of the Synoptic problem. They can never have been based on the study of Mark alone, for such a study nowhere produces the impression that any large portion has dropped out, or that any has been put in by a strange hand. If we read Matthew and Luke beside him, we may naturally wonder why the story of the centurion at Capernaum does not exist in Mark, still more why he has not a word of Matthewʼs great Sermon on the Mount. Is it possible that even the ʽLordʼs Prayerʼ should not have been known to him, or that he should not have thought it worth inserting? All the same, we must not foist these items upon the ʽoriginal Mark,ʼ putting them in, say, after i. 19, but remind ourselves that it was never Markʼs intention to write a complete Gospel. Besides giving us in the first place sayings of Jesus which represent actual events, then the discussions with Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, and the prophetic utterances42 which were necessary in order to prove his hero at every turn master of the situation, he contents himself with setting forth in but few examples43 the actual manner in which Jesus spoke or taught. Even there he is not essentially concerned with the substance of Jesusʼ teaching as such, but wishes to demonstrate that the division created among his countrymen by his activity, and the slow progress made by his cause, had all been foretold and explained in advance by Jesus himself: that, in fact, he had not only foreseen all that had come to pass, but had not even desired anything else. However early or late the Gospel may have been written—even as an abstract of Matthew and Luke after 140 A.D.—it is inconceivable that the writer should have been unacquainted with the many sayings of the Lord which are not to be found in his Gospel, or that he should merely have put them indifferently aside, while it is equally inconceivable that these sayings can have been struck out bya later hand. And to impute to mere chance the disappearance—the almost exclusive disappearance—of the discourses of Jesus would be the most venturesome supposition of all.

But Mark certainly did not write with a constant, though tacit, reference to a collection of Logia from which the reader might fill in what he himself left unsaid; his work does not bear the character of a supplement; his object rather was to provide a Gospel as aid to the work of propaganda, at a time when men were beginning to recognise that they must no longer confine themselves to the direct action of person upon person if the command of Jesus in xiii. 10 was to be fulfilled in time, but must invoke the power of the pen—or of the press, as we should say to-day—in the service of the Gospel. In fascinating the minds of unknown readers with the sublime. picture of the Saviour of the world, they would naturally emphasise those features which brought out what was kingly, irresistible, divine about him, though of course their choice would be subject to the influence of Jewish taste; on the other hand, they would reserve for fellow-believers the rules of conduct he had laid down, his teaching concerning prayer, trust in God, the forgiveness of sins, etc. We should probably proceed in just the opposite way among our own fellows; we attribute a mightier persuasive power to the Lordʼs Prayer, to the parables of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Pharisee and the Publican, or to the Sermon on the Mount, than to any of the miracle-stories; but Mark wrote his Gospel for his own contemporaries, basing if upon the experiences of long years of missionary toil. We can fully understand the reasons for his method, and we recognise in Matthew and Luke, who strive after an ideal of completeness —especially in these very sayings—a later stage of Gospel literature; it is precisely the one-sidedness of Mark that gives us the strongest proof of its greater age. The history of the text may show that our accepted version of this Gospel differs from the original to the extent of a few interpolations or suppressions, but our idea of Mark is not essentially altered thereby. And that idea suits perfectly with the place in history to which, as we believe, our Mark and not a supposed primitive version, belongs.

There is only one passage in the existing text of Mark that we must unconditionally reject, and that is the conclusion, vv. xvi. 9-20. There is an obvious discrepancy between it and what goes before—for we had been led to expect appearances in Galilee,—the style exhibits none of Markʼs peculiarites, the verses are all to be found in Matthew, Luke and John, and even the external evidence in their favour is as unsatisfactory as possible. Jerome had hardly ever come across the passage in Greek copies. It is true that Mark cannot originally have concluded with xvi. 8— ʽfor they were afraidʼ; in v. 7, appearances of Jesus are foretold, the occurrence of which the Evangelist must naturally have described. For this reason we cannot regard as genuine a second and quite short ending, preserved in certain Greek MSS., which only assumes the existence of these visions, but does not describe them. If we cannot make up our minds to the desperate expedient of saying that Mark was unable to finish his Gospel, and since it is also an extremely precarious assumption that the last verses of Mark have disappeared by chance—perhaps by the accidental detachment of the last leaf of the autographon, so that copyists were compelled to stop at xvi. 8—there is only one explanation left to us, viz. that the true ending was intentionally removed some time in the second century, before the book had gained Canonical recognition. This was probably done because it was felt to be intolerable that one Evangelist— i.e. Mark—should make the first appearance of the risen Lord occur in Galilee, and before Peter alone, while the others assigned it to Jerusalem, before the women, or the eleven, or the two disciples going to Emmaus. It is not at all impossible that Luke, the author of John xxi. and the author of the Gospel of Peter were still acquainted with the complete text of Mark, nor is it capable of the smallest proof that Matthew and Luke no longer possessed it; but in historical questions it is better not to reckon with an unknown quantity. What we now read as the ending of Mark is an attempt to help out a deficiency so grievous in a sacred book, but the attempt cannot have been simultaneous with the suppression of the genuine ending, if only because it was less successful. Possibly we ought to give credence to an Armenian manuscript recently discovered by Conybeare, in which the passage in question is ascribed to the presbyter Aristion (one of the principal authorities of Papias, and therefore probably an Asiatic theologian of about the year 110); perhaps the verses were not originally intended as a substitute for the piece lost after xvi. 8, but formed part of an apologetic-historical document of some considerable length. If this is so, the value of the traditions handed down by this ʽdisciple of the Lordʼ may, to judge from such an example, be reckoned at zero. That, however, is a question pertaining to the history of Christian literature. Here we are only concerned with the fact that the ending of the original Mark has undoubtedly been mutilated; but this does not affect our judgment with regard to the rest of the Gospel, for it was only in cases of the most urgent need that the Early Church undertook to make suppressions in any valued work of edification.



1) Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. iii. 39,15; see § 25, 1.

2) οὗ μέντοι τάξει.

3) See p. 305.

4) 1. Peter v. 13.

5) Cf. Philem. 24; 2. Tim. iv. 11.

6) Acts xii. 12,:25, xv. 37-39.

7) Mark v. 41.

8) xiv. 51 fol.

9) xv. 21.

10) i. 16-18.

11) i. 30 fol.

12) Mark iii. 16,

13) x, 28, xi. 21.

14) Matt. xxi. 20.

15) xiv. 30, 66-72.

16) Chap. v.

17) ix. 2 etc.

18) Op. Mark xiii. 35 with Rom. xiii. 12.

19) Mark xiii. 26 fol.

20) Only to be found in Mark xiv. 36; Rom. viii. 15; Gal. iv, 6

21) Mark i. 15; cf. Gal. iv. 4.

22) Mark xiii, 10.

23) Mark xiv. 12,

24) xii. 42.

25) iii. 1-7.

26) Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. vi. 14, 7.

27) Ibid. ii. 15, 2.

28) xiii, 24.

29) Matt. xxiv. 29.

30) See, for example, Chap. iii. 11, and the characteristic direct question in xiii. 1, as compared with Matt. xxiv. 1 and Luke xxi. 5.

31) See iii. 1-26, where καί is used about thirty times for connecting the sentences, δέ only once, γάρ twice.

32) E.g., ii. 15; ʽthere were many and they followed himʼ=ʽmany who followed him.ʼ

33) E.g.: seven times in Chap. vii. 32 fol., now of Jesus, now of the deaf and dumb.

34) Cf. xiii. 19, ἀπ’ ὰρχῆς κτίσεως ἣν ἔκτισεν ὁ θεός.

35) ii. 4, 9,11 fol., vi. 55.

36) See, for example, xiii. 2, οὐ, μὴ ἀφεθῇ [ὦδε] λίθος . . . ὃς οὐ μὴ καταλυθῇ.

37) ii. 4.

38) See i. 45, ʽAnd he began to preach.ʼ

39) See infra, § 32, 6, § 52, 2.

40) See below $§ 32 par. 6, 52 par. 2.

41) See Matt. iii. 4.

42) viii, 31 fol., ix. 30 fol., x. 32 fol., and ch. xiii.

43) iv. 1-34;