Boring, M. Eugene.  Mark: A Commentary.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series edited by C.Clifton Black and John T. Carroll.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2006).

Byrne, Brendan.  A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2008).

Collins, Adela Yarbro.  Mark.  Part of the Hermenia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible series edited by Helmut Koester.  (Fortress Press, 2007, Minneapolis MN).

Donahue, S.J., John R. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J..  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the Sacra Pagina biblical commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2002).

Duran, Nicole Wilkinson Duran, Teresa Okure, Daniel M. Patte editors.  Mark.  Part of the Texts @ Contexts series edited by Athalya Brenner and Nicole Wilkinson Duran.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2011).

France, R.T.  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series edited by I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner.  (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 2002).

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid.  What was Mark At? The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  (Columbia Press, Dublin, 2008).

Healy, Mary.  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture edited by Peter S. Williamson and Mary Healy.  (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2008).

Hengel, Martin.  Studies in the Gospel of Mark.  Translated by John Bowden from the original German.  (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene OR, 1985).

Myers, Ched.  Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.  Twentieth Anniversary Edition.  (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1988/2008).

Myers, Ched & Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Stuart Taylor.  “Say to the This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. (Orbis, Maryknoll NY, 1996).

Perkins, Pheme.  The Gospel of Mark.  New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. VIII.  Part of the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary series convened by Leander Keck.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995).

Placher, William C.  Mark.  Part of the bible commentary series Belief, A Theological Commentary on the Bible edited by Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2010).

Ryken, Leland, James C.Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, General Editors.  Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.  (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 1998).

Sweetland, Dennis.  Mark: From Death to Life. Part of the Spiritual Commentaries on the bible series edited by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2000).

Williamson, Jr., Lamar.  Mark.  Part of the Interpretation biblical commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick d. Miller, and Paul J. Achtemeier.  (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1983).




This talk is by Clifford Yeary

Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).”   No birth story.  Other gospels begin with genealogy, another with annunciations to Zechariah and Mary, John all the way back to before Creation.  Why does Mark begin in the middle, so to speak?


Gospel of Mark

·        First gospel written

·        Written to be an encounter with the living Christ.  The good news of Jesus has a beginning, but it has no end.


Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Synoptic gospels).

How is it that God inspired Matthew, Mark and Luke to tell Jesus’ story in the same way in so many places and yet with so many real differences?


Divine inspiration does not push aside the human authors and who they were.  Their unique personal experiences and talents flourished with the divine inspiration.

Most scholars today: Mark wrote first.  Matthew and Luke each used Mark as one of their sources – but also source(s) uniquely their own.

By looking at what makes Mark unique we can understand better what Mark’s focus was, and who he was writing to.  Matthew – most Jewish of the gospels.  Luke –  written by a Gentile for a Gentile audience.

The Gospel of Mark:

·        Written by a Jewish Christian

o   For a Gentile audience

o   He uses Aramaic phrases and interprets them for his audience

o   Explains Jewish customs and rituals

·        The transfiguration is at the center of the gospel

o   In many biblical stories: “What happens in the middle determines how you are to understand the beginning and the end.”  Patrick Mullen   Example of Story of Noah.  Sin at the beginning and end, redemption in the middle.

o   Understanding the transfiguration as the centerpiece helps us understand the Jesus we are encountering IN the gospel.  It is an encounter with the Risen Christ, hence the resurrection at the end is less / not necessary.  Transformed life – of Jesus, of us is Mark’s point.


Mark 10:28-30:

“Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and (the) last will be first.”



Features in Mark

·        Marcan sandwich.  Stuff into halves.  Stories, whole gospel.  The meat in the middle.  Ch. 8.

·        Love for action.   Pace is very quick, straightaway, focused on his goal.

·        “Get up”  Rise etc.   connected to resurrection.     Released, set free also.

Mark 16:8 was the original ending: “Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  Key word in Greek: amazement / bewilderment = ecstasy

Who do you say that I am?  No answer is adequate.  Wonder is desired response.





In Chapter 1 of Mark we have no infancy narrative (they are in Mathew and Luke, John has the famous prologue).  Mark is not concerned at all with the life of Jesus before the events he narrates.

Mark is generally credited with the invention of the literary form “gospel”.  It means “good news”.

Williamson p. 1: “The purpose of Mark’s Gospel is to bear witness to Jesus Christ as proclaimer and embodiment of the Kingdom of God, and to challenge readers to follow him in anticipation of his final coming as Son of Man.”  This is not a neutral “reporting of facts” or a biography of a guy he knew.  It comes from the point of view of faith, is intended to inspire and encourage faith in others.

First thought to be merely an adaptation of Matthew and Luke modern studies “evoked appreciation for the originality and achievement of the author of Mark.  The growing recognition of the independence and intentionality of the author, combined with the acceptance of Mark as the oldest Gospel, led to the insight that he was the first to attempt a narrative account of the events associated with the post-Easter proclamation of the followers of Jesus, the “gospel,” in a sense that included the activity of Jesus before his arrest and execution.”  Collins p. 1

·        God worked through Moses to create a people for His own and to bring them to the Promised Land.

·        God worked through Jesus to reform that same people and to bring them to the Kingdom of God.

Collins p. 1 “Another major achievement of Mark is the presentation of the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to a Hellenistic audience in a way that assimilated him to the heroes of Greek and Hellenistic tradition.”

Collins p. 3: the oldest discovered manuscript of Mark (several chapters only plus some Luke and Matthew ) is identified as papyrus 45 and dates to about 250 C.E.

(The oldest complete text of Mark is codex Sinaiticus, from the 4th century)




Acts depicts a John Mark as a companion to Barnabas and Paul.  May be the gospel author, but most likely is not.  There is also a tradition connecting Mark to Peter and Rome.  There is no solid evidence that the author was a Jewish Christian or a Gentile Christian but preponderance (slightly) suggests a Jewish Christian writing to Gentile Christians.

Collins p. 7  “An introductory note to the Gospel of Mark, found in some manuscripts of the Old Latin version, states the following: ‘…Mark… was called ‘stumpy-fingered’ because for the size of the rest of his body he had fingers that were too short.  He was Peter’s interpreter.  After the death of Peter himself, the same man wrote this Gospel in the regions of Italy.”

Despite the legend above, after weighing all sorts of circumstantial points from within the gospel, Collins suggests that the gospel was written somewhere in the region of Palestine (p. 10)

When was it written?  Around 70 C.E.  Before?  After?

Collins p. 55: “The evidence from Qumran makes clear that the community associated with the scrolls expected an eschatological leader who would lead the faithful in battle against their enemies, especially the Romans, reestablish an autonomous kingdom of Israel, and rule as king with wisdom and justice.”

Collins p. 58: “Most of these messianic pretenders differ from Jesus in their violent or military activities.  They are similar to him, however, in the circumstance that many of them were killed or executed by the Romans.  In any case, it is clear that, in some circles in the first century CE, the anticipated Davidic messiah was expected to be a military and political leader who would defeat foreign rulers, that is, the Romans, and their Jewish collaborators, and reestablish an autonomous kingdom of Israel.”

Collins p. 69: “Jesus’ command that his identity be kept secret (8:30) is an important element of the so-called messianic secret in the Gospel of Mark.  According to Martin Dibelius, the theory of the messianic secret reveals the purpose and standpoint of the author of Mark in undertaking a synthesis of various traditions about Jesus:

To the evangelist the life of Jesus as a whole is only comprehensible on the assumption that Jesus intentionally kept his real status secret.  He was the Son of God but he did not reveal to the people who He was.  This is the reason why he could be so much misunderstood and even sent to the Cross….In this way, the gospel of Mark was written as a book of secret epiphanies.”

(The biblical, and extra-biblical, traditions relating to the Son of Man indicated that he would be revealed only when coming on the clouds at the end of time.)

Mark portrays Jesus as prophet (spirit-filled, clairvoyant, able to heal …), as king (anointed, descended from David, will sit in judgment…), and as teacher (rabbi, traveling from place to place and picking up followers, an interpreter of the Torah…).

Collins p. 80: “The statement that Jesus ‘must’ suffer and die implies that Jesus’ death is part of the divine plan for human history.  That Jesus speaks about such things indicates that he knows beforehand and accepts his suffering, rejection, and death.  From a literary point of view 8:31, like 3:6, builds suspense and prepares the audience for the passion narrative.”





The literal and figurative center of the gospel is 8:27ff  “You are the messiah”.  Then Jesus turns toward Jerusalem.

27 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Collins p. 102: “…purpose of Mark.  It is likely that the author had more than one aim.  One was to reassert the messiahship of Jesus and to redefine it over against the messianic pretenders during the Jewish war that began in 66CE.  Another was to interpret actual or expected persecution (or both) as discipleship in imitation of Christ.”



NEXT WEEK: Mark chapter 1


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