Gospel of MarkAfter Matthew, our second version of the life/ministry of Jesus is that of John Mark. Unlike Matthew (which follows a basic chronological order and speaks to the Jews), Mark seems to be more a collection of snapshots taken from Jesus’ 3 year time on earth. There are clear signs that the audience for Mark’s gospel were Greek speaking – lending credibility that the recipients were originally the community of Christians in Rome.

So who was Mark? Papias of Herapolis was a 2nd century Christian author who recorded much of the original history of the early church. His following quote (recorded by Eusebius) provides us some rather concrete information about the author of Mark’s gospel:

 “The elder also used to say, “Mark, who had been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord’s sayings and doing. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of His followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter’s. Peter used to adapt his teachings to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only – to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no mistake about it.” History of the Church 3.39.15

 From this 2nd century quote we have it on pretty good authority (although not absolute) that john Mark was a disciple of Peter. Although Mark was not an actual disciple of Jesus, he obviously became a believer after hearing Peter. Mark would become Peter’s interpreter as he shared the message of Jesus in various cities throughout the Roman world. It is also known that Peter had a connection to the Christians in Rome (where he would eventually be crucified upside down). So we can surmise that Mark was with Peter, probably living in Rome, and wrote down the things he learned/heard from Peter about the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry and teachings.

As you read through the shortest Gospel – remember that you are reading a collection of things that Jesus did/said as remembered by Peter. You can trust them to be accurate because the Holy Spirit equipped Peter (and Mark) for the task. The Holy Spirit would bring different situations to Peter’s memory (as he taught) and then Mark would write them down (2 Pet 1:21). There is no reason to suspect that what we have handed down to us is in error simply based upon different details/order of events between what Mark wrote and what Matthew/Luke/John wrote. The reason for this is that Mark was a guy – who was recording what Peter (another guy) remembered. We can trust that the Holy Spirit helped Peter remember the important parts of what Jesus did and His message – all while allowing Peter/Mark to retain their humanity.

As we read about from Papias, Peter would “adapt his teachings to fit the occasion”. This doesn’t mean he changed them or embellished them, but he simply allowed them to breathe for the audience to whom he was speaking. This is the same as sharing a story and then applying it to those to whom you are speaking. Mark isn’t attempting to share an autobiography of Jesus’ life – but instead collecting the different things He did and taught as portrayed through the eyes of Peter (an eye witness). Think of it like you are looking at a photo album that Mark constructed of different pictures Peter had taken during his 3 years with Jesus. The details of the story may not be fully recorded – but the point is still the same.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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