Mark: The First Gospel
Most biblical scholars are in agreement that, of the four gospels in
the Christian New Testament, Mark was written first. This theory is
called the Priority to Mark. While it is difficult to date the writing
of this gospel with certaintly, it was probably written sometime after
the six decade of the first Christian century (c. 70 CE). As with the
other gospels, Mark was originally written in koine (common) Greek.
The author of the Gospel of Mark as we have it today is not known.
However, the book contains what is believed to be the preaching of
Peter to the early Christians in the city of Rome. These encapsulations
of Peter's sermons were probably written down by a Christian whose name
was Mark, but it is not likely that he produced the final written form
of the gospel that bears his name.
Unlike Matthew and Luke, which were written later, the Gospel of Mark
does not begin with a discussion of the lineage of Jesus or narratives
of his birth. Rather, Mark begins with the preaching of John the
Baptist. After his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus conducts his
personal ministry throughout the regions of Galilee and Judea.
While Jesus performs many signs and wonders, Mark describes many of
them in a manner that some have called matter-of-fact. The Gospel is a
very fast-moving account of the words and deeds of Jesus; the word
straightway or immediately is used more than 40 times as Mark moves
quickly from one scene to another.
The Gospel also includes account of
the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Peter's audience in Rome would not have been very familiar with the
Jewish Scriptures, so Mark makes very limited use of Old Testament
prophecies that are fulfilled in the life of Jesus. The Gospel of
Matthew, which was written for a Jewish readership, uses Old Testament
Later gospel writers probably used the material in the Gospel of Mark
to formulate their content. This is seen in the amount of Mark's
material that is replicated in Matthew and Luke. That additional
sources were used as well is indicated by the material in Matthew and
Luke that is not found in Mark. Scholars believe that this material
comes from an unknown source, usually referred to as the Q-source.
Together, Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, while
the Gospel of John comprises the Johanine tradition.