MARK is a fast narrative portrays Jesus as a man of action – the word ‘immediately’ occurs forty times.
The earliest of the gospels. Just before or after the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70? In 13:14 there is a guarded reference to a ‘desolating sacrifice’ which was about to be set up ‘where it ought not to be’ – a dark hint (perhaps) that the temple was about to be destroyed by Romans? If it were written much later, the reference might have been more explicit.
A Hellenistic gospel, written for gentile Greek-speaking residents of the Roman Empire. Jewish traditions are explained for the benefit of non-Jew (eg start of chapter 7). The Septuagint is cited.
The shortest of the gospels – where Markan material is used by Matthew and Luke, however, it is generally truncated, and its incidental details removed.
In the early second century, Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (as recorded by the church historian Eusebius) says that Mark wrote down his gospel from the testimony of Peter. For this reason, Mark was identified as John Mark, mentioned several times in Acts and the letters.
Irony – Jesus is proclaimed as ‘the son of God’ in the very first verse, but others only gradually come to realise this. Ironically, it is the blind men at Bethsaida (8:25) and Jericho (10:47) who see clearly who Jesus is, while even in his confession at Caesarea Philippi Peter earns a rebuke for his lack of understanding (8:33). In the passion story, Jesus is repeatedly mocked for claiming to be what he is in fact is: a prophet (14:65), king (15:18) and saviour (15:31). A gentile soldier recognises Jesus at the son of God while the Jews do not (15:39). The only class of beings who have no trouble recognising Jesus for who he is are the unclean spirits he exorcises! (3:11; 5:7)
Earliest manuscripts have only eight verses for the final chapter, the gospel ending with the two Marys running away in terror from the tomb. Last page lost? Verses 9-16 were a later addition to Mark.
Characteristic term for Jesus is ‘the Son of God’. It occurs in the opening verse by way of an introductory summary of Jesus’ significance; see also 1:11, 3:11, 5:7, 9:7, 12:6, 13:32, 14:61, 15:39. Jesus functions in Mark in the same way that Yahweh Himself functions in the Old Testament. He has the power to forgive sin (independently of the priesthood – 2:7, 10); he calms the waves (6:48; cp. Psalm 89:9; Job 9:8); ‘it is I’ (6:50), which he says to the disciples when he walks on water to them, recalls Exodus’ divine title ‘I am’ (Exodus 3:14; 6:6); his words will not pass away (13:31; cp. Isaiah 40:8). Mark’s Jesus shares the power and attributes of God Himself.
‘Markan priority’ First put forwards by Karl Lachmann in 1835 replaced the Augustinian hypothesis of Matthean priority.
Understandable why Matthew and Luke would want to expand Mark. But why would Mark want to truncate Matthew and Luke if it wasn’t first? Why would Mark omit key material such as Sermon on the Mount/Sermon of the Plain?
Above (Center) is the Gospel of Mark in Red compared to color coded content of Matthew to the left and Luke to the right. Both Matthew and Luke appear to have used Mark and added or elaborated.