THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MARK.
Though Mark, as the author of the second gospel is called, was not himself an apostle, he was the pupil and companion of two great apostles, Peter and Paul. He was a Jew by birth, Col. 4, 10, and his Jewish name was John, which means "God is gracious." His surname, which he adopted when he became a Christian, was Mark, which means "Mallet," Acts 12, 12.25; 13, 5. 13; 15, 37. He was the son of a woman of Jerusalem who later became a prominent member of the congregation in that city. Her name was Mary, Acts 12, 12-17. It was she who offered her house, at the first critical period in the history of the young congregation, for devotional meetings. It was to her house that Peter went upon his miraculous deliverance from prison, Acts 12, 12-17. It is very probable, from Gospel history, that Mark had had an acquaintance with Jesus even before the great Passion. Many commentators think that he is identical with the young man who, according to his own report, left the linen cloth with which he was clothed on the night of Christ's capture and fled naked from Gethsemane, chapter 14, 51. Mark was especially intimate with Peter, by whom he had been converted, if the usual manner of speaking of this event has been followed in this case, 1 Pet. 5, 13; Acts 12, 12. His intimacy with Barnabas is explained by the fact that he was his cousin, Col. 4, 10. Through Barnabas he came into closer contact with Paul, and he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey as an attendant or assistant. At that time, however, he was not yet firmly established in Christian fortitude, for he left them at Perga, in Pamphylia, and returned to Jerusalem, much to the displeasure of Paul, Acts 13, 5. 13. For this reason Paul refused to take him on the next journey, while Barnabas was willing to overlook the temporary weakness, Acts 15, 38. There was a sharp contention over the matter at the time, with the result that Paul and Barnabas parted company, Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas, Acts 15, 36-40. But the estrangement was only temporary, for about ten years afterwards Mark was in Rome as one of Paul's fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God and a comfort in his imprisonment, Col. 4, 10.11; Philemon 24; 2 Tim. 4, 11. But Mark also assisted Peter in his work, both in Babylon, 1 Pet. 5,13, and in Rome, Rev. 14,8; 16, 19; 17, 5; 18, 10. 21. This is all that the New Testament records of him. From fairly reliable tradition it appears that he afterwards founded the church at Alexandria, in Egypt, where he is supposed to have died as a martyr. In 827 his relics were removed to Venice, where a magnificent church was built in his honor, a worthy monument to the present day.
Even the casual reader of the Gospel of Mark is apt to notice the fact that it was undoubtedly written for Roman Christians that used the Latin language. Quotations from the Old Testament are relatively few, chapter 1, 2. 3; 7, 6.10; 11, 17; 12,19; 14,27, especially as compared with Matthew; Aramaic words and expressions are usually translated, 3, 17; 5,41 ; 7,11.34; 10, 46; 14, 36; 15, 22.34; Jewish customs are explained, 7, 2-5; 12, 42 ; 14, 12 ; 15, 42; there is a frequent use of Latin expressions, like "legion," "centurion," "quadrans," and others.
Mark wrote as the "interpreter" of Peter, as the historian Eusebius has it; it is authentic information concerning Gospel history, which he wrote down accurately. He was the literary editor and publisher of the oral Gospel which he had heard so often out of the mouth of his teacher. The influence of Peter is evident throughout the book in the mention of significant details. We are told that Peter's house was that of Simon and Andrew, 1, 29; these two brothers are mentioned at the beginning of Christ's public ministry, 1,16; expressions peculiar to Peter occur, 16, 7. 19 (cp. 1 Pet. 3, 22) ; he gives the most detailed account of Peter's denial; 14, 54. 72.
The purpose of Mark’s Gospel, as he himself states, is to show the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 1, 1. This Gospel owed its power and wonderful success to the personality of Jesus Christ, who, by His deeds, His miracles, proved Himself the Son of God with power, 3, 11 ; 5, 7; 15, 39, and brought the kingdom of God, 1, 14; 9, 1; 10, 15. 25; 12, 34. The miracles of Christ are therefore emphasized, the doctrinal discourses being given in brief form only. The distinctive features of the Gospel according to Mark are its pithy, yet comprehensive style, with vivid flashes of portrayal; his characteristic "immediately" or "straightway," which occurs in the Greek text more than forty times; the rapid shifts or quick changes of scene; the fact that the chronological sequence is fair, but not exact. Of the miracles which he relates two are distinctive of his Gospel, that of the healing of .the deaf, 7, 31-37, and that of the blind man, whom Jesus healed by slow stages, 8, 22-26. A most interesting feature of the Gospel are the retirements of Jesus, during which He prepared Himself for a new stage in His work as Redeemer, 1, 12; 3, 7 ; 6, 31; 6, 46; 7, 24; 7, 31; 9, 2; 11, 1; 14, 34, principally by devoting Himself to prayer.
The Gospel was probably written at Rome in the last part of the sixties, no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem being made. Whether it was written in the presence and at the suggestion of Peter or not, there can be no doubt as to its authenticity. The unanimous testimony of early Christian history and literature points to Mark as the author. To argue with critics that deny the possibility of miracles and therefore want to doubt the Gospel of Mark, has little value. A Christian knows in faith that miracles are possible, and gives all the more credence to a Gospel account that relates them with all the signs of genuineness. No valid reason has been adduced by any critic to cause us to alter our firm belief that we have, in the Gospel of Mark, the writing of this disciple of the Lord, and therefore the Word of the Lord Himself.
The outline of the book is much like that of Matthew. There is a short introduction concerning the history of John the Baptist. The Messianic work of Christ in Galilee is then given in some detail, with special emphasis upon the miracles. In the last part of the book the Messianic work of the Lord in Judea is spoken of at some length. The book closes with a history of the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.