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Lesson 3 of 5
In Progress

Background of Mark

Mark is considered the earliest written of the four canonical Gospels. It is impossible to determine whether the Gospel was put into written form before or after the Roman army destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E., but this event is a landmark for situating the time of Mark’s composition. Certainly the death of the earliest generation of Christians around this same time also brought an urgency for the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth to be kept alive in written form for succeeding generations.

The author of this Gospel remains unknown, but earliest tradition associates the book with a first-century Christian named Mark. Some identify this person as the John Mark who appears in the book of Acts, one who knew Peter and traveled with Paul (Acts 12:12, 25). Whoever the author might have been, the purpose of the Gospel’s writing is to focus attention solely on Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

The city of Rome is often looked to as the Gospel’s provenance. Some suggest that the evangelist’s acts of translating Aramaic words into Greek (for example, Mark 7:34; 15:34) offer a clue that the Gospel was written primarily for Gentiles. This would also correlate with a Christian community that was present in Rome during the second half of the first century C.E.

Throughout the Gospel there is a strong sense of the imminence of God’s rule and reign breaking in “immediately.” The frequent occurrences of this adverb heighten the urgency, suggesting that the parousia (the second coming of Christ) is near. The concluding verses of chapter 13 associate the parousia with Mark’s Passion Narrative, which unfolds in the following chapters through the four watches of the night. The periods of time named as the watches in 13:35-37 (and followed there by the command to “keep awake”) are all mentioned during Jesus’ passion: evening (14:17-31), midnight (14:32-42), cockcrow (14:53-72), and dawn (15:1-20).

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