The Gospel According to St. Mark - Introduction
-Mark was a disciple of Simon Peter. Mark was not an eyewitness to the happenings of Jesus’s active ministry which means that Peter was his primary source of information.
-According to the Acts of the Apostles, we also know that Mark was a companion of St. Paul’s on some of his journey and that they had some sort of falling out, but were reconciled later (cf. Acts 13:5, 13:13, 15:36ff; Col 4:10) .
-The best hypothesis we have as to the dating of Mark’s Gospel puts composition around the year 70. At this time, there was a fierce persecution of Roman Christians.
-Mark was writing for non-Jewish (that is, Gentile) believers in Rome. Mark regularly explains Jewish customs and Aramaic words that would be unfamiliar to a Latin-speaking audience. He also, at times, uses the Latin, and not Greek, equivalent to some words. Finally, the climax of Mark’s Gospel is the Confession of Faith by the Roman soldier at the foot of the Crucifixion (15:39).
-Mark’s Gospel is near and concise and follows a clear-cut outline. He does not offer unneeded details but presents the course of events in a chronological, linear manner. He uses words and phrases that highlight the reality of Jesus making steady and untrammeled progress from Capernaum, where his ministry begins, to Calvary, where it ends. In other words, Jesus is moving through His mission with purpose (Mark uses the word “immediately” over 40 times). Dr. Scott Hahn denotes two major and two minor sections.
1. First Major – 1:16-8:30 – which culminates in Peter’s Confession of Faith.
2. Second Major – 8:31-15:47 – which culminates in the Roman guard’s Confession of Faith.
1a. First Minor – 1:1-15 – the Prologue to the Gospel that sets the stage and begins, immediately, the public ministry of Jesus.
2b. Second Minor – 16:1-20 – the Epilogue that crowns the Gospel by proclaiming the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.
-Thematically, Mark’s Gospel revolves around Jesus’s healing ministry and the powerful works (i.e. miracles). Jesus asks questions and makes bold statements throughout Mark’s Gospel that invite the reader and, “every believer to look at Jesus with the eyes of faith, embrace him in hope, and imitate his heroic love” (Hahn, Ignatius Study Bible, 62). Finally, the themes of Jesus’s Sonship and Messianic Secret (Identity) are the over-arching themes of Mark’s Gospel (more on this as we go).