‘Mark’ was the first of the four official gospels to be written, around 70 CE. Only the seven authentic letters of Paul and the anonymous letter to the Hebrews were written before this, which means ninety percent plus of the New Testament was written after.
Nobody knows who wrote it, but it is clear the author was no eyewitness and makes no such claims. Some have suggested that it was written by a young associate of the disciple Cephas; if this were true, he would be author closest to Yeshua, but it’s unlikely. Others think it could have been written by a young one-time companion of Paul, John-Mark, but this is unlikely too.
Some think it was written in Syria, others in Rome. There are no indications that the author was familiar with the geography of Palestine. It seems to have been written for gentile Christians, since the author, probably Jewish, felt the need to explain Jewish law and customs.
There is no birth story in the First Gospel – it begins with Yeshua’s visit to John the Baptist and ends with a group of women discovering the empty tomb. There is no divine conception, no birth story, no shepherds, wise men or flight into Egypt. These stories were invented later.
Nor did the original text claim that a resurrection had taken place. The final twelve verses about sightings of the ‘risen’ Master, his instruction to the disciples to ‘go to every part of the world and proclaim the gospel’ and a warning that those who do not believe will be ‘condemned’ – were written by a different author and added years later, probably to bring ‘Mark’ into line with the Second and Third Gospels, ‘Matthew’ and ‘Luke’.
In the First Gospel, Yeshua is primarily a great humanitarian. He performs miracles not as ‘signs’ that he is divinely ordained (that came later, in the Fourth Gospel) but to help people. It’s light on dialogue and heavy on miracles. He drives out a lot of demons. ‘Mark’s’ Yeshua was the secret Messiah until his final week. The disciples are constantly urged not to tell anyone who he is or what he has done.
Everything that appears in ‘Mark’ also appears ‘Matthew’, ‘Luke’ or both, but there is hardly any consensus with the Fourth Gospel, ‘John’.
Being the first to be written, it is tempting to think of ‘Mark’ as closer to the facts than the other gospels. This may be true, but the author was no neutral historian. Like the others, he was a creative writer applying his own spin to the stories he had heard to convince his readers of his point of view.
Any good journalist will tell you, never let the facts get in the way of a good story! The author of ‘Mark’ did this instinctively!
©David Lawrence Preston, 30.8.2016
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Balboa Press/Hay House, 2015