Word of the Month

The Gospel of Mark


source: The Gospel of Mark - A Study Guide
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God ..."
So begins the Gospel according to Mark, the shortest of the four gospels, likely the first one written. It is often overlooked because of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Yet the Believer's Bible Commentary notes that because of its brevity, Mark's gospel is an ideal introduction to the Christian faith. In mission fields it is often the first book translated into a new language. Who was Mark? What makes his gospel unique? Let's start with the ...


The early and unanimous opinion is that John Mark wrote this gospel. His mother was Mary, who had a large house in Jerusalem (Ac 12:12). Some speculate the Last Supper took place in her home (Robertson's Word Pictures), also that Mark may have been the young man who fled naked (Mk 14:51-52). His cousin was Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus (Ac 4:36-37; Col 4:10).

Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but turned back (Ac 13:5,13). This caused trouble between Paul and Barnabas (Ac 15:36-41), though he later became a fellow laborer and comfort to Paul (Phm 1:24; Col 4:10-11). In Paul's final words, he wrote that Mark proved "useful to me for ministry" (2Ti 4:11).

Mark also accompanied Peter, who called him "his son" (his convert?) and who was in "Babylon" (Rome?) at the time (1Pe 5:13). Traditions outside the Bible state that Mark was an interpreter for Peter (Papias, 130 A.D.), and that Mark composed his gospel mostly from Peter's memoirs (Justin Martyr, 150 A.D.).


According to tradition, Mark went to Alexandria in Egypt where he died in 64 A.D. Barnes suggests the book was written between 56 and 63 A.D., and other scholars date the book in the early 50's. A plausible date would be 57-59 A.D. (Bible Knowledge Commentary).


Mark's gospel was evidently written to Gentiles, perhaps Christians in Rome (BKC); note the following:
    • Jewish customs are explained - Mk 7:3-4
    • Aramaic expresses are translated into Greek - Mk 3:17; 5:41; 7:11
    • Roman reckoning of time is used - Mk 6:48; 13:35
    • Only Mark identifies Simon of Cyrene as the father of Rufus - Mk 15:21; Ro 16:13
    • Few OT quotations are used
The focus appears to be on Jesus as the Perfect Servant (BBC). Mark emphasizes the deeds of the Lord more than His words (he records nineteen miracles, but only four parables), the deeds of one who "did not come to be served, but to serve" (Mk 10:45). Thus one could say that the theme of Mark's gospel is:
Jesus, Servant of Man

Special Characteristics

It is an early gospel. Probably the first gospel written. All but 31 verses are quoted in the other gospels, leading many to conclude that Matthew and Luke used Mark's gospel as source material.

It is a concise gospel. The shortest of the four gospels. Luke has 1151 verses, Matthew 1071, John 879, Mark 661. Mark's entire gospel can be read aloud in 1.5 hours.

It is a fast-paced gospel. Over 40 times he uses a word translated "straightway" or "immediately." Two-thirds of the verses begin with "and". The present tense is used frequently (e.g., they come...He says...He sends...).

It is a vivid gospel. Mark presents "lively little touches" not found in the other gospels (Hendriksen). "...he wrote with all the graphic distinctiveness and vividness of an eyewitness" (Erdman). It may have been Peter's reminiscences, or perhaps his own, that account for such details.

It is an evangelistic gospel. It opens with "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ..." (Mk 1:1), and closes with "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15).


A simple outline of the book:

1. The preparation for Jesus' ministry - Mk 1:1-13

2. His ministry in Galilee - Mk 1:14-9:50

3. His journey to Jerusalem - Mk 10:1-52

4. His ministry in Jerusalem - Mk 11:1-13:37

5. His suffering and death in Jerusalem - Mk 14:1-15:47

6. His resurrection and appearances - Mk 16:1-13

7. His great commission and continued work from heaven - Mk 16:14-20

Jesus came from heaven to serve, and returned to heaven to serve!

Review Questions

  1. Who authored the gospel of Mark?
    • - John Mark, son of Mary, cousin of Barnabas
    • - An acquaintance of both Paul and Peter
  2. Approximately when was the book written?
    • - Sometime in the 50's, perhaps 57-59 A.D.
  3. What has been suggested as the theme of Mark’s gospel?
    • - Jesus, Servant of Man
  4. What five characteristics of the gospel were noted in the introduction?
    • - It is an early gospel
    • - It is a concise gospel
    • - It is a fast-paced gospel
    • - It is a vivid gospel
    • - It is a evangelistic gospel
  5. List the seven sections of the gospel as indicated in the outline
      • - The preparation for Jesus' ministry
      • - The preparation for the ministry of Jesus
      • - His ministry in Galilee
      • - His journey to Jerusalem
      • - His ministry in Jerusalem
      • - The ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem
      • - His suffering and death in Jerusalem
      • - His resurrection and appearances
      • - His great commission and continued work from heaven