Scripture According to Christian Tradition, Mark, Who


According to Christian tradition, Mark, who served as both interpreter and disciple of Peter, took responsibility to write down the teachings of his pedagogue after both his and Paul's death. While Mark's regeneration of the life of Jesus was individual in its own right, the writer's link to Peter through both tutelage and faith was a foundational bedrock for the gospel. The book of Mark parallels that of his religious fore fathers, providing both textual and emotional support to their claims about Jesus. Though it, like the other gospels, suffers from a problem of synoptic recognition, its strength as a religious tool was reaffirmed in the early church, making it an everlasting source of rhetoric and culture for the Christian faith, comprehensive to its audience, and primary in authority.

The gospel of Mark is second in the quartet of New Testament gospels. Although the text itself was anonymous, its earliest range of accepted dates via implications of the Gospel of Luke extend from AD 65 to AD 80. (Rhoads, 13) The attribution of the text to Mark is one of religious tradition, dating back to the suppositions of Papias in the first half of 2nd century. (13) This correlation was a logical jump, since as Paul's desciple, Mark would have had extended access to both information and exposure to the works of Jesus and his expanding ministry. Later, John the Presbyter affirmed the attribution, and Eusebius of Casearea followed, saying:

And the presbyter said this. Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord not accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his audience], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore, Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For one thing he took special care: not to omit anything he had heard, and to put anything fictitious into statements." (Iranaeus, 3.1.1)

With such accreditation, Papias is able to authoritatively attribute the words of Mark to that of a holier connection, one not content with giving a "regular narrative of the Lord's sayings," but instead of his "deeds." (Bultmann, p. 41) This conviction with which Mark is associated, a conviction "to the necessities," is later perpetuated by St. Clement and held through both summit, debate, and history to be a foremost text for the Christian bible.

Before it can be accepted for its contextual strengths, many systematic problems inside the gospel present themselves. Initially, the text was assumed to be written in Rome, but now others contest that Syria may have been its place of origin. Papias supported the use of "Latinisms," hints of region and cultural mores through verbiage, throughout the text as a clue not only to its authenticity but to its region. (Dewey, 497) The only thing shedding geographic doubt on the supposed Roman provenance is the discomfort the gospel has with Galilean topography, indicating that the author, unlike the historical Peter, was actually unfamiliar with the geography of the area. Additionally, the connection of the gospel's use of persecution as a symbol of ties to Rome remains dubious for the widespread persecution spread incited beyond the walls of Rome and through the hinterlands of the empire. (498) The textual foibles identified by carefully examining the geographic roots of the gospel are critical to not only understanding the social paradigm limning its creation, but also justifying the connection of the writer to Peter. While thorough analysis does confirm a reasonable tie between writer and the disciple of Jesus, it does put into question of that writer was actually Mark. (499)

Despite authorial attribution, the text was certainly a "Hellenistic" gospel intended for audiences in the Roman Empire whose language was Greek. Various language foibles, like those of regional knowledge, suggest an unfamiliarity with the Greek language in which it was originally written. While Jewish tradition explains and supports the use of inclusive language, the expansion of the Latin-fluent writer into the Greek tongue reveals a series of inconstancies in verbiage absent from other gospels, like that of "soldier of the guard" (NRSV, 6:27), "sextarius" for "pots" (7:41), and "centurion" (15:39, 4, 45). Additionally, moments of distraction from fidelity to the other gospels allowed for condoning anti-Semitism and lambasting the Pharisees, more appropriate for a Gentile audience. Nevertheless, the text notes many similarities to the other synoptic gospels, making detailed to use of the Old Testament.

Most biblical historians attribute the original stories of Mark to the passage of oral tradition. Using the literary tool of the "historical present," connecting actions of the past to the moment common throughout oral histories, the gospel uses the phrase "immediately" almost forty times throughout the book to align present-tense verbs with their appropriate place in history. (Mack, 153) Matthew links his stories together repeatedly with the much-repeated phrase, "It has come to pass." By employing this literary devise, the repeaters of the oral history were able to perpetuate the performance of the story teller in his traditional setting, reaffirming the compelling argument that the gospel was not exactly scribed by the disciple Mark, but instead told by him and retold and captured by others in his name. Critics of the oral tradition analogy cite the well-constructed narrative as a source of coherence - a trait not common for oral literature - and as, instead, merely a loosely-localized textual support of the threefold passion prediction provided by the New Testament.

The book of Mark, like the other three gospels, recounts the story of the life of Christ. Unlike his peers and predecessors, Mark (or his eponymous author) uses the term "Son of Man" to most commonly address the figure of Jesus. (2:10, 28; 8:31; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 14:21, 41) In fact, this use compares much of the New Testament savior to that suggested by the Old Testament, fulfilling the Coming of the Jewish messiah in Jesus, clearly emphasizing the Christology of Mark. The references draw directly on the suffering servant in the book of Isaiah (52-53): "How then is this written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? (9:12) More than the other gospels, the book of Mark directly confirms the coming of Jesus Christ as the same Messiah sought and awaited by the Hebrew nations through Daniel and Isaiah, supporting not only the other Christian texts, but serving also as a source of evangelism.

The connection might not be one of outreach, though, so much as the absolute rejection of the opinions of the Jews who cast out Jesus and refused to follow him; in many ways, Mark distances himself, and the text, from the Jews as the source of the revolt. In his complete rejection of the Jewish people, he provides incredible fodder for anti-Semitism, but historically placed this is instead a presentation of Christianity as something innocuous to the Roman authorities. (Schnelle, p. 211) During the time of its creation and inclusion in the textual foundation of the Christian church, Mark could be seen as a text that might present a version of Christianity to the Romans, from whom early Christians hid to practice their religion in widow's houses and remote locations, as congruous with their society and a source of no civil threat.

In this tradition, the gospel of Mark tends to blame the Jews and instead exonerate Pilate for the crucifixion and death of Christ.

Do you want me to release you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. "What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them. "Crucify him!" they shouted. "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." (15:9-15)

This Markan habit of supporting Pilate and blaming the Jews for the death of Christ continues throughout the book. Historians support a critical analysis of this part of the gospel for its clear rejection of the Jews, in a very unchristian manner, as a point of great contention. In historical reality, the anti-Semitic prefect that Pilate actually was, he would probably not have given Jesus over to "pacify" the Jews, particularly since the crucifixion meant a death to any hope of civil order and prevention of unrest during the traditional festival of Passover. (Crossan, 142.)

Throughout Roman history, there was no precedent by which Pilate might have released a prisoner during the Passover festival or any other, and Crossnan suggests that "such open…