The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark in Its Historical and Social Context

The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark in Its Historical and Social Context

The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark in Its Historical and Social Context

The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark in Its Historical and Social Context

Synopsis

This study investigates the issues of the origin and purpose of the Gospel of Mark. The author argues that Mark's Gospel was written in Galilee some time after the Jewish Revolt in 70 AD for a Christian audience that was living under the threat of persecution. The first part of the book examines the situation of Mark's intended readers, and the nature of and reasons for their persecution. The second part establishes in what way the Gospel addresses the situation of Mark's original readers.

Excerpt

Mark's Gospel is the oldest Gospel preserved, and is generally held to have been the first written account of Jesus' life of some length. It cannot be proven, of course, that no one prior to Mark had produced a similar writing, but it seems unlikely. In any case, we do not know of any of such text, and Mark's work can be explained adequately without supposing that he made use of an earlier writing of the same kind.

In composing his Gospel Mark undoubtedly used traditional material. Some sayings in the Gospel, for instance, have clear parallels in Q, the source generally believed to have been used by the authors of the Gospels according to Luke and Matthew. This indicates that these sayings were part of the pre-Markan Christian tradition. Certain stories in the Gospel also probably did not originate with Mark, but circulated within the Christian community. It is likely that Mark knew at least some of these traditional stories or sayings of Jesus as part of larger units or collections. There is, however, no indication that the evangelist had come across a coherent, written account of Jesus' life.

In other words, Mark's Gospel seems to have been written without an obvious model at a time when writing an account of Jesus' life was not a common thing to do. This observation makes one curious about what motivated the evangelist. Why did Mark decide to write a story about Jesus' life? What was the immediate cause? And what was the evangelist's objective in writing? It is the aim of the present study to formulate an answer to these questions concerning the origin and purpose of Mark's Gospel.

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