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Asbury Bible Commentary – I. The Occasion of The Gospel of Mark
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I. The Occasion of The Gospel of Mark

I. The Occasion of The Gospel of Mark

Of the four gospels contained in our NT, the gospel of Mark was probably the first to be written. With these other gospels, its primary purpose was to interpret and proclaim the significance of Jesus in story form. A tradition dating to the second century a.d. has it that John Mark wrote this gospel in Rome. The gospel itself provides little reason to support or challenge this tradition, and modern scholarship has continued to refer to its author as Mark for the sake of convenience.

It is obvious that this gospel was written for a gentile audience outside of Palestine. Mark feels compelled to translate words from Aramaic, the language of Palestine—such as “Talitha koum!” (“Little girl, I say to you, get up!” 5:41) and “Golgotha” (“The Place of the Skull,” 15:22). Moreover, he explains Jewish customs and beliefs (e.g., 7:3-4; 12:18), presumably for his non-Jewish audience. However, it is difficult to be more specific about the location of Mark's audience.

Attempts to date the gospel of Mark, like those of Matthew and Luke, revolve largely around its chronological relation to the Jewish War (a.d. 66-70) and the destruction of the temple (a.d. 70) (see Hengel, 1-30). In fact, the gospel could have been written at any point within the two decades preceding the fall of Jerusalem, though many scholars opt for a date in the early a.d. 60s (see Anderson, 24-26).

Greater precision on these issues might help to satisfy our curiosity, but, for interpreting the message of the gospel, this is enough.