Since Mark was not one of the disciples, why did Mark write a gospel? Was this Mark’s gospel or the gospel of another disciple? Who is real author behind the gospel of Mark?
Whose Gospel is This?
Some years ago the Gospel of Mark was a mystery to me. I looked at a list of the disciples who were with Jesus during His earthly ministry and I couldn’t find a disciple called Mark. Why then is there a Gospel of Mark? Who was Mark and why did he have a gospel named after him? The actual Mark who wrote this gospel is believed to be John Mark. Mark was not one of the disciples like John who had wrote a gospel of his own along with four other books in the New Testament (1, 2, 3 John and Revelation) but someone who was apparently discipled or mentored by Peter and Paul. Peter even referred to Mark as his son (1 Pet 5:13). Most biblical scholars agree that Mark or more precisely, John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. Papias who was one of the apostolic fathers and later a Bishop of Hierapolis (c. 100) which was near Laodicea and Colossæ in what is now present day Turkey also believed that Peter is the original source for this material that appears in the Gospel of Mark.
Since Mark spent considerable time with Peter, particularly in Rome, and likely wrote down Peter’s eyewitness account of his experiences with Jesus while Peter was imprisoned in Rome, the Gospel of Mark is, in effect, the gospel of Peter the Apostle. Bible scholars agree that Mark was the author of the second gospel but was actually recording what Peter told him so we could actually call it the Gospel of Peter written down by Mark. Early church writers seem convinced that Peter is the true source of the Gospel of Mark, since Mark was his aide and interpreter, providing strong external evidence for Mark being the author, and Peter being the oral source including Mark’s hearing of Peter’s preaching. There is strong internal evidence for this because this gospel gives us an eyewitness perspective that only Peter could have given. For example, the Transfiguration was witnessed only by James, John, and Peter.
An Eyewitness Perspective
The early church is primarily silent in arguments against Mark’s writing this by Peter’s eyewitness accounts and there was confirmation of Mark’s authorship of this gospel by Justin Martyr in A.D. 160. Peter also mentions Mark as being with him in Rome while Peter was imprisoned there. Further internal evidence points to Peter as being the featured disciple in this gospel and its being written from Peter’s viewpoint which is obvious because of the writing style and genre are very much like Peter’s books near the end of the New Testament. This evidence of Peter being the source of the Gospel of Mark is his apparent personal perspective where he provides vivid detail that could only come from an eyewitness account of which Mark was not privy too. The clarity and detail is such that it feels like you are there with Jesus. There is also Mark’s lack of a chronological order which relates more to Peter’s preaching in Acts which is reflected in the books of First and Second Peter. Also, this gospel has Peter as the central focus, next to Christ.
It is also noteworthy that Mark used the Roman system of deriving time for his Roman readers in money and in time (Mark 13:33). Mark is the only one to have recorded Pilates questioning of the Centurion. This confirms the eyewitness report of a Roman military officer and Mark’s Greek Style of writing which contains Semitisms that a Jerusalem Christian would better understand. Mark was the only one to fully quote Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple from Isaiah 56:7 which included the words “for all nations” indicating to the Roman Christians that God saves Gentiles and Jews alike and seeks both groups worship of Him.
The Actual Author
I think it matters less who wrote it because ultimately the Holy Spirit inspired all the men of the Old and New Testament and the intentionality of the Gospel of Mark is like that of Peter’s mentioning of the Holy Spirit as being the actual Author (2 Pet 1:20-21). It’s not about the author that seems important to Peter (via Mark’s writing) but about the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God which is his emphasis in his preaching in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:22; 10:38). The historicity of this gospel is empirical in nature by the mention of several eyewitnesses, real locations, and the vivid description and detail with which it is written. This makes it clear that Mark’s writing of Peter’s experience with Jesus was authentic. This gospel continues to have impact upon readers today and is believed to be the easiest of all of the gospels to understand, particularly with the aide of the Holy Spirit Who illuminates the truthfulness of this book as well as the rest of the Holy Scriptures.
The real author of the Gospel of Mark is not John Mark nor is it really Peter but “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16) and we should all “know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20-21). The author of this article is not my hands nor is it my word processor but it is the person who is creating this document…and that would be me. In a similar fashion, the men who wrote the books of the Bible were not the authors…they only wrote down what the Spirit of God inspired them to write. It is interesting to know the historical facts about the putting together of the books of the Bible but the reality is that God the Holy Spirit is the Author and He moved men as He willed and so when we read the Bible we read the Words of God Himself. God has proclaimed that it is “my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). It is God’s words, not the words of men. I would ask that “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life” (John 5:39) for even Simon Peter testified “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon