“Introduction to Mark,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)
“Mark,” New Testament Study Guide
The book of Mark relates the ministry, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in a fast-moving account that often focuses on the powerful deeds of the Savior. Foremost among these is the Atonement, which Mark emphasized as central to Jesus’s mission as the long-promised Messiah. By studying Mark’s account and testimony of how the Savior fulfilled His atoning mission, you can become more converted to the gospel and find courage to follow the Savior.
Mark (also called John Mark) is the author of this book. Although Mark was not among the original disciples of Jesus Christ, he later converted and became an assistant to the Apostle Peter, and he may have written his Gospel based on what he learned from Peter (see Bible Dictionary, “Mark”).
Mark and his mother, Mary, lived in Jerusalem; their home was a gathering place for some of the earliest Christians (see Acts 12:12). Mark left Jerusalem to help Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on their first missionary journey (see Acts 12:25; 13:4–6, 42–48). Paul later wrote that Mark was with him in Rome (see Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24; he is referred to as Marcus in these verses) and praised Mark as a companion who was “profitable to [him] for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). Peter referred to him as “Marcus my son” (1 Peter 5:13), suggesting the closeness of their relationship.
We do not know exactly when the Gospel of Mark was written. Mark likely wrote his Gospel in Rome between A.D. 64 and A.D. 70, perhaps shortly after the Apostle Peter suffered martyrdom in about A.D. 64.
The Gospel of Mark contains details—such as translated Aramaic quotations, Latin expressions, and explanations of Jewish customs—that seem intended for an audience made up primarily of Romans and people from other gentile nations, as well as those who had converted to Christianity, most likely in Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. Many believe Mark may have been with Peter in Rome during a period marked by severe trials of faith for many members of the Church in locations throughout the Roman Empire.
One-third of Mark’s Gospel recounts the Savior’s teachings and experiences during the last week of His life. Mark bore witness that the suffering Son of God ultimately triumphed over evil, sin, and death. This testimony meant that the Savior’s followers need not fear; when they faced persecution, trials, or even death, they were following their Master. They could endure with confidence, knowing that the Lord would help them and that all His promises would ultimately be fulfilled.
Mark’s gospel begins suddenly and dramatically and maintains a fast pace, recounting events in quick succession. Mark frequently used the words straightway and immediately, giving the effect of rapid pace and action.
Even though over 90 percent of the material in Mark is also found in Matthew and Luke, Mark’s account often includes additional details that help us more fully appreciate the Savior’s compassion and the responses of people around Him (compare Mark 9:14–27 with Matthew 17:14–18). For example, Mark related the widespread enthusiastic reception the Savior received from those in Galilee and elsewhere early in His ministry (see Mark 1:32–33, 45; 2:2; 3:7–9; 4:1). Mark also carefully narrated the negative response of the scribes and Pharisees, whose opposition quickly increased from having skeptical thoughts (see Mark 2:6–7) to plotting to destroy Jesus (see Mark 3:6).
Among the important themes in Mark are the questions of who Jesus was and who understood His identity, as well as the disciple’s role as one who must “take up his cross, and follow [Jesus]” (Mark 8:34). In addition, Mark is the only Gospel that relates the parable of the seed growing by itself (see Mark 4:26–27), the healing of a deaf person in the Decapolis region (see Mark 7:31–37), and the gradual healing of a blind man at Bethsaida (see Mark 8:22–26).
Mark 1–4. Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist and begins preaching, calling disciples, and working miracles. As opposition against Him increases, He teaches in parables.
Mark 5–7. The Savior continues to work many miracles, demonstrating His compassion for others. After John the Baptist is killed, Jesus feeds more than 5,000 people and walks on water. He teaches against false traditions.
Mark 8–10. Jesus Christ continues to work miracles. Peter testifies that Jesus is the Christ. The Savior prophesies three times of His suffering, death, and Resurrection, but His disciples do not yet fully understand His meaning. He teaches them about the humility and service required of His disciples.
Mark 11–16. During the last week of His life, the Savior enters Jerusalem, teaches His disciples, suffers in Gethsemane, and is crucified. Jesus Christ is resurrected.