Modified from original published on September 18, 2009
Having explored the early evidence from Papias, Irenaeus, the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, Clement, and Origen we have looked at two potentially independent lines of information. One source coming from Asia Minor and the otehr from Alexandria, Egypt. All of the early accounts confirm a lot information regarding the authorship and circumstances regarding the writing of the Gospel of Mark:
- Mark was the author.
- Mark wrote down what Peter was teaching and proclaiming.
- Mark was not a disciple of Jesus (while Jesus was alive).
- The book was written in Rome at the request of believers.
What was Peter’s involvement in the creation of the Gospel of Mark?
The content of the Gospel of Mark is based on the teaching of Peter. On this point all of the evidence is clear and unanimous. The only evidence that raises some questions is whether Peter approved the document that Mark wrote or whether Mark wrote the document after Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome.
However there is a possibility that all of the historical information presented is correct in regards to the time of the writing. When one examines 2 Peter, we see that Peter knows that he is close to his death and is writing to remind the readers of many things including the removal of sin (2 Pet 1:9), our being allowed into the Kingdom (2 Pet 1:11), and the power to live for Christ now (2 Pet 1:3). He includes as one of his goals to make sure there is an accurate record of Jesus’ ministry and teachings after he is gone.
Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have. Indeed, as long as I am in this tabernacle, I consider it right to stir you up by way of a reminder, since I know that my tabernacle will soon be removed,because our Lord Jesus Christ revealed this to me. Indeed, I will also make every effort that, after my departure, you have a testimony of these things. (2 Peter 1:12-15 NET)
It seems possible that Peter (at the request of the believers in Rome) was stirred up with a vision to make sure that the gospel of Jesus was preserved after he was gone. Knowing of his impending execution he helped Mark get started on the project of writing the Gospel of Mark. However, before the work was completed Peter was martyred leaving Mark to finish the account. This would allow the tradition that Mark wrote the gospel after Peter died remain accurate (per Irenaeus) since that would be when the work was completed and made available to other readers and churches – especially those in Asia Minor. This would also allow for the strong tradition from Alexandria (where Mark founded the church) that Peter was involved with the work be true as well. Mark would certainly have brought a copy of the gospel with him to Egypt and made it available to the new churches he planted. He also would have affirmed that the concept and content was approved by Peter, focusing on the start of the project rather than the fact that Peter was killed prior to it being completed.
We started off asking a series of questions regarding the Gospel of Mark.
Who wrote the book?
The early church is unanimous in claiming that the author of the book is Mark who served alongside Peter and recorded the things that he taught.
When was the book written?
Most scholars agree that the book was written in the mid to late 60’s after Peter and Paul were martyred.
Where was the book written?
The early church records that the book was written in Rome while Mark was serving alongside Peter.
Why was the book written?
The book was written so that the church would always have an accurate account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
[Continue reading through the series: part 5]