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MARK, GOSPEL OF


a work probably written c. A.D. 140, Mark, who was the follower and interpreter of Peter, recorded after the latter's decease the words of Christ and the narratives of His deeds which he had heard the Apostle deliver, but he could not arrange the matter “ in order, ” because he had not himself been a personal follower of Jesus. This account Papias had derived, he tells us, from an informant who had heard it repeatedly given by “ the elder, ” a Christian of the first generation. There can be little doubt that the work to which Papias himself supposed this story to apply was the Gospel of Mark virtually as 'we know it. The tradition in regard to this work must have been continuous between his time and that of Irenaeus, who (c. A.D. I8O) gives a similar account of its composition. It may be noted also that the same view of the origin of the Gospel of Mark appears to have been held by a contemporary of Papias, Justin Martyr. In his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 106) he cites a fact about the name of Peter from “ his Memoirs, ” and adds also another similar fact about the name given to the sons of Zebedee, just as they are stated in Mark iii. 16, 17, and nowhere else so far as we know. He may well have been ready to call the work “ Peter's, ” though he believed that Mark actually composed it, on the ground that the latter recorded what the Apostle said (cf. ibid. e. 103). But is our Gospel of Mark also to be identified with the writing by Mark spoken of by “ the elder ” whose account had been reported to Papias? Some confusion is here more conceivable; while, if it is supposed that such a writing was worked up in our second Gospel, this may seem sufficient to explain the connexion of Mark's name with the latter. In support of this view it is urged, though it is so much less often now than it used to be, that the description “ not in order ” does not tit our Gospel of Mark, the order in which is from an historical point of View as good as, if not better than, in the other Gospels. But from whomsoever the expression proceeds -whether from Papias, or his informant, or “the elder ”we may feel sure that considerations such as appeal to us from our training in historical criticism are not those which suggested it, but rather the want of agreement between this Gospel and some standard which on altogether different grounds was applied to it. This argument, then, for supposing that the original writing by Mark differed widely in form and contents from the Gospel which now bears his name appears to be without force. The question whether the two differed to any, and if so to what, extent can be decided only from an examination of the Gospel itself.

(2) The Question of the Integrity of the Gospel of Mark.—There are in a good- many parts of this Gospel indications that the narrative has been derived from Simon Peter, or some one else who was a personal follower of Jesus in the days of His earthly ministry. It has been widely felt that the account of the call of the first four disciples and of the events which immediately followed (i. 15-39) at the opening of the Galilean ministry, bears strong marks of proceeding from Simon Peter. Other passages might be pointed out in which it is suitable to suppose that this disciple in particular was the informant. But we will content ourselves with noticing signs that the reminiscences of some eyewitness are recorded. (a) Traits appear which are wholly without importance, and upon which no stress is laid in the context, but which it was natural for a narrator who was actually present, and only for such a one to introduce, because he remembered them as associated with the principal events. The following are instances and others might be cited: the mention of “other boats, ” iv. 36; the half-foolish remark made by Peter when in a dazed condition at the Transfiguration, ix. 5, 6; the young man who, when Jesus was arrested, followed, “ having a linen cloth'cast about him, ” xiv. 51, 52; the fact that Simon of Cyrene was “ coming from the country, ” xv. 21. (b) There is great truth of local colouring. The references to places and the descriptions of natural features (the lake-shore, i. 16; ii. 13; iii. 7; the hills near at hand, iii. 13; v. 5, 13; vi. 46; the desert places among the hills or by the shore, i. 35, 45; vi. 31, 32) appear to be accurate; the routes indicated in the journeys that are taken are probable (vii. 24, 31; viii. 27; x. 17, 32, 46; xi. 1). Again, the term “ village-towns ” (i. 38) is a remarkably appropriate one (cf. Josephus, B. I. III. iii. 2). There would, indeed, be an exception to the general correctness of the topography if we were compelled to suppose that “ country of the Gerasenes ” (which is the best reading according to existing MS; evidence at Mark v. 1) must mean the territory of the city of Gerasa. But it is easy to imagine that some confusion may have arisen in the transliteration of the name into Greek, and that the place really indicated is Khersa, near the middle of the eastern shore of the lake. The pair of references (vi. 45, 53) which might also be adduced as an exception, will be noticed below. Further, the conditions of life and thought in Palestine at the time in question are faithfully represented, Aramaic words spoken on some important occasions are preserved (iii. 17; v. 41; xv. 34). And, to mention a point of a different kind, the parts played by different sections among the Jewish people are such as might be expected. The point of view of speakers and actors is throughout that belonging to the time of the ministry of Jesus, not to that when the Christian Church had come into existence. (e) The good order in this Gospel, i.e. the natural development of the narrative, will be indicated below. It has without good reason, as we have seen, been supposed to show that it cannot be the record by Mark referred to by Papias. And in reality it would be difficult to account for this feature except on the supposition that one who had lived through the events had been accustomed, when required to give a comprehensive sketch of the history of the ministry and sufferings of Jesus, to relate the facts in the main as they happened; and that a hearer of his has to a considerable extent reproduced them in the same order.

The last consideration seems to show that the general form and structure of the Gospel, and not merely certain portions of it, are original. In point of style, also, there is a large amount of uniformity. The chief exceptions are that, whereas some incidents are related in a very concise manner (e.g. i. 23'28, and 40-45), there. is in other cases considerable amplitude of description (see esp. V. 1-20, 35-43 and ix. 14-27). But Mark's own writing might exhibit this Variety, according to what he had been told or could remember. Moreover, . a tendency to amplitude of language may be noticed here and there in some of the more concise narratives. Further, it would be unreasonable to suppose that Mark, even if he relied chiefly on what he had heard Peter teach, would refrain from using any other sources of information which he possessed. Some have supposed that the same Logian document in Greek which was used by the first and third evangelists was also usedby Mark. This is highly improbable, but he may have derived particular sayings from the Aramaic source itself of that document by independent translation; and may also have learned both sayings and narratives in other ways. It would seem also that the Discourse on the Last Things in ch. xiii., differing as it does both in its greater length and in its systematic structure from other discourses recorded by him, must have come to his hands in a written form. In it some genuine sayings of Christ appear to have been worked up along with matter taken from Jewish Apocalypses and in accordance with an Apocalyptic model.

There does not, then, seem to be good reason for thinking that the work which proceeded from the hands of Mark differed widely in character and contents from the Gospel which now bears his name. But there are indications that some passages have been interpolated in it: e.g. in Mark iv. IO there is some want of fitness in the inquiry of the disciples as to the meaning of “ the parables ” after only one has been given, and again a want of agreement between that inquiry and the words of Jesus at v. 13, “Know ye not this parable, and how shall ye know all the parables?" We notice further that the two parables in 1:12. 26-32 are somewhat loosely appended. It looks as if they were insertions in the passage as it originally stood, and that the references to parables in the plural, together