The Significance of Peter’s Confessions in the Gospel of Mark (Introduction)

Mcr-Fishes

Introduction

The book of Mark, second book of the New Testament, is a document which focuses on the proclamation of the Gospel.[1] Because of this verse, the R. C. Sproul suggests that “Mark may have been the first to assign the title ‘gospel’ to a written document.”[2]

All of the New Testament Gospels are anonymous, including Mark.[3] Boring and Craddock explain that “neither the author nor the readers personally experienced the original events.”[4] The events were transmitted through oral tradition, a variety of a chain effect in which the history is “mediated to the author, to the original readers, and to us by the Christian community, the church. It is not a chain of individuals, but a community of faith, that mediates the gospel to later believers and inquirers.”[5] Some of the oral tradition was written down, as Luke admits when he declares that “many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the this that have been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1 [ESV]). Even though John Mark was not an apostle, Scriptures record him constantly gathered with other apostles and early Christians.[6] The Scripture provides many references to a figure called John Mark, and to ignore those references as a possible connection to the author of this work would be, at least, naïve. Eusebius also provides reliable information concerning the authorship of Mark.[7]

Concerning the date of this work, is commonly accepted that Mark was written before A.D. 70. David A. DeSilva, author of more than twenty-five books, clarifies the argument of those who oppose such date writing that, “The primary reason many scholars tend to date Mark’s Gospel after A.D. 70 is the presupposition that Jesus could not foresee the destruction of Jerusalem—an ideological conviction clearly not shared by all.”[8] Craig S. Keener’s position on this topic is that “Mark wrote his Gospel to Roman Christians during the time of the great persecution in Rome, about A.D. 64.”[9] An unidentified spectator also provides firm support for the early date: “Mark recorded, who was called Colobodactylus, because he had fingers that were too small for the height of the rest of his body.  He himself was the interpreter of Peter.  After the death of Peter himself, the same man wrote this gospel in the parts of Italy.”[10] Irenaeus also confirms the Anti-Marcionite Prologue attesting that “after the death of these [Peter and Paul] Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter” (Irenaeus, Adversus Heareses 3. i. 2). On the other hand, Eusebius relates that Mark wrote his Gospel while Peter was still alive (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2. 15). Some have tried to resolve this problem, but what is relevant here is that the book was written somewhere just before or just after Peter’s death. The issue of the date is directed to whether or not 13:5-23 is a reference to Nero’s persecution in A.D. 64. The book of Mark was used by Matthew and Luke, so a date between 60-70AD is potentially probable.

Passages like 7:2-4 support the idea that Mark’s readers were ignorant regarding Jewish traditions, what could attest to the idea that Mark did not write his Gospel in Palestine.[11] His references to members of the Roman church can suggest that this was written when Mark was present in Rome with Peter (1 Pet. 5:13).[12]  Mark also explains many Semitic terminologies to his audience, which would be unnecessary if his readers were Palestinians.[13] Occasionally, instead of explaining the meaning of the ancient word, Mark makes use of Latin expressions, which can also confirm that his audience knew Latin, as the Romans did.[14] The cabal evidence for this is found when Mark uses the Roman system of time as reference in his work.[15] In light of these internal evidences, the Roman audience must be kept in mind when scrutinizing Mark’s work.[16]

The book of Mark seeks to fortify the faith of believers who were suffering; to explain the current suffering of believers; to admonish “cross-bearing” as integral to discipleship;  to encourage believers with hope—in spite of their failures.[17] In Mark’s book, Jesus is presented as servant who came to suffer in their place (Mark 10:45), which could have relation to Mark’s persistent explanation for suffering among believers. Interestingly, the teachings of Jesus are not so emphasized as his miracles in this book. On the other hand, Jesus’ humanity is more stressed here than in any other gospel.[18] With this in mind, it seems that Mark was trying to help his readers to understand the Jewish tradition that was surrounding them, and accustom them with who Jesus was—both his deity and humanity.

Main Idea

The identity of the Son of Man as the Christ began to be recognized, and his redemptive plan is foretold to his disciples.

Outline

  1. Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida and tells him not to enter the village (8:22-26).
  2. On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus inquires his disciples regarding his identity and Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (8:27-30).
  3. Jesus foretells his suffering and redemptive plan to his disciples (8:31-38).

To be Continued…

On the following article for this II-part article I will present the literary context of the passage (how it fits in the overall scheme of Mark’s argument), a commentary on the verses 8:22-38, and applications for our lives based on this theological study.

Stay tuned!


[1] Mark 1:1 starts with this affirmation: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The Greek word for “gospel” is εὐαγγέλιον, which means “a good message,” according to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries (G#2098).

[2] R C. Sproul, The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version, 3rd ed. (Orlando, Florida: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1727.

[3] Many take for granted the English title “The Gospel According to Mark” as the final answer to the issue of authorship of this book. However, Boring explains that “The question of authorship could not be discussed intelligently as the first issue; one must first get an idea of the nature of the document before asking the question of authorship.” Cf. M Eugene Boring, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 521.

[4] M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 6.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Peter went to Mark’s mother’s house to pray (Acts 12:12). Mark helped Barnabas and Saul (Paul) in their ministry (Acts 12:25). 1 Peter 5:13 could be implying that Peter and Mark were together in Rome. Paul also expressed his approval regarding Mark many times (Col. 4:10 and 2 Tim. 4:11).

[7] Eusebius explains that in the beginning of the second century, it was widely acceptable as tradition that the author of the book of Mark was the Biblical John Mark, who was friends with Peter and Paul (See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.15).

[8] David Arthur DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, Illinois.: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 196.

[9] Keener adds a relation with the content of the book and the end of the Judean-Roman War in A.D.66-70. Cf. Craig S. Keener, The Ivp Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 126.

[10] The Anti-Marcionite Prologue can be found here http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/anti_marcionite_prologues.htm.

[11] In Mark 15:42, Jesus not only seems to be explaining the meaning of the word “Golgotha,” but also acquainting his readers with Jewish tradition.

[12] C.f. Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13.

[13] C.f. Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:11 and 34; 10:46; 14:36; 15:22 and 34.

[14] C.f. Mark 5:9; 6:27; 12:15 and 42; 15:16; 15:39.

[15] C.f. Mark 6:48 and 13:35.

[16] More could be said to support such claim, as the fact that few references to the Old Testament are made, or the fact that Mark uses the words “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven,” what would be offensive to the Jewish audience.

[17] These key themes were extracted from Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, ©2002), 205.

[18] His emotions (Mark 1:41; 3:5; 6:34; 8:12; 9:36), his limitations (Mark 4:38; 11:12; 13:32), and other human characteristics are well emphasized in this book (Mark 7:33-34; 8:12; 9:36; 10:13-16).

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