the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament Robertson's Word Pictures
by A.T. Robertson
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION
One of the clearest results of modern critical study of the Gospels is the early date of Mark's Gospel. Precisely how early is not definitely known, but there are leading scholars who hold that A.D. 50 is quite probable. My own views are given in detail in my Studies in Mark's Gospel. Zahn still argues that the Gospel according to Matthew is earlier than that according to Mark, but the arguments are against him. The framework of Mark's Gospel lies behind both Matthew and Luke and nearly all of it is used by one or the other. One may satisfy himself on this point by careful use of a Harmony of the Gospels in Greek or English. Whether Mark made use of Q (Logia of Jesus) or not is not yet shown, though it is possible. But Mark and Q constitute the two oldest known sources of our Matthew and Luke. We have much of Q preserved in the Non-Markan portions of both Matthew and Luke, though the document itself has disappeared. But Mark's work has remained in spite of its exhaustive use by Matthew and Luke, all except the disputed close. For this preservation we are all grateful. Streeter (The Four Gospels) has emphasized the local use of texts in preserving portions of the New Testament. If Mark wrote in Rome, as is quite possible, his book was looked upon as the Roman Gospel and had a powerful environment in which to take root. It has distinctive merits of its own that helped to keep it in use. It is mainly narrative and the style is direct and simple with many vivid touches, like the historical present of an eyewitness. The early writers all agree that Mark was the interpreter for Simon Peter with whom he was at one time, according to Peter's own statement, either in Babylon or Rome (1 Peter 5:13).
This Gospel is the briefest of the four, but is fullest of striking details that apparently came from Peter's discourses which Mark heard, such as green grass, flower beds (Mark 6:38), two thousand hogs (Mark 5:13), looking round about (Mark 3:5; Mark 3:34). Peter usually spoke in Aramaic and Mark has more Aramaic phrases than the others, like Boanerges (Mark 3:17), Talitha cumi (Mark 5:41), Korban (Mark 7:11), Ephphatha (Mark 7:34), Abba (Mark 14:36). The Greek is distinctly vernacular Koiné like one-eyed (μονοφθαλμον, Mark 9:47) as one would expect from both Peter and Mark. There are also more Latin phrases and idioms like centurio (Mark 15:39), quadrans (Mark 12:42), flagellare (Mark 15:15), speculator (Mark 6:27), census (Mark 12:14), sextarius (Mark 7:4), praetorium (Mark 15:6), than in the other Gospels, so much so that C. H. Turner raises the question whether Mark wrote first in Latin, or at any rate in Rome. There are some who hold that Mark wrote first in Aramaic, but the facts are sufficiently accounted for by the fact of Peter's preaching and the activity in Rome. Some even think that he wrote the Gospel in Rome while with Peter who suggested and read the manuscript. B.W. Bacon holds that this Gospel has a distinct Pauline flavour and may have had several recensions. The Ur-Marcus theory does not have strong support now. Mark was once a co-worker with Barnabas and Paul, but deserted them at Perga. Paul held this against Mark and refused to take him on the second mission tour. Barnabas took Mark, his cousin, with him and then he appeared with Simon Peter with whom he did his greatest work. When Mark had made good with Barnabas and Peter, Paul rejoiced and commends him heartily to the Colossians (Colossians 4:10) In the end Paul will ask Timothy to pick up Mark and bring him along with him to Paul in Rome, for he has found him useful for ministry, this very young man who made such a mistake that Paul would have no more of him. This tribute to Mark by Paul throws credit upon both of them as is shown in my Making Good in the Ministry. The character of the Gospel of Mark is determined largely by the scope of Peter's preaching as we see it in Acts 10:36-42, covering the period in outline from John the Baptist to the Resurrection of Jesus. There is nothing about the birth of the Baptist or of Jesus. This peculiarity of Mark's Gospel cannot be used against the narratives of the Virgin Birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, since Mark tells nothing whatever about his birth at all.
The closing passage in the Textus Receptus, Mark 16:9-20, is not found in the oldest Greek Manuscripts, Aleph and B, and is probably not genuine. A discussion of the evidence will appear at the proper place. Swete points out that Mark deals with two great themes, the Ministry in Galilee (Chs. 1 to 9) and the Last Week in Jerusalem (11 to 16) with a brief sketch of the period of withdrawal from Galilee (ch. 10). The first fourteen verses are introductory as Mark 16:9-20 is an appendix. The Gospel of Mark pictures Christ in action. There is a minimum of discourse and a maximum of deed. And yet the same essential pictures of Christ appear here as in the Logia, in Matthew, in Luke, in John, in Paul, in Peter, in Hebrews as is shown in my The Christ of the Logia. The cry of the critics to get back to the Synoptics and away from Paul and John has ceased since it is plain that the Jesus of Mark is the same as the Christ of Paul. There is a different shading in the pictures, but the same picture, Son of God and Son of Man, Lord of life and death, worker of miracles and Saviour from sin. This Gospel is the one for children to read first and is the one that we should use to lay the foundation for our picture of Christ. In my Harmony of the Gospels I have placed Mark first in the framework since Matthew, Luke, and John all follow in broad outline his plan with additions and supplemental material. Mark's Gospel throbs with life and bristles with vivid details. We see with Peter's eyes and catch almost the very look and gesture of Jesus as he moved among men in his work of healing men's bodies and saving men's souls.