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From Mark to the Roman Church

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Imagine a stranger ran up to you shouting, “An alien spaceship just landed nearby!” You’d likely doubt their story.

Now, imagine the person you’re closest to—a spouse, parent, friend—running up to you and, in all seriousness, saying, “Something strange just landed in the yard.” Assuming the person you imagined isn’t prone to practical jokes, chances are, you’d respond to them differently. The source matters for important information.

Maybe you’ve peeked ahead into the scripture we’ll be studying and noticed that Mark never declares himself the writer. While this gospel is technically anonymous, the early church had a strong tradition that claimed Mark as the author, and most modern scholarship agrees.

Who Was Mark (aka John Mark)?

He wasn’t one of the twelve disciples but he was a leader in the early church. We see references to him all through the New Testament. Primarily, he followed Peter throughout his ministry and served as his assistant. The gospel of Mark is based on Peter’s teaching and eyewitness account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Peter was one of the three disciples closest to Jesus during His life.

What else do we know about Mark? He was Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10). We know that early on he helped share the gospel and plant churches with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25). At one point, however, he abandoned them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). He apparently had a change of heart and wanted to rejoin the pair later on. Barnabas wanted to bring him along on their journey but Paul did not, and this caused the two men to go their separate ways after a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:36–39). We don’t know exactly how it happened, but Paul reconciled with Mark and later asked Timothy to bring Mark to him because he was “very useful” in ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).

When Did Mark Write His Gospel?

Many scholars believe Mark was the earliest gospel, written only a few decades after Jesus’ life (the equivalent of breaking news in the first century). The latest Mark could have written his gospel would have been AD 70, when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. In Mark 13:1–4, Mark records Jesus’ prediction of the temple’s destruction, so it would have been natural to mention how this prophecy was fulfilled. The absence of this detail leads many scholars to believe Mark wrote his gospel between AD 63 and 70, during Peter’s lifetime and before the fall of the temple.

Who Did Mark Write To?

Early church tradition also helps us learn about Mark’s audience: all signs point to the church in Rome. It’s likely that Peter was martyred there (so Mark would have likely been in Rome with him). Mark also translates Aramaic words (the language Jesus spoke) and explains Jewish customs; we can tell he wrote to a primarily Gentile audience. Last, his emphasis on suffering for the sake of the gospel fits with persecution the Roman church faced under Emperor Nero.


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Daily Question

What surprises you about Mark? Why does it matter who wrote this gospel?

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Comments (9)

I didn’t know much of the history of John Mark or the time period. I think this matters so that I will have a better understanding of the text.

I was surprised that Mark was actually John Mark. I really had never thought about the history of the writers but it helps to understand their perspective.

I was surprised that Mark was actually John Mark. I really had never thought about the history of the writers but it helps to understand their perspective.

I always thought Mark was an original disciple, I was surprised that his gospel is written based on Peter’s experiences.

I had no idea that Mark had any level of a falling out with other men of Christ. His story reminds me that we are all worthy of redemption to eachother when we ask for forgiveness in Christ. Jesus had gone before us and will go after us- he understands our inter workings, and nothing is unimportant to God in matters of our testimonies.

I thought that mark the disciple wrote the book of mark- I was surprised to learn it wasn’t. Very interesting. It matters because of perspective- also mark is an eye witness so a good source.

I love that he wasn’t a disciple, but an assistant to Peter. This speaks of everyone’s value and calling, not just the core 12. He was hands on, until he wasn’t. But then he jumped back in and continued in spreading the gospel and growing the new church. I’d love to know more about what happened and why he stepped off for a bit. Haven’t we all been there?! But there was still room for him at the big table; still work for him to do. People to reach. And his tribe welcomed him back!

I think it is interesting to know that mark wasn’t an apostle that directly walked with Jesus however he did know Peter and he did walk with Paul/ he was a gentile, this is quite relatable to us in a sense, our connection to Jesus’s walk is through the word + faith and obedience and to mark in a sense it was too, It displays a faith in Christ and obedience to who he is and how we should be spreading the word and speaking to it as if we were there, as each event was very real. And personal. Understanding that Jesus meets us where we are when we are ready to walk in obedience and in faith with him.

It surprised me to learn that Mark and John Mark from Acts is the same person.
It is important to know that Mark knew Jesus and was an eyewitness to the things that he wrote about.

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