Daily Bible Study Tips: Overview of Mark

Overview of Mark, Day 6, Ch. 1 – 6
Overview of Mark, Day 7, Ch. 7 – 11
Overview of Mark, Day 8, Ch. 12 – 16

Comments on Mark Chapters 1 - 8
Comments on Mark Chapters 9 - 16

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Overview of Mark, Day 6, Ch. 1 – 6
These overviews were written while our church was listening each day to “You’ve Got the Time,” the recorded New Testament available from Faith Comes by Hearing. It takes 28 minutes a day, and I enjoyed it tremendously. “Day 6, Ch. 1 – 6” and so on tell you what section to listen to.

The Gospel of Mark was the first written gospel. It was written around 64 A.D. by John Mark, who traveled extensively with Barnabas and some with Paul (Acts 12:25, 15:37, 38) and was an associate of Peter (Acts 12:11-12). Church tradition says that Mark wrote the gospel as it was given to him by Peter. (Here’s my take on it. It’s a little difficult to imagine how Mark’s gospel would have gotten into the canon without the weight of Peter’s authority behind it. It’s a great book, but Mark on his own was surely not important enough to have been considered an authority.)
Overview of Mark, Day 7, Ch. 7 - 11
Mark’s book is notable for the vigor of its writing and for its continuous action. Jesus almost never stops to sit down and lecture in this book. Jesus is always doing something, and almost everything happens “immediately.” Half the uses of “immediately” in the NT are in the little book of Mark. Because of the simplicity of the narrative and the emphasis on what Jesus did, and because it is short, Mark is often considered to be the easiest gospel for new believers to read.

Although Mark is the shortest gospel, it was extremely influential in the development of Matthew and Luke, both of which are considerably longer. Mark has 661 verses. Matthew uses 606 of Mark’s verses, about half verbatim. Luke uses 320 of Mark’s verses, also about half verbatim. Only 24 verses in Mark are not used by either Matthew or Luke. Both Matthew and Luke follow the order of action given in Mark most of the time. Occasionally one or the other, but never both at the same time, varies the order of action.

Why do you care about this? Because you will frequently hear Matthew, Mark, and Luke called the “Synoptic Gospels.” Syn-optic means “together-eye.” You can lay these three gospels out together in columns and view them all at once.

The emphasis in the Synoptic Gospels is on Jesus’ Galilean ministry. The vast majority of the action takes place after John is imprisoned and Jesus has withdrawn from Judea to Galilee.

Overview of Mark, Day 8, Ch. 12 – 16
Practically all NT scholars believe that the original ending of the book of Mark was lost very early, before Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels. Mark’s stuff ends with vs. 16:8, “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid,” which is a pretty weird place to end a gospel. The text that follows doesn’t sound like Mark’s writing at all. Two new endings were added early on. The NIV, which is what we are listening to on the CDs, has the “long ending,” vss. 9-20. The second ending, or “short ending,” is as follows: “9 The women went to Peter and his friends and gave them a brief account of all they had been told. 10 After this, Jesus himself sent out through his disciples, from the east to the west, the sacred and ever-living message of eternal salvation.” Some translations give both endings, some put the short ending in a footnote, and some omit the short ending. Both endings are canonical, that is, they are accepted by the Church as scripture.

Now, here is the cool thing. Note that Mark himself records that Christ has risen in vs. 6. Then the unknown writer of the long ending records that Christ has risen (vss. 9-20). And a second unknown writer records that Christ sent the word out through his disciples (alternate vss. 9-10). So there were not four gospel writers who gave accounts of the risen Christ, there were six.

Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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