Gospel of Mark

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Books of the Bible

The Gospel According to Mark, also known as The Gospel of Mark, is one of the four canonical Gospels. It was most likely the earliest of the four to be written. Being the earliest, it provides evidence of how religious belief evolved in the early church. The Gospel has no story of the birth of Jesus, no virgin birth, no mention of Joseph. Early manuscripts have no specific details of the resurrection, no post resurrection appearances of Jesus and no messianic blood line. [1] The claim that Jesus was "the son of God" in Mark 1:1 Bible-icon.png is also a later addition not present in the Codex Sinaiticus. [2]

Jesus is presented as a miracle worker, prophet and suffering servant of God. He denies he is God, reveals his teachings only to a select few, uses pagan magic for healing, predicts the end of the world in the disciples lifetime, struggles with doubt in the Garden of Gethsemane and is brutally crucified with the dying words "My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?". This is in contrast with some of the other gospels.[3]

Authorship and significance[edit]

Mark was written by an anonymous author. Scholars typically estimate it was written between 70CE and 90CE. It was almost certainly written by a non-eye witness.

The Gospel of Mark is quite significant because it was the first Gospel that "strung the pearls" [4] i.e. was the first to bring together sayings, teachings and stories of Jesus to create a Gospel. The later gospels of Matthew, Luke were heavily influenced by Mark and reused much of the text. For example, Mark was written about 70 CE whereas Matthew was written in 80-85 CE. There are two prevalent theories for as to where the gospel story comes from in Matthew. First is the 2 source theory which states that the gospel of Matthew is derived from Mark and another source, Q. Second is the 4 source theory which states that the gospel of Matthew is derived from things unique to Matthew, things from the gospel of Luke, Mark, and this other source Q. In both of these suggestions the gospel of Mark is a predominant figure with regards to understanding Matthew. This holds true with the other two gospels, although John is a little more intricate (cf. the Perrin Suggestion).

In 1972, paleographer Jose O'Callaghan claimed to have found a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that could be dated no later than 50 A.D. However, this claim was based on only a few letters worth of legible text. Most scholars see O'Callaghan's claim as insufficient reason to date Mark earlier than what is currently accepted.


Romulus is almost certainly a mythic person with Plutarch describes having a historic biography. Richard Carrier suggests that Mark used the tale as a basis for Jesus and updated it to fit his purposes.[5]

Mark's crucifixion narrative is a retelling of Psalm 22 Bible-icon.png rather than an original historical account.[6] This suggests the section is mythological.

Ignorance of Jewish culture and geography[edit]

There is a lack of understanding of Jewish culture by the author of the Gospel of Mark, showing he could not have been an eye witness or a Jew. These errors were repeated in the Gospel of Luke[3] but revised by the author of the Gospel of Matthew [7]

"Mark 15:46 says that that same evening Joseph of Arimathea 'bought a linen cloth.' Matthew drops the idea of a Jew buying something on the Sabbath. No Jew could have made that mistake. [7]"

Mark also doesn't grasp the geography of Judea, suggesting ridiculous routes between locations.[3]



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Some researchers have noticed that Mark is structured using a chiastic or "ring" composition, meaning themes themes are ordered in a A-B-C-B-A sandwich arrangement. Scott argues the gospel is centred around the transfiguration of Jesus Mark 9:7 Bible-icon.png.[8] Sections before that point, for example Mark 3:33 Bible-icon.png, occur with a similar revisiting of that theme at a later point, e.g. Mark 12:37 Bible-icon.png. This is a highly artificial structure; real history does not occur with this arrangement. Other ancient works using chiastic structure include works by Homer and in Genesis.

"That is not to say that the gospels is unhistorical but that Mark has subordinated history and factual details to his overriding objective: to present across the scheme of his book as both linearly and chiastically arranged [...][8]"

Carrier argues that the gospels were intended as a teaching and evangelising tool, as shown by its artificial structure, not as a faithful history.[5]


The Gospel is constructed to support literary themes and metaphor, rather than being a work of history. Extended parables or myths include Jesus and the fig tree and the custom of releasing a prisoner before Passover. Mark describes Jesus teaching in parables which is not mentioned at all in earlier Christian writings.

One such theme, according to Richard Carrier, is the theme of reversal of expectations. Many stories and parables conveniently emphasise this point.[9]

Doctrinal conflicts[edit]

Here Jesus is portrayed making it clear that he is not God, and that he is not even good. This conflicts with belief in the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, which were later inventions.

Mark 10:17-18 Bible-icon.png:

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Jesus does not claim to be God in the Gospel of Mark. [10] Claiming to be the son of God is something quite distinct, particularly because the doctrine of the Trinity (which is also not mentioned) had not been formulated when the Gospel was written.

Jesus apparently can't do miracles around disbelievers, which contradicts his supposed omnipotence:

"And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them."

Mark 6:5 Bible-icon.png

Jesus is amazed in Mark 6:6 Bible-icon.png, which implies he is not omniscient.

Jesus claims that no signs from heaven will be given to that generation Mark 8:12 Bible-icon.png, which contradicts Jesus being an incarnation of God (which is lucky “corrected” in Matthew 12:39 Bible-icon.png and Luke 11:29 Bible-icon.png), the voice from heaven at his baptism Matthew 3:16-17 Bible-icon.png, the transfiguration and his own resurrection.

Jesus needlessly kills a herd of Gadarene swine Mark 5:1-13 Bible-icon.png, which contradicts his alleged omnibenevolence.

Earthly Jesus[edit]

The Gospel of Mark is an early Christian document. The epistles of Paul and Hebrews are even earlier texts that describe a heavenly redeemer, not an Earthly preacher. Historians such as Richard Carrier argue that Mark introduced the idea of an earthly Jesus as a parable that was not meant to be taken literally.[5] An invented earthly Jesus discouraged new scriptural innovation and was perhaps easier for potential believers to accept.

Notable passages[edit]

Jesus seems to have met his “brothers” and “sisters” (Mark 6:3 Bible-icon.png) in his home country. This may be an interesting case of translation ambiguity. Brothers and sisters in the local culture could indicate his cousins or not, it is hard to say.

Christian politicians might want to read Mark 10:42-43 Bible-icon.png which says political authority should be avoided.

Jesus curses a fig tree for having no fruit even though it was not the season for fig trees to have fruit. This is later revealed as a parable Mark 13:28 Bible-icon.png.

Failed prophesy[edit]

In Mark 9:1 Bible-icon.png, Jesus says to his followers:

"Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."

This implies that the endtimes were to happen within the lifetime of the apostles which is refuted by the non-occurance of the end of the world.

Forged verses[edit]

Main Article: Many accurate copies of my holy book exist

Some of the earliest surviving Bibles dating from the 300's, like the Codex Sinaiticus (also called א or Aleph) and the Codex Vaticanus (also called B), are important examples of early manuscripts. The modern text of the New Testament contain later insertions which are not in these early versions. [11] [12] The following sections are in neither early text and are therefore likely forgeries:

  • Mark 16:9-20 Bible-icon.png the so called "longer ending" which describes the resurrection of Jesus. [13]
  • Mark 7:16 Bible-icon.png "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." [14]
  • Mark 9:44, 46 Bible-icon.png Repetition of "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." [15]
  • Mark 11:26 Bible-icon.png "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." [16]
  • Mark 15:28 Bible-icon.png 'And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And He was numbered with transgressors."' [17]

Resurrection in the "longer ending" Mark 16:9-20?[edit]

In the original manuscripts, Mark has no post resurrection appearances of Jesus. [18] The Gospel originally ended with women discovering the empty tomb Mark 16:1-8 Bible-icon.png. The resurrection story found in Mark 16:9-20 Bible-icon.png, the so-called Longer ending, is found in the King James bible. However, most historians and theologians believe that it is a later addition intended to bring Mark into line with the other Gospels.

The Gospel briefly foretells Jesus's resurrection Mark 10:32-34 Bible-icon.png, Mark 16:7 Bible-icon.png but it does not explicitly describe its nature. Many scholars have argued that Mark (and letters of Paul) considered the resurrection of Jesus to be spiritual or ghost-like, not bodily. [19][20][21]

If the resurrection of Jesus was the single most important fact in Christianity, it seems odd that it is hardly mentioned in Mark, being the first and most historical Gospel, and that it was the subject of a clear forgery. Only the later Gospels have Jesus eating, drinking and displaying his wounds. The idea of a bodily resurrection was therefore a later invention.


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 David Fitzgerald, [3]
  4. [4]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, 2014
  6. Richard Carrier, [5]
  7. 7.0 7.1 [6]
  8. 8.0 8.1 M. Philip Scott, Chiastic Structure: A Key to the Interpretation of Mark's Gospel, 1985
  9. Richard Carrier, Not the Impossible Faith
  10. [7]
  11. [8]
  12. [9]
  13. Funk, Robert W. and the Jesus Seminar. The acts of Jesus: the search for the authentic deeds of Jesus. Harper San Francisco. 1998. "Empty Tomb, Appearances & Ascension" p. 449-495.
  14. [10]
  15. 44 46
  16. [11]
  17. [12]
  18. James Tabor, The “Strange” Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Makes All the Difference, 02/02/2015
  19. James Tabor a “Spiritual” Resurrection is the Only Sensible Option, May 4, 2014
  20. Richard Carrier, Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story, (6th ed., 2006)
  21. R. C. Symes, "The resurrection myths about Jesus;" a Progressive Christian interpretation, 2008-MAR-05

Further Reading[edit]

  • Vexen Crabtree, Gospel of Mark, 2006
  • R.H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993)
  • V. Taylor, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition (London: Macmillan & Co., 1953)
  • D.M. Smith, John among the Gospels (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1992)