Each gospel plays an important role in the New Testament, and Mark is no exception. Its significance is revealed in the way it:
- Establishes Jesus as the prophesied Messiah
- Proves him to be the sinless Son of God that he claims to be
- Records his authority over nature, demons, and disease
Here are some interesting facts about this important book.
1. Authorship is attributed to John Mark
Next to the apostle John, there’s more biblical information about Mark than any other gospel writer. Luke mentions him several times in the book of Acts. In fact, the early church met in his mother’s home (Acts 12:11-12). He also was on Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey, but ended up returning home early. Paul and Barnabas end up splitting up over a disagreement about what Paul perceived as Mark’s abandonment (Acts 15:36–41).
Mark eventually became an important part of Paul’s life, and is one of the last people mentioned in Paul’s final letters (2 Timothy 4:11).
The early church attributed the gospel to John Mark—even suggesting that he wrote it using Peter’s eyewitness account. Church father and apologist Irenaeus wrote, "And after their [Peter’s and Paul’s] death, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter."
2. It’s the shortest gospel
When you compare the original-language word count, Mark is significantly shorter than the other gospels. From longest to shortest, the gospels stack up like this:
- Luke: 19,482
- Matthew: 18,346
- John: 15,634
- Mark: 11,304
But don’t let its brevity fool you! It’s packed with a lot of detail. For instance, Mark’s gospel is the only place where you’ll find the healings of the deaf and dumb man of Tyre (7:31–37) and the blind man at Bethsaida (8:22–26).
A good example of Mark’s attention to particulars can be seen in the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5, Matthew 9, Luke 8). Both Mark and Luke give the synagogue ruler’s name (Jairus), and they both share how the child was still alive when Jesus is first approached. Mark and Luke also share that when Jesus arrives, he kicks everyone out of the home but three disciples and the parents.
When compared to Luke, Mark offers considerably more detail. Mark’s account of Jesus’ words is more specific. When Jesus raises the young girl, Mark is the only one who shares Jesus’ command in Arabic, "Talitha cumi" Luke only gives the Greek translation.
3. It’s action packed
In relation to the other gospels, Mark makes Jesus look like a Marvel superhero. Mark doesn’t focus on dialogue nearly as much as he focuses on Christ’s actions. This is seen in the way Mark uses the Greek word "euthus" typically translated as "immediately."
Mark uses this word over 40 times in his gospel—12 times in chapter one alone! Its use gives Mark’s gospel an explosive sense of motion and immediacy.
To imbue the action with the proper amount of significance, Mark also focuses on the terms “power” and "authority." Throughout his gospel, Mark’s focused on his Christ’s power over demons, illness, nature, and even death—a true champion.
4. It’s focused on Gentile readers
Unlike Matthew, Mark seems intensely focused on communicating the gospel to readers who aren’t overly familiar with Judaism. Here are a few of the ways that Mark caters to Gentile readers:
- There’s no genealogy
It’s Jewish readers that would place a significant amount of importance on Jesus’ ancestors. Roman readers aren’t going to care as much.
- He focuses on Roman time (6:48, 13:35)
Jews and Romans marked time differently. For the Jew, the day began at dawn and ended at sundown. We’ve adopted the Roman method of beginning the day at midnight and dividing it in twelve hour intervals.
- He interprets Hebrew and Aramaic terms (6:27; 12:15,42; 15:16,39)
Mark doesn’t take for granted that his readers are familiar with language that would be common in the Palestinian region. When he uses an Aramaic term, he typically explains it.
5. Its symbol is a lion
Christian tradition has long associated each of the gospels with one of the four faces encountered by Ezekiel (1:1–14). The human is associated with Matthew, the eagle with John, the ox with Luke, and Mark’s gospel is associated with the lion.
Mark begins his gospel with a reference to Isaiah: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way—a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” This description reminded the early church of a lion roaring in the desert, and thus the association was born.
Share the gospel with others
Because of his focus on reaching Gentile readers, Mark is often known as "the evangelist."
We know that sharing the gospel is important, but it’s not always easy. That’s why we’ve developed strategies and tools to help you make disciples—whether you’re an experienced missionary, or you’re preparing to share the gospel for the first time.
Cru’sⓇ Jesus Film ProjectⓇ offers a variety of resources to assist you in evangelism and discipleship. You can explore the many tools and strategies offered for evangelism.