Did Mark have access to Paul's letters before he wrote his gospel? Is a lot of Mark right out of
The Gospel of Mark does not name its author, it is the unanimous testimony of early church fathers that Mark was the author. He was an associate of the Apostle Peter, and his spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13). From Peter he received first-hand information of the events and teachings of the Lord, and preserved the information in written form.
Mark is the John Mark of the New Testament (Acts 12:12). His mother was a wealthy and prominent Christian in Jerusalem, the church met in her home. Mark joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but not on the second because of a strong disagreement between the two men (Acts 15:37-38). However, near the end of Paul’s life he called for Mark to be with him (2 Timothy 4:11).
The Gospel of Mark was likely one of the first books written in the New Testament, in A.D. 55-59. Whereas, Matthew is written primarily to his fellow Jews, Mark’s gospel is targeted to the Roman believers, particularly Gentiles. Mark wrote as a pastor to Christians who previously had heard and believed the Gospel (Romans 1:8). He desired that they have a biographical story of Jesus the Christ as Servant of the Lord and Savior of the world in order to strengthen their faith in the face of severe persecution and to teach them what it meant to be His disciples.
Paul was actually born as Saul. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia around AD 1–5 in a province in the southeastern corner of modern-day Tersous, Turkey. He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry (Philippians 3:5–6). His parents were Pharisees—fervent Jewish nationalists who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses—who sought to protect their children from “contamination” from the Gentiles.
Anything Greek would have been despised in Saul’s household, yet he could speak Greek and passable Latin. His household would have spoken Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew, which was the official language of Judea. Saul’s family were Roman citizens but viewed Jerusalem as a truly sacred and holy city (Acts 22:22-29).
At age thirteen Saul was sent to Palestine to learn from a rabbi named Gamaliel, under whom Saul mastered Jewish history, the Psalms, and the works of the prophets. His education would continue for five or six years as Saul learned such things as dissecting Scripture (Acts 22:3). It was during this time that he developed a question-and-answer style of teaching known in ancient times as “diatribe.”
This method of articulation helped rabbis debate the finer points of Jewish law to either defend or prosecute those who broke the law. Saul went on to become a lawyer, and all signs pointed to his becoming a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion. Saul was zealous for his faith, and this faith did not allow for compromise. It is this zeal that led Saul down the path of religious extremism.
Saul spent time in Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Syria, and his native Cilicia, and Barnabas enlisted his help to teach those in the church in Antioch (Acts 11: 25). Interestingly, the Christians driven out of Judea by the persecution that arose after Stephen's death founded this multiracial church (Acts 11:19–21).
Saul took his first of three missionary journeys in the late AD 40s. As he spent more time in Gentile areas, Saul began to go by his Roman name Paul (Acts 13:9). Paul wrote many of the New Testament books, he wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.
These thirteen “letters” (epistles) make up the “Pauline Authorship” and are the primary source of his theology. As previously noted, the book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul’s life and times. The apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24–27). It is assumed that Paul died a martyr’s death in the mid-to-late AD 60s in Rome.
Marks gospel is unique because it emphasizes Jesus’ actions more than His teaching. It is simply written, moving quickly from one episode in the life of Christ to another. It does not begin with a genealogy as in Matthew, because Gentiles would not be interested in His lineage.
After the introduction of Jesus at His baptism, Jesus began His public ministry in Galilee and called the first four of His twelve disciples. What follows is the record of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Mark’s account is not just a collection of stories, but a narrative written to reveal that Jesus is the Messiah, not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well.
In this regard it is not reasonable to assert that Marks writings are derived from those of Paul, they are written from different perspectives of Christ life and cannot be confused. In a dynamic profession, the disciples, led by Peter, acknowledged their faith in Jesus (Mark 8:29-30), even though they failed to understand fully His Messiahship until after His resurrection.
Mark follows Christ journeys through Galilee, the surrounding areas, and then to Judea, we realize what a rapid pace He set. He touched the lives of many people, but He left an indelible mark on His disciples. At the transfiguration (Mark 9:1-9), He gave three of them a preview of His future return in power and glory, and again it was revealed to them who He was.
However, in the days leading to His final trip to Jerusalem, we see them bewildered, fearful and doubting. At Jesus’ arrest, He stood alone after they fled. In the following hours of the mock trials, Jesus boldly proclaimed that He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, and that He would be triumphant at His return (Mark 14:61-62). The climactic events surrounding the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection were not witnessed by most of His disciples. But several faithful women did witness His passion. After the Sabbath, early in the morning of the first day of the week, they went to the tomb with burial spices. When they saw the stone had been rolled away, they entered the tomb. It was not the body of Jesus they saw, but an angel robed in white. The message they received was, “He is risen!” Women were the first evangelists, as they spread the good news of His resurrection. This same message has been broadcast throughout the world in the following centuries down to us today.
Because Mark’s intended audience was the Gentiles, he does not quote as frequently from the Old Testament as Matthew, who was writing primarily to the Jews. He does not begin with a genealogy to link Jesus with the Jewish patriarchs, but begins instead with His baptism, the beginning of His earthly ministry. But even there, Mark quotes from an Old Testament prophecy regarding the messenger—John the Baptist—who would exhort the people to “prepare the way for the Lord” (Mark 1:3; Isaiah 40:3) as they awaited the coming of their Messiah.
Jesus does refer to the Old Testament in several passages in Mark. In Mark 7:6, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their superficial worship of God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him and refers to their own prophet, Isaiah, to convict them of their hardheartedness (Isaiah 29:13).
Jesus referred to another Old Testament prophecy which was to be fulfilled that very night as the disciples would be scattered like sheep without a shepherd when Jesus was arrested and put to death (Mark 14:27; Zechariah 13:7).
He referred again to Isaiah when He cleansed the Temple of the money-changers (Mark 11:15-17; Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11) and to the Psalms when He explained that He was the chief Cornerstone of our faith and of the Church (Mark 12:10-11; Psalm 118:22-23). As a practical matter, it was possible for Mark to read some of Pauls letters, but they would not have served as a guide for what he was writing. Mark presents Jesus as the suffering Servant of God (Mark 10:45) and as the One who came to serve and sacrifice for us, in part to inspire us to do the same.