The Gospel of Mark: A Lutheran Gospel (Part 3 of 8)

            Mark’s Gospel is essentially the memoirs of Peter.  However, I don’t believe we can dismiss Mark’s connection to the Apostle Paul.  While the Gospel of Mark never mentions the Apostle Paul, their close connection of ministry is worth noting in this paper.
In the book of Acts we see that Paul and Mark connected in a journey from Jerusalem to Antioch in approximately 41-44 A.D.[1]  In Acts 13:5 we see that Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabus to Cyprus on their first missionary endeavor as an assistant which continued until verse 13:13 where Mark departed and returned back to Jerusalem.  The next time we hear of a Paul and Mark interaction comes from the book of Colossians that is dated approximately 60-62 A.D while Paul was under house arrest.  In verse 4:10 we see that Mark was present with Paul.  This is a comfort to read due to the conflict that occurred between the two that surfaced back in Acts chapter 15.  Finally, we see a description of respect from the Apostle Paul in regards to Mark in Philemon 1:24 and 2 Timothy 4:11.  In Philemon 1:24 Mark is called one of Paul’s, “Co-workers.”  In 2 Timothy 4:11 when Paul was in the Mamertine Dungeon, he states that Mark is, “useful to him for ministry/service.” 

The purpose of this brief historical sketch is to not only show that Mark wrote his Gospel from Peter’s message/narration but that Mark was potentially influenced by the Apostle Paul over some 20 years of ministry and interaction before he officially composed his dramatic narrative Gospel in the 60’s.       
More specifically, there has been recent discussion over the last several hundred years about the influence of Paul upon the Gospel accounts.  Obviously, an earlier dating of the Gospel of Mark composition to the 40’s A.D. would present some problems with this theory of Paul’s influence upon Mark in regards to the Gospel.  Furthermore, this idea of Paul influencing Mark’s Gospel would also not mesh with the 2/4 Document Hypothesis of H.J. Hotzman (1863) and B.H. Streeter (1924) where it is said that Mark wrote first using a document which contained the sayings of Jesus called “Q Source.”[2]  Let it be said that the author of this paper holds to the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis as laid forth in David Alan Blacks book, “Why Four Gospels?”[3] The Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis says that Matthew wrote first, followed by Luke and then followed by the Gospel of Mark which stands between Matthew and Luke.  Therefore, by placing the Gospel of Mark at the end of the three synoptic Gospels, instead of at the beginning, it would allow for the historical interaction of Mark and Paul to occur before and during the composing of Mark’s Gospel in the 60’s A.D.

As far as evidence of interaction and influence of Paul upon Mark I would like to focus more specifically on the Theology of the Cross as presented by the Apostle Paul and also presented within Mark’s Gospel.  There is no doubt about it that Paul is a true theologian of the Cross.  Furthermore, it is obvious in reading Mark’s Gospel the central nature of the cross in Mark’s Gospel.  Jack Kingsbury labeled Mark, “the Gospel of the Cross.”[4]  According to Michael Bird and Joel Willitts, “Mark’s Gospel is dominated by the looming crucifixion of Jesus and this is the most formative element of its narrative and theological fixtures.”[5]  This connection can be fleshed out even more definitively in looking at the five key points where the Apostle Paul and the Gospel of Mark intersect.  According to Bird and Willitts they are[6]:


1.    The early intimation, literary focus and narrative climax of the Gospel on Jesus’ death are conducive to Pauline proclamation.  With the exception of perhaps of the author of Hebrews, only Mark portrays the cross with a similar pathos and gravity to that of Paul.

2.    The description of Jesus’ death with the accompanying apocalyptic portents of cosmic darkness[7] and the rending of the veil in the temple[8] combined with early language in the Gospel about ‘mystery’[9] and ‘this age’[10] likewise represent a Pauline apocalyptic perspective on Jesus’ death and its divine revelation.[11]

3.    Mark and Paul share a perspective on Jesus’ death as a means of power in weakness.  It is precisely Jesus’ lack of power in his death that expresses the power to save others.[12]  Jesus preaches the kingdom of God and yet what we find at the end of the story is the announcement of the kingship of the crucified in the titulus,[13] marking the moment when the kingdom of God comes with power.[14]  Jesus’ power is displayed in the zenith of degradation, death and disempowerment that has clear affinities with Paul’s description as Jesus of being humiliated, weak and yet triumphant.[15]

4.    The cross is also the apex of Christological revelation since it is only at the cross that Jesus is heralded as the Son of God by the centurion,[16] which is a distinctly Pauline idea.[17]

5.    Only Mark and Paul portray Jesus’ crucifixion as a royal triumph.[18]

Next Post In Series: March 1st of 2012

[1] Acts 12:25
[2] David Lewis, The Synoptic Gospels: Origin, Transmission, and Theory (DM-933, Concordia Seminary), January 2012.
[3]  David Alan Black, Why Four Gospels? (Kregel Publications, 2001), 59-63.
[4] J.D. Kingsbury, The Significance of the Cross Within Mark’s Story in Gospel Interpretation: Narrative Critical and Social-Scientific Approaches (Trinity Press International, 1997), 95.

[5] Michael F. Bird & Joel Willitts, Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts, and Convergences (T&T Clark, 2011), 40.

[6] Ibid, 42-43.  (For the 5 listed points)
[7] See Mark 15:33
[8] See Mark 15:38
[9] See Mark 4:11-12
[10] See Mark 10:30
[11] See Galatians 1:4, 6:14; 1 Corinthians 2:7-9; Colossians 1:12-14, 25-26
[12] See Mark 15:31-32
[13] See Mark 15:26
[14] See Mark 9:1
[15] See Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 2:8
[16] See Mark 15:29
[17] See Galatians 2:19-20
[18] See Mark 14-15; Romans 8:37; Colossians 2:15.


tamaline janhi and tashie chikanga said…
mark main theme is of the cross bcoz he addressed jesus sufferings in 10 chapters whilst the whole book has only 16 chapters