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*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Mark 1:1 meaning

Mark, writing to the Gentiles, begins his gospel emphasizing the deity of Jesus and His role as Savior of the world.

The parallel gospel accounts for this passage are Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 1:1-4, and John 1:1-18.

Mark begins his gospel account of Jesus’s life with a direct statement:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The beginning means the starting point. And Mark begins with the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and message as the starting point for his gospel narrative.

Matthew begins his gospel record with Jesus’s Messianic genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17). Luke introduces his gospel narrative with a salutation to his readers (Luke 1:1-4) before describing the angelic announcements foretelling the births of John the Baptizer (Luke 1:5-25) and Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). John begins his gospel account with a philosophical lens and goes all the way back to THE BEGINNING of creation in Genesis 1:1 (John 1:1-18).

Perhaps the reason Mark begins his gospel account at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry is because he is introducing Jesus to the Gentile world. (More about this later point will come further into this commentary).

All four gospels begin with a unique perspective because even though they all tell the same story and core message of Jesus; they each offer a different portrait whereby we can see and know the person of Jesus.

These different portrayals of Jesus in each Gospel are tailored to accurately depict Him to each Gospel’s primary audience.

Matthew seems to have written primarily to the Jews. His account is filled with many allusions and references to Jewish scripture and culture as he presents Jesus as the long anticipated Messianic Prophet and King.

John wrote to everyone, including non-believers. He wrote “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). His account focuses on special miracles and claims that Jesus made which demonstrate His deity.

Mark (sourced from Peter) seems to have written primarily to the Gentile Romans. The Romans were concerned more with performance, duty, and results rather than philosophy. Consequently, their account is action-packed and results oriented. In an effort to appeal to its audience, the Gospel of Mark highlights Jesus’s deeds and accomplishments with minimal explanation, and often without extended teachings.

Luke seems to have written primarily to Gentile Greeks. The Greeks were preoccupied with philosophy, particularly the notion of ideal man and society. Luke presents Jesus as He was—the perfect man. And unlike the Romans, the Greeks were into the details. They wanted to know everything. Luke carefully includes details about Jesus’s biological life such as His birth, childhood, and bodily frailties, which reveal the full essence of His humanity.

The church traditionally associated different beasts to symbolize these different perspectives. The gospel of Matthew was symbolized by a Lion because Jesus is the king, the Son of David, the Lion of Judah. The gospel of Mark was symbolized by an Ox because Jesus is a strong servant. The gospel of Luke was symbolized by a Man because Jesus became human. And the gospel of John was symbolized by an Eagle because Jesus’s divinity soars over everything. Note that these four symbols (lion, ox, man, and eagle) are the exact beasts recorded by John that surround God’s heavenly throne in Revelation 4:6-8.

All the four gospels’ portrayals of Jesus are different. And all are true.

Gospel literally means “good news”. It comes from the Greek word “εὐαγγέλιον”(pronounced “eu-an-gel-i-on”. This word is comprised of two parts: the prefix “eu,” meaning “good”; and the root word “angelion,” meaning “message,” “statement,” “announcement,” or “proclamation.”

Mark’s narrative tells the incredible story of the good news of Jesus Christ.

The name Jesus is the Greek word “Ἰησοῦς” (pronounced “ee-ay-sooce”).  Ἰησοῦς is transliterated from the Hebrew word יְהוֹשׁוּעַ (pronounced “Yeshua,” or in English “Joshua”). The name Jesus literally means, “The Lord’s salvation” or more loosely, “savior” (Matthew 1:1, 16, 21). In addition to being the second Moses, in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:18, Jesus was the second Joshua, who will conquer and take back the earth (Revelation 19:11-16). He is already our spiritual Savior, and will in time also redeem the physical earth.

After stating Jesus’s name, Mark identifies Him as the Christ. Christ is the Greek word Χριστός (pronouced: “Chri-stos”). It is from the Hebrew word, מָשִׁיחַ (pronounced “maw-shee’-akh”). This Hebrew word is translated as “Messiah” or “Anointed One.”

God promised the Jews that He would send them a Messiah to teach them His laws (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) and to prosperously rule over them forever (2 Samuel 7:8-17). Matthew’s gospel was written to the Jews and it goes to great lengths to demonstrate the many, many ways that Jesus can be seen as this promised Messiah. Mark, however, seems to take Jesus’s Messianic identity as a given and begins his gospel from this starting point.

The other beginning point from which Mark starts is that Jesus is the Son of God. Not only was Jesus the promised Messiah, He was God Himself. This fact is authenticated by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the church at Colossae (Colossians 2:9). Mark identifies Jesus as God’s Son sent to earth to restore the world unto Himself. Mark’s point is verified by another of the gospel writers, John (John 3:16).

The Second Gospel, its Author, and its Primary Audience

This gospel account has since the earliest days of the Christian church been referred to as “The Gospel according to Mark.” Many believe that it was the first of the four gospels that was written. It may even have been one of the sources for the Gospels of Matthew and/or Luke. All three of these gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—bear striking similarities in their narratives and language, while they all have substantial differences when compared to “The Gospel according to John.” For this reason, these first three gospels are often referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels” because there is an apparent synthesis to them.

Like all four gospels, the author of “The Gospel according to Mark” never names himself as the author. The one place where Mark may have alluded to himself was as the young man who fled naked at Jesus’s arrest in Gethsemane when the authorities grabbed the linen sheet covering him (Mark 14:51-52). Perhaps the reason that none of them name themselves is because each writer wanted Jesus Christ, the Son of God to be the focus of his message, and none of them wanted to encroach upon His glory in any way.

It was the early Church that identified Mark (also known as John-Mark, Acts 12:12) as the writer of this Gospel and they claimed he did so under the direction of Jesus’s close follower: Peter the Apostle.

The 4th-century church historian, Eusebius, quoted a 2nd-century Christian writer, Papias, who said, “Mark, being the interpreter of St. Peter, wrote down exactly whatever things he [Peter] remembered, yet not in the order in which Christ either spoke or did them; for he [Mark] was neither a hearer nor a follower of our Lord, but he was afterwards a follower of St. Peter.”

While the Bible does not provide conclusive confirmation of Papias’s assertion, it does offer supporting evidence for Papias’s claim that Mark wrote this gospel on behalf of Peter. When Peter was miraculously rescued from Prison he went to the home of Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12-14). And Peter was with Mark in Rome and referred to him as “my son” when he wrote his first epistle (1 Peter 5:13).

Ever the man of action, Peter did not seem to have the same penchant for recording every detail with even uniformity. Capture the main point, share what is recalled, and move on appeared to be Peter’s mode of operation. For instance, the action-oriented and narrative-moving expression, “and immediately” (in Greek “καὶ εὐθὲως” and pronounced “kai eu-th-ē-ōs”) occurs more times in Mark’s Gospel than the rest of the New Testament combined.

Additionally, Mark, was the son of the Mary whose home in Jerusalem served as a gathering place for Christians (Acts 12:12). Per Church tradition, his mother’s home was where the Upper Room was located. The Upper Room was the place where Jesus shared His last Passover Meal with His disciples and was the place where the disciples first received the Holy Spirit.

Mark was also the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). And in addition to working with Peter in his ministry to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God across the Roman world, Mark also traveled with Paul (“the apostle to the Gentiles” Romans 11:13), and Barnabas on their missionary journeys to the Jews and Gentiles of the Roman Empire (Acts 12:25; 15:39). On Paul and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, for some reason Mark returned home, to the frustration of Paul (Acts 15:37-38).

But Paul and Mark reconnected (and apparently reconciled) because they ministered together in Rome when Paul was first imprisoned there (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24). And one of Paul’s final requests was for Timothy to bring Mark to him “because he is useful to me for service” as the apostle awaited execution in Rome during a later imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11).

These few accounts of Mark in the Book of Acts and the Epistles reveal that Mark spent a great deal of time outside Judea working to share the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.

Mark’s circumstances and work among the Romans is one reason some people think that his Gospel account was written to and for Gentiles. Another reason Mark’s gospel is believed to have been intended for a Gentile audience is that his gospel, relative to Matthew’s, does not seem to dwell upon or emphasize Jewish aspects that would be less important to a non-Jewish reader.

And a third support for a Gentile audience is that when Mark does mention Jewish elements, he often takes time to explain them as though his readers would not naturally understand them. (See Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:1-4, 11, 19). It would not make sense for him to explain these things if he were writing primarily for Jews who already knew them.

Therefore, it seems that the main purpose of Mark writing this Gospel was to introduce Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God to the Gentile world. Biblical scholars through the ages identify Gentiles as the intended audience of Mark’s gospel.

Biblical Text

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

 




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