Exegetical Study Notes on the Greek TextPDF eBook
These exegetical notes are available for download in the form a 606p A5 PDF eBook Commentary on the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark. Follow the link at the bottom of the page.
"Very possibly the oldest written account of Jesus' ministry that we possess, the Gospel of Mark is a vivid and fast-paced writing that holds the interest of the popular reader and the biblical scholar alike. When Christians first began discussions about drawing up a list of writings that would be regarded as authoritative for Christian faith, the Gospel of Mark was among the first writings selected for inclusion in this list and is today, of course, still regarded as one of the four 'canonical', or authoritative, written portraits of Jesus in the New Testament", Larry Hurtado.
The structure of Mark
The journey begins, 1:1-5:43
The children of Israel, in the 15th Century BC., set out from Egypt under the mighty hand of God. They soon discovered their special place in God's purpose as they struggled in their journey to meet the Lord at Mount Sinai. God made their way straight, overcoming their enemies, even making nature submit to his plan. Similarly Jesus, the Son of God, sets forth from the river Jordan into the wilderness, his way made straight, a way for us to follow. This first section in Mark's gospel answers the question "Who is this man Jesus?".
1. Introduction, 1:1-13
i] The forerunner John the Baptist, 1:1-8
ii] In the wilderness - Jesus' baptism and temptation, 1:9-13
2. Jesus the Son of God, Messiah, 1:14-45
i] The call to journey to the promised land, 1:14-20
ii] A day in the journey - New teaching, 1:21-28
iii] A day in the journey - Jesus brings release, 1:29-39
iv] Popularity - A leper cleansed, 1:40-45
3. Conflict in the journey, 2:1-3:6
i] Authority to forgive sins, 2:1-12
ii] Call and response, 2:13-22
iii] Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, 2:23-3:6
4. True Israel defined, 3:7-35
i] The new Israel of God, 3:7-19
ii] Satan defeated, 3:20-35
5. The Word - the good news of the kingdom, 4:1-34
i] The parable of the sower, 4:1-25
ii] The parable of the growing seed and mustard seed, 4:26-34
6. The powers defeated, 4:35-5:43
i] Nature - calming the sea, 4:35-41
ii] Demons - Gerasene demoniac, 5:1-20
iii] Sickness - Jairus' daughter and an ill woman, 5:21-43
The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52
The children of Israel, filled with distrust and discontent, reach Mount Sinai and receive God's law. Jesus similarly makes his way to the mountain, surrounded by disbelief. To a remnant who see (believe) he reveals God's word. This section of Mark's gospel is marked by a growing awareness of who Jesus is. Amazement and bewilderment leads to either disbelief, or belief.
1. Growing division, 6:1-8:21
i] Jesus' countrymen are astonished and take offence, 6:1-6
ii] The twelve are sent out, 6:7-13
iii] John the Baptist's end, 6:14-29
iv] The feeding of the 5,000 - Manna in the wilderness, 6:30-44
v] Jesus walks on the water - Lord over dark powers, 6:45-56
vi] The religious leaders are without understanding, 7:1-23
vii] Israel's blindness drives Jesus to the Gentiles, 7:24-37
viii] Feeding the 4,000. Jesus again reveals his identity, 8:1-21
2. Growing faith, 8:22-10:52
i] The bind see and the disciples begin to see, 8:22-30
ii] Jesus' teaching on discipleship #1. Deny self, 8:31-9:1
iii] The transfiguration - "Hear Him", 9:2-13
iv] A possessed boy healed - by grace through faith, 9:14-29
v] Jesus' teaching on discipleship #2. True greatness, 9:30-37
vi] Partners in discipleship, 9:38-50
vii] Ideals and principles, 10:1-16
viii] The rich young ruler - Law and Grace, 10:17-31
ix] Jesus' teaching on discipleship #3. Service, 10:32-45
x] A blind man sees through faith and follows Jesus, 10:46-52
Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:8
Under Joshua, the children of Israel march into Canaan to execute God's judgement on an evil people, to overcome God's enemies in preparation for the establishment of the kingdom. Jesus, the warrior king, Son of God, now enters Jerusalem with sword in hand. The blindness of Israel is developed in this section, and is associated with conflict and judgement themes. The actual judgement on Israel took place in 70AD. Here Jesus overcomes Satanic Israel (Jesus called the Pharisees "children of darkness") and prefigures judgement in symbols and prophecy, cf. Ch.13. This conflict prepares for Jesus' ultimate conflict with Satan at Calvary. The period of time from Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to his death is usually calculated as one week, but it may well have been longer - up to six months. Jesus teaches in Jerusalem during the day and rests in the evenings at Bethany.
1. Judgement in symbol and parable upon Israel, 11:1-12:12
i] The entry into Jerusalem, 11:1-11
ii] The temple cleansed, 11:12-26
iii] The controversy over Jesus' authority, 11:27-33
iv] The parable of the defiant tenants - Judgement, 12:1-12
2. The blindness of Israel exposed, 12:13-44
i] The question concerning paying taxes, 12:13-17
ii] The question concerning the resurrection, 12:18-27
iii] The question on the greatest commandment, 12:28-34
iv] Jesus' question concerning David's son, 12:35-37
v] The religious poverty of Israel, 12:38-44
3. Prophecies concerning the kingdom of Israel, 13:1-37
These prophecies concern the destruction of historic Israel, but at the same time, they serve as a paradigm for the destruction of the world. Israel, God's historic people, are blind to the truth and will be judged for their evil - their lack of faith. The nation of Israel will soon be destroyed, but we ourselves need to take the warning to heart. We must be faithful as we await the day of the Lord's coming, and not be caught unawares as they were. "Watch!".
i] The beginning of the birth pangs, 13:1-13
ii] The desolating sacrilege, 13:14-23
iii] The coming of the Son of Man, 13:24-27
iv] All will be fulfilled within this generation, 13:28-31
v] Be prepared for the coming day, 13:32-37
4. Victory, 14:1-15:39
As David overcame Goliath, so Jesus the Son of God overcomes Satan upon the cross of Calvary. With the enemy destroyed, the prisoners released from the bondage of sin and death, the king enters his rest. The new age has dawned, the kingdom has come with power.
i] The anointing, 14:1-11
ii] The last supper, 14:12-25
iii] Gethsemane, 14:26-52
iv] Peter's denial, 14:53-72
v] The trial of Jesus before Pilate's tribunal, 15:1-20
vi] The crucifixion of Jesus, 15:21-39
5. Epilogue, 15:40 - 16:8
The matter is now settled; the victory won. So, Mark follows up the climactic victory of Jesus on the cross, recognised in the messianic confession of the centurion, with the story of some women who visit the tomb, and the story of a godly man who is waiting expectantly for the realisation of the kingdom of God.
i] The burial of Jesus, 15:40-47
ii] The Resurrection of Jesus, 16:1-8
Mark's gospel proclaims that the time is fulfilled; it reveals the preliminary events that inaugurate the kingdom. So, Mark's account begins at Jesus' baptism (imaging the Exodus) and concludes with the cross and empty tomb, (imaging Davids ultimate conquest of the promised land - victory, the enemy subdued). As the women leave the empty tomb, amazed and trembling with fear, the only conclusion a reader can draw from the events that Mark has described, is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, the reign of God in Christ has begun.
In forming his gospel, we can only guess at Mark's intended arrangement of the apostolic tradition of the Christian church. Theories abound, but it is more than likely that Mark aligns his gospel with the sequence of events established in the life of the people of Israel, a sequence that Jesus himself plays out. As illustrated below, the historic people of Israel map the history of the nation in linear fashion (Greco-Roman is cyclical): from the Exodus through to the ultimate possession of the Promised Land under David and Solomon, through to the demise of the kingdom in 590BC. As the promise of a Kingdom withered before the eyes of the people, the prophets foretold of another kingdom, established at the hand of a Davidic Messiah - an eternal kingdom. For a moment, the people of Israel thought that they were witnessing the realisation of this eternal kingdom at the hands of Ezra and Nehemiah, but the Restored Kingdom was little more than a faded image of the Historic Kingdom. Yet, it was in that fading that the Messiah came to free his people. See The Theology of the Kingdom of God.
Mark records the realisation of the Kingdom of God, both thematically and sequentially, as illustrated below. Jesus, through the waters of his baptism, through the wilderness test and trial, through his struggle with the powers of darkness, culminating in his victory on the cross, realises the Kingdom of God, God's reign in Christ is begun.
So, Mark covers the preliminary events leading up to the establishment of the Kingdom of God; these are the "the time is fulfilled" events, events with proclaim that "the kingdom of God is at hand", both inaugurated and realized. The prophets foretold that prior to the establishment of the kingdom of God, certain events must take place. All these are fulfilled in the life of Jesus the Son of God. Unlike Israel of old, Jesus did not put God to the test in the wilderness. Moses led the people into the desert and they grumbled, even when God supplied bread from heaven. The people heard God speak to them from the mountain, but they quickly forgot and worshipped the gods of Egypt. Moses led them to the borders of the promised land, Canaan, but they refused to enter and take the land. They were afraid. So they were cursed to wander in the desert until all those who had doubted God were dead. Then they entered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua, and finally, under David, they captured the land.
Mark depicts Jesus as the faithful son of God, the Israel of God; he depicts the journey of the faithful son of God, of the new Israel:
Through the waters of release;
Standing the test and trial of the wilderness;
Struggling against the powers of darkness;
Finally winning the victory;
Entering into his rest, into blessing.
Jesus, as the representative Israel, the faithful son of God, is the people, the prophet like unto Moses", the priest like Aaron, the pure sacrifice, the Lamb of God, the king like David and Solomon, the Davidic Messiah. As the faithful people of God, he is the bearer of truth and master of all. And so we proclaim: the kingdom has come; God's divine rule in Christ begun.
Mark encapsulates the gospel: "the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel." "The time is fulfilled" is the announcement that Jesus in his life, death and resurrection, has completed the events that were prophesied in the Old Testament, events that were to proceed the establishment of God's kingdom. Thus, "the kingdom is at hand", it is a present reality which may be entered at this very moment, and at the same time, a reality yet to be realised. The kingdom amounts to God's righteous reign over his people, and this with its associated blessings - new life in Christ. Note the pattern in 1Corinthians 15:3-8. Mark uses this literary form to shape his gospel.
Although Mark paints Jesus' life as a replay of the Old Testament history of Israel from the Exodus to the establishment of the kingdom under David and Solomon, his gospel is not just a collection of fulfilment stories. Mark also reveals the realisation of the kingdom, both in Jesus' actions and words. Mark certainly doesn't do so with the same systematic teaching format as in Matthew, but none-the-less, the reader is confronted by profound truths impressed upon the disciples, and through Mark, impressed upon us:
Illustration #1. For those in Christ, the exodus journey of Jesus is our journey - tests, trials, struggle ..., victory - life is all this, a life lived with Jesus beside us.
Illustration #2 (mouse over). For those in Christ, the kingdom is a now / not-yet reality; it is realised and inaugurated. Believers eternally reign with Christ, but at the same time, we dwell in an earthly shadow land.
Illustration #3. These are the last days, a moment of grace for repentance and preparation
Tradition strongly points to Mark, the friend, disciple and interpreter of Peter, as the author of this gospel. Possibly it is the same Mark mentioned in Acts and Paul's Epistles. Eusebius, a Christian Bishop and historian around AD. 300, quotes from a paper written by Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis AD. 140 as follows: "Mark, who became Peter's interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had neither heard the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterwards, as I said, he had followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs (of his hearers), but not as if he were composing a systematic account of the Lord's sayings. So, Mark did nothing blameworthy in thus writing some things just as he remembered them; for he was careful of this one thing, to omit none of the things he had heard and to make no untrue statement therein."
The author of the Anti-Marcionite Prologues to the Gospels, AD. 160+ identifies Mark, Peter's interpreter, as the author of the gospel, written after Peter's death. Irenaeus, AD 180, also identifies Mark, a disciple and interpreter of Peter, as the author, suggesting he used Peter's sermons as his source.
Of course, the title of the gospel, "Mark", is a later addition, so we don't really know who wrote the gospel. None-the-less, the tradition is strong that it was penned by Mark (John Mark = Marcus), son of Mary who first hosted the church in Jerusalem, Acts 12:12, associate of Paul, Acts 13:5, 13, 2Tim.4:11, and friend of Peter, 1Pet.5:13.
Where did Mark get his information?
i] If Papias is right, Peter is obviously the main source.
ii] Interviews with the disciples and other eye witnesses could be Mark's source, although were any of the apostles still alive at the time of composition? It looks as if Mark himself was not an eye witness, although the reference to the young man who followed Jesus after his arrest, could be taken as a personal experience - was this Mark? Mk.14:51-52.
iii] Oral tradition is likely to be Mark's source. The apostles are the foundational source for the life and teachings of Jesus. After Jesus' ascension, the apostles, under the guiding hand of the Spirit, recalled and retold the teachings and events in Jesus' life, and it seems likely that this tradition takes on a structured oral form which shared throughout the Christian community, eg., miracle stories, pronouncement stories, thematic collections of sayings, parables, ....... Some of this tradition may have been written down as time went on, although there would be nothing unusual if it was retained as the common oral tradition of the first century church. It is likely that Mark uses this material to compose his gospel.
It is impossible to know how much extant oral tradition Mark used, but we do know that large slabs, especially of the sayings of Jesus, never made it into his gospel. This extra material is found in the other synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke. A widely accepted theory is that it comes from an unknown source / document called Q, to which is added material from both Matthew's and Luke's own sources
Although it is widely accepted today that both Matthew and Luke build off Mark's gospel, or a proto-Mark, or maybe even a Markan-like oral tradition, it remains unclear whether Luke works off Matthew, or Matthew works off Luke. Of course, it is possible, although unlikely, that all three worked independently of each other, drawing from an established oral tradition. The oral transmission of information was a highly developed skill in ancient societies where communication by writing was both elitist and expensive.
Conservative commentators tend to the view that the gospel was probably written just before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD. 70, and after the death of Peter. Tradition has it that Peter died in Rome during Nero's persecution of Christians around AD 64. A later date is possible, but even so, the impetus to write the gospel, both an arduous and expensive task, was obviously driven by the loss of the apostolic witness through the ravages of time and persecution. The apostles, during their life, were able to verify, and correct where necessary, the oral tradition of Jesus' life and teachings. With the loss of the original apostolic testimony, the need to record that testimony became apparent before it was tainted by time.
Place of writing
The weight of tradition points to Rome.
From the beginning, there are no doubts as to the apostolic authenticity of this gospel, ie., the early church held that this gospel was a faithful record of the apostolic tradition and its link with Peter. We are too far from the events to be able to make any sound judgement ourselves, and so must rest on the judgement of the first century Christians, none-the-less, in comparison with the later apocryphal gospels, Mark reads like the genuine article.
Numerous suggestions are proposed:
i] To write an historic record of the life and teachings of Jesus. The original eye witnesses had now virtually all passed away and therefore it was imperative to record their testimony of Jesus. Yet, there is far too much missing in the gospel for it to be just a historic account.
ii] To write an evangelistic tract. Yet, the cost would be prohibitive.
iii] To write an evangelistic / exhortatory manual for new Christians - Pre-baptismal instruction. Yet, the book is much too subtle for such a limited perspective, although it could be used in this way.
iv] To record Peter's sermons for posterity. Literary form implies something other than a compilation of homilies.
v] To produce a piece of exhortatory writing, even theology, for use by Christians.
Mark lets us into a secret, a mystery, a secret that is actually revealed in the gospel. It concerns the kingdom of God (God's righteous reign, his gathered and blessing a people for himself) and the relationship of Jesus and ourselves to it. The mystery that Mark sets out to unlock for us is that Jesus, in his person, work and word, ushers in the new age of God's long-promised kingdom. Jesus himself is faithful Israel, the servant of the Lord, obedient unto death. Thus, as representative Israel, he fulfils the preliminary events as prophesied in the Old Testament, and so enters his rest and receives his reward. By aligning ourselves with Jesus, we are similarly accepted as God's sons (faithful Israel), and so we follow in the footsteps of one who has gone before and who has opened the way into the kingdom. The way that we must travel may bring hardship and strife, it will certainly require dedication, for the way is narrow that leads to life and there are many things that would draw us aside from our reliance on the one who went before. Yet, victory is ultimately assured, by grace through faith.
1. Son of God. The title given to Jesus by:
(a) the demons/evil spirits;
(b) Mark 1:1;
(c) God the Father 1:1, 9:7;
(d) the Gentile soldier at Jesus' crucifixion and
(e) accepted by Jesus.
The possible meanings are:
a) Messiah - common Old Testament usage.
b) King - David was "Son of God".
c) Actual father / son relationship.
d) Israel / people of God.
Although not common Old Testament usage, it is likely that Mark wants us to understand the term in a corporate messianic sense - Jesus represents corporate Israel. We become the faithful children of God in union with Christ.
2. Son of Man. Jesus' title for himself. The title has two aspects:
a) Glorified Son of Man. A messianic title found in Daniel and referring to the one who comes to the Ancient of Days to take up his heavenly rule, Mk.14:62. It is not a common title for the messiah so Jesus was able to use it and still maintain the secret of his identity.
b) Suffering Son of Man. This describes Jesus' lowly role - humiliated, despised. Note: whenever he says the "Son of Man must suffer", he always follows the statement up with a call to true discipleship. A disciple must be willing to wholly identify (through faith) with a rejected messiah.
3. Response words. A person's initial response to Jesus is one of "awe", "fear", "amazement", "wonder" and "astonishment". This is the result of being "without understanding" or having "hardened hearts".
This initial response leads to either:
a) "Offence", "unbelief", or
b) "faith", "belief".
Mark emphasises people's response to Jesus because he wants us to respond correctly, ie., in "faith". The gospel begins with people astonished and questioning ("What is this?") and finishes with the women "wondering" and "afraid" at the empty tomb. We must move beyond "wonder" to "belief".
4. Movement words. Words such as "immediately" give a sense of speed and movement to the gospel. They give us a sense of journey similar to the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan. Such words image the necessary movement of the Son of Man toward his victorious overcoming of evil upon the cross.
The apostolic preaching and Mark's gospel
The structure of Mark's gospel follows very closely the sermons in Acts (especially Peter's), but minus the Old Testament support texts. Obviously Mark is writing to Gentiles and therefore doesn't need to show that Jesus has fulfilled prophecy. Yet, he is faithful to the structure of the gospel.
The sermons in Acts stress "the time is fulfilled"; they recount the preliminary events fulfilled by Jesus, and given that these events stand proved, then the "times of refreshing" (the kingdom) has come. Mark similarly stresses "the time is fulfilled" and so proclaims that the "times of refreshing" have come, calling on those who hear to "repent and believe."
English Bible Commentaries on the Gospel of Mark
Level of complexity:
1, non-technical, to 5, requiring a workable knowledge of Greek.
Deceased: D. For publications no longer in print.
Other identifiers: Recommended R; Greek Technical G; Theology T
Anderson, NCB, 1976. 2D
Boring, NTL, 2006. 3
Brooks, NAC, 1991. 3
Cahill, trans. of, 600AD, Jerome??, Oxford University Press, 1998. T
Cole, Tyndale, 2nd. ed. 1989. 2D
Cranfield, CGTC, 1959. 3GD
Donahue, Sacra Pagina, 2002 / 5. 4
Decker, HGT, 2014. G
Doudna, The Greek of the Gospel of Mark, SBL, 1961. G
Edwards, Pillar, 2002. 4R
Evans, Word, 2001. 8:27-16:20. 5
France, NIGTC, 2002. 4
Gould, ICC, 1896. 4GD
Guelich, Word, 1989. 1-8:26. 5
Gundry, Eerdmans, 1993. 5
Hamilton, Understanding the New Testament, 2007. 1
Hare, Westminster Bible Companion, John Knox, 1996. 2
Hendriksen, Banner of Truth, 1976. 3
Hooker, Black's, 1991. 3
Hunter, Torch, 1949. 1D
Hurtado, NIBC, 1989. 2
Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, SCM, 1962. T
Johnson, Black's, 2nd. Ed. 1972. 2D
Lagrange, Benziger, Eng. Ed., 1930. 1D
Lane, NICNT, 1973. 3
Mann, Anchor, 1986. 4D
Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, SCM, 1949. T
Marcus, Anchor, 2000. 4R
Minear, Layman's, 1962. 1D
Moule, CBC, 1965. 1D
Nineham, Westminster Pelican, 1963. 2D
Painter, New Testament Readings, Routledge, 1997. T
Plummer, CGTSC, 1914. GD
Rawlinson, Westminster, 1947. 2D
Schnabel, Tyndale, 2017. 3R
Schweizer, SPCK, 1970. 3D
Stein, BECNT, 2008. 4
Strelan, ChiRho, 1991. Reprint Wipf and Stock, 2019. 2R
Swete, Macmillan, 1898. 5D
Taylor, Macmillan, 1952. 5D