Tradition has it that Mark (or John Mark) was the man who: fled naked from Gethsemane AT THE ARREST OF Jesus (Mark 14:51-52); lived with his mother in a Christian meeting house (Acts 12:12,25; preached with Paul and (possibly his cousin or uncle) Barnabas in Cyprus (Acts 13:5) but suddenly left for Jerusalem (Acts 13:13) and therefore fell out with Paul and returned to Cyprus with Barnabas (Acts 15:37,39); travelled with Peter to Rome and was reconciled with Paul (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24); called "Son" by St. Peter (1 Peter 5:13). All of this must be doubted because of the contested authorship of some of these texts, their emphasis on theology rather than history and the possibility that the references under both names are conflated. Tradition also links Mark with the founding of the Church and first Christian school at Alexandria where he was martyred in 68 AD.

Underestimated from early times because of its brevity and the appearance of almost all the text in Matthew and Luke, Mark's Gospel has achieved greater currency in modern times perhaps because of: the value we place on 'authenticity' and original source material and its directness, its resemblance to journalism. It is, however, a work of sharp and subtle theology and stands alongside Paul in proclaiming the Theologia Crucis. The task which Mark set himself was to explain how a Gililean Jew who was 'scandalously' crucified was Messiah and redeemer.

He initiated the Gospel form as a way of presenting the Kerygma in the framework of a schematised life of Jesus. Mark's Christology is uncomfortable, emphasising suffering Messiahship and suffering discipleship. Although the Christology is not classically Chalcedonian, Mark prefigures it starkly: Jesus is "Son of God" but he is also "Son of man"; the Marcan Jesus is the most human of the Gospel portraits.

Until recently it was thought that Mark wrote his Gospel c65 AD in Rome at Peter's dictation but the evidence within the text (13) suggests a date after the destruction of Jerusalem 66-70 AD and it is more likely to have been written for people geographically close to these events, probably in the Province of Syria.

After an introduction (Mark 1:1-13) which cuts straight to the Baptism of Jesus by John in a firmly Trinitarian setting, the Gospel is in two distinct parts: The mystery of Jesus and the public preaching in parables (Mark 1:14-8:30); The Messianic destiny of Jesus; preaching to the Disciples; the suffering Saviour (8:31-16:8). The authentic text ends with an unresolved tension: "... they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid" (Mark 16:8). So great a puzzle was this that three additional 'endings' exist, notably the 'Long Ending' (Mark 16:9-20).

Partly taken from:

Harrington, Wilfrid J., O.P.: Mark, Realistic theologian: The Jesus of Mark, Columba Press, Dublin, 1996.

KC viii/05

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