Hugh and David moved to a table in the library after they had gathered a few resources.
“David, let’s see how many purposes the “professionals” have identified for Mark’s writing his gospel using only New Testament Introductions and New Testament Surveys.”
“First, we will list the purposes without evaluating them. Then, over the next couple of weeks we will evaluate the various hypotheses we encounter. “
“We want to be precise with our sources, so we know who said what. Does that sound like a working premise for our task tonight? And next week we will discuss what some commentaries say about Mark’s possible purpose.”
“Hugh, that works well for me. Remember, you are the teacher.”
“David, if you will survey a few of the New Testament Introductions written by the professionals who have spent a lifetime studying the materials related to Mark. I will select a few commentaries so I can be prepared for our study next week. Ready? Set? Go!”
“You can share what you discover tonight in an hour. This way we can be home with our families before it’s too late tonight.”
After an hour passed.
“David, what did you discover from the New Testament Introductions?”
“Hugh, Dr. Thomas D. Lea reminds us that Mark did not provide a clear statement of purpose in the Gospel. Lea points out W. Wrede postulated that Mark wrote his gospel to cover up Jesus’ failure to declare He was the Messiah. Hugh, Wrede said that Mark put words into Jesus’ mouth so that Jesus prevented others from sharing his Messiahship.”
“David, that is interesting for sure. We will come back to evaluate some of these ideas in a couple of weeks. But tonight, we want to know what is said. What else did you learn?”
“Lea continued by pointing out that internal evidence points to some reasons why Mark wrote his gospel. For example, the very first verse of the gospel shows Mark’s interest in sharing the gospel of Jesus. I surmise this is an evangelistic purpose.”
“Lea cites 8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34 as evidence that Mark focused on the person and work of Jesus. He adds to this internal evidence Mark’s Gospel where there is a call for repentance in 1:15 along with Mark’s motif of servanthood where there is a strong focus on Jesus death (10:45).”
“Lea suggests a second possibility resting on Mark’s understanding that persecution would be encountered by the early Christians and he wanted them to be able to stand strong in obedience to Christ (10:29-30). I guess this is intended to be encouragement to endure suffering.”
“Hugh, another source I read was by Kostenberger, Kellum and Quarles. These scholars added that the major problem facing Mark was to explain the crucifixion of Jesus. After all, what Roman would believe in a Jewish Messiah who died by crucifixion on a cross?”
They explain that Mark wrote ‘an apology for the cross.” Mark’s theory stated that Jesus death on the cross proved Him to be the “Messianic King and the Son of God.” (Click to Tweet) Jesus continually predicted his death (8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34). A “ransom for many” stood as the reason for his substitutionary atonement for sin.”
They repeated Lea’s idea that the opening statement of Mark’s Gospel is the most likely purpose for writing the Gospel. They supplement Lea’s information by writing,
In the Gospel, God (who refers to Jesus as his ‘beloved Son” at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration; 1:11 and 9:7); demons (1:25; 3:11-12; 5:7); Jesus Himself (12:6; 14:61) and a Roman centurion (15:39) all agree that Jesus is the Son of God. In support of this claim, Mark’s Roman audience was treated to a dazzling display of Jesus’ miracle-working power
That shows his authority over the realms of nature, sickness, and death, and even the Supernatural (4:35-5:43).
Hugh, I found their summary most helpful:
“Overall, then, we can note four interrelated purposes in Mark’s Gospel, all of which revolve around Jesus’ identity as Son of God:
A pastoral purpose: to reach Christians about the nature of discipleship.
A missionary-training purpose: to explain who Jesus prepared His followers to take on his mission and to show others how to do so as well.
An apologetic purpose: to demonstrate to non-Christians that Jesus is the Son of God because of His great power and in spite of his crucifixion; and
An anti-imperial purpose to show Jesus, not Caesar, is the true Son of God, Savior, and Lord.”
“Hugh, I like those four purpose statements.”
“David, did you find anyone who had more than the purposes of Kostenberger’s group and Wrede’s notion that Mark wrote to cover up Jesus’ failure to preach He was the Messiah?”
“Hugh, Robert H. Gundry suggests a new twist. Gundry posited that some feel Mark wrote to soften the offensiveness of Jesus’ Messiahship for the Roman authorities. This is why Mark invented the “messianic secret.”
“Gundry also explained that Mark may have written his Gospel to encourage the persecuted believers by reminding them of Jesus’ own suffering and death.”
“David, that is really interesting and helpful for us to keep in mind when we begin to study the Gospel’s content soon.”
“And Hugh,” said David, “Donald Guthrie touched upon some important truths related to the purpose of Mark. I really like how he explains Mark’s purpose.”
“In summary, Guthrie says that Mark’s motivating intention was to write a “Gospel,” that is, to recount the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
“Guthrie adds, “This at once distinguishes the book from a biography and explains the large proportion of space devoted to the last three weeks of the life of Jesus. The cross and resurrection were the central features of the Christian gospel.”
“Guthrie explains that Mark possesses an evangelistic purpose which is to account for the historical events in the life of Jesus. Jesus did not need to be introduced so Mark omitted birth narratives and stories of Jesus’ early life. Mark confronts his reader with the contention that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark assumes his readers know who Jesus is.”
“Like some of the others already mentioned, Guthrie accepts the catechetical motive as possible while downplaying the liturgical purpose.”
“Being a professional scholar, Guthrie highlights D. E. Nineham’s suggestions behind the motive of Mark:
To show that Jesus as the Messiah was innocent of Jewish charges and that his sufferings were part of God’s purpose.
To explain why Jesus did not publicly declare Himself to be Messiah.
To explain why Christians have to suffer, i.e. because Jesus had to suffer.
To present the works of Jesus as triumph over the forces of evil.
“Guthrie brings his discussion to a conclusion when he affirms that not all scholars would hold to the four reasons provided by Nineham, but many scholars agree that each played a part in the motive for Mark penning his Gospel.”
“David, that is quite a lot of information for us to ponder over this week. I will share what the commentaries suggest next week. Then we will collectively determine what we believe are Mark’s motives or purposes for writing this Gospel.”
“Good night, David! See you at Wednesday night prayer meeting.”
“Night, Hugh. I plan to be there, Lord willing.”
Do you agree with the “professionals” as to what they suggest might be Mark’s purpose for writing his Gospel? Why or why not? If you have an idea, respond and let me know what you believe to be Mark’s purpose and support it with facts, please.
Thomas D. Lea, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996), 141-142.
Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Lion and the Lamb: New Testament Essentials from the Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2012), 80.
Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 151-152.
Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Inter-Varsity Press/Tyndale Press, 1970), 57.