A discussion on Mark 1:1
As members of Hugh’s Sunday School class gathered for the first time after the Pandemic forced them to stop, excitement crowded the room. Tom’s hands waved like a flag at his good friend Henry.
Their eyes glistened showing joy. Their masks hid their grins. Mary hand bumped her best friend, Helen. Marty, air high fived his friend Tony. Marsha held her arms near to her body and signaled hello to her friend Darla. Other members shuffled into the class waving hello to all the members.
The room filled slowly as the members tried to stay six feet apart. A small rumble spread across the room as the members hurriedly shared “It is so good to see you, after all these weeks.”
“Let’s get our class started,” Hugh pleaded.
“I have missed our in-person meetings and fellowship because of COVID-19. But I am thankful you kept in contact with one another and we were able to do some virtual studies together,” explained Hugh.
“I am excited that we get to dive into our study of the Gospel of Mark. Today, our text touches on Mark 1:1. Let’s read the scripture. I am using my New American Standard Bible.”
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,”
“As we begin our study, let’s make a few observations about the text. How many words are found in your English translations?”
“Twelve in my New American Standard Version,” shared Henry, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Fourteen words are in my New International Version,” explained Mary, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,”
“Twelve in the English Stand Version,” said Tom, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
“Twelve in both the King James Version and New King James Version,” added Marty. Both read, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Tony chimed in, “The Holman Christian Standard Bible also has twelve, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’”
“Does anyone have one that has more than twelve words?” queried Hugh.
“The GOD’S WORD translation possessed fifteen words,” Marsha piped in. It reads, “This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Darla added, “The Arabic Bible in Plain English uses thirteen words. It reads, ‘The beginning of The Gospel of Yeshua The Messiah, The Son of God.’” “So, as you look over your translations, what seems to stand out? What words do you think are most important or key words worthy of more study and focus?”
Henry inserted, “I see beginning, gospel, Jesus, Christ, Son of God. They each seem to be critical to me.”
“Exactly,” piped in Marty. “Each word adds information for the reader as we begin to study this Gospel.”
“Let’s start with “beginning,” explained Hugh. “We need to ask, the beginning of what? The beginning of the Gospel of Mark itself? Some think so. Others think it is the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry which follows beginning in verse 4.”
“Howard Vos, in Mark, A Study Guide Commentary, page 12 says, ‘Verse 1 introduces the book tersely and simply. It is like a title or caption. One can almost see a herald striding on stage, playing a fanfare and announcing a drama: Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God. The terseness of the statement epitomizes the whole Gospel and creates the attitude, “Let’s plunge in.” 
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ appears to be the title for the whole book. So, we need to understand this to be the Gospel concerning or about Jesus Christ,” explained Hugh.
“Let me see if I can add another dimension to our study by looking at how we can understand ‘beginning.’ The Greek word is arche. Arche can be translated as the staring line or point, the foundation, or the place of origin. Others see it as referring to “principle or foundation.”
“Remember that these words do not make a complete sentence. Arche can be related to the following verses in three ways:
1) place a period at the end creating a full stop and it is a title.
2) verses 2 and 3 should be considered parenthetically so that verse 1 is connected to verse 4. “The beginning happened when John the Baptist came …”
3) Verse 1 is to be directly related to verse 2, ‘the beginning was as it is written in Isaiah.’” 
“It seems best to me that we understand a period coming after ‘the Son of God.’ Then “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to Son of God,’ implies this is the starting point, the foundational truth related to the work and ministry of Jesus Christ.” “Class, as much as I regret it, our time is gone. We will explore ‘gospel,’ ‘Jesus Christ,’ and “the Son of God,’ next week.
Do you think Hugh understood the meaning and purpose of arche as he explained it? Why or why not?
Which of the three options offered by Bratcher and Nida on how to understand verse 1 in relation to verses 2 and 3 do you feel is the best way to understand verse 1? Why do you think this?
Do you think we should understand arche as referring to the origin or starting line to understand the Gospel or Mark or is it best to see it as the overall guiding principle of what should be contained in a gospel? Please offer an explanation.
Howard F. Vos, Mark: A Study Guide Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1978), 12.
Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark: Helps for Translators, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1961), 2.