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It is the current and apparently well-founded tradition that Mark derived his information mainly from the discourses of Peter. In his mother's house he would have abundant opportunities of obtaining information from the other apostles and their coadjutors, yet he was "the disciple and interpreter of Peter" specially.
As to the time when it was written, the Gospel furnishes us with no definite information. Mark makes no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem, hence it must have been written before that event, and probably about A.D. 63. The place where it was written was probably Rome. Some have supposed Antioch (Compare Mar_15:21 with Act_11:20). It was intended primarily for Romans. This appears probable when it is considered that it makes no reference to the Jewish law, and that the writer takes care to interpret words which a Gentile would be likely to misunderstand, such as, "Boanerges" (Mar_3:17); "Talitha cumi" (Mar_5:41); "Corban" (Mar_7:11); "Bartimaeus" (Mar_10:46); "Abba" (Mar_14:36); "Eloi," etc. (Mar_15:34). Jewish usages are also explained (Mar_7:3; Mar_14:3; Mar_14:12; Mar_15:42). Mark also uses certain Latin words not found in any of the other Gospels, as "speculator" (Mar_6:27, rendered, A.V., "executioner;" R.V., "soldier of his guard"), "xestes" (a corruption of sextarius, rendered "pots," Mar_7:4, Mar_7:8), "quadrans" (Mar_12:42, rendered "a farthing"), "centurion" (Mar_15:39, Mar_15:44, Mar_15:45). He only twice quotes from the Old Testament (Mar_1:2; Mar_15:28).
The characteristics of this Gospel are,
- the absence of the genealogy of our Lord,
- whom he represents as clothed with power, the "lion of the tribe of Judah."
- Mark also records with wonderful minuteness the very words (Mar_3:17; Mar_5:41; Mar_7:11, Mar_7:34; Mar_14:36) as well as the position (Mar_9:35) and gestures (Mar_3:5, Mar_3:34; Mar_5:32; Mar_9:36; Mar_10:16) of our Lord.
- He is also careful to record particulars of person (Mar_1:29, Mar_1:36; Mar_3:6, Mar_3:22, etc.), number (Mar_5:13; Mar_6:7, etc.), place (Mar_2:13; Mar_4:1; Mar_7:31, etc.), and time (Mar_1:35; Mar_2:1; Mar_4:35, etc.), which the other evangelists omit.
- The phrase "and straightway" occurs nearly forty times in this Gospel; while in Luke's Gospel, which is much longer, it is used only seven times, and in John only four times.
"The Gospel of Mark," says Westcott, "is essentially a transcript from life. The course and issue of facts are imaged in it with the clearest outline." "In Mark we have no attempt to draw up a continuous narrative. His Gospel is a rapid succession of vivid pictures loosely strung together without much attempt to bind them into a whole or give the events in their natural sequence. This pictorial power is that which specially characterizes this evangelist, so that 'if any one desires to know an evangelical fact, not only in its main features and grand results, but also in its most minute and so to speak more graphic delineation, he must betake himself to Mark.'". The leading principle running through this Gospel may be expressed in the motto: "Jesus came... preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Mar_1:14).
"Out of a total of 662 verses, Mark has 406 in common with Matthew and Luke, 145 with Matthew, 60 with Luke, and at most 51 peculiar to itself." (See MATTHEW.)