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There is a wonderful symmetry in the whole narrative, and many subtle contrasts. In xvi. 21, "From that time began Jesus to shew unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem and suffer. . . and be killed," there is a striking contrast to iv. 17, "From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand "—the one marking the commencement of His Passion, as the other of His active Ministry. There is a correspondence also between the voice from heaven at His Baptism (iii. 17), and that heard at His Transfiguration (xvii. 5), when His ministry reached its climax and was sealed by the divine testimony in the presence of the two greatest prophets of the old covenant, Moses and Elias, as it had just before been attested by the great confession of Peter (xvi. 16). That confession was a token that the ministry of power and love had done its work upon the hearts of the disciples, and it is fitly followed by the announcement of His appointed sufferings, the disciples being now ready to follow their Master through the valley of His humiliation, which was to conduct them at last from the blackness and darkness of death to the glories of divine life and immortality.
A distinguishing feature of this Gospel is the large place assigned in it to the words1 of Jesus, arranged in a systematic form, not broken up into fragments as they are in the other Gospels. For this reason Godet compares Luke to "a botanist who prefers to contemplate a flower in the very place of its birth and in the midst of its natural surroundings, while Matthew is like the gardener who for some special object puts together large and magnificent bouquets." To some extent this remark is applicable to Matthew's grouping of incidents in our Lord's life, as well as to his arrangement of discourses.
1 Forming about a fourth part of the whole book.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK
1. Authorship. The testimony of the early Fathers, so far as it has reached us, unanimously ascribes the second Gospel to St. Mark; but with equal unanimity they connect it with the preaching of the Apostle Peter. The earliest witness is Papias, the bishop already referred to, who makes the following statement on the authority of John, a contemporary of the apostles if not the apostle of that name. "This also the elder used to say: Mark having become Peter's interpreter, wrote accurately all that he remembered of the things that were either said or done by Christ; but not in order. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him; but subsequently, as I said, attached himself to Peter, who used to frame his teaching to meet the wants of his hearers, but not as making a connected narrative of our Lord's oracles (or discourses). So Mark committed no error in thus writing down particulars just as he remembered them; for he took heed to one thing, to omit none of the things that he had heard, and to state nothing falsely in his account of them" (Eusebius, H. E. iii. 39).
So little doubt seems to have been entertained regarding the Petrine authorship of this Gospel that we find Justin Martyr apparently referring to it as the
Memoirs of Peter. According to Irenæus, it was written by Mark at Rome after the death of Peter and Paul; while Clement of Alexandria, writing about the same time, affirms, on the tradition of a long line of presbyters, that St. Mark wrote at the request of Peter's hearers at Rome, without any interference on the part of Peter himself.
Regarding the history of the Mark thus referred to, and his relations with the Apostle Peter, we derive information from Scripture which is fitted to corroborate in a great measure the ancient tradition. There can be no doubt that we are to identify him with the John Mark mentioned in Acts xii. 12, whose mother Mary was an influential member of the Church at Jerusalem-her house being the place where prayer was made for Peter by the brethren during his imprisonment, and where he hinself repaired immediately after his liberation. It is an interesting conjecture that this house may have been the scene of the Last Supper and of the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit. It has also been suggested that the "young man referred to in Mark's Gospel, in connection with the arrest in the garden, may have been none other than the author of the book, who was thus led to record an incident which to others would have appeared insignificant (xiv. 51). Mark's intimacy with Peter at a later time is evident from 1 Peter v. 13, where the apostle conveys Mark's salutation to his readers in Asia Minor; and from the designation which Peter there applies to him ("my son"), we may infer that he was one of that apostle's converts. It appears that at the time the epistle was written he was residing with Peter in Babylon, but although the Eastern city of that name was then, and continued to be for long afterwards, a famous seat of Jewish learning, there is reason to believe that in the passage referred to Babylon is only another
name for Rome (p. 167). Previous to his association with Peter in apostolic work abroad, Mark had ac companied Paul and Barnabas as their "minister " or assistant, but had withdrawn from the work (Acts xiii. 5, 13). After an interval of some years, he rejoined his cousin Barnabas, whose willingness to receive him again as a colleague was so displeasing to Paul that he parted company with Barnabas on this account (Acts. xv. 37-39). We find him again enjoying Paul's confidence, however, during the imprisonment of the latter at Rome; for the apostle commends him to the Colossians as one of his "fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God," who had been a comfort" to him (Col. iv. 10, 11; Philemon, ver. 24). Mark was then, apparently, about to set out for Asia; and, accordingly, we find Paul, during his second imprisonment, requesting Timothy to bring him with him (from Ephesus), because he was "useful to him for ministering " (2 Tim. iv. 11). This is the last time we hear of Mark in Scripture; but according to tradition he returned to Rome, and after the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, went to Alexandria, where he founded a famous catechetical school, and died a martyr's death.1
Turning now to internal evidence, we find strong confirmation of the traditional account. The book may be described as very much an expansion or development of the brief statement made by Peter in his address to Cornelius and his friends (Acts x. 36-42). It also follows closely the line of apostolic testimony which Peter had himself marked out immediately after the Ascension (Acts i. 22). The whole tone of the book reflects Peter's energetic, impulsive, unconventional character. Its rapid transition from one incident to another, of which we
1 In the ninth century St. Mark's body is said to have been transported from Alexandria to Venice, where he has been honoured as patron-saint ever since.
have a striking illustration in the fact that the Greek word variously translated "straightway," "immediately," "forthwith," etc., occurs in it no less than forty-one times;1 its practical matter-of-fact tone, illustrated by the circumstance that it records eighteen miracles but only four parables,2 while it twice represents the Lord and His disciples as having their hands so full of work that
they could not so much as eat bread" (iii. 20; vi. 31); its vivid description of the excitement occasioned by Christ's ministry, and of the profound impression made on those who heard and saw Him, which would be a subject congenial to Peter's enthusiastic nature (i. 27; ii. 2, 12; vi. 33, etc.); its omission of some things redounding to Peter's credit, e.g. his designation as the rock on which the Church was to be built (viii. 29, 30; cf. Matt. xvi. 16-19), and the insertion of other things fitted to humble him, such as the rebuke he received when he would have dissuaded Jesus from submitting to His appointed sufferings (viii. 33), and the warning he received by the first crowing of the cock (xiv. 30, 68-72), as well as the introduction of details which would be likely to dwell in Peter's memory (i. 36; xi. 21; xvi. 7)-all these things. lend a high degree of probability to the traditional account of Peter's connection with this Gospel. As regards that part of the tradition which represents the Gospel as having been written at Rome for the Christians there, we find confirmation of it in the connection of Mark with Rome already referred to, and in his Roman name "Marcus," which gradually superseded the Hebrew "John"; in the absence of the Hebrew genealogy of our
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1 Only eighteen times in Matthew, and eight times in Luke.
2 Viz. the Sower, the Mustard seed, the wicked Husbandman, and the Seed growing secretly, the last being peculiar to this Gospel. It is "the kingdom of God" they refer to-an expression that is characteristic of Mark and Luke, as distinguished from "the kingdom of heaven," which is the usual form in Matthew's Gospel.