Rule 3

The gospel of Mark is the first New Testament gospel.

There are books that place the narratives of first three gospels of the New Testament side by side to reveal the similarities, which are so significant that there is obviously some relationship between these written accounts. All three have the same plot, and in many instances the same words. The gospel of Mark is the shortest, and that fact alone is evidence that the other two gospel writers have added material to the gospel of Mark in writing their own accounts.

Frequently, the gospels of Matthew and Luke record a passage from the gospel of Mark but edit it slightly or add a comment. For instance, Mk. 15:42-46 relates that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Council "waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God," requested and received permission to bury the body and did so. The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell the same story, but they make changes to solve an apparent inconsistency in the account in the gospel of Mark. How could Joseph be a supporter of Jesus and also have taken part in the Council's condemnation of Jesus? The author of the gospel of Matthew edits the story (Mt. 27:57-60) by omitting the fact that Joseph was a member of the Council and identifying him simply "as a disciple of Jesus." The author of the gospel of Luke solves the problem by asserting that although Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Council, he "had not agreed" with the Council's decision to put Jesus to death. (Lk. 23:50-53)

The gospel of Mark does not contain a birth story and begins with the story of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, and his forty days in the wilderness. The first recorded words of Jesus in the gospel of Mark sum up his message: "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; therefore, repent and have faith in the gospel." (Mk. 1:14-15) Jesus heals, casts out demons, teaches about the kingdom of God, scolds his disciples for their lack of faith, tells them not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah (Christ), and then leads his disciples to Jerusalem. Almost half of the gospel is devoted to an account of the last week of his life. Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem, throws moneychangers out of the temple, teaches in the temple, celebrates the Passover meal with his disciples, prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, is arrested and tried before the Jewish Council and Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine, and then crucified.

Some translations of the gospel of Mark contain a longer version of the final chapter that includes several resurrection appearances. But the earlier gospel manuscripts end with an empty tomb, a young man announcing that Jesus has been raised from the dead and would see them in Galilee, and fleeing women who "said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." (Mk. 16:8)

Because we are familiar with the resurrection stories in the other gospels, it is hard to imagine what it would be like to belong to a church that had only the gospel of Mark. The lack of reported appearances to the disciples undermines their claim to have been chosen by Jesus to lead the church. Yet, at the time the gospel of Mark was written, there was a well-known apostle in the church who had not been a disciple. Why does the gospel of Mark end without a resurrection appearance to the disciples? Perhaps to support Paul's claim to apostolic leadership based on his experience of the risen Christ.

To read more about the gospel of Mark. © Robert Traer 2016