New Testament Background and the Gospel of Mark



New Testament Background


1.  Hellenization of Israel – beginning with Alexander the Great in 333 BC.
2.  Roman authority in Israel begins in 63 BC.  Then Herod the Great (king 37-4 BC).
3.  Major groups: Pharisees (rabbis, synagogues, resurrection, all Old Testament), Sadducees (controlled Temple, only Torah, priestly class), Herodians (supporters of Herod’s dynasty)


The New Testament is 27 books, written between 41 AD and around 100 AD, all in Greek.

·      Gospel (literally, “good news”) – a new genre.  Not biography, but history designed to persuade to faith.  Written because of death of apostles and delay of Jesus’ return.
·      Synoptic (literally, “see together”) Gospels – Mark, Matthew, Luke
·      Multiple Gospels – Jesus too big to contain in a single work!


Jesus’ life outline:

Born 4 BC, died/rose around 30 AD.  Ministry between 1 and 3 years.  Christ = Messiah.


The Gospel of Mark

Authorship – Published anonymously, but historically ascribed to John Mark, friend and companion to Peter and Paul.
Date – mid 60s AD

Outline of the book:

1.     1:1 through 8:26 – Ministry of healing and preaching in Galilee
2.     8:27-16:8 (+16:9-20) – Suffering predicted; Death in Jerusalem and Resurrection


Themes in Mark

·      Kingdom of God (15 times)
·      Urgency (“at once”); long on action and short on teaching.  Shortest Gospel
·      Authority and power of Jesus – in conflict with demons and Pharisees (1:1-8:26)
·      Suffering and Victory of Jesus – in conflict with the disciples (8:27-16:20)
·      Messianic Secret (Parables, silencing of the demons and miracle recipients, ending)
·      Jesus’ Passion is the crux – 1/3 of the book is the last week of Jesus’ life


Reflection Questions

What picture do you have from Mark about Jesus?  How is Mark’s Jesus similar or different to the way you typically imagine Jesus?

When Jesus brought the kingdom of God to earth, it had an immediate effect in terms of transformations, miracles, exorcisms, etc.  It also produced intense resistance, ultimately resulting in Jesus’ death.  Where is the kingdom of God manifesting in our world in those same ways?