Mark: Provenance, Authorship and Literary Style. Pt II

Determining the authorship of Mark poses some problems, as the text itself is anonymous. However the support for Mark as author from the early Church Fathers is almost universal[1]. Eusebius records Papias’ assertion that Mark, a disciple of Peter’s and his interpreter, wrote down accurately what Peter had said regarding the Lord[2].   This Mark has historically been associated with the John Mark from the book of Acts[3] who is mentioned 3 times in the New Testament; Acts 12:12, 25, and 15:37. Mark is mentioned 5 times in Acts 15:39, Colossians 4:10, 2Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24 and 1Peter 5:13. As Guthrie[4] points out, the Colossians mention of Mark as cousin of Barnabas connects him securely with the John Mark of Acts.

Duling and Perrin[5] outline the many problems with the Papias tradition including that it contains a strong apologetic tone via the use of words such as “accurately”; “erred in nothing”, “not to omit…or falsify”.   They also point out that Mark is more aligned with Paul in the New Testament writings, although 1Peter 5:13 does provide a connection between the two in support of the Papias tradition.

Guthrie takes a more lenient view of the challenges against Papias, stating; “This is surely a case where it can be said that the tradition has not been disproved even if it has been challenged”[6] W. L. Lane notes that the general points of Mark’s Gospel correspond to the “Petrine kerygma as recorded in Peter. That John Mark was neither a disciple of Christ’s, nor a disciple of note in the early church lends plausibility to the evidence that he was the author; if one were attributing authorship to an anonymous text one would rather choose a potential author of note[7].


[1]D. Guthrie New Testament Introduction (revised) Intervarsity Press, 1990

[2] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, iii.39.15 as cited in D. Guthrie New Testament Introduction (revised) Intervarsity Press, 1990: p 85

[3]D. Guthrie 1990: p 82

[4]D. Guthrie 1990: p 82

[5]Dennis C. Duling, Norman Perrin, The New Testament : proclamation and parenesis, myth and history, Harcourt Brace and Company, 1994.: pp 296-299

[6]D. Guthrie 1990: p 84

[7]C. Sevelle, Class Notes, Centre Point Bible Institute accessed 21. March 2014

2 thoughts on “Mark: Provenance, Authorship and Literary Style. Pt II

  1. Greg, have you read

    Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus
    by Ched Myers, Daniel Berrigan

    From what I’ve heard of it it’s a pretty radical reading of the Gospel of Mark with some interesting and I think correct theories eg the driving out of the demons into swine and having a dig at the Roman legions (the occupying 10th legion’s mascot was a pig) and why were the townspeople scared and told Jesus to leave. Cos they feared military retaliation. The ‘strong man’ is the forces of violence and oppression..

    Review below

  2. I’m reading it as part of my own study into Mark…I’d started it years ago, but never got into it…I agree, it has quite interesting and I also agree, accurate understanding of those stories.

    By the way…good to see you back here.

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