The symbol of St Mark is the Lion, and there is much to love about the lion.
On Sunday I said in my homily that I loved St Mark’s gospel the best, and I then said, “Here’s why: first, it’s short.”
That raised a laugh, but it wasn’t meant to be a joke.
I meant its good that its short. Good writing is concise. It’s immediate, brisk, crisp and to the point.
One of Mark’s favorite words is “Immediately”. Immediately Jesus did this. Straighway he did that.
Jesus cuts through the world not so much as a man with a mission from God, but a God Man on a mission.
The other thing there is to love in Mark is the underlying theme of Christus Victor. Jesus is a great warrior who comes as an secret agent invading the territory of the enemy.
He comes to fight the battle against the ancient foe, the worm, the serpent, the leviathan, the Father of Lies.
Then there is the fact that St Mark was the companion of both Peter and Paul, and the apostolic fathers said that Mark’s gospel was based on the preaching of St Peter. Therefore, when we hear the gospel with its exciting language of urgency and immediacy we can hear echoes of the passionate preaching of Peter himself–sharing with the first Christians the amazing stories of his friend Jesus.
Scholars quarrel about the authorship and date of Mark’s gospel, but there is no reason to doubt the earliest traditions that Mark was written by the same disciples who worked with Peter and Paul. There is a clever argument to dismiss the usual claims that the gospel was written later, but ascribed to a famous person to give it weight. (this is undoubtedly the case with bogus Gnostic gospels like the Gospel of Thomas)
If the anonymous author wanted to give his bogus gospel the authority of the apostles, why choose Mark and not Peter himself? After all, Mark was not one of the twelve. Ba ding.
As to the supposed late date of the gospel’s composition, there is a longer article of mine here, but the short version is this: We need a fixed date that we know for sure on which to deduce the dates of the gospels’ composition.
We know Peter and Paul died in the persecutions of Nero around 65 AD. The Acts of the Apostles was written after Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the Acts of the Apostles Peter and Paul are still alive. Therefore it was written before 65 AD, and if Acts of the Apostles was written before 65 AD, then Luke was even earlier, and if Luke was reliant on Mark and Matthew–as most scholars believe, then Mark was written, at the latest, in the late 50s–just fifteen years or so after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Loosing the Lion is an excellent, scholarly book on Mark’s gospel that has just been published by my friend, Bible scholar Leroy Huizenga. Check it out here. I also recommend you follow The Sacred Page–where four Catholic Bible scholars discuss the Mass readings week by week.
So in this liturgical year B – Loose the Lion and Love the Lion!
Thank you. Mark has always been my least favorite Gospel. It’s OK, but I prefer John and Luke. It just seems too short and to the point. Maybe that’s the point.
Btw, I kinda think it may be the shorter version of Matthew, not the first written but second. What do you think?
The question of which of the first three gospels was first and how they are inter-related is called “they synoptic problem” and there have been no end of proposed solutions to the question. My own opinion is that there was an earlier version of Matthew which was written in Aramaic or Hebrew which was a collection of stories and sayings of Jesus and that Mark and Luke used this as a source and added their own material, and then the Matthew that we now have was written later drawing (like Luke did) on the earlier Matthew material as well as Mark.