Examine the Evidence


No matter how careful an author tries to be, their influence can be detected in their writing. From these, sometimes subtle, clues we can begin to build a picture of Mark. 

For this introduction, we will limit the areas of investigation to the four indicated on the previous page.


1. Seams

Can we detect any particular features and characteristics about the way that Mark joins together and presents his material? Take a look at the expanded text in the text-box (below) and see if you can detect any links.

Don't worry, at this stage, it is not always easy to spot the seams. Chapter 2 verse 1 poses as a likely candidate. Here, Mark moves from establishing Jesus as a healer and a teacher - look at how he collects together a number of stories which emphasise this aspect of Jesus' ministry in Chapter 1  - to begin a new theme. 2:1-3:6 comprise a group of 5 'conflict' stories in which, again, the reader is presented with the authority of Jesus. 

However, have you noticed one particular word which keeps cropping up - 'and' ? Significantly, it often appears at the beginning of a sentence. This is very characteristic of Mark's writing.

For some, this makes the Gospel of Mark rather simplistic and crude, but for others in injects a sense of immediacy into the narrative. What do you think that it tells YOU about Mark as a writer and as an editor (how he edits, compiles and presents his material). 

2. Author's Explanations

This is where we can get a good impression of the author's style and what s/he thinks is important to the reader. 

Take a look at two examples of Mark's attempt to explain or clarify something in his text. 


[2] They noticed that some of the disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. [3] (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; [4] and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and they are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)


[14] "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains."


Does it tell us anything about the type of readers for whom Mark was writing?*

Furthermore, do these rather obvious narrational intrusions indicate that Mark was reluctant in altering his material? 


*This is complicated further by Mark's apparent misapprehension that "all the Jews," at this time, washed their hands.  

3. Characteristic words and phrases.

We have already come across Mark's habit of beginning sentences with 'and'. Are there any other clues to Mark's style?

Read again the account of the leper in this (more) literal translation. 

Mark 1: 40-45

[40] And [there] comes to him a leper, begging him and kneeling down, saying to him "If you are willing, you are able to cleanse me."

[41] And being filled with tenderness, stretching forth his hand, he touched and says to him, "I am willing, be made clean."

[42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

[43] And with indignation, he immediately drove him out,

[44] and says to him, "See [that] you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer, concerning your cleansing, [the things] which Moses commanded for a testimony to them."

[45] But going out, he began to proclaim many things and to spread abroad the matter, so that he was no longer able to enter a city openly, but he was outside in desert places; and they came to him from all directions.

Reading this, particularly in an estuary accent, that the style of writing is rather similar to that found in a script for East Enders. Mark had a tendency to use the historic present which uses the present tense to describe something that happened in the past: "And [there] comes...", "...and says to him...". 

Another word which you might have spotted, especially if you are familiar with the Gospel of Mark, is 'immediately'. This is also a key word for Mark and, again, creates a feeling of immediacy to his writing. 


4. Changes to the text when compared with other instances. However, in this case, if other people have used it, they may have changed elements - this does not necessarily mean that Mark agreed with what he recorded, but he at least was happy enough to include it in the form that it appears in his Gospel.