The Results Are In: No One Likes The Gospel of Mark

Maybe Mark used the word “immediately” in the gospel too many times. Maybe he made the disciples look too ignorant. Perhaps, it’s just the plans of Satan to gospel pollkeep the oldest gospel account from being read. Either way, Mark can’t get no love. Out of the 280 participants in the 24 hour poll, only about 16 people (or 6%) selected Mark as their fave.

Inversely, the rest of the gospels had a very comparable rank. The gospel of John won out over Matthew by 8%, grabbing 112 votes.

What sets the 4 gospels apart?

The 4 gospels are invaluable because they each provide a specific perspective. Mark is very generic and is the shortest of the gospels. Mark is also believed to be the oldest gospel, being a copy source for Matthew and Luke. Luke seems to have been written primarily to gentiles and it is often said that Luke focuses more on the humanistic side of Jesus. Matthew appears to be written to a very Jewish audience and focuses heavily on prophecy from the Old Testament and Jesus as the King. John is different all together from the 3 others, focusing very strongly on Jesus being God.

Below is a brief explanation of each gospel and their key features.

St Mark painting
Mark the Evangelist



  • Anonymous by text
  • Later attributed to John Mark, known as the traveling companion to Paul, Peter, and Barnabas. (Papias 70-155AD)


  • Testimony of the early church suggests late 60’s AD
  • Most scholars date closer to 68-70 AD, based on the destruction of the temple and no reflection of Mark’s writing. Unless one believes that Jesus was NOT able to foretell the destruction of the temple.

Literary features

  • Shortest gospel by far (16 chapters)
  • The type of Greek is common (Koine), and very rudimentary
  • Mark seems to introduce Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew loan words at various point in the text
  • Writing seems highly oral in character
  • The gospel has mostly loosely knit short stories stitched together
  • Sense of immediacy in the text
  • Thematic grouping of materials
  • Significant usage of groups of threes’
  • Most detailed of the gospels, using vivid language and adjectives
  • References Jesus’ emotions and reactions often

Mark’s Message and Themes

  • Jesus often heals and then tells the recipient not to tell (Messianic Secret)
  • Messianic claims (Peter’s confession, transfiguration)
  • Primary teaching is the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus is the pictured as the suffering servant
  • Eschatological orientation (Mark 13)
  • Jesus is a Jewish teacher of the Law
  • Jesus is a miracle worker
  • Jesus taught the true nature of discipleship (Mark 3)
    • Partially why the disciples are pictured as being dumb throughout the text

Relationship of Jesus to Torah

  • Mark sees Jesus as the fulfillment of the Torah
  • Jesus affirms the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4) (Lev 19:18)
  • Jesus also affirms the commandments (Mark 10:17-31)
  • At times Jesus criticises the pharisees and scribes for not obeying the Torah
  • Jesus breaks purity laws (touches lepers [1:40-45])
  • Eats with sinners and tax collectors (Mark 2:15-17)
  • Eats with defiled hands (Mark 7:1-23)
  • Sabbath regulations challenged (Mark 2:23-28, Mark 3:1-6)
  • Special focus on Israel
    • Begins with imagery from Isaiah 5:1-7 (vineyard parable)
    • Mark also uses replacement theology terminology in the gospel

Matthew the evangelist
Matthew the Evangelist



  • Anonymous by text
  • Later attributed to Matthew, a tax collector (Matthew 9:9 and other verses)
  • Matthew himself may have written an early collection of Jesus’ sayings in Hebrew or Aramaic, which would later be compiled into the full Greek version we have today


  • Augustinian belief says that Matthew was early and written as the first gospel (no longer an accepted view in modern biblical scholarship)
  • Most likely composition is post-temple-destruction (10-15 years after Mark is written, mid-80’s)
  • The latest possible date is 110 D because it was quoted by Ignatius who died in 110

Literary Features

  • Likely around Antioch, where an early influential community existed
  • Antioch is also the place where the term “Christian” is formed
  • written in  a polished Semitic “synagogue Greek”
  • Gospel organized into 5 major discourses
  • Matthew breaks Jesus’ 5 teachings up to parallel the 5 five books of law
  • Matthew quotes the Old Testament some 60 times or so
  • Uses pairs of two a lot
    • Two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31)
    • Two sparrows (Matthew 10:29)
    • Two commandments (Matthew 22:40)
    • Two sons (Matthew 20:21, 24 Matthew & 26:37)
    • Two brothers (Matthew 4:18-22)
    • Two demoniacs (Matthew 8:28-34)

Message and Themes

  • Matthew improves the view of the 12 disciples over Mark, but still a bit dull
  • Jesus’ opponents are grouped together in stereotypes
  • Righteousness
  • discipleship
  • forgiveness
  • Jesus as the ultimate teacher of the Law
  • Jesus as son of David and King of the Jews
  • Jesus as Emmanuel and savior
  • Jesus as new Moses
    • Pharaoh killed Hebrew babies and only Moses was saved, just like Jesus and Herod
    • Moses and Jesus both flee for life and return later
    • Both go upon a mountain to teach
    • Moses and Jesus both portrayed as great law giver and teacher
    • Moses is mentioned 7 times in Matthew
    • Jesus upholds the law of Moses in Matthew

Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist



  • Anonymous by text
  • Attributed to a physician, companion of Paul (Col 4:14; 2Tim 4:11; Phlm 1:24)


  • Various dates have been proposed over time for Luke
  • The most popular choice in modern scholarship sides with a date after the fall of Jerusalem (85CE)
  • Many traditionalists place the date well before the fall of Jerusalem (65CE)
  • Based on some work by Marcion some prefer a date in the late 2nd century (150CE)
  • In reality this gospel (an all others) could have had a long period of editing and compilation so a single date might not work

Literary Features

  • Longest of the 4 gospels
  • Tends to add additional details to stories in Mark and Matthew and makes adjustments to confusing passages in Mark
  • makes use of Historical markers
    • Luke 1:5 (days of Herod)
    • Luke 2:1-3 (census of Augustus)
    • Luke 3:1-2 (15th year of Tiberius)
  • Has a lot of content that only appears in Luke’s gospel
  • Jesus tells more parables in Luke than any other gospel

Message and Themes

  • Emphasizes the Holy Spirit and the community of the Kingdom
  • Pictures the Jews and the Gentiles often against each other
  • Luke focuses heavily on the humanity of Jesus
  • Women are featured in Luke more than any other gospel
  • Luke presents a number of dichotomies
    • Poor/rich
    • weak/strong
    • Lowly/proud
    • Sinner/righteous
  • Luke also emphasizes salvation history (salvation from creation until eternity)

John the Evangelist
John the Evangelist



  • Anonymous by text
  • Later attributed to John the beloved disciple
  • Most scholars agree that John’s gospel was heavily edited my multiple authors before finalized
    • This is because so many manuscripts exist for John that have significant variants in the text
    • Most scholars still agree that the original author was likely John, but it was edited after origination


  • Most scholar date John to about 90-110 CE for a final product from John
  • Edited versions exist all the way into the 2nd century

Literary Features

  • Contains the “I Am” statements about Jesus
  • Has less stories and parable and more of Jesus’ discourses
  • Used lots of imagery and key words for illustrations
    • word, light, life, bread, water, wind, world, lamb, shepherd, hour, bread, vine
  • Like Luke, uses lots of opposing adjectives for illustrations
    • light/darkness
    • life/death
    • above/below
    • spirit/flesh
  • The most rudimentary Koine Greek of all the gospels
  • Gives names and details to people and places that were unnamed in previous gospels
    • Synoptic gospels: An anonymous woman anoints Jesus
    • John 12:1-8: The woman who anoints Jesus is identified as Mary of Bethany

Message and Themes

  • Jesus is clearly depicted as God
  • References the “coming hour” many times (end times focus)
  • The Jews are often pictured as the enemy or opponents of Jesus
  • Makes use of terminologies not used in other gospels
    • The Light
    • The Word (logos)
  • Jesus’ miracles are highlighted and used as proofs for Jesus being the messiah
  • Very strong emphasis on love
    • John 13:1-38
    • John 15:12-17
    • John 17:1-26


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