The Gospel of Mark, second in order in the New Testament, is also the shortest. Its brevity belies its interest. There are differing opinions on both the authorship and purpose of this gospel, but perhaps most disputed is neither one, but how it was written. Ironically, the method of writing is not nearly so important spiritually as is the message itself. Arguments over the method are similar to arguments over creation versus evolution: does the reader believe God involves Himself in the affairs of man and the world, or not? The message of Mark's gospel says He does, to man's benefit and salvation.
The second gospel was neglected by scholars from the 4th to the 19th centuries because it was widely regarded as an abridgment of Matthew, which was written first (Grassmick 95). Since the 19th century proposition that Mark was written first and Matthew instead was an expansion of Mark, interest in the Gospel of Mark has increased. Concurrent with this is the study of Mark's time and culture to find clues to the interpretation of his gospel. Study of the culture and attitudes of first century Palestine can shed light on any of the four gospels, regardless of which one was written first.
Grassmick notes that Papias makes the earliest known statement about the Gospel of Mark, which was originally untitled ("Kata Markon" was added later.) Papias stated that though not a follower of Jesus, he did follow the apostle Peter, and basically wrote down what Peter taught. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria all confirm Papias' statements.
As a "gospel" Mark was not writing only a biography of Jesus, nor a chronicle of His works. The most important consideration in the purpose of the gospel was the "good news" (Greek "euvangelion") of Jesus' work of redemption through the cross. The details of His life before the cross present Him as the Messiah Who Is To Come, so that the reader can know that His work on the cross is effi...