Commentary on Mark 1:1

Presuppositions about the Gospel of Mark: These remarks are all founded on the theory first put forward by Gilbert Bilezikian and expanded upon during my research into Mark 14:53-65: that the Gospel of Mark is best understood as a literary tragedy which is composed of biographical information collected from the eyewitnesses of the life and ministry of Jesus that were primarily recorded and transferred via Oral traditions (See This Essay) Scholars whose work supports various elements of this proposal include Gilbert Bilezikian, Richard Horsley, Mary A. Tolbert, Daniel Bock, Bart D. Ehrman, and Abraham W. Smith, and Craig Evans (See Mark: Book List)

The goal of this commentary is not to provide an application for life but to enrich the reader’s understanding of how the earliest hearers of the Gospel of Mark understood its message, themes, and content.

By pursuing this goal, this commentary provides useful information for apologetics. Life application is intended to be pursued by the reader through prayer and wise counsel. Ultimately this is a foundation for further research into the auditory reception of Mark’s Gospel in the first century following its composition and circulation.

Text Recepticus used for Greek Analysis: Crossway Greek New Testament.

Interlinear: Mounce and Mounce Second Edition

Comparative Translations: Author’s, NASB 95, NIV

The author has received the standard 9 credit hours of education at the Mdiv level under the instruction of Dr. Abraham W. Smith at Perkin’s Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX.

All English words not literally present in the Greek text will be bracketed in the Author’s rendition.

Mark 1:1

  • Author’s Verse 1: Beginning the joyful news [of] Jesus, the anointed one, [the] Son [of] God:
  • NASB95 Verse 1: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
  • NIV Verse 1: The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God

The word Ἀρχὴ in Greek has several usages depending on the context. As far as this commentary is concerned that context is the beginning of a tragedy that includes biographical information. As such, it has the following connotations. It is potentially an acknowledgment of limited information because Ἀρχὴ is a claim of the official or factual commencement of information available. In a literal sense, Ἀρχὴ is a statement on the information available to the author as far as it concerns what could be considered verifiable facts. Alternatively, Ἀρχὴ in this context is potentially a statement of purpose by the author, whereby from the previous comment, we can suppose that it is an indication of the Ἀρχὴ or commencement of the information pertinent to understanding the εὐαγγελίου, or good/joyful news. It is this second connotation that seems to best fit the evidence observed by the scholars referenced earlier.

Moving now to the word Χριστοῦ it is important to understand that it is a greek translation borrowed from the Septuagint for the word Messiah, which literally means the “anointed one”. This word is extremely important, it signifies the understood role of Jesus as a ruler and king which is powerful and meaningful in and of itself, but it is then paired with the phrase translated to Son of God. So not only is this Jesus an anointed king but this Jesus is also given a title of divinity or at minimum relation to divinity. 

There is a Greco-roman sense where this first verse could be understood as the proclaimed beginning of information necessary to understand the joyful news of Jesus, a King, who is recognized as having a divine status. In the Jewish context, even in the Greco-roman diaspora, this seems to touch the core of Jewish Monotheism or Yawiism where the “I AM” was the king of the Jews. The God of the Jews could be recognized as the King of the Jews in a sort of mixed literal and symbolic sense prior to the establishment of the Jewish dynasties beginning with Saul and David. Son of God is also foretelling of a kind of righteous life. Verse 1, in effect, describes What Jesus is, the kind of person he is, and claims, that there is the good news of Jesus, meaning that from Jesus there exists good news.

Apologetic Information: 

  1. Mark’s Gospel likely had a singular author who compiled what was available at the time from Oral traditions into a narrative. (See Richard Horsley, “Hearing the Whole Story”)
  2. Verse 1 establishes the intended understanding of who is Jesus is to the listener, in essence, Verse 1 is a sort of breach through what we now refer to as the fourth wall. Verse 1 isn’t actually part of the narrative it is addressed to the reader/audience of the text/oral tradition. Any analysis of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel has to be in agreement with the information presented in verse 1, otherwise, it is not true to the author’s intended meaning. 
  3. Mark 1:1 forces the Christology of Mark’s Gospel to be a medium/ high Christology.

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