Gospel of Mark Current Hot-Button Issues And Cultural Debates In Practice
Getting Biblical in Daily Life
Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Perspective
The Gospel of Mark's place as part of the Christian Bible is as secure as our James Van Der Beek poster's place on the Shmoop office wall. And we used a lot of tape. Mark is the second of four gospels (the others being Matthew, Luke, and John), which are all narratives of the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So he's part of the Bible—what does that mean? Basically that he has some major prestige and authority for Christians, who use his text in liturgy, read and study it in church, sing songs that evoke certain passages, and look to its teachings as a guide for what it means to be followers of Jesus. Pretty hefty stuff.
Don't forget that Christians approach their scriptures in different ways, with diverse understandings of what their divine inspiration means. We can't just lump every denomination together, because they all have different interpretive lenses and angles.
The gospels aren't part of the Hebrew Bible, there's no confusion there. In fact, modern Jews who read this story might be put off by some of its claims, particularly that Jesus is the Messiah whose coming fulfills Jewish scriptures such as Isaiah or Malachi. For Jews, these authors were by no means writing about Jesus—they were telling stories about events and people at the time of their composition.
Some Jews might even be downright offended (understandably) at the implication—especially in the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" (12:1-11)—that the Jewish leaders' rejection of Jesus was the reason for the temple's destruction by the Romans and that the "vineyard" will be given to others, presumably Christians (12:9). That's a slap in the face right there.
But the striking fact is that Jesus himself was Jewish, and—get this—Mark himself might have been Jewish by birth, too. In this way, the Gospel of Mark can open up for Jews an important chapter of their own history. After all, the story is clearly grounded in the rhetoric, theological outlook, and literature of first-century Judaism.
For a Jewish exploration of these very issues, feel free to explore for yourself.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Perspective
Mormons, like all other Christians, treat the Christian Bible as sacred scripture. But what distinguishes Mormons from some other Christian groups is their belief that divine revelation is not closed after the New Testament, but ongoing. This means that later writings such as the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are also ranked among the divinely inspired texts.
The Gospel of Mark and its relationship with the other New Testament gospels can actually be used to help their case. After all, after Mark wrote his gospel, four other guys took a stab at it, too, enriching Christian understandings of Jesus as the Messiah. That means that some concept of continuing revelation is already at work in the New Testament itself.
For these and other arguments, go and check out the source itself.
An Independent Charismatic Perspective
In scattered churches across the U.S. (mainly in the South), it is considered an act of faith and worship to handle poisonous snakes like rattlers and copper heads.
What does this have to do with Mark?
Well, a literal interpretation of two verses in the Gospel of Mark provides part of the inspiration for this practice (the other key passage is Acts 28:3-5). In 16:17-18, Jesus promises his disciples that they will pick up snakes and not be harmed. Take that, run with it, and you end up in a very scary situation.