Mark's gospel is generally agreed to be the first of the synoptic gospels and is often thought the most reliable. It was probably written for an audience of Greeks living in Rome, some time around the year 70 CE. Until the nineteenth century, Mark was thought to have two purposes...
Mark's gospel is generally agreed to be the first of the synoptic gospels and is often thought the most reliable. It was probably written for an audience of Greeks living in Rome, some time around the year 70 CE. Until the nineteenth century, Mark was thought to have two purposes in addressing this audience. The first was to acquaint them with the history surrounding the life and career of Jesus Christ. The second was to relay and persuade them of the truth of Christ's teachings.
In the nineteenth century, however, German scholars such as David Strauss pioneered the discipline of Higher Criticism. Strauss criticized the historical accuracy of all the gospels, but later critics like Karl Ludwig Schmidt were particularly scathing about the historicity of Mark's gospel, citing its vagueness about chronology, geography, and the details of Jesus's early life.
It is now accepted by almost all theologians that Mark's purpose, as Lamar Williamson puts it, "is not primarily to write history, but to announce a message." Williamson points out that the Gospel of Mark emphasizes the miracles performed by Jesus more than any other gospel. It contains thirteen specific accounts of Christ healing the sick, along with various other miracles, such as the feeding of the five thousand, walking on water, and stilling the storm. Mark's intention in writing these accounts seems indeed to have been twofold but without any particular historical purpose. He was an evangelist, bringing good news to anyone who cared to listen, but more specifically, he was a theologian writing for the Christian community in Rome. Since this audience already believed his message, his intention in writing so much about miracles was to provide them with multiple examples of Christ's supernatural powers, which would strengthen their existing faith.