What is the Book of Mark About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read Mark!


Historical Context

The apostle Peter passed on reports of the words and deeds of Jesus to his attendant, John Mark, who wrote this Gospel for the wider church as the record of Peter’s apostolic testimony. 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Mark for your good and to lead you into joy.

The book was likely written from Rome during the midto late50s AD (though the midor late60s is also possible). Mark’s audience, largely unfamiliar with Jewish customs, needed to become familiar with such customs in order to understand the coming of Jesus as the culmination of God’s work with Israel and the entire world, so Mark explains them.

The Setting of Mark 

The events in the book of Mark take place almost entirely within Palestine, from Caesarea Philippi in the north to Beersheba in the south. During this time Palestine was ruled by the Roman Empire. The book opens with Jesus’ baptism by John during the rule of Pontius Pilate and the tetrarchs Antipas and Philip. It closes with Jesus’ death and resurrection about three years later. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Why Did God Give Us a Book Like Mark? by Drew Hunter

In these two final sermons from his series on the book of Mark, Pastor Drew Hunter helps us understand the book of Mark as a whole. He gives us seven reasons why God gave us the precious gift of this Gospel, and also introduces us to the main themes in the book. His messages will motivate you to read the book of Mark, but most importantly will introduce you to Jesus, the ServantKing who is worthy of our love and devotion. 

Mark Dictionary

As you read through Mark, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

To pour oil on a person or thing. A person was anointed to show that God had chosen him or her to do a special job. Samuel anointed David to show that God had chosen him to be king.

To have faith or to trust that something is true. The Bible tells us that we can believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and trust him to keep his promise to forgive sins. We show that we believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us by obeying his commands.

An officer in the Roman army who was the leader of 100 men.

To nail or tie a person to a cross until he or she is dead. Crucifixion was a slow, painful punishment the Romans used for their enemies and the worst criminals.

(1) A request that harm come to someone; (2) blaspheme. In the Bible, curse does not mean to swear or to use bad language. When a person cursed something, he or she wished evil or harm to come to it. When God cursed something, He declared judgment on something.

An evil spirit working for Satan (the devil). People can be tempted, harassed, or possessed (controlled) by demons. Jesus has authority over all demons and in his earthly ministry ordered evil spirits to come out of many people.

Someone who follows the teachings and example of another. In the New Testament, disciple usually refers to a person who believed that Jesus is God’s Son and loved and obeyed him. Sometimes disciples means the twelve men Jesus chose to be his special friends and helpers. At other times, it refers to all people who love Jesus and obey his teachings.

(1) In the Old Testament, an older man in a family, tribe, or town. (2) Also in the Old Testament, a member of a group of older men in a town. The town elders made major decisions for the town. (3) In the first four books of the New Testament, the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people in Jesus’ time. (4) In the Early Church, the church leaders.

A decision of the will to stop feeling angry and to stop blaming a person for something wrong he or she has done; to be friends again. God forgives everyone who repents of his or her sins and believes that Jesus died to take the punishment for his or her sins. When God forgives a person, God forgets the person’s sins forever. God instructs Christians to forgive each other in the same way he has forgiven them.

(1) Literally, “good news.” The good news of the Bible is that God sent his Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for sin and then raised him from the dead so that any person who believes may have new life. (2) The story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ told in the first four books of the New Testament. The books are also called the four Gospels.

The most important priest of all the priests, who served God in the tabernacle and later in the temple. In the Old Testament, the high priest offered the most important sacrifices to God for the people. In New Testament times, he was also a powerful political leader. He was the head of the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people. He even had a small army. The high priest wore special clothing described in Exodus 28:1-39. Aaron was the first high priest. All other high priests were his descendants. The New Testament says that Jesus Christ is now our high priest, the one who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (see Hebrews 8–9).

A Hebrew word that means “save now!” The Hebrews shouted the word to praise someone important.

The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.

God’s rule in the lives of his chosen people and his creation. In the Old Testament, the people in the kingdom of God were the Israelites. In the New Testament and today, the people in God’s kingdom are those who believe in and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes again, then God’s kingdom will become visible to all people.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

A story that teaches a special lesson or truth. Jesus often told parables to teach important lessons.

In the time of Jesus, a Jew who tried very hard to obey every part of the Jewish law. Many Pharisees sincerely tried to please God and to be holy, but some of them worried more about keeping every little rule than about caring for people. Jesus commended the Pharisees for what they taught but often scolded them because of what they did. Speaking of those Pharisees and scribes who opposed him, Jesus said on the outside they seemed very holy, but on the inside they were full of lies and hate (see Matthew 23). Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) was a Pharisee. Many other Pharisees also ended up following Jesus.

The most powerful enemy of God and all people. Other names for Satan include the devil, the evil one, the prince of this world, the father of lies, the enemy, the adversary, and Lucifer. Satan is the ruler of a kingdom made up of demons. He hates God and tries to destroy God’s work. The Bible tells us that in the end, God will destroy Satan and the demons.

A place where Jews meet together to read and study the Old Testament and to worship God.

The permanent place in Jerusalem where the Jews worshiped God. The first temple was built by King Solomon and the people by following the instructions God had given Solomon’s father, King David. The temple was a very beautiful place. It was destroyed and rebuilt twice. In AD 64, the temple was destroyed again but was not rebuilt.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.