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We should not expect to discover the exact motives and methods of those involved with the birth of: "The Gospel according to Mark". But it is not irrational to presume they would have acted as people would do in the same situation today.

Luke's arrival in Rome, with his gospel, must have electrified the Christians in the Rome and have become the centre of discussions.

Matthew had written for the Jews - to proclaim the fulfilment of the Hebrew prophecies. Luke's Gospel was for the Gentiles. Extra information and any apparent contradictions or discrepancies would have raised questions. Also the question would have arisen as to the suitability of reading Luke's Gospel in the churches.

There was a need for Peter to comment on the two documents. Orchard has suggested that Paul would have especially wanted Luke's work to be accepted by Peter, so it could be use in his Gentile churches.

Another consideration could have been that when an evangelist entered a town, it was customary to first visit the synagogue. Using Matthew's Gospel, a nucleus of Jewish believers would be formed and these used to preach to the Gentiles. But Paul was planning to go to Spain where few synagogues existed. An endorsement of Luke's Gospel would enable Paul to use it to open his preaching.

This situation would have led to the decision to hold a day-long conference where Peter could address the community. The task before Peter would not have been easy. The two documents would need to be closely examined, line by line, by Peter, Luke, Paul, Mark and probably others.

Orchard suggested that Peter's commentary consisted of five half-hour talks. If we accept this suggestion we may presume there were 15 or 30 minute breaks between each talk.

A longer break at midday would allow time for lunch, rest, prayer and informal discussion. Following the end of the fifth talk, a time would have been allowed for the audience to ask questions. Starting at say 10 am the conference would have concluded at about 6 pm.

Not only Peter but the secretaries would have needed to be well prepared. These secretaries, with the scrolls opened and marked at key places, would direct Peter's eyes to relevant passages with the aid of a Yad (pointer) according to Hebrew custom.

As there were five talks, there are ten places where Peter starts to quote from Matthew or Luke. It would have been easy to open the scrolls at these locations and have them ready at the start of each talk. In a further eight places, where Peter would have needed to switch from one Gospel to the other, the words are close together and therefore the scrolls could remain open without need for any movement.

There are six places involving slightly longer jumps. This would not be difficult when previously planned and with secretaries to assist. There is a jump (the longest) of 31 verses which would have required the skilled help of a secretary. It is interesting that Peter interjects a line of his own at this point, perhaps to provide the secretary with more time to locate the place.

The whole day could have been as well-organised as when a speaker today co-operates with assistants working a slide projector. Mark would have sat nearby to write down Peter's talks in shorthand. Only a part of a scroll would be used, the recorded words would be in Peter's poor grammatical Greek (i.e. Koine) and his slips not edited.

Not planned to be a new Gospel, Peter would not consider his talks as of enduring interest. Peter would be indifferent to Mark making copies for those present on the Day. Clement of Alexandra recorded this detail:
"And when Peter got to know about it [Mark's Gospel] he exerted no pressure either to forbid it or promote it". [For longer extract see Chapter 9]. It was later that Peter's attitude changed and a second edition authorised.

This raises an interesting point. If Mark's Gospel had been the first Gospel to be written, and therefore the 'flagship' of the Christians, why was Peter so indifferent regarding its promotion? On the other hand, if we accept that two well constructed Gospels already existed, and that Peter had merely preached a series of commentaries based on them, Peter's attitude is understandable.


It was Jerome who established the Gospels in the Matthew-Mark-Luke-John order, for Western Europe. Prior to his time there had been other orders used in this region. Irenaeus, when debating, quotes from the Clementine sequence. Tertullian refers to 'Luke and Mark', Jerome places Luke before Mark in his history book, Ambrosiaster also uses the Matthew - Luke - Mark order.

St. Augustine of Hippo in his first book says
the received order was Matthew - Mark - Luke - John. But in his forth book, discussing theological development, places Luke between Matthew and Mark.

Clement of Alexandria's statement was the clearest:
"the first written of the gospels were those having the genealogies". [For longer extract see Chapter 9].

Clement not only provides the most detailed description of the circumstances of the composition of Mark's Gospel, but also provides a strong clue which points to the likelihood that
both orders are correct. This may sound surprising until we look at the clue.

We know from Clement that a large audience begged Mark to publish his notes of Peter's talks and that Mark met their requests. It was an urgently requested manuscript and much shorter than Luke's. As Mark would also have had an established team of copyists, it is highly probable that his publication would have appeared prior to that of Luke.

This would have led Mark's scroll being 'pigeon-holed' in Church libraries next to Matthew's and awaiting the arrival of that by Luke. In the words of St. Augustine, it would be
the received order of the churches. This suggests how the familiar sequence of Matthew-Mark-Luke emerged. When sermons were delivered, or treatise written, it would be natural for many, such as Origen, to utilise the order to be found in their libraries.

Some people would have had knowledge of the tradition regarding the sequence in which the gospels had been
written. This would have lead to debates and could explain why Clement intervened specifically to clarify the issue.

So if we accept that Luke
wrote before Mark, but published after him, the problem of order is solved. Both Matthew-Mark-Luke-John and Matthew-Luke-Mark-John, are correct.


Christians agree the Gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so they are free from error. But, as Mark's chapters 1 and 2 contain serious misquotations of information from the Old Testament, exegetes have been faced with a problem.

Scholars often envision Mark sitting at a desk in his room, making use of documents and his memory. In this scenario it is difficult to uphold the truth of his Gospel being inspired by the Holy Spirit. But when we accept the scenario, as proposed by Orchard, we are able to suggest a way to solve this problem.

It was not Mark who had the lapses of memory, but Peter. No one claims that Peter's talks were free of error. Mark accurately recorded what Peter had said in his talks. Mark did not make an error in doing this. Peter had made slips and Mark accurately recorded them.

It is interesting that Papias (the earliest Christian historian) wrote:
"Mark did not err at all when he wrote certain things just as he [Peter] had recalled [them]. For he had but one intention, not to leave out anything he had heard, nor falsify anything in them."

Papias is obviously defending Mark's Gospel against criticisms that Mark had made errors. Papias is saying that Mark
had but one intention. It was not Mark's responsibility to change anything regarding Malachi, nor correct the word 'Abiathar'.


V: 12/2/13

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