Comparison of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John

The Bible is the book of eternal wisdom and experience; it is the source that can provide answers to all questions if one is faithful enough and if he/she takes a deep look at the endless wisdom embodied in words. It is impossible for one person to convey this eternal wisdom since one man cannot be a wisdom-bearer; this is why the authorship of different parts of the Bible is ascribed to many people. The Gospels present special interest for the present research since they are the sources offering information about the earthly ministry of Christ. The word “Gospel” means “good news” and they are the true literary and spiritual masterpieces. Though numerous gospels were created, only four of them were recognized as those created due to divine inspirations: the Gospel of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. If the first three Gospels are recognized as “synoptic” Gospels, that means “viewed together”, “those that have a common view” (Nickle 43), the Fourth Gospel differs greatly in many important aspects, such as style, theme, presentation of the order of events, etc. What is more, the Fourth Gospel was once considered heretical (Lierman 144). Thus, the comparison of the Gospels promises nontrivial results. As for the choice of the Gospel of Mark, it may be explained by the fact that this Gospel is considered the basis for two other gospels, thus being the primary source. The analysis will be multidimensional; four aspects of theology will be applied: Christology, Anthropology, Soteriology, and Eschatology.

If the Gospels narrate about the earthly ministry of Christ, it is necessary to consider the aspect of Christology in both Gospels since the personality of Christ is presented by Mark and John in different ways: the first emphasizes Jesus’ human nature while the second puts emphasis on Christ’s deity. In the first place, it is necessary to mention that virgin birth is not mentioned by Mark in his Gospel. There was the hypothesis that suggested that Jesus was adopted by God as his son at his baptism. Probably this accounts for the fact that the first event mentioned by Mark is Jesus’ baptism: “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan” (King James Version Mk 1: 9). However, the point of view was found heretical later. Thus, Christ is the Son of God that has a divine descent but human nature as presented by Mark, as God addresses him for the first time after his baptism: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mr 1: 11). In fact, the explanation of the term “Son of God” is needed. Mark’s point of view concerning Jesus may be compared with the notion of “demigod” due to the similarity and synonymy of the notions and images of Christ if compared, for instance with Heracles as the son of Zeus. Thus, Christ presented by Mark is the hero sent by God to save humanity.

A significant detail is that Mark calls Jesus “Son of Man” (Mr 10: 33), “Son of David” (Mr 10: 47-48) that proves his human nature. There are evident episodes in the Gospel that show clear separation between God and his Son uttered by Christ himself: “none good but one, that is, God” (Mr 10: 18). The behavior and Christ’s appeal to the Father in Mr 14: 35-36 seems to reproduce the pattern of human behavior instead of the behavior of God.

As for the mission of Christ as presented by Mark, Jesus was sent as a martyr to heal humanity and to die for the sins of people. This is why, healing is especially emphasized by Mark, exorcism is the main function of Jesus’ ministry that may be proven by numerous cases of healing in the Gospel of Mark (Mr 1: 23-26), (Mr 8: 22- 26). Thus, it may be said that the focus of Jesus’ ministry is on the poor and suffering people as it may be proven by the above-mentioned cases of healing. However, this healing is not only physical, it is more spiritual as it is expressed by the episode of the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who was cured by Christ and “follow Jesus in the way” becoming his true disciple (Mar 10: 52). This case of healing is the manifestation of the aim of Jesus’ mission: spiritual healing of humanity.

The principal difference of the Fourth Gospel from the Gospel of Mark is in the divine nature of Christ and his embodiment of God. Jesus is the embodiment of the divine Logos. This is why Jesus is described as the Son of God from the time the Universe is created (Jn 1:34) instead of the time of baptism that is not mentioned by John at all because of its senselessness if Jesus is God. The divine nature accounts for the theme of the teaching of Jesus: if for Mark the main theme is the Kingdom of God, this theme is secondary for John, while Jesus himself stands in the center of teaching being its main theme. The common nature and equality of Christ and God may be traced in the following quotations: “I am in the Father, and the Father in me”, “the Father that dwelleth in me” (Jn 14: 10), “I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me” (Jn 8: 42). Thus, the mission of Jesus is to make people believe in Him as the Son of God as it is the way to achieve personal salvation. This is why there is no emphasis on exorcism or healing in the Gospel, Jesus is the center of the whole work, it may be seen even on the level of language that demonstrates the frequent use of “I am” by Jesus: “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8: 12), “where I am, there shall my servant be: if any man serves me, he will my Father honor” (Jn 12: 26). John’s emphasis on Jesus may be also proven by the fact that Jesus in the Fourth Gospel carries his cross himself while in Mark’s Simon carries it: “Simon … who passed by … to bear his cross” (Mr 15: 21), “and he [Jesus] bearing his cross went forth” (Jn 19: 17).

The question of the anthropological aspect is very important and the part assigned to human beings according to Mark and John should be determined as numerous contradictions may be observed in the Gospels concerning the human issue. As it has been mentioned above, Mark depicted Jesus as a human being that automatically increased the importance of a man in the Gospel. It may be assumed that a man is very powerful since a Son of man is able to cure people and forgive sins (Mr 2: 10). A man is even elevated to the level of Jesus, thus, to the level of Son of God if a man can become Christ’s family: “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother” (Mr 3: 35). The only condition that should be met by a man is to follow the will of God, however, the generation of people described in the gospel is faithless and sinful, and it is in the deadlock and needs a healer, a Savior (Mr 2: 17). Human weakness is evident in the Gospel as people are compared with sheep without a shepherd (Mr 6: 34). It is necessary for people to come to believe in God, it is the only possible salvation.

John also states that human beings are not ideal, they should be born again (Jn 3: 7). In this matter, the views of Mark and John coincide, humanity needs salvation by means of healing or rebirth. However, John’s point seems more radical and pessimistic for humanity, he strictly divides people into those who can ascend top heave and those who are doomed to suffering due to their sinful descent: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8: 44).

The above-mentioned position of John concerning two descents of people is decisive in his soteriology. Since Christ is the embodiment of God, he is the way to salvation. Thus, those who have faith in Him, will be granted life and salvation after death (Jn 5:25). Still, according to John, it is possible for a living person to acquire eternal life as well, it is necessary to get faith in Lord (Jn 11: 26). Thus, Jesus is the Savior, he grants salvation to those who are faithful.

However, the principal difference of the role of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark determines his soteriology that differs from that of John’s. Jesus is the martyr; it suggests the necessity of following his example, of bearing one’s cross on the way to salvation. In order to get to the Kingdom of God, it is necessary to become pure, it is not by the incident that children are frequently mentioned by Mark as those who will get to Kingdom as they are pure. It is necessary to abandon sinful thoughts, earthly riches (Mr 10: 23) and one will be accepted to the Kingdom of God. Thus, both authors state that faith is needed to save one’s soul. Still, Mark also asserts that not only faith but good deeds are needed for salvation.

The Eschatological aspect is presented by the authors in different ways: in the Gospel of Mark, the end of times is definitely coming, while John offers a more spiritual and philosophical view of eschatology. Mark says: “in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation” (Mr 13: 19). In his Gospel, the end of times is imminent, it is sure to come and it threatens with sufferings and pain. However, the time and place are unknown even to Jesus, God is the one who knows everything, and he will determine the flow of things (Mr 13: 32).

If Mark does not know the time of the end of times, John is able to give the time of resurrection already. He says that resurrection will come as soon as a person believes in Jesus for he is the resurrection himself (Jn 11: 26). Thus, spiritual resurrection is much more important for John, this is why he does not mention suffering, and he states that faith will grant eternal life as soon as real faith comes.

Drawing a conclusion, it is necessary to state that the texts of the two Gospels have a lot of evident contradictions. The authors apply different approaches to the character and place of Christ, to the role of humans in the world. However, it is impossible to state which Gospel is more reliable or accurate from the point of view of history but this is not necessary. Both Gospels stress the necessity of faith as the way to salvation. The Gospels evidently show divine inspiration in them, it is necessary to study all Gospels in complex to get a better understanding of the intention of God at the time he sent inspiration to Mark and John.

Works Cited

Lierman, John. Challenging Perspectives on the Gospel of John. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006.

Nickle, Keith Fullerton. The Synoptic Gospels: An Introduction. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster Knox Press, 2001.

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