Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am aware that there are a number of early church fathers who made this connection (e.g. see Eusebius and others including Irenaeus, Justin, Clement, Origen, and more cited in this blog post). Is there also material internal to Mark's gospel to suggest that it reflects the memoirs of Peter?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There is no conclusive internal evidence but there are plenty of pointers that lend themselves to the conclusion that Peter is in some way the source, for example this blog post lists some examples:

  • Peter is the first and last named disciple in Mark (1:16; 16:7).

  • Peter is mentioned more than any other disciple in Mark.

  • Peter appears in some of the most important scenes in Mark: the calling of the first disciples (1:16-20), the confession of Jesus as Messiah (8:27-30), the transfiguration (9:2-8), the prayer in Gethsemane (14:32-42), and in the concluding scene alluding to future appearances of Jesus (16:7).

  • Of the four gospels, Mark has the highest percentage of references to boats, the Sea of Galilee, and fishing. Peter apparently was a fisherman who worked on the Sea of Galilee (1:16).

  • There is the curious story of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (1:29-31), which seems to include personal details related to Peter.

Of these I give the last the most weight.

Also, only Peter, James and John were present at the transfiguration, so it is likely that one of them passed on the account to Mark:

2And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. Mark 9, ESV

This is very similar to Peter's account in 2 Peter:

17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1, ESV

So, Is there also material internal to Mark's gospel to suggest that it reflects the memoirs of Peter?

Yes, but the key word here is "suggest". There is no direct proof but also no strong reason to suggest otherwise, which is important too.

share|improve this answer

Here is the various internal evidence that I am aware of, as well as evidence that indicates a "persecuted audience" which fits the idea of this being written after Peter's death at the hands of Nero.

Evidence That could Indicate Peter as an Original Source

  • It is possible to see connections in the simple, quick and unpolished nature of this gospel and in Peter’s brash personality. This comes out through a linguistic analysis of the text: (1) Mark's most famous phrase: “and immediately” (gk. kai euthus) 37 times, 11 x's in ch.1 (2) Historical Present used over 150 times, creating a vivid atmosphere (3) Constant use of Parataxis: the joining together of sentences with conjunctions.

  • There are certain details that read like the telling of an eyewitness account (1:33,2:4; 4:37; 5:5; 6:40; 9:36; 10:16,21). Also the words Jesus originally spoke in Aramaic are recorded, as if the source of the gospel remembered them vividly (3:17; 5:41; 7:11,34; 14:36; 15:22,34)

  • Peter’s proclamation patterns in Acts is very similar to the gospel of Mark.

  • Simon of Cyrene who carries the cross for Jesus is stated to be the father of Alexander and Rufus (15:21). It is possible that Rufus was a roman believer and is the same one mentioned by Paul in his final greetings in Rom. 16:13. If this man was not known by the OR, it would not really make sense to record his son’s names. This is simply interesting speculation and could serve to connect the book to Rome, as church tradition suggests.

Internal evidence indicating a setting of persecution:

  • The brevity of the text could point to the fact that this was read by a persecuted church not a “philosophical or pondering church” (use of word “immediately”, emphasis of teachings over stories, cuts straight to the chase)

  • It looks like the original ending of the book is a group of disciples “afraid” which would be a very relatable experience for the OR

  • The moment of cruciality in the middle of the book when the messianic secret is unveiled is paired with very clear words regarding “losing one’s life for the sake of Jesus and the gospels” (mk. 8:34-35)

  • Passion Predictions show that the cross is a part of the Christian way, not a mistake (8:31-32, 9:9-10; 9:30-32, 10:32-34). Mark devotes a greater proportion of space to the passion narrative then any of the other gospels.

  • The crux of the paradoxical messianic secret is that the messiah is a suffering servant who will conquer through the cross and his disciples must too follow in the way of the cross Repeated Idea: Those who are last of all are first (9:35, 10:29-31, 42-45) Warning of Persecution: 13:11-13

share|improve this answer
OR= original redactor? I had never thought about all the ευθύςes being Petrine, but that's an interesting idea. You're picturing the two of them chatting about this in Greek, then? Did you mean polysyndeton rather than parataxis? I agree that's it's fairly paratactic too, for Greek, and they probably come together in the Hebrew mind, but the definition you give is really about polysyndeton. –  Susan Aug 19 '14 at 13:18
Your recent contributions around here are really appreciated, by the way. I hope you stick around! –  Susan Aug 19 '14 at 13:19
OR = original reader. Thanks, i've enjoyed this site! –  Luke Aug 19 '14 at 14:52

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.