The odds are you weren’t going to say Mark. But Mark’s remarkable similarities with Matthew and Luke make it the best place to begin reading the Gospels.
Where should you begin reading the Gospels? The odds are you weren’t going to say the Gospel of Mark. That’s because in comparison to Matthew, Luke and John, Mark has so little to offer. It’s the shortest Gospel by far, only 16 chapters. That, by word count, is about half the size of the other three.
And even the stories Mark tells are nothing special. 90% of them are found in Matthew’s Gospel and 40% are in Luke. So if you read Matthew and Luke you pretty much have Mark
But contrary to what you might think, Mark is actually the best place to begin reading the gospels.
That’s because Mark was most likely the first gospel written. The substantial agreement between Matthew, Mark and Luke, better known as the Synoptic gospels because they can be seen together, indicates that one or more of them copied from one or more of the others. And in almost every instance, Matthew and Luke appear to build on Mark’s foundation.
Mark’s fewer stories, for instance, suggests that Matthew and Luke added to it. Think about it. Which is more likely? That Mark edited out material that he found in Matthew and Luke or that they added material that Mark didn’t include?
The same is true for Mark’s poores writing style and harder sayings. Mark uses colloquialisms, Aramaic terms (the original language of Jesus) and redunuances where Matthew and Luke do not. Mark also records apparent limitations of Jesus’ power and repeatedly emphasizes the stupidity of the disciples. Matthew and Luke, on the other hand, are much more positive when it comes to presenting Jesus and the disciples. Matthew and Luke, once again, appear to build upon Mark by improving and softening their sourge.
All this means, by reading reading Mark first, you’ll not only understand where, how and why Matthew and Luse add their unique spin by deviating from Mark, you won’t find Mark redundant or stale by comparison. By reading Mark first, you’ll encounter this gospel with the freshness and distinctiveness with which it was meant to be read.
See you next time.