Was the Gospel of Mark a fake? That’s something you might hear liberal scholars ask, not just about Mark, but about many of the New Testament documents. In fact, in a book called Forged, Bart Ehrman said that “the vast majority of these apostolic books were in fact forged” (p.218). For example, he says The Gospel of Mark really wasn’t written by Mark. Instead, later scribes added Mark’s name to the book to make it appear more important.
So is the gospel of Mark just a forged document that made its way into our Bibles? In this post, you’ll see how to answer the allegation that the Gospel of Mark is an ancient forgery.
Ehrman’s got one thing right about Mark and the rest of the New Testament gospels: They were all originally anonymous. But back in the day, people from a certain area only had one gospel account. So it didn’t need to be called by the author’s name. That might sound odd, but consider this illustration:
Right now, my wife and I have one car. If things stay that way until our son drives by himself, I might say, “take the car” if he asks to go somewhere. But if we end up buying another car by then and he asks to go somewhere, I might say, “take mom’s car.” See, as soon as more than one car comes into play, we’ll probably start calling the new one, “Mom’s car.” I assume “Dad’s car” will be the older one. 😉
In kind of the same way, the four gospels needed to be distinguished from each other as each of them started showing up in different areas that used to only have one known gospel account. Bottom line: Nobody in the ancient world ever thought these gospels were written by anyone else besides each of their traditional authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But let’s get back to Mark. Is there any evidence at all that Mark wrote the gospel we think he wrote?
According to Papius, an early church writer who lived in the first century, Mark wrote the gospel that’s got his name on it in your Bible. And Mark wrote it using information he got from Peter (Fragments of Papius, 3.15).None of the church fathers thought Papius was wrong about that.
Despite this, skeptics might say that the ancient church often attributed their sacred writings to impressive religious figures in order to make the writings seem authoritative. But think about this: Mark’s not really the kind of guy you’d pick if you just wanted to slap an important name on a gospel account.
He’s kind of a bit-player in the New Testament and he doesn’t exactly come off as the perfect disciple either. He never even finished his first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas—he bailed on them and went back home! He’s also responsible for causing a rift between them because he wanted to join them on a second mission trip. So this isn’t a very likely scenario.
Dr. Darrell Bock put it succinctly: “the tradition is consistent that Mark is the author of this gospel–even though they had the availability of connecting it to Peter… the tradition is actually very careful about how it handles the naming of its authors.”
If Mark got his stuff from Peter, why didn’t church leaders just call it The Gospel According to Peter? If early Christians were so eager to slap the name of well-respected religious figure on their books, why didn’t they do it for this gospel? At the same event, Dr. Dan Wallace noted that they didn’t give in to any temptation to call it anything besides Mark because they placed a huge value on the truth: “To call this The Gospel According to Mark is something that the church was committed to because it was true.”
So, how can we respond to the challenge that Mark’s Gospel was forged? By pointing to the positive evidence for Mark’s authorship provided by Papius and considering the unlikelihood that anyone would choose the name of a minor, somewhat embarrassing figure like Mark to enhance the authority of an anonymous report—especially when they had the chance to put Peter’s name on it instead.
This post was adapted from http://www.apologeticsguy.com/2014/06/forgery-in-the-bible-was-mark-forged/