This is part one of sixteen in a series, “The Bible Is…”
Perhaps the single most important thing to know about the Bible is that it is about the Gospel, or “good news”, of Jesus Christ. Every page speaks of him in some way: some parts foretell aspects of his identity and work, some parts explain the impact he has on our lives, others speak of him directly. Four books in the Bible are specifically called Gospels because they are direct accounts of his life, teachings, and works. All Scripture speaks of Christ, but only four of its books are singly devoted to telling us his story.
There is much that can be learned from comparing the styles, emphases, and contents of the four Gospel books, but for the purposes of an introduction to the Bible it is easiest to begin with just one book. Of the four, we will be looking at the Gospel according to Saint Mark.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four, and arguably the most action-packed. The phrase “and then” or “immediately” is used far more times in this book than any other, giving a sense of motion and advancement through the narrative. Its comparative brevity and excitement is perhaps due to its author and purpose: Saint Mark was initially a traveling evangelist with Saint Paul, and then the protégé of Saint Peter. Having a shorter, memorable, and more portable Gospel account would prove especially useful for his purposes.
Each of the Gospel books take on a slightly different focus regarding Jesus, and Mark’s is especially useful for the evangelist and first-time reader by emphasizing Jesus as King. The book follows a rough outline of establishing Jesus’ authority (chapter 1), demonstrating it through his works (chapters 1-8) and teaching (8-10), the testing of his authority (chapters 11-15) and proof of his authority (chapter 16). Although not perfectly chronological by modern history-writing standards, it is one of the more chronologically-precise books of the four, again making it an ideal introduction for the first-time Bible-reader.