Date of Submission



This study proposes that the design of Mark's Gospel is best appreciated by recognising the particular political, social and religious situation that gave rise it, and by taking into account the concerns, experiences and emotions of both the author and the intended readers. It is argued that proposals for an Eastern provenance lack evidence and plausibility, and that the Gospel was written in Rome. The time of writing is identified as the latter months of 71, as the Gospel contains a number of indications that the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed and that the Triumph of Vespasian and Titus in July/August 71 had recently occurred. Moreover, there are several allusions to events that had occurred within a year or two prior to that date. An investigation of the political and social situation shows that Christians had reason to be fearful, especially after the return of Titus. Through an examination of the rhetorical techniques contained within the text, it is proposed that the Gospel was a response to the protracted suffering of the Christians of Rome, addressing their doubts about God in the face of Roman power, their fear of further executions, and stresses within the community caused by apostasy and betrayal. Paying close attention to the mood of the text, an analysis of Mark's rhetoric shows how it responds to the readers' anxieties (including fear of delation), counters Flavian propaganda, and provides hope and strength. As appeals to the emotions were regarded as a key tool of ancient rhetoric, careful attention is paid to their use throughout the Gospel, showing that Mark produced a text full of pathos, matching the highly stressful atmosphere, and placing the readers' cries for help and prayers into the mouths of characters.;In repeatedly stirring the readers' emotions by reminding them of their own painful experiences and by alluding to contemporary events and social attitudes, Mark explains why they are persecuted, and helps them to deal with their fear. He portrays Jesus as the one who had led the way by accepting martyrdom for the gospel in similar circumstances. He shapes many scenes to remind them of their Roman situation, especially the trials and executions of fellow Christians. Mark's rhetorical use of the disciples is also explored, showing that he aimed to elicit sympathy for those who had failed under pressure, which indicates that he was advocating their readmittance into the community. It is proposed that reading the Gospel as rhetoric addressed to this situation provides a quite different view of its nature, design and purposes, and gives a very different perspective to a number of debated issues within Markan scholarship.


School of Theology

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


296 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Arts and Sciences