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It is worth noting that Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels narrate the life of Christ on earth, His sufferings, death, and resurrection. These two Gospels are synoptic since they coincide pretty firmly in the events described in them. However, an essential distinction between these two texts lies in the audience to which they are addressed. Matthew’s Gospel is primarily written for the people of Israel, while Mark’s Gospel is aimed at Rome’s Christian community. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the historical goals behind these writings.
Notably, Mark was an adherent of Christ, and he joined Peter during his missions. It is possible to assume that he intended to pass the teaching on their missions to the Christian community (Stanton 54). Therefore, one of Mark’s Gospel’s historical purposes was to spread the information and make a record of what Peter witnessed during his missions. The writing had a crucial goal to educate people and encourage them to have faith and trust in God and Christ. Apart from that, another historical purpose was connected to the need to ensure that people would lead a morally correct life. The Gospel portrays Christ in the miracle traditions to stimulate the Christian community to keep a good relationship with God.
Notably, Mark’s Gospel is not written in a strict chronological order, which allows assuming that its purpose was not linked to the need to compile an account of Jesus’s life. It was important to record the words and works of Jesus as Peter narrated them. The writing reveals that Jesus is the Son of God and Mark says, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” (The Bible, Mark 1:1-2).
Thus, the reference allows assuming that the purpose was to declare the good works of Jesus to the people and encourage them to live in a righteous way. Moreover, the well-being of Galilean Christians was in jeopardy of persecution by the Jewish people (Incigneri 237). The writing eliminated any political connotations associated with Christ and revealed that He did not intend to appropriate power over Israel.
Thus, the main motive for writing the Gospel of Mark was the need to document the oral stories of the companion of the Apostle Peter, a direct disciple of Jesus Christ (Stanton 54). In addition, the purpose of the text was to create a vivid and powerful narration about the miracles of Christ, which emphasized his omnipotence. In order to make the text understandable, it was written in a fairly simple language, and the evangelist used some Latin words to facilitate understanding.
Matthew wrote his Gospel from a certain point of view, and his goal was to show that the main events in the life of Jesus took place in fulfillment of the prophecies. Although the Jewish accents were quite strong in Matthew’s Gospel, the main historical purpose of the writing was to show that Christianity was much more extensive than Judaism. This was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in its broadest sense. Christ was introduced as the Messiah and savior of Israel (Stanton 48). The Gospel says: “You are the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the living God” (The Bible, Matt. 16:16-18). Matthew constantly sends the reader to the prophecies, but at the same time, he emphasizes that they come true in Christ.
It should be mentioned that according to Stanton, many theologians assumed that Matthew’s Gospel was created later than the Gospel of Mark, and it expanded Mark’s text (54). Therefore, one of the historical purposes of this writing was to dwell upon the earlier writing. Nevertheless, it is possible to state that this Gospel was written for the Jewish/Christian people given the allusions to the Old Testament. The text determined the identity of Christ to refer to the Jewish community.
Thus, it may be concluded that Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels have different historical purposes for their creation. The Gospel of Matthew was intended for the people of Israel while the second writing was written to address the Christian community of Rome. In the first text, Christ was defined as a Messiah and the savior of the people of Israel. The writing stressed that the prophecy could come true in Christ. Meanwhile, the second Gospel was created as a written account of the good works of Christ witnessed by Peter during the missions to encourage people to lead a righteous life.
The Bible. New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, Hendrickson Publishers, 2011.
Incigneri, Brian J. The Gospel to the Romans: The Setting and Rhetoric of Mark’s Gospel. Brill, 2003.
Stanton, Graham. The Gospels and Jesus. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2002.