The composition of the New Testament's content, by contrast, was the work of less than two centuries. It had a much more specific goal in view than did the Hebrew Bible. First its authors and editors wished to preserve information concerning the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
The third objective of the works that came to be included in the New Testament was to trace the work of Jesus' followers and their successors in spreading the nascent faith from its place of origin in Palestine throughout Asia Minor, the Grecian archipelago, and the Western Roman Empire. The inclusion of a body of important letters in the New Testament's official text thus makes epistolary prose an important scriptural genre. The never-ending tendency of religious communities to splinter, however, soon made it alarmingly clear that Christian communicants needed an official body of scripture. Progress toward this goal gained impetus when, under the emperor Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman state. Whereas it was all very well for the members of peripheral religions to bicker among themselves about such matters as whether or not their founder had literally been resurrected, the official state religion of Rome could tolerate no such divisions. The Council of Nicaea had already pronounced on this crucial matter, and in his Easter letter of 367 CE, the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, listed the books now incorporated in the New Testament as official scripture. The Council of Trent confirmed Athanasius's catalog.
Gospel of Mark
The order of composition of the four gospels (from godspel: the Anglo Saxon word for "good news") is a matter of general agreement. The Gospel of Mark was the first to be written. Its author may have been the John Mark who personally knew the apostles Peter and Paul. Mark, like all the rest of the New Testament, was written in the Greek language. Unlike the other New Testament books, however, Mark may have had sources in the Aramaic language—the native tongue of Jesus. Mark's date of composition seems to have been a bit later than 70 CE.
Mark's gospel may have been written at Rome, where early Christian sources (Eusebius of Caesarea, Papias, and Aristion) report Mark to have been Peter's interpreter, clerk, and secretary. These early sources make clear that Mark did not personally know Jesus but wrote down everything that he learned from Peter. Modern textual critics suggest that as many as four distinct sources may underlie Mark's received text (F. F. Bruce, 1983).
Mark has nothing to say concerning Jesus' birth and childhood, but rather begins his account with Jesus' baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. Mark proceeds to trace Jesus' ministry through Galilee and elsewhere until his final journey to Jericho and to Jerusalem. Mark reports miracles of healing that Jesus performed, including driving out devils and the miracle of feeding a multitude with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. He also reports a divine voice from ...