The Gospel of Mark is the first of the four Gospels to be written and evidence suggests that the place of origin for this gospel was Rome. This Gospel places its attention on what Jesus did. The shortest of all the gospels, beginning at Jesus' baptism (nothing about his birth) and ending at the empty tomb (no resurrection appearances). Mark's account of Jesus is full of action and an excellent introduction for the unbeliever to the life of Christ. For much of church history, it was thought to be an abbreviation of Matthew and hence less important because over 600 of its 661 verses find a parallel in Matthew's.
The author fails to mention himself and this is a characteristic of all the Gospels. They all seemed to have the ambition of diverting attention away from themselves and giving the main character of their books the centre stage. The Gospel of Mark is so titled because a man named Mark wrote it. Most Bible scholars seem to agree this was John Mark (Acts 12:12).
Tradition says that Mark wanted to put down Peter's preaching in writing before he died. There was an urgent need for this, as the apostles were beginning to die off, and the Christian community needed to have a written record of their preaching. Some scholars believe that evidence that this gospel is based on an eyewitness account can be found in the little details which this gospel preserves, details which can only have been known by an eyewitness.
Mark's Gospel was written at a time when the Church was first experiencing great persecution because in 64 AD Rome had been destroyed by fire. In the year 64 a vicious persecution of Christians was launched by the emperor Nero, who wanted to shake off the blame for a disastrous fire in the city which was being wrongly attributed to him. The Christians, regarded by everyone as a very strange group of people, were a useful scapegoat, and many Christians were put to death. Peter, it is believed, was finally executed in 67, and the gospel finally written in the year 70. In the meantime his preaching had been recorded.
Mark was at one time or another travelling associate of Paul (2 Timothy 4:11), Barnabas (Acts 15:39) and Peter (1 Peter 5:13). He was in good company and had plenty of reliable sources to get his accounts from. However Mark did not sign his Gospel so there is no real way of knowing who wrote it. The earliest reference we have to the authorship of Mark's Gospel comes the Church historian Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (c. 320 AD). He quotes Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (c. 130 AD), who recorded a tradition which he claimed was handed down by an elder, that Mark was a companion of Peter. Papias also records that Mark wrote down accurately Peter's account of the sayings and doings of Jesus, though not in order.