Themes in Paul and Mark


Paul explains the concept of Jesus' suffering and resurrection, whereas Mark shows readers the events.

Both writers focus on the necessity of faith

Both writers present Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Hebrew scriptures

Both writers are trying to encourage fledgling communities

Paul builds upon the passion narrative framework (did he have access to one?)

Both define Jesus as the Son of God

Both writers struggle with the duality of Jesus' message: apocalyptic and ethical

Both writers have a pessimistic view of the world

Although Mark doesn't have a theory of atonement, he hints that humans need it by portraying Jesus' closest friends' betrayal


Mark tends to portray Jewish leaders as intrinsically wrong (7:6-8, 15:3); Paul's letter doesn't see two exclusive groups

Paul has a higher Christology and presents Jesus as a divine savior figure; Mark emphasizes necessity of heightened moral behavior as much as faith

Paul's starting point is where Mark ends (Jesus' crucifixion and death)

Mark believes strongly that the events of Jesus' life have importance for the community; Paul doesn't

For Paul, Jesus' death changed the relationship between God and humans

Mark has no theology of grace or atonement

Mark's comments on the role of the Law are more indirect and focus on actions or speech of Jesus

Mark does not believe Jesus' message is for everyone (the Markan secret) and Paul does

Mark focuses more on Jesus' human qualities and his human suffering

Mark has less of a dichotomy between body/soul than does Paul; the body is weak but not sinful as in Paul

Two different concerns: Paul writes about the importance of Jesus' death; Mark, why Jesus was not well known during his lifetime

Mark sees Jesus as a martyr bringing in the New Age rather than a cosmic savior

For Mark, Jesus' death was unjust; for Paul, an unfortunate necessity

In Mark, Jesus is a figure of authority and power; Paul gives that role to God with Christ rather as an intermediary

No Adam/Christ parallel in Mark