Mark and the Eucharist

This article explores the link between Mark?s gospel and the gatherings of early Christians for the eucharistic meal. Thomas O?Loughlin is professor of historical theology at Nottingham University.

Mark is the passed over genius of first century theology. For most of Christian history his gospel was skipped in favour of his longer imitators: Matthew (of whose work he was seen as an abbreviator) and Luke. And, when he was read, it was more often than not just as a minor strand of a harmonised account based on all four gospels or of the three ?synoptics.? Indeed, so passed over was he that 1971 was the first time he formed the basis for preaching in the entire history of the western churches!1 Little wonder, then, that the subtleties of his theology are overlooked. Yet it is worth remembering that the first known preacher who presented both the person and message of Jesus within a narrative was Mark. We know of no gospel (?gospel? as a kind of Christian document) before his, and yet the success of his way of preaching the gospel (?gospel? = ?the good news?) not only provoked almost immediate imitation (Matthew, Luke, John ? and many other nameless evangelists), but soon established itself as part of the weekly meal gathering of Christians as we see from what Justin says about ?reading from the apostles? memoirs? (mid-second century).

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