Life Situation of Mark
1. Tacitus, Annals of Rome 15.44—he writes of Nero’s reign ca. August 64 CE. Tacitus illustrates Nero’s immorality and explains his desire to build a temple to himself. This desire led to the burning of shops and slums around the Circus Maximus that Nero blamed on the Christians (even though Nero and his helpers were behind the fire in an effort to clear the area for a temple). This fire of Rome was the occasion for a persecution of Christians in the city and may be the persecution/oppression alluded to in Mark’s Gospel.
2. 1 Peter 5:13—references to “Babylon” and “my son, Mark” evidently place Peter and Mark together in Rome (“Babylon” being a designation popularly used for Rome among early Christians). So, it is likely that Mark was with Peter in Rome when Nero’s persecution began (Mark may have even been there when Peter is purportedly martyred under Nero’s order).
3. Mark is a pamphlet for hard times. It addresses a church that is the object of imperial persecution following the great fire of Rome. The evidence from the Gospel of Mark is as follows:
a. During his temptation, Mark describes Jesus as “among the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). This reference parallels the danger faced by Christians in the arena. b. Jesus is betrayed by one of his own people (3:19). Often acquaintances and friends turned in Christians to Roman officials. c. Jesus warned the disciples of hard times (even persecution) to come and warns them that they will be misrepresented (3:21-22, 30; 4:17). d. The call to discipleship is a call to laying down one’s life (i.e., martyrdom, 8:34-38). e. Jesus warned that everyone would be tested by fire (9:49). f. Mark 10:30 indicates that those who follow Jesus will inherit many things, including persecutions. g. Jesus warned that his disciples would be paraded before authorities and courts because of their faith...