Mark 1:16, The Petrine Inclusio

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

//Today’s verse tells how Peter (Simon) was the first person called into discipleship by Jesus. Peter is not only the first disciple called, but the first disciple mentioned in the Gospel.

He is also the last:

But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. –Mark 16:7

Thus the mention of Peter forms a literary convention called an inclusio, centered on Peter himself. Scholars call this the Petrine Inclusio.

How much meaning are we supposed to read into this inclusio? Hengel suggests, “Simon Peter is as a disciple named first and last in the Gospel to show that it is based on his tradition and therefore his authority” (Hengel, Four Gospels, p. 82) . I mention in my book about John’s Gospel that Mark’s Gospel quickly became associated with Peter. Indeed, Eusebius, writing about Papier the presbyter, would write:

“This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.” These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.

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