Mark, the Evangelist

Mark, the Evangelist

Mark (Marcus) was the Latin surname and John the common Hebrew name of this evangelist (Acts 12:12,25; 15:37). Christians in Jerusalem gathered in the house of his mother, Mary (Acts 12:12). He was Barnabas’ nephew (Acts 12:25; Col. 4:10). Paul and Barnabas took him from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 12:25). Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but he left them at Perga and turned back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). For this reason Paul was unwilling to take him on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36–40). A “sharp contention” arose between Paul and Barnabas about this matter and they decided to go in different directions. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and went on his second missionary journey. Later Paul and Mark were reconciled (Phile. 1:24; 2 Tim. 4:11; Col. 4:10). Mark accompanied the apostle Peter to Rome where they preached together. Peter called Mark his son (1 Peter 5:13).

Mark is the author of the Gospel According to Mark, the second Gospel in the New Testament, but the earliest. He wrote his Gospel in Rome, accurately recording the testimonies of the apostle Peter and other eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ’s life. According to Papias and Saint Clement of Alexandria, Mark wrote his Gospel at the request of the Roman Christians around AD 49. In his work Church History (AD 325), the history of the first three centuries of the Christian Church, in Book II, Chapter 15, The Gospel According to Mark, Eusebius of Caesarea wrote the following about the Gospel of Mark:

And thus when the divine word had made its home among them, the power of Simon was quenched and immediately destroyed, together with the man himself. And so greatly did the splendor of piety illumine the minds of Peter’s hearers that they were not satisfied with hearing once only, and were not content with the unwritten teaching of the divine Gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, a follower of Peter, and the one whose Gospel is extant, that he would leave them a written monument of the doctrine which had been orally communicated to them. Nor did they cease until they had prevailed with the man, and had thus become the occasion of the written Gospel which bears the name of Mark. And they say that Peter when he had learned, through a revelation of the Spirit, of that which had been done, was pleased with the zeal of the men, and that the work obtained the sanction of his authority for the purpose of being used in the churches. Clement in the eighth book of his Hypotyposes gives this account, and with him agrees the bishop of Hierapolis named Papias.

Others say that Mark was only the scribe of this Gospel and the apostle Peter dictated it to him. The Gospel was intended primarily for Gentile Christians, as it makes no reference to the Jewish law and explains some religious terms that would have been familiar to the Jews. This Gospel focuses on Jesus Christ’s actions and miracles rather than His words.

The apostle Peter sent his disciples out from Rome to establish other churches. Mark was the first to be sent to Egypt, in c AD 49. According to ancient writings, he first carried the Gospel to Libya, where he demolished several temples of idols. He then preached in Egypt and established the church in Alexandria, one of the greatest cities of the world at that time. He was appointed the first Bishop of Alexandria.

Mark was martyred in Alexandria around AD 68. On Sunday the 24th of April, pagans seized him as he was preaching, tied his feet with cords and dragged him about the rocky streets, as pieces of his flesh were scattered on the ground. They dragged him the whole day, but he continued to praise God and thank Him for his sufferings. At night he was thrown into prison, where God comforted him in visions. The next day the crowd dragged him again until he died. The Christians gathered up the remains of his body and buried him in Alexandria. It is said that a French monk named Bernard carried Mark’s body to Venice in AD 815, where it is buried in a secret place in Saint Mark’s Cathedral.