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St. Mark the Evangelist: April 25

April 25th, 2012
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Lectionary Readings for St. Mark’s Day

Isaiah 52:7-10
Eph. 4:7-16
Luke 10:1-9


Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark. Grant that we may firmly believe these glad tidings and daily walk according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Information about Mark

(Greek Markos, Latin Marcus).

It is assumed in this article that the individual referred to in Acts as John Mark (12:12, 25; 15:37), John (xiii, 5, 13), Mark (15:39), is identical with the Mark mentioned by St. Paul (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24) and by St. Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Their identity is not questioned by any ancient writer of note, while it is strongly suggested, on the one hand by the fact that Mark of the Pauline Epistles was the cousin (ho anepsios) of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), to whom Mark of Acts seems to have been bound by some special tie (Acts 15:37, 39); on the other by the probability that the Mark, whom St. Peter calls his son (1 Peter 5:13), is no other than the son of Mary, the Apostle’s old friend in Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). To the Jewish name John was added the Roman pronomen Marcus, and by the latter he was commonly known to the readers of Acts (15:37, ton kaloumenon Markon) and of the Epistles. Mark’s mother was a prominent member of the infant Church at Jerusalem; it was to her house that Peter turned on his release from prison; the house was approached by a porch (pulon), there was a slave girl (paidiske), probably the portress, to open the door, and the house was a meeting-place for the brethren, “many” of whom were praying there the night St. Peter arrived from prison (Acts 12:12-13).

When, on the occasion of the famine of A.D. 45-46, Barnabas and Saul had completed their ministration in Jerusalem, they took Mark with them on their return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). Not long after, when they started on St. Paul’s first Apostolic journey, they had Mark with them as some sort of assistant (hupereten, Acts 13:5); but the vagueness and variety of meaning of the Greek term makes it uncertain in what precise capacity he acted. Neither selected by the Holy Spirit, nor delegated by the Church of Antioch, as were Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2-4), he was probably taken by the Apostles as one who could be of general help. The context of Acts 13:5, suggests that he helped even in preaching the Word. When Paul and Barnabas resolved to push on from Perga into central Asia Minor, Mark, departed from them, if indeed he had not already done so at Paphos, and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). What his reasons were for turning back, we cannot say with certainty; Acts 15:38, seems to suggest that he feared the toil. At any rate, the incident was not forgotten by St. Paul, who refused on account of it to take Mark with him on the second Apostolic journey. This refusal led to the separation of Paul and Barnabas, and the latter, taking Mark with him, sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-40). At this point (A.D. 49-50) we lose sight of Mark in Acts, and we meet him no more in the New Testament, till he appears some ten years afterwards as the fellow-worker of St. Paul, and in the company of St. Peter, at Rome.

St. Paul, writing to the Colossians during his first Roman imprisonment (A.D. 59-61), says: “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, touching whom you have received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him” (Colossians 4:10). At the time this was written, Mark was evidently in Rome, but had some intention of visiting Asia Minor. About the same time St. Paul sends greetings to Philemon from Mark, whom he names among his fellow-workers (sunergoi, Philem., 24). The Evangelist’s intention of visiting Asia Minor was probably carried out, for St. Paul, writing shortly before his death to Timothy at Ephesus, bids him pick up Mark and bring him with him to Rome, adding “for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). If Mark came to Rome at this time, he was probably there when St. Paul was martyred. Turning to 1 Peter 5:13, we read: “The Church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, and (so doth) Mark my son” (Markos, o huios aou). This letter was addressed to various Churches of Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1), and we may conclude that Mark was known to them. Hence, though he had refused to penetrate into Asia Minor with Paul and Barnabas, St. Paul makes it probable, and St. Peter certain, that he went afterwards, and the fact that St. Peter sends Mark’s greeting to a number of Churches implies that he must have been widely known there. In calling Mark his “son”, Peter may possibly imply that he had baptized him, though in that case teknon might be expected rather than huios (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1; Titus 1:4; Philemon 10). The term need not be taken to imply more than affectionate regard for a younger man, who had long ago sat at Peter’s feet in Jerusalem, and whose mother had been the Apostle’s friend (Acts 12:12). As to the Babylon from which Peter writers, and in which Mark is present with him, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is Rome. The view of St. Jerome: “St. Peter also mentions this Mark in his First Epistle, while referring figuratively to Rome under the title of Babylon” (Illustrious Men 8), is supported by all the early Father who refer to the subject. It may be said to have been questioned for the first time by Erasmus, whom a number of Protestant writers then followed, that they might the more readily deny the Roman connection of St. Peter. Thus, we find Mark in Rome with St. Peter at a time when he was widely known to the Churches of Asia Minor. If we suppose him, as we may, to have gone to Asia Minor after the date of the Epistle to the Colossians, remained there for some time, and returned to Rome before I Peter was written, the Petrine and Pauline references to the Evangelist are quite intelligible and consistent.

When we turn to tradition, Papias (Eusebius, Church History III.39) asserts not later than A.D. 130, on the authority of an “elder”, that Mark had been the interpreter (hermeneutes) of Peter, and wrote down accurately, though not in order, the teaching of Peter (see below, GOSPEL OF SAINT MARK). A widespread, if somewhat late, tradition represents St. Mark as the founder of the Church of Alexandria. Though strangely enough Clement and Origen make no reference to the saint’s connection with their city, it is attested by Eusebius (op. cit., II, xvi, xxiv), by St. Jerome (“De Vir. Illust.”, viii), by the Apostolic Constitutions (VII, xlvi), by Epiphanius (“Hær;.”, li, 6) and by many later authorities. The “Martyrologium Romanum” (25 April) records: “At Alexandria the anniversary of Blessed Mark the Evangelist . . . at Alexandria of St. Anianus, Bishop, the disciple of Blessed Mark and his successor in the episcopate, who fell asleep in the Lord.” The date at which Mark came to Alexandria is uncertain. The Chronicle of Eusebius assigns it to the first years of Claudius (A.D. 41-4), and later on states that St. Mark’s first successor, Anianus, succeeded to the See of Alexandria in the eighth year of Nero (61-2). This would make Mark Bishop of Alexandria for a period of about twenty years. This is not impossible, if we might suppose in accordance with some early evidence that St. Peter came to Rome in A.D. 42, Mark perhaps accompanying him. But Acts raise considerable difficulties. On the assumption that the founder of the Church of Alexandria was identical with the companion of Paul and Barnabas, we find him at Jerusalem and Antioch about A.D. 46 (Acts 12:25), in Salamis about 47 (Acts 13:5), at Antioch again about 49 or 50 (Acts 15:37-9), and when he quitted Antioch, on the separation of Paul and Barnabas, it was not to Alexandria but to Cyprus that he turned (Acts 15:39). There is nothing indeed to prove absolutely that all this is inconsistent with his being Bishop of Alexandria at the time, but seeing that the chronology of the Apostolic age is admittedly uncertain, and that we have no earlier authority than Eusebius for the date of the foundation of the Alexandrian Church, we may perhaps conclude with more probability that it was founded somewhat later. There is abundance of time between A.D. 50 and 60, a period during which the New Testament is silent in regard to St. Mark, for his activity in Egypt.

In the preface to his Gospel in manuscripts of the Vulgate, Mark is represented as having been a Jewish priest: “Mark the Evangelist, who exercised the priestly office in Israel, a Levite by race”. Early authorities, however, are silent upon the point, and it is perhaps only an inference from his relation to Barnabas the Levite (Acts 4:36). Papias (in Eusebius, Church History III.39) says, on the authority of “the elder”, that Mark neither heard the Lord nor followed Him (oute gar ekouse tou kurion oute parekoluthesen auto), and the same statement is made in the Dialogue of Adamantius (fourth century, Leipzig, 1901, p. 8), by Eusebius (“Demonst. Evang.”, III, v), by St. Jerome (“In Matth.”), by St. Augustine (“De Consens. Evang.”), and is suggested by the Muratorian Fragment. Later tradition, however, makes Mark one of the seventy-two disciples, and St. Epiphanius (“Hær”, li, 6) says he was one of those who withdrew from Christ (John 6:67). The later tradition can have no weight against the earlier evidence, but the statement that Mark neither heard the Lord nor followed Him need not be pressed too strictly, nor force us to believe that he never saw Christ. Many indeed are of opinion that the young man who fled naked from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51) was Mark himself. Early in the third century Hippolytus (“Philosophumena”, VII, xxx) refers to Mark as ho kolobodaktulos, i.e. “stump-fingered” or “mutilated in the finger(s)”, and later authorities allude to the same defect. Various explanations of the epithet have been suggested: that Mark, after he embraced Christianity, cut off his thumb to unfit himself for the Jewish priesthood; that his fingers were naturally stumpy; that some defect in his toes is alluded to; that the epithet is to be regarded as metaphorical, and means “deserted” (cf. Acts 13:13).

The date of Mark’s death is uncertain. St. Jerome (“De Vir. Illustr.”, viii) assigns it to the eighth year of Nero (62-63) (Mortuus est octavo Neronis anno et sepultus Alexandriæ), but this is probably only an inference from the statement of Eusebius (Church History II.24), that in that year Anianus succeeded St. Mark in the See of Alexandria. Certainly, if St. Mark was alive when II Timothy was written (2 Timothy 4:11), he cannot have died in 61-62. Nor does Eusebius say he did; the historian may merely mean that St. Mark then resigned his see, and left Alexandria to join Peter and Paul at Rome. As to the manner of his death, the “Acts” of Mark give the saint the glory of martyrdom, and say that he died while being dragged through the streets of Alexandria; so too the Paschal Chronicle. But we have no evidence earlier than the fourth century that the saint was martyred. This earlier silence, however, is not at all decisive against the truth of the later traditions. For the saint’s alleged connection with Aquileia, see “Acta SS.”, XI, pp. 346-7, and for the removal of his body from Alexandria to Venice and his cultus there, ibid., pp. 352-8. In Christian literature and art St. Mark is symbolically represented by a lion. The Latin and Greek Churches celebrate his feast on 25 April, but the Greek Church keeps also the feast of John Mark on 27 September.


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  1. Joanne
    April 25th, 2012 at 20:02 | #1

    The fortress city of Babylon in Egypt lasted for about 1000 years, 600 BC to 600 AD (very corse dating). It was very promiment during Roman times. 3 Roman legions were stationed there (that would make it wicked enough). It is very close to Palestine and has been a part of Coptic Egypt to this day.
    My thoughts on Alexandria and Egypt when it comes to the early years of the Church is that there is intirely too much silence about an obvious mission site. Peter and Mark or John or whoever he was, or they were, could have walked there in a few days. And, the number of Jews in Egypt who were likely to have been in Jerusalem during Jesus crusifixion was probably large, very large. There might have been more Jews living in Egypt than in Palestine.
    It was the perfect place for the Apostle to the Jews to go. And since most of the Jews in Egypt were Hellenized, he would still need an interpreter, the Egyptians would have found Peter as avuncularly likable as so many others, but also a simple, uneducated man in a highly literate environment. And, Egypt should have been full of stories about the crucifixion of the good rabbi only a few years before and so many so and sos cliam to have been there to see it.
    Just put me down as suspicious of too much of the dog that didn’t bark when the Christian Church was founded in Egypt. And, Eusebios was Contantine’s official Imperial historian. He was trying to take 300 years of persecution and document distruction to reconstruct a history that probably is fairly accurate after the distruction of the church in Jerusalem, but very iffy before the total annihilation of Jerualem in the 70s and later. The Jewish world was being annihilated and much of the Jewish Christian world with it in and around Judea. What survived was smashed and in the case of Jerusalem, or shall I call it Aelia Capitolina, completely Hellenized racially and religiously, no Jews allowed at all in the city.
    For about 50 years the Romans committed military racial cleasing on Judea and when it was over the Jewish diaspora was complete, and there was no Jewish Church. After Rome’s long hatred of the Jews as finally slaked, we have a completly Hellenized Christian Church (inside the empire. (The Copts and Syrians turned out to be not so Hellenized over time.)
    If indeed Peter had founded a large Jewish Church, there was precious little to none of it left except in a few places just out of Roman Control in the eastern Fertile Crescent or Nubia. Nor any source 300 years later to tell Eusebios about the Greek Jews that formed the very early Christian Church in Egypt.
    Yes, just put me down as skeptical about all the Apostles heading far afield when the largest and fullest field of mission work was sitting on Jerusalem’s doorstep. P.S., I think that Babylon was Babylon, also on Jerusalem’s doorstep.

  2. Joanne
    April 25th, 2012 at 20:23 | #2

    Wasn’t it Occam who said to go with the obvious answer, first. Tell me, if you were planning the mission activity of the early church, what role would Roman Egypt (Babylon and Alexandria) have played in your plans. It would have been first or second in an obvious plan. But, it was all controlled by the Holy Spirit who blows wherever he wisteth. Still, if a group of Christians fled Jewish persecution by going all the way off to Antioch (modern Turkey), surely an even larger group of persecuted Christians went to the much closer Alexandria/Babylon. If not, why not? There is most definitely an Hellenic bias in Eusebios, and in the New Testament put together by the Hellenized church. And after 325, a Roman Imperial bias. Roman and Coptic Egypt wouldn’t fare well in either of those worldviews. Granted, Alexandria and the Thebiad were the mothers of many heresies. Yet, not when Peter was alive.

  3. Joanne
    April 25th, 2012 at 21:34 | #3

    Look, an article from Haaretz, published just last February, 2012 on the gradual turn of focus in Israeli archaeology to the ruins in Jerusalem of Aelia Capitolina. The article tightens up the dates for us.
    The Wikipedia article on Aelia Capitolina clarifies the desolation of Jerusalem between 70-135 AD and then the building of the Roman colony city of Aelia Capitolina over the flattened ruin of Jerusalem. The 10th Legion lived here for 200 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aelia_Capitolina
    But of most interest to us is that Eusebios continues the names of the Bishops of Jerusalem all the way to 135 and they have Jewish names. After 135, the bishops begin to have Greek names. Some evidence of the loss of Jewishness even in the church still in Judea. Thus I would date the end of the Jewish Christian Church to 135, as good a date as any.

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