John Mark

John Mark (Hebrew: YochananGreek: Iо̄annēs Markos) was born c. AD 15 (3775–3776 in the Hebrew calendar) in the Roman province of Judea. He was a Jewish man called Yochanan (H3076; "John"), which means "God has been gracious." John's other first name, Markos (G3138; Latin: Marcus), originally came from Latin. He was from Jerusalem and his mother was an affluent woman named Mary (cf. Acts 12:12 ff.). After he joined the Jesus movement via his contact with Simon Peter, Mark traveled with Paul of Tarsus and Barnabas on their missions across the Mediterranean (cf. Acts 12:25; 13:5, 13). Moreover, John and Barnabas were cousins (cf. Col. 4:10).


Mark was at the center of the argument between Paul and Barnabas when they split from each other after the Council of Jerusalem around AD 50 (cf. Acts 15:36-40; Gal. 2:13). However, a few of Paul's letters imply that he eventually reconciled with John Mark, even identifying him as "useful in my ministry" (cf. Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phlm. 24).

Mark the Evangelist

There is only reference in the New Testament—albeit a vague one—which suggests that John Mark wrote the gospel ascribed to him: "Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark" (1 Pet. 5:13). The early church leaders, beginning with Papias of Hierapolis (AD 70–155) believed that Mark was a follower of Peter and wrote down his lessons about Jesus. Eusebius of Caesarea (260–340) noted this in his Ecclesiastical History

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 Holy 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. And Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle which they say that he wrote in Rome itself, as is indicated by him, when he calls the city, by a figure, Babylon, as he does in the following words: "Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark" (Eccl. Hist. 2.16).

Eusebius also wrote this statement about Mark based on Papias' testimony:


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 (Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15). 


Eusebius also wrote: "And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria" (Eccl. Hist. 2.24.1). Bible scholars today believe that Mark was the first evangelist to record one of the four canonical gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Mark wrote his biography from Q (from Quelle, the German word for "Source"), a probable list of Jesus' quotes. Because he was from Jerusalem, Mark had access to early documents such as Q as they circulated sometime after Jesus' resurrection. The Q hypothesis seeks to answer the "synoptic problem," i.e. why Matthew, Mark, and Luke "saw together" (Greek: sunoptikos) large amounts of the same material. Mark wrote his gospel first c. AD 60, perhaps even being the author of the Q source. So, it follows, that Mark inspired Matthew and Luke in their works. Although Mark is a very minor New Testament character, he served alongside Peter and Paul and had access to the earliest documents about Jesus. 


Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your church the good news of Jesus: We thank you for his witness, and pray that you will give us grace to know the truth, and not to be carried about by every wind of false doctrine, that we may know Jesus the Messiah as our Lord and Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


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