Saint Mark

The writer of the second gospel was Saint Mark and a companion of Peter and Paul. His full name was John Mark, John being his Jewish name to which was added the Roman name Marcus. Some say that he never heard the words of Jesus in the flesh, others say he was of the seventy disciples that Jesus sent out. Mark was the son of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. His mother, Mary was a friend of Peter and prominent in the history of the early Jerusalem Church. It was at Mary's house that Peter came after being released from prison. The house was a common meeting place of the early church and served as a type of headquarters. We think naturally of the man with the pitcher in Mark 14 as being Mark's father, the "goodman of the house" that had the large upper room furnished and prepared where Jesus and His disciples took the last supper.

Being a nephew of Barnabas, Mark may have been a Levite. The record in scripture shows Barnabas and Mark as cousins but uncles are also called cousins in the Bible. Colossians 3:10 shows Mark's mother as Barnabas' sister. Mark's mother must have been quite influential in the Jerusalem Church, tradition has it that the house belonged to her. We do not know when Marks's father died, it is quite possible that Mark was the man with the pitcher if his father was not living. The story of the man who left his cloak at Gethsemane is only recorded in Mark and surmised to be the one who fled naked during the hour of Jesus' betrayal.

When Paul and Barnabas left Jerusalem about 45, they took Mark with them to Antioch and started with them on their 1st missionary journey, but turned back, we do not know why. About six years later, Mark wanted to go with Paul on his 2nd missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas had been ministering together and Barnabas wanted to re-visit all the cities that they had been preaching to say how they were doing. When Barnabas suggested that they take Mark, Paul objected and refused to take him because of Mark's lack of commitment in deserting him earlier. Paul was a very stubborn man but this worked to doubling the effort by the separation of Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas went with Mark to Cyprus and Paul went with Silas. Some 12 years later at about 62, Mark again appears in Rome with Paul and then 4 or 5 years later, Paul just before his martyrdom is asking for Mark to come to him. Mark was widely known in the churches of Asia Minor, it seems possible that later on, he lived and worked there. At any rate, Mark becomes once more the fellow worker of Paul and is Peter's companion in Rome. Thus it seems that Mark, in his later years, became one of Paul's intimate and beloved helpers. Before Alexandria, tradition that Peter sent Mark to be the apostle of Aquileia, where he preached, working miracles and making many converts.

Since Peter calls Mark his son, it is probable that Peter baptized him. The gospel of Mark was written in Rome between the years 55 and 62. Jerome says that while Peter narrated, Mark wrote, being called the interpreter of Peter by Iranaeus saying that he "transmitted to us in writings the things preached by Peter." The Gospel of Mark was the memoirs of Peter. It was said that the gospel was actually written after Peter was dead. Mark is considered the first gospel, however Matthew had already written before hand in his discourses of Jesus before the Matthean gospel was written. So if I have it right, it is Matthew's Logia first, then the gospel of Mark, then the gospel of Matthew. Mark may have consulted other sources than Peter and the sayings of Jesus from Matthew would be foremost, then Matthew would have consulted Mark for his gospel. Mark wrote the gospel in Greek, Peter as we know was a Galilean fisherman and his Greek might not have been too polished. Certainly Mark wrote for some Gentile community. Clement of Alexandria writes of Mark: "As Peter preached the word publicly at Rome, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the gospel he gave it to those who requested it."

Then Mark vanishes from history for a while, tradition placing him in Alexandria founding the Church, there and Hermagoras was consecrated bishop. When he re-emerges almost 20 years later he is the man who redeemed himself. The teaching was carried on in the midst of pagans and philosophers - cultivated men of letters with education training and intellect. His gospel must have had an impact. Mark was to organize an effort there which would render it indispensable for them to present Christianity in a way that would neither repel their opponents, nor give them an easy victory over ignorant assertions. From this necessity arose the great catechetical school of Alexandria, founded by Saint Mark. The undisputed record of antiquity is that Mark spent the latter part of his life in Alexandria, Egypt, as an overseer of the churches there.

Jerome gives death of Mark at the 8th year of Nero 62-63 but others place him in Asia minor in the year 66. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria at the great solemnity of Sarapis, their idol and died a martyr. Afterwards his body was removed to Venice. Mark is symbolized by the Lion as suggested from the Apocalypse 4:7.

There is a controversy surrounding Mark 16: 9 through 20 as not being penned by Mark but added later. There are many editions of the bible even that tack an explanation on as a postscript. My KJV for example says nothing about the omission. My New American Standard has verses 9-20 in brackets with these words on the margin: "Some of the older mss. omit verse 9-20." Notice that the explanation refers to the word "omit" rather than being "added" as an explanation. There is also another ending in early copies of the manuscripts and is given in the NAS which is "And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation." The long version is found in the Catholic Bible and the Philips translation which has the heading "an ancient appendix" to preface verse 9.

Verses 9-20 is not found in the Sinaitic and Vatican Manuscripts, it is found in the Alexandrian and Cambridge manuscripts and there are many explanations give for the omission, all conjecture. The latter text is referred to by Irenaeus in the second century. Most Bible commentaries accept it's authenticity.

I have a Sunday School booklet distributed to evangelical churches that explains these two endings and gives a good example of what can happen with this problem. The lesson ends at verse 8, explains that there are two endings, gives the short one and omits the long version. This is of course irresponsible teaching and even goes so far as to say that the long version should not be taken with equal authority with the rest of the gospel.

The gospel of Mark is the memoirs of Peter. We were not there when Peter dictated these words to Mark but at the same time, we do not have the first manuscripts to prove one way or another. Whether these verses were added or omitted is not ours to judge but whether these words are true should be. Those that will not believe that the gift of tongues can follow a believer will see it one way (as in the example of the omission of the evangelical booklet) and those that do believe in all the spiritual gifts as being valid today will see it another. The same with the Great Commission, if we can believe that this is consistent with what Jesus would say to us will have no problem accepting the authenticity of what is recorded here if we can understand that this is what Jesus would also have us do. Also, for Mark to end his gospel as abruptly as it would be at verse 8, obviously does not make sense. In that there would be a logical conclusion to the gospel does make sense. The responsible position however is to present both views. Of course, this must be opinion as to whether or not it was added or omitted and not dogmatic assertion. Since no one knows for sure, to take one side or another as an absolute fact and think that the other side is absolutely wrong or a deliberate falsehood is irresponsible and prejudicial for sure.
[289, 315, 324, 330, 334, 338, 343, 374, 402, 415, Mark 14:51, I Peter 5:13, Acts 12; 15:38, the two endings of Mark was discussed with the Latter Rain Discussion List]

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