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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Mark

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It was not unusual for Jews in the Roman Empire to have both Jewish and Roman names. In the case of John Mark, his two names reflect respectively this Jewish and Roman background.

In Jerusalem

Mark was a Jew brought up in Jerusalem. His parents were reasonably wealthy, as they owned a large house and had servants (Acts 12:12-13). (Also, at least one of Mark’s close relatives was wealthy enough to own land; Acts 4:36-37; Colossians 4:10.) Mark’s house must have been a regular meeting place for the apostles and other Christians in Jerusalem, as Peter, on escaping from prison, knew that he would find the Christians there (Acts 12:12). If this was the house usually used by the apostles as a meeting place, it was the house of ‘the upper room’ where Jesus had earlier gathered with his disciples (Luke 22:11-13; Acts 1:13; cf. also John 20:19; John 20:26).

There is a further point in favour of the suggestion that Mark’s house was the house of the upper room. This is the reference Mark himself makes to a certain young man who had followed Jesus and the disciples from the house to the Garden of Gethsemane, clothed only in his nightwear (Mark 14:51-52). It was a common practice for an author to include a brief personal detail or story but not to mention his own name directly (cf. John 13:23; 2 Corinthians 12:2).

With Paul and Barnabas

Whether the house of the upper room was Mark’s home or not, Mark certainly would have known Peter and the other leading Christians who often visited his home (Acts 12:12-14). When Paul and Barnabas visited Jerusalem with an offering from the church at Antioch, they met Mark. They were so impressed with him that they took him back to Antioch, and later took him with them on what has become known as Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5).

After only a short time, Mark left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). To Paul this showed that Mark was not reliable, and he refused to allow Mark to go with him and Barnabas on their next missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas quarrelled over the matter and parted. Paul went ahead with his planned journey, but with a new partner, while Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

In Rome and Asia Minor

The Bible has no record of Mark’s activities over the next ten years or so. But there is evidence in other early records that he spent some time with Peter, helping Peter to evangelize the provinces of northern Asia Minor where God had not allowed Paul to preach (1 Peter 1:1; cf. Acts 16:6-8).

Peter and Mark then visited Rome and taught the Christians there. When Peter left Rome, the Roman Christians asked Mark (who had stayed behind) to preserve the story of Jesus as they had heard it from Peter. In due course Mark produced the book known as Mark’s Gospel, a book that strongly carries the flavour of Peter (see MARK, GOSPEL OF).

Mark was still in Rome when Paul arrived as a prisoner the first time (Philem 23-24). Mark had matured over the years, and Paul readily acknowledged this. He bore no grudges, and recommended Mark to the Colossian church as one who could be of help to it (Colossians 4:10).

On leaving Rome, Mark most likely went to Colossae as planned. He was probably still there when Paul later wrote to Timothy (who was in Ephesus, not far away), asking him to get Mark and bring him to Rome. Paul was back in prison after a brief time of freedom and travel, and he wanted to see Timothy and Mark before he was executed (2 Timothy 4:11).

Whether the two reached Rome before Paul’s execution is uncertain, but Mark was certainly in Rome at the time of Peter’s visit soon after. Over their years of working together, Mark and Peter had become so close that Peter called Mark his son. Mark may even have been converted through Peter, back in the days when Peter frequented Mark’s house in Jerusalem. Now, as Peter neared the end of his life, he linked Mark’s name with his own in writing a letter to the churches of Asia Minor that together they had helped to establish (1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 5:13).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Mark'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/m/mark.html. 2004.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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