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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Mark (John)

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MARK (JOHN). There are three groups of NT passages where the name Mark occurs.

(1) John Mark was a Jew and son of Mary, who was a leading Christian woman at Jerusalem. At her house the faithful assembled for prayer, and thither Peter went on his release from imprisonment, having perhaps previously lodged there ( Acts 12:12 ff.). An improbable conjecture makes Mark the son of the ‘good-man of the house’ in Mark 14:14 , and another, not so unlikely, identifies Mark himself with the ‘young man’ of Mark 14:51 ; but the Muratorian Fragment (see next art. § 1) apparently denied that Mark had ever seen our Lord. Probably Mary was a widow. ‘Mark’ would be an added name such as the Jews often took, in Roman fashion; it was a Roman prœnomen , much used among Greek-speaking people, but not common among the Jews. John Mark was chosen as companion of Barnahas and Saul when they left Jerusalem for Antioch ( Acts 12:25 the reading of RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] is hardly possible), and taken by them on their first missionary journey ( Acts 13:5 ), not as chosen expressly by the Holy Ghost (ct. [Note: t. contrast.] Acts 13:2 ), and not as an equal; ‘they had also John as their attendant (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] minister).’ It has been suggested that Mark was a Levite (see below), and that the designation here used means ‘a synagogue minister,’ as in Luke 4:20 (Chase). But this would make the words ‘they had’ intolerably harsh. Probably Mark’s work was to arrange the Apostles’ journeys, perhaps also to baptize a work not usually performed by St. Paul himself ( 1 Corinthians 1:14 ). Mark remained with the Apostles on their journey through Cyprus, but left them at Perga in Pamphylia ( Acts 13:13 ) either from cowardice, or, more probably, because the journey to Pisidian Antioch and beyond, involving work among distant Gentiles, was a change of plan which he did not approve (Ramsay). He had not yet grasped the idea of a worldwide Christianity, as St. Paul had. His departure to Jerusalem led later to the estrangement of Paul and Barnabas; the latter wished to take Mark with them on the Second Journey ( Mark 15:37 ff.), but Paul refused, and separated from Barnabas, who then took Mark to Cyprus.

(2) The Mark of the Pauline Epistles was cousin of Barnabas ( Colossians 4:10 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), probably of the Jewish colony of Cyprus, and a Levite ( Acts 4:36 ). It is therefore generally agreed that he was the same as John Mark. If so, he became reconciled to St. Paul, and was his ‘fellow-worker’ and a ‘comfort’ to him ( Colossians 4:11 , Philippians 1:24 ), and useful to him ‘for ministering’ ( 2 Timothy 4:11 ) this was Mark’s special office, not to be an original organizer but a useful assistant (Swete). We learn that Mark was contemplating a visit to Colossæ, and perhaps that the Colossians had hesitated to receive him ( Colossians 4:10 ).

(3) The Petrine Mark . St. Peter speaks of a Mark as his ‘son’ ( 1 Peter 5:13 ), and as being with him at ‘Babylon’ when he wrote the First Epistle. It is usually held that ‘Babylon’ means Rome, as there seems not to have been a Jewish colony in the real Babylon at the time, and as all ecclesiastical tradition connects St. Peter’s work with Rome. If this he so, we may safely identify all the three Marks as one person. [If not, the Petrine Mark is probably not the same as the Pauline.] The identification is made more likely by the fact that John Mark is connected with both Peter and Paul in Acts; and if 1 Peter 5:13 refers to Rome, there is no reason why this double connexion should not have continued as long as both Apostles lived. And if, as is not impossible, St. Peter survived St. Paul for some time, we can well understand that Mark devoted himself exclusively to the former after the death of the latter, and that in this way the ecclesiastical tradition (see next art.), which almost unanimously attaches him to Peter, grew up. By that tradition Mark’s activity is associated both with Rome and with Alexandria; and the Egyptian Church assigns its principal liturgy to his name. But the early Alexandrian Fathers, Clement and Origen, are silent as to Mark’s residence in Egypt. The Acts of Mark (5th cent.?) makes him a martyr.

A. J. Maclean.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mark (John)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/m/mark-john.html. 1909.

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