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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Mark (John)

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The name appears eight times in the NT (Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25; Acts 15:37-39, Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 1:24, 1 Peter 5:13), and the consensus of opinion assigns all the references to one individual. To the Jewish name (John) was added, for use in extra-Palestinian circles, the Latin praenomen Mark* [Note: The correct form of the name is Maarcus, Μᾶρκος, not Μάρκος, as in editions of the NT. This is clear from Greek and Latin inscriptions (cf. Blass, Gramm. des neutest. Greichisch2, 1902, § 4. 2 (Eng. tr.2, 1905).] (cf. ‘Saul-Paul’; see CIG [Note: IG Corpus Inscrip. Graecarum.] passim). The son of Mary, a prominent and well-to-do member of the early Christian society (John 18:16-17, Acts 12:12), to whose house the brethren used to resort, Mark had easy introduction to the apostolic cabinet, and probably fell under the influence of the dominating personality of Peter. His non-aggressive temperament has carved out no clear line by which history can remember him. He shines here and there in the borrowed light of greater men and flits ever back into a tantalizing darkness. Hence conjecture has sought to find him at other points of his career, e.g. as the man carrying the pitcher of water, as one of the Seventy, as the young man of Mark 14:51. Only one personal note comes to us, and that from the 3rd century. He is termed ὁ κολοβοδάκτυλος [Note: Several explanations of this term have been given: (1) that it means ‘deserter’ (Tregelles) and is applied to Mark because of his defection at Perga; but one so honourably remembered would not be so opprobriously nicknamed; (2) that Mark was a Levite and ‘amputasse sibi post fidem pollicem dicitur ut sacerdotio reprobus haberetur’ (Monarchian Prologues [TU xv. 1 [1896] 10]); but this is probably an inference from his kinship (ἀνεψιός) with Barnabas; (3) that the term is metaphorical and refers to the abrupt ending of the Second Gospel.] (Hippolytus, Philos. vii. 30). Possibly this infirmity was a natural one (cf. Codex Toletanus, Preface in Wordsworth-White, Novum Testamentum Latine, 1889-1905, p. 171), and caused him to take habitually a secondary place throughout life, a servus servorum dei. He stands out successively as the assistant of Barnabas, Paul, and Peter.

1. Association with Paul and Barnabas.-Having displayed practical gifts probably in the famine relief work in Judaea , Mark returned to Syria with Paul and Barnabas and was chosen to journey with them (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5). His duties may be assumed to have been not unlike those, mutatis mutandis, discharged by the secretary of a modern evangelistic campaign-the selection of routes, arrangement for hospitality, interviews and general detail (but cf. F. H. Chase, article ‘Mark (John)’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ). At Perga he cut himself adrift from the party-it may be because, being sensitively timid from his physical defect, he shrank from the hazardous venture across the Taurus; or, holding the narrower views of his teacher Peter concerning the Gentiles, he was out of sympathy with a campaign that had overshot its intentions; or because some filial duty called him (cf. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, 1895, p. 90). His reason certainly did not satisfy Paul. After the Jerusalem Council, when the two colleagues contemplated a return visit to their churches (Acts 15:36), Paul came into sharp collision with Barnabas, who wished again to take his cousin Mark with them, and they separated. Barnabas and Mark sailed for Cyprus, probably as unauthorized evangelists, while Paul with Silas left for Syria under the official benediction (παραδοθεὶς τῇ χάριτι τοῦ κυρίου ὑπὸ τῶν ἀδελφῶν).

2. In Cyprus and Egypt.-The veil is not lifted on the doings of the missionaries to Cyprus. They were among their own people there. Barnabas was apparently a native (Acts 4:36), and his act of self-sacrifice on behalf of the cause he served may have predisposed the honest-minded among his compatriots to listen to him with peculiar attention. Mark, too, was a Hellenist and had Cyprian blood in his veins. The prophets, according to the late and unreliable Acts of Barnabas (Περίοδοι Βαρνάβα), had no honour in their own country, and Barnabas suffered martyrdom. Mark may then have passed to Egypt, and traditions certainly point that way. Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) ii. 16), Jerome (de Vir. Illustr. 8), the Apostolic Constitutions (vii. 46), and Epiphanius (Haer. li. 6) unite in their testimony on the point. Though their details will not precisely fit, we may possibly regard Mark as the founder of the Christian Church in Alexandria and as its first bishop. Jerome makes out that he died there in a.d. 62 (‘Mortuus est autem octavo Neronis anno et sepultus Alexandriae succedente sibi Anniano’). But ‘the statement seems to be merely an unsound inference from the Eusebian date for the succession of Annianus’ (Swete2, p. xxvii) to the see of Alexandria.

3. With Paul.-Shall we say, then, that Mark returned from his Egyptian journey, his spurs won? He reappears in Paul’s favour and serves under his direction. The Gentile Apostle commands that welcome be given him at Colossae (Colossians 4:10)-if he come. Is there just a touch of Paul’s old distrust of Mark in the hypothetical phrase? He does not seem to have actually reached Colossae. The lure of Egypt may have drawn him there instead. Later still he is stationed somewhere between Ephesus and Rome (2 Timothy 4:11). Paul may have used his now trusted companion as a deputy to various churches. But particularly he had need of him often at the home base (Rome): there ‘the ὑπηρέτης of the first missionary journey became the συνεργός of the Roman imprisonment’ (Colossians 4:11, Philemon 1:24). The ageing Apostle needed just such personal services as Mark was specially fitted to give.

4. With Peter.-Assuming the genuineness of 1 Peter, we next find Mark, probably after the death of Paul, again in close touch with Peter. This apostle had helped to form Mark’s early impressions by his visits to Mary’s house, and claimed him by the affectionate title of son (υἱός), if indeed he was not a spiritual son (τέκνον). Now, if tradition be correct, he was destined to furnish Mark’s mind with a treasure that has enriched the whole Christian Church. Peter spoke Aramaic ordinarily, and so he required an attendant who could translate easily into Greek. For this task of dragoman Mark was eminently suited. As his Latin name and Hellenistic descent implied, he was proficient in Greek as well as in Aramaic. As Peter preached Mark took mental note of his reminiscences of Jesus, and thence grew that memoir which is, or has become in expanded forms, the Second Gospel. The Fathers disagree as to how and when the compilation was made. Origen would even make Peter responsible for personal oversight of the work, but Irenaeus is probably right in stating that it was after Peter’s death that Mark wrote down the memoirs (cf. Menzies, The Earliest Gospel, p. 44 ff.).

5. In legend.-Later legend has been busy with the name of Mark. The most probable and earliest tradition is that already mentioned which links his name to Alexandria. A 7th cent. tradition speaks of a ministry in N. Italy, and from this springs Mark’s association with Venice (notably the Church of St. Mark). Martyrologists claim him and represent him as dying a violent death by burning or by being dragged over stones. But the earliest mention of martyrdom is not of earlier date than the 4th or 5th cent. (Acta Marci).

The Acts of Barnabas profess to be written by the evangelist, but that compilation is of the 4th cent. at earliest. Attempts have been made to assign to him various books of the NT-Hebrews, the Apocalypse, Jude-but on quite inadequate grounds. A liturgy bears his name.

Literature.-H. B. Swete, Gospel acc. to St. Mark2, 1902, pp. xiii-xxviii; A. Menzies, The Earliest Gospel, 1901, Introduction, pp. 40-47; articles ‘Mark, St.’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica 11, ‘Mark (John)’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , and ‘Mark’ in Encyclopaedia Biblica ; T. Zahn, NT Introd., Eng. translation , 1909, ii. 427 ff. For later legend cf. Molini, De vita et lipsanis S. Marci Evangelistae, ed. Pieralisi, 1864; R. A. Lipsius, Die apok. Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden, 1883-84; T. Schermann, Propheten- und Apostellegenden (TU [Note: U Texte and Untersuchungen.] , 3rd ser., i. [1907]).

John Dow.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mark (John)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/m/mark-john.html. 1906-1918.

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