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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Mark


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was the nephew of Barnabas, being his sister's son; and he is supposed to have been converted to the Gospel by St. Peter, who calls him his son, 1 Peter 5:13 ; but no circumstances of his conversion are recorded. The first historical fact mentioned of him in the New Testament is, that he went, in the year 44, from Jerusalem to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas. Not long after, he set out from Antioch with those Apostles upon a journey, which they undertook by the direction of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of preaching the Gospel in different countries: but he soon left them, probably without sufficient reason, in Perga in Pamphylia, and went to Jerusalem, Acts 13. Afterward, when Paul and Barnabas had determined to visit the several churches which they had established, Barnabas proposed that they should take Mark with them; to which Paul objected, because Mark had left them in their former journey. This produced a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas, which ended in their separation. Mark accompanied his uncle Barnabas to Cyprus, but it is not mentioned whither they went when they left that island. We may conclude that St. Paul was afterward reconciled to St. Mark, from the manner in which he mentions him in his epistles written subsequently to this dispute; and particularly from the direction which he gives to Timothy: "Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry," 2 Timothy 4:11 . No farther circumstances are recorded of St. Mark in the New Testament; but it is believed, upon the authority of ancient writers, that soon after his journey with Barnabas he met Peter in Asia, and that he continued with him for some time; perhaps till Peter suffered martyrdom at Rome. Epiphanius, Eusebius, and Jerom, all assert that Mark preached the Gospel in Egypt; and the two latter call him bishop of Alexandria.

Dr. Lardner thinks that St. Mark's Gospel is alluded to by Clement of Rome; but the earliest ecclesiastical writer upon record who expressly mentions it is Papias. It is mentioned, also, by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerom, Augustine, Chrysostom, and many others. The works of these fathers contain numerous quotations from this Gospel; and, as their testimony is not contradicted by any ancient writer, we may safely conclude that the Gospel of St. Mark is genuine. The authority of this Gospel is not affected by the question concerning the identity of Mark the evangelist, and Mark the nephew of Barnabas; since all agree that the writer of this Gospel was the familiar companion of St. Peter, and that he was qualified for the work which he undertook, by having heard, for many years, the public discourses and private conversation of that Apostle.

Some writers have asserted that St. Peter revised and approved this Gospel, and others have not scrupled to call it the Gospel according to St. Peter; by which title they did not mean to question St. Mark's right to be considered as the author of this Gospel, but merely to give it the sanction of St. Peter's name. The following passage in Eusebius appears to contain so probable an account of the occasion of writing this Gospel, and comes supported by such high authority, that we think it right to transcribe it: "The lustre of piety so enlightened the minds of Peter's hearers at Rome, that they were not contented with the bare hearing and unwritten instruction of his divine preaching, but they earnestly requested St. Mark, whose Gospel we have, being an attendant upon St. Peter, to leave with them a written account of the instructions which had been delivered to them by word of mouth; nor did they desist till they had prevailed upon him; and thus they were the cause of the writing of that Gospel, which is called according to St. Mark; and they say, that the Apostle being informed of what was done, by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, was pleased with the zeal of the men, and authorized the writing to be introduced into the churches. Clement gives this account in the sixth book of his Institutions; and Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, bears testimony to it." Jerom also says, that St. Mark wrote a short Gospel from what he had heard from St. Peter, at the request of the brethren at Rome, which, when St. Peter knew, he approved, and published it in the church, commanding the reading of it by his own authority.

Different persons have assigned different dates to this Gospel; but there being almost a unanimous concurrence of opinion, that it was written while St. Mark was with St. Peter at Rome, and not finding any ancient authority for supposing that St. Peter was in that city till A.D. 64, we are inclined to place the publication of this Gospel about A.D. 65. St. Mark having written this Gospel for the use of the Christians at Rome, which was at that time the great metropolis and common centre of all civilized nations, we accordingly find it free from all peculiarities, and equally accommodated to every description of persons. Quotations from the ancient prophets, and allusions to Jewish customs, are, as much as possible, avoided; and such explanations are added as might be necessary for Gentile readers at Rome; thus, when Jordan is first mentioned in this Gospel, the word river is prefixed, Mark 1:5 ; the oriental word corban is said to mean a gift, Mark 7:11 ; the preparation is said to be the day before the Sabbath, Mark 15:42 ; and defiled hands are said to mean unwashed hands, Mark 7:2 ; and the superstition of the Jews upon that subject is stated more at large than it would have been by a person writing at Jerusalem.

Some learned men, from a collation of St. Matthew's and St. Mark's Gospels, have pointed out the use of the same words and expressions in so many instances that it has been supposed St. Mark wrote with St. Matthew's Gospel before him; but the similarity is not strong enough to warrant such a conclusion; and seems no greater than might have arisen from other causes. St. Peter would naturally recite in his preaching the same events and discourses which St. Matthew recorded in his Gospel; and the same circumstances might be mentioned in the same manner by men who sought not after "excellency of speech," but whose minds retained the remembrance of facts or conversations which strongly impressed them, even without taking into consideration the idea of supernatural guidance. We may farther observe that the idea of St. Mark's writing from St. Matthew's Gospel does not correspond with the account given by Eusebius and Jerom as stated above.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Mark'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/m/mark.html. 1831-2.

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