It is believed that Mark was born sometime around 20 AD. Mark’s parents, Aristo-Paul
and Mary, were North African Jews, and wealthy landlords who lost everything to
barbarian attacks which had begun circa 30 A.D. The family migrated from Cirene
(“Qayrawan”) in Pentapolis (five western cities) which is part of the region now
know as Tunisia and Libya, to Palestine around 40 A.D.
His mother, a prominent member of the earliest group of Christians in Jerusalem,
is one of the women who served our Lord Jesus. Mark’s father, a non-believer, was
a cousin of the wife of St. Peter. Interestingly Mark’s father became a true believer
as they traveled in the desert region south of the Dead Sea. Here they encountered
a lion and a lioness. The animals started to attack, but were rendered harmless
through the prayers of St. Mark directed to the Lord Jesus Christ asking him audibly
to protect them. According to tradition his father said to him: “You are my son
in the flesh, but from now on I am your son in faith.”
Mark was a follower of Jesus as a youth and that is where the name beholder of the
divine comes from, he beheld the Lord, saw Him and communed with Him in the flesh.
We know that Christ held the last supper in the house of Mark’s parents. We also
know that the Holy Spirit first descended there and that the Pentecost was observed
in the upper room of their house.
That Mark was, as his Roman surname would That Mark was, as his Roman surname would
suggest, a Hellenist, follows from the fact that he was also cousin ("nephew"
is a later sense of the Greek word) of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10); this would explain
Barnabas' special attachment to the Mark of Acts over whom he disputed with Paul
(Acts 15:37-40). We also know that Mark was chosen by Christ as one of the 70 Apostles.
When Barnabas and Paul returned from their relief visit to Judaea (circa AD 46),
Mark accompanied them. Possibly he had shown, in connection with their relief work,
a capacity for practicality which seems to have been his distinctive mark of excellence.
When, not long after, they started on a joint mission beyond Syria, Mark went as
their assistant, undertaking the minor personal duties connected with travel, as
well as with their work proper. As soon, however, as their plans developed, after
leaving Cyprus and on arrival at Perga in Pamphylia, Mark, probably on some matter
of principle, departed for Rome where he met St. Peter, and from Rome he traveled
to North Africa, the place of his birth (Pentapolis, the five major cities in Libya
and Tunisia). When Paul proposed, after the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, to revisit
with Barnabas the scenes of their joint labors, he naturally resisted the idea of
taking Mark with them again, feeling that he could not be relied. But Barnabas stood
by his younger kinsman and "took Mark and sailed away to Cyprus."
When Mark appears once more, it is in Paul's company at Rome, as a fellow-worker
joining in salutations to Christians at Colossae. We gather, too, that his restoration
to Paul's confidence took place sometime earlier, as the Colossians had already
been bidden by oral message or letter to welcome him if he should visit them. This
points to a reconciliation during Paul's last sojourn in Jerusalem or Caesarea.
Not long after Colossians 4:10 Mark seems to have been sent by Paul to some place
in the province of Asia, lying on the route between Ephesus and Rome. For in 2 Timothy
4:11 Paul bids Timothy, "Pick up Mark and bring him with thee, for he is useful
to me for ministering."more Mark's name occurs in the New Testament, this
time with yet another leader, Peter, the friend of his earliest Christian years
in Jerusalem, to whom he attached himself after the deaths of Barnabas and Paul.
Peter's words, "Mark, my son", show how close was the spiritual tie
between the older and the younger man; and as he is writing from Rome ("Babylon",
since Paul's death and the change of policy it implied), this forms a link between
the New Testament and early tradition, which speaks of Mark as an Evangelist writing
his Gospel under the influence of Peter's preaching (in Rome). This is the essence
of the tradition preserved from the elders of former days by Clement of Alexandria,
a tradition probably based on Papias's record of the explanation given by "the
Elder" (John) as to the contrast in form between Mark's memoirs of Peter's
discourses and the Gospel of Matthew, but defining the place where these memoirs
were written as Rome. That he acted to some degree as Peter's interpreter or
dragoman, owing to the apostle's imperfect mastery of Greek, is held by some
but denied by others. His role throughout his career was servus servorum dei (Servant
of the Servants of God); and the fact that he was this successively to Barnabas,
Paul and Peter, helps to show the essential harmony of their message.
Historians place his first visit to Alexandria around 48 A.D. He wrote the Gospel
According to Mark, considered the first to be written of the four gospels, sometime
between 48 and 63 AD. The early dating is according to Saints Origen, Clement, and
John Chrysostom. The later dating is according to Saint Iraneus who proposed that
it was even written after the martyrdom of St. Paul, after 63 AD. It is probably
safe to assume that it was written between 48 and 53 AD, and that Mark consulted
with the Disciples and Apostles including Peter and Paul. It was addressed to the
St. Mark traveled back to Rome; he then joined St. Paul on the third journey, and
returned to Egypt in 58 A.D. He found a growing Church, so he appointed more priests
and deacons, and instituted the first liturgy, according to St. Mark, also known
as the liturgy of St. Cyril the Great (24th Pope). Mark went back to Rome and was
close to St. Paul in the two years he spent in Rome, before Paul’s Martyrdom. Mark
returned back to Egypt in 63 AD. The Church in Alexandria was growing in spirit
and number which naturally brought the envy of Satan and his powers, and tribulations
were on the horizon.
St. Mark did suffer persecution when in 68 A.D., the Roman rulers accused him of
steering trouble in the capital. They arrested him and tied him to the tail of a
horse and dragged him in the streets of Alexandria and at sunset they dragged him
to prison. The next day they repeated the same tortures until his head was severed
from his body. The murderers tried also to burn his corpse, but strong wind and
heavy rain extinguished the fire. The disciples (followers) came and took his body
and his head and buried him in a region of Alexandria called Bokalia (Cattle Hill).
Venetian merchants stole the body and carried it to Venice Italy in the 16th century.
However, most of the body was reunited with the head in Alexandria, Egypt in 1968.
Today the Church of Alexandria is split into the Coptic Orthodox Church and the
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. Aspects of the Coptic
liturgy can be traced back to Saint Mark himself. He became the first bishop of
Alexandria and he is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa. He died in
the eighth year of Nero and was buried there.
Mark’s basic teaching stated that the "cowardly" are not those who are
fainthearted in their faith or who sometimes doubt or question, but those who turn
back from following God. They are not brave enough to stand up for Christ; they
are not humble enough to accept his authority over their lives. They are put in
the same list as the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the liars, the idolaters,
the sexually immoral, and those practicing magic arts.
However, those who overcome "stand firm to the end" (Mark 13:13). They
will receive the blessings that God promised:
- Eating from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7),
- Escaping from the lake of fire (the "second death," Revelation 2:11),
- Receiving a special name (Revelation 2:17),
- Having authority over the nations (Revelation 2:26),
- Being included in the book of life (Revelation 3:5),
- Being a pillar in God's spiritual temple (Revelation 3:12), and
- Sitting with Christ on his throne (Revelation 3:21).
Those who can endure the testing of evil and remain faithful will be rewarded by