Saint Mark - Uniquely qualified to write the Gospel

Saint Mark wrote the earliest of the four Gospel accounts. Most scholars believe Saint Peter was the source for Mark's Gospel and there is very little reason to doubt this theory. However, far from being simply a stenographer for Peter, Mark was uniquely qualified to write a gospel account of the life of Jesus. Mark's life is anything but ordinary as it intertwines with both the Apostles and Jesus himself. From being an eyewitness, to traveling with the Great Missionary to founding a leading school in Christianity, Mark's life was truly remarkable.

St. Peter and St. Mark
Mark was born in approximately 12 A.D. or 15 years after Jesus. The family lived in what is modern day Libya. While Mark was still an infant his family began to be persecuted and lived under constant threat. To protect his family, Mark's father packed up their things and moved the family to the region of Cana. Sometime shortly after arriving in Cana, tragedy struck the family when Mark's father passed away. In first century Israel a family without a male head of household was at a great disadvantage and just a step away from poverty and living a life of servitude. 

At this point a relative of the family steps in to help. The relative is Peter, future apostle of Jesus. Peter took charge of Mark and made certain the family had food, shelter and that Mark received an education. Peter, having spent his time in the back breaking profession of fishing, may have wanted better for Mark. It is clear Peter thought a great deal of Mark. In 1 Peter 5:13 Peter calls Mark 'my son'. Peter was certainly not a wealthy man, but he was apparently a successful fisherman who could afford a family home in Capernaum, as well as help the family of Mark.

When Mark was just a youth of fourteen, he would be a witness to a truly remarkable event. Early church tradition holds that Mark had been hired as a server at a wedding in Cana. This may have been because Peter and a number of his companions had been invited to the wedding. Also at the wedding was a mother and her son named Jesus. At this wedding Jesus would perform His first miracle when He turned ordinary water into a magnificent wine. Remarkably, Mark was there to see this first miracle of Jesus.

While we have no information on what Mark did over the next few years, it is possible he was traveling with Jesus, at least on a part time basis. Tradition holds that when Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples to spread the good news, Mark was one of them so Jesus was somewhat aware of Mark. The disciples were sent out in pairs, and with Mark being barely twenty years old, it is likely he would have been teamed with an older disciple, but we have no idea of who this could have been. In the Gospel of Luke, we are told these seventy-two disciples traveled to the ends of the earth, healing the sick, and preaching the gospel of Jesus. Here we see Mark was far from a stenographer, he was an active participant in the earthly ministry of Jesus. It should not be overlooked that Luke said these men, including Mark, performed miracles in the name of Jesus. 

Only a short time later it is believed by many that Mark was an eyewitness to the passion of Jesus. It is believed Mark may have been referring to himself when he wrote about the man who ran off into the woods naked. After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the story of Mark goes silent for nearly a decade. At some point Mark travels into Egypt to the city of Alexandria. It is believed Mark remained in Alexandria for up to three years before returning to Jerusalem. It seems apparent that during his time in Alexandria, Mark became attached to the city and her people as he would return here many times and he would eventually pay a very high price for his preaching in the city.

Between the years of 46 and 50 A.D. Mark was in Jerusalem and then Antioch with both Paul and Barnabus. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that Mark travelled at least for a time with Saint Paul on his first missionary journey. Historians are uncertain of the reason, but at some point, Mark makes the decision to leave the group. This would later cause a major rift between Paul and Barnabus which was so severe they would go their separate ways over a disagreement about including Mark in a new mission trip. We do know that Paul and Mark reconciled as while Paul was in prison in Rome, he asked for Mark to come and visit him.  In the meantime, Mark had some major work to accomplish.

In approximately 50 A.D. Mark returned to Alexandria and would be made Bishop of the city/region. During this time many credit Mark with founding the Catechetical School of Alexandria. This school would become the premier institution for educating early Christian leaders. The school taught theology, Christian Philosophy, Mathematics, Greek and Roman Literature as well as Logic and the Arts. The school wanted to produce well rounded and well-educated leaders. It was believed this was an absolute necessity given the task at hand and the resistance most, if not all, of the graduates would encounter. Just some of the graduates of the school include Athenagoras, Clement, Jerome, Didymus and Origen the great. 

The school was believed to actually be a part of the great library of Alexandria. This was no ordinary school. One example of the advanced nature of the school was its acceptance of blind students. These students were given lessons carved into wood for them to use/study. This was some 1,500 years before the invention of Braille.

Mark is given credit for bringing Christianity to Egypt as well as founding the Coptic Church. He remained in Alexandria for over a decade before traveling to Rome. Here he would be reunited with Saint Peter and with the help and guidance of Peter, Mark would write his gospel. Form here Mark toured the churches of Asia Minor before returning to the area of Ephesus. 

Saint Mark
While it cannot be confirmed, it is believed Mark once again returned to Rome, this time traveling with Timothy. The two, possibly along with Saint Luke, went to Rome to visit and attend to Saint Paul who was in prison in Rome for the second time. Again, it cannot be confirmed, but many scholars believe Mark may have been with Paul when the Great Missionary was martyred. 

After Paul was executed in 67 or 68 A.D. Mark would return to Alexandria. At some point in 68 or 69 A.D. Mark would attempt to stop a Pagen parade in Alexandria. A mob took hold of Mark, bound him and drug him through the streets of Alexandria for the entire day. When it was found Mark was still alive, they drug him through the streets for a second day. Mark eventually died as a result of the abuse and his body was recovered by his followers.

Mark's Gospel is often believed to be inspired by Saint Peter, and this is certainly possible and is most certainly true to some point. However, Mark's life had been intertwined with not only the life and ministry of Jesus, but with several of the great early Christina leaders including Timothy, Barnabas, Luke, Paul and certainly Peter. Mark knew these apostles, traveled with them, and founded a school to help expand the early church and brought Christianity to Egypt. From witnessing the first miracle of Jesus, to being sent out with the seventy-two, to witnessing the passion of Jesus, Mark was uniquely qualified to write a gospel account of the life of Jesus. 

Potential Timeline of St. Mark's Life

12 a.d. - Mark born in what is modern day Libya

26 a.d. - Jesus begins ministry with wedding at Cana

32 a.d. - Jesus sends out 70 disciples

33 a.d. - Jesus is crucified - witnessed by Mark

41 - 44 a.d. - Mark goes to Alexandria

45 - 47 a.d. - Mark in Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabus

49 - 50 a.d. - Paul's first missionary journey, Mark travels with him

50 - 61 a.d. - Mark Bishop of Alexandria - founded school

61 - 62 a.d. - Mark with Peter in Rome - writes Gospel

63 - 66 a.d. - Tours churches of Asia Minor

66 - 67 a.d. - In Rome with St. Paul

67 - 68 a.d. - Mark returns to Alexandria

68 - 69 a.d. - Mark is killed by mob in Alexandria


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