Story of St Mark
St Mark the Evangelist
St Mark, the second Synoptic Gospel’s traditional author. The information in the New Testament about his life is patchy, and the historicity of most of it has been called into doubt. The only indisputably credible material is found in Philemon 24, where a certain Mark is described as one of St. Paul’s coworkers who send congratulations from Rome to the Christians of Colossae (near contemporary Denizli, Tur. ), but the identity of this individual is not revealed. The claim in Colossians 4:10 that Mark was St. Barnabas’ cousin may potentially be true.
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Except for the references to him as John in Acts 12:25, Acts 13:5, and Acts 15:37, he is always referred to by his Latin surname Mark throughout the New Testament.
His mother’s home in Jerusalem was a center of Christian activity, according to Acts 12:12, and he joined Barnabas and Paul in Antioch (Acts 12:25), now Antakya, Tur., where he became their helper on a mission trip (Acts 13:5).
Mark abandoned them at Perga (near modern Ihsaniye, Tur.) and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Barnabas and Paul split up after Mark left because Paul refused Barnabas’ insistence on giving Mark another opportunity.
St Mark then departed to Cyprus with Barnabas, never to be referenced again in the Acts.
The reliability of the Acts story is called into doubt since its author is especially concerned with explaining the schism between Paul and Barnabas and likely introduces Mark for that purpose. In doing so, he contradicts Paul’s depiction of their conflict in Galatians 2:11; Galatians 2:12; Galatians 2:13; Galatians 2:14.
In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul urges that St. Timothy send Mark, “because he is exceedingly valuable in assisting me,” however this is seen to be a misinterpretation of Acts and Colossians.
The greetings from “my son Mark” in 1 Peter 5:13 imply a strong connection between St Mark and St. Peter; also, the Apostolic Father Papias of Hierapolis claims that Mark’s treatise (probably the Gospel) was founded on Peter’s teaching about Jesus.
Later tradition holds that Mark was one of Jesus’ 72 followers (Luke 10:1) and links him with the young man who fled naked after Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51; Mark 14:52).
The Egyptian church counts St Mark as its founder and the sea of Alexandria has been known as cathedra Marci (“the chair of Mark”) since the 4th century AD.
St Mark is also associated with the Italian towns of Aquileia and Venice, both of which he is the patron saint. The lion is his emblem.
St Mark’s true identity
According to William Lane (1974), an “unbroken tradition” links St Mark the Evangelist to John Mark and John Mark to Barnabas’ cousin.
In On the Seventy Apostles, Hippolytus of Rome separates Mark the Evangelist (2 Timothy 4:11), John Mark (Acts 12:12; Acts 13:5; Acts 15:37), and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24).
According to Hippolytus, they were all part of the “Seventy Disciples” who were sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel throughout Judea (Luke 10:1).
According to Eusebius of Caesarea, in his first year of rule over all of Judea (AD 41), Herod Agrippa I executed James, son of Zebedee, and imprisoned Peter, intending to kill him after the Passover.
Angels miraculously protected Peter and he fled Herod’s domain (Acts 12:1; Acts 12:2; Acts 12:3; Acts 12:4; Acts 12:5; Acts 12:6; Acts 12:7; Acts 12:8; Acts 12:9; Acts 12:10; Acts 12:11; Acts 12:12; Acts 12:13; Acts 12:14; Acts 12:15; Acts 12:16; Acts 12:17; Acts 12:18; Acts 12:19).
Peter traveled to Antioch, then across Asia Minor (seeing churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as described in 1 Peter 1:1), arriving in Rome in Emperor Claudius’ second year.
Peter met Mark along the road and hired him as a travel companion and interpreter.
Before leaving for Alexandria in the third year of Claudius, Mark the Evangelist copied down Peter’s teachings, resulting in the Gospel according to Mark.
The Gospel According to Mark
His Gospel, the only writing he left behind, was written at the entreaty and earnest desire of the converts in Rome, who, not satisfied with hearing St. Peter preach, pressed St. Mark, his disciple, to commit to writing a historical account of what he had delivered to them, which he performed with equal faithfulness and approved by St. Peter, it was commanded to be publicly read in the assemblies.
It was widely referred regarded as St. Peter’s gospel, not because he dictated it to St. Mark, but because the latter compiled it from the tales St. Peter customarily presented in his public talk.
And this is presumably why, as St. Chrysostom comments, he delights in imitating St. Peter’s style and way of speech, reflecting a great deal in a few words.
Alexandria’s Saint Mark
After this lengthy journey, he returned to Alexandria, where he preached freely, regulated and dealt with the church’s affairs, and properly arranged for succession by appointing governors and pastors.
But the restless enemy of men’s souls would not allow our apostle to continue in peace and quietness; for while he was assiduously laboring in his Master’s vineyard, the idolatrous inhabitants tumultuously seized him around the time of Easter, when they were celebrating the solemnities of Serapis, and dragged him through the streets and over the most craggy places to the Bucelus, a precipice near the sea, leaving him therein.
The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate St Mark’s Feast on April 25.
For those churches that still use the Julian Calendar, April 25 corresponds to May 8 on the Gregorian Calendar until 2099.
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of St Mark on Parmouti 30, which always corresponds to April 25 on the Julian Calendar or May 8 on the Gregorian Calendar.
John Mark is distinguishable from Mark the Evangelist in that he is commemorated on September 27 (as in Roman Martyrology) and Mark the Evangelist on April 25.
The Church of England and most of the Anglican Communion commemorate Mark with a Festival on April 25.
Most depictions of Mark the Evangelist show him writing or clutching his gospel. Mark the Evangelist is represented as a lion in the Christian tradition.
Saint Mark In the Arts
Saint Mark The Evangelist’s features include a lion in the desert, a bishop on a throne adorned with lions, and a man assisting Venetian sailors.
He is often pictured with a book with the words Pax Tibi Marce inscribed on it or a palm and book.
Other representations of Mark include a man holding a book or scroll, flanked by a winged lion.
The lion might also be connected with Jesus’ Resurrection since lions were thought to slumber with wide eyes, drawing parallels between Christ in his tomb and Christ as king.
Mark the Evangelist is often represented as a guy wearing a halter and saving Christian captives from Saracens.
Saint Mark’s Martyrdom
The tragedy started again early the following morning, and they carried him about in the same terrible and savage fashion until he died.
But their wickedness did not stop with his death, since they burnt his mangled corpse after they had so inhumanly robbed it of life, but the Christians took his bones and ashes and dutifully placed them close to where he used to preach.
His relics were then transferred from Alexandria to Venice, where they were religiously respected, and he was designated as the titular saint and patron of that state.
He was martyred on April 25th, although the exact year is unknown; the most likely assumption is that it occurred around the conclusion of Nero’s reign.
St. Mark’s Place in the Basilica
Saint Mark the Evangelist is depicted throughout the Basilica in several locations, including St. Elizabeth Chapel, the Our Mother of Africa Chapel, an icon in the Byzantine Ruthenian Chapel, the Triumph of the Lamb Dome mosaic, and the northeast pendentive in the Trinity Dome.
A winged lion is shown under Saint Mark in the Trinity Dome pendentive — this sign is connected with Mark since Ezekiel describes the evangelists as winged beasts, one of which is a lion.
Mark accomplished in his life what every Christian is supposed to do: preach the Good News that is the source of salvation to all people.
Mark’s method, in particular, was via writing. Others may spread the Good News via music, theatre, poetry, or educating youngsters at the dinner table.
Saint Mark, one of Christ’s 70 followers and one of the four evangelists, was born in Cyrene, Libya, although his exact birth date is uncertain.
He journeyed on several religious missions with Saint Barnabas and Saint Paul, during which he built the Church of Alexandria.
He died in Alexandria, Egypt, on April 25, 68 A.D. His remains were sent to Venice in the ninth century.