The name Mark (Marcus, Μᾶρκος <note
1>) occurs eight times in the New Testament (Acts
12,12.25; 15,37.39; Col. 4,10; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4,11; 1 Pet. 5,13). In the
Acts it is the surname of a resident in Jerusalem whose Jewish name was John
(12,12, Ἰωάνου τοῦ ἐπικαλουμένου
Μάρκου, (ib. 25; 15,37, Ἰωάνην
[D, ἐπικαλ.] Μᾶρκον,
(ib. 39, τὸν Μᾶρκον).
In the Epistles the Roman name appears by itself, and without the article.
From the Augustan age or before it the Roman praenomen Marcus seems
to have been in common use among the Greek speaking peoples. The inscriptions
offer an abundance of examples. <note 2> These Greek
Marks belong to different classes in society; one is a freedman, another his patronus; amongst them are a private soldier and a steward, and side
by side with these a person is holding the dignified office of γραμματεὺς
βουλῆς καὶ δήμου.
They belong to different parts of the Empire; some are from Attica, one comes
from Italy, another from Nubia. In all these instances the Roman praenomen stands by itself, according to Greek usage, which assigned to each individual
a single personal name.
The Gospels and Act bear witness to the readiness of the Palestinian Jew to
accept a secondary name. Sometimes it was a patronymic; sometimes it indicated
the /81/ locality to which he belonged, or something characteristic of his personality.
Such a surname might be Aramaic, Greek or Latin. Of Latin names there are examples
in the Acts; Joseph Barsabbas was known as Justus (Acts
1,23), Simon of Antioch as Niger (13,1); the praenomen Gaius (Γάιος)
is borne by several persons mentioned in the New Testament (Acts
19,20; 20,4; Rom 16,23; 1 Cor 1,14; 3 John 1). But John Mark stands alone as
a Jew bearing a Roman praenomen in addition to his Jewish name. <note
3> He may have adopted the second name in honour of some Roman or Greek
to whom his family was indebted, and the connexion of the family with Cyprus
lends some colour to this conjecture.
The mother of John Mark was a Mary, who occupied a house in Jerusalem, and
was a member of the Church (Acts 12,12). Of the father nothing is known. Mary
was clearly a woman of some means, and a conspicuous person in Christian community.
Her house is furnished with a πυλών; a servant girl
(παιδίσκη), probably a portress (cf. John 18,16.17), opens the door; there is an ἀνάγαιον
large enough to receive quite a concourse of brethren (ἦσαν
It is the place of shelter to which Peter naturally turns upon his escape from
prison; he leaves to Mary and her party the duty of communicating the tidings
to the leaders of the Church (vv. 12. 17). John is not
mentioned in connexion with this incident, but it may be assumed that he was
present, and it is not improbable that he conveyed the intelligence to James.
This happened in the year 44. A year or two later Saul and Barnabas were at
Jerusalem, bringing relief from the /83/ Church of Antioch to the mother Church,
which was then suffering from the famine that followed the death of Agrippa.
John Mark attracted the notice of the northern leaders, partly as the son of
a leading member of the Church of Jerusalem, partly, it may have been, on account
of services rendered by him in the distribution of the relief fund. But if we
may assume his identity with the Mark of the Pauline Epistles, there was doubtless
another reason which led them to select him as an associate. The Pauline Mark
was ὁ ἀνεψιὸς Βαρνάβα,
first cousin of Barnabas, or the mother his aunt the relationship accounts for
the favour with which Barnabas persistently regarded the younger man. Probably
it was Barnabas who suggested that Mark should accompany Saul and himself on
their return to Antioch, as it was Barnabas who, a few years after, proposed
to take him with them on a subsequent journey (Acts 15,37).
While John was at Antioch, the call came which sent Saul and Barnabas upon
a mission the destination of which was not at first revealed (Acts
13,2, εἰς τὸ ἔργον ὃ
John accompanied them, but in a subordinate position (v.5 εἶχον
δὲ καὶ Ἰωάνην ὑπηρέτην);
as Prof. Ramsay remarks, <note 4> the incidental
way in which the fact is stated shews that John was not pointed out by the Spirit
or delegated by the Church, but taken by the missionaries on their own responsibility.
In other words, he went with them to continue the personal service which he
had rendered to them at Antioch. Blass's note on ὑπηρέτην, l.c. would include all manner of ministerial necessary arrangements for
the /84/ journey, purchasing food, negiotiating, conveying messages and like. <note 5> For all such forms of service John seems
to have possessed a natural aptitude (cf. 2 Tim 4,11 εὔχρηστος
and such assistance would have been invaluable to a party of two missionaries
whose time was fully occupied with the serious business of the mission. But
it was rendered only for a short time. He forsook his chiefs at Perga, almost
immediately after their arrival on the coast of Asia Minor. Prof. Ramsay has
offered a partial defence of Mark's conduct. He points out that at Perga Saul
and Barnabas entered on a new field of work, leaving the sea coast and striking
across the Taurus into the interior. To Mark this seemed to be an unwarrantable
departure from the original plan of the mission, and he felt himself within
his rights in refusing to be a party to it. <note 6> But the plan of the mission seems to have been left to develop itself according
to circumstances, and it is difficult to reconcile the hypothesis of a conscientious
scruple on Mark's part with St. Paul's indignant outburst of censure (Acts
15,88f). Still, it is possible that the young man thought himself justified
in leaving at this point; he had not bargained for the rough work of the interior,
and he was not bound to continue his gratuitous services, especially if he had
received no call to accompany the mission. In any case, he took advantage of
the arrival at Attalia of some ship on her way to Syria, and returned to Jerusalem.
For the next two or three years we lose sight of him.
Meanwhile Paul and Barnabas paid another visit to Jerusalem, and returned
again to Antioch (Acts 15,2.30ff)./85/ Whether on this
occasion John once more accompanied his cousin to the North is uncertain,
but when we afterwards at Antioch St. Paul proposed a second journey to
Asia Minor, and Barnabas desired to have John for their attendant as before,
so serious a difference in opinion arose between the two that they parted company,
and Mark set out with Barnabas alone (Acts 15,39). Unfortunately
we cannot follow them beyond Cyprus, where they are left by the writer of
Acts. The island had strong attractions for the cousins; Barnabas was Κύπριος
τῷ γένει, i.e. his family, though
Levites, belonged to the body of Jewish settlers who had synagogues in Cyprus
(Acts 4,36; 13,5), <note 7> and Mark belonged to this family on his father's or his mother's side. A reference
to Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9,6 <note
8> implies that he was still at work in 57; whether in Cyprus and
in Mark's company does not appear. But in a.d. 62 Mark's connexion
with Barnabas seems to be at an end; he is in Rome among St. Paul's most
faithful fellow workers – one of few Christian Jews in the metropolis who
remained loyal, and in association with the most trusted of the Apostle's
Gentile converts (Col.
4,10, Ἀρίσταρχος... Μᾶρκος
... Ἰησοῦς, οἱ ὄντες
ἐκ περιτομῆς, οὗτοι
Philem. 24, Ἐπαφρᾶς... Μᾶρκος
Λουκᾶς, οἱ συνεργοι
μου). Nor was the reconciliation very recent; before the date
of the Colossian letter, instructions had been sent to the Churches of the
Lycus valley to receive Mark if he passed that way (Col. l.c.) <note
9> After St. Paul's release Mark returned to the East, for during the
last imprisonment Timothy, who is at Ephesus, is desired to “pick him up
on the way,” <note 10> and bring him back to
Tim. 4,11. Μᾶρκον ἀναλαβὼν
/86/ ἄγε μετὰ σεαυτοῦ).
The Apostle, now near his end, needs the services of the ὑπηρέτης
of his first missionary journey; and it cannot be doubted that the attendant
who failed him then was eager now to give his best.
So far there seems to be no reasonable ground for hesitating to believe that
we have been dealing with the life story of a single person. It is otherwise
when we pass to the remaining instance in which a Mark is mentioned in the New
Testament. The first Epistle of Peter conveys a greeting from “my son Mark”
to the Churches of Asia Minor (5,13, Ἀσπάζεται
ὑμᾶς ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι
Μᾶρκος ὁ υἱός μου).
Is St. Peter's “son” the John Mark of the Acts, and the Mark who was the first
ὑπηρέτης, and ultimately the συνεργός
of St. Paul?
It is clear that as far back as a.d. 44 Peter was familiar with the household
to which John Mark belonged. To the house of John's mother he had betaken himself
on the night of his deliverance from prison; his voice had been at once recognised
by the portress. He had probably known both Mary and her son from the time of
their conversion to the faith; possibly he had been the instrument of their
conversion. This cannot, however, be inferred from the use of the affectionate
ὁ υἱός μου. If the spiritual relationship
of a convert to his father in the faith had been in view, τέκνον
would probably have been preferred (cf. 1 1 Cor. 4,17;
Phil. 2,22; Philem. 10; 1 Tim. 1,2.18; 2 Tim. 1,2; 2,1; Tit. 1,4); of υἱός
in the sense the New Testament has no certain example. But υἱός
is quite in place if the Apostle's purpose is to refer to Mark as the son of
an old friend, who has come to look upon him as a second father (cf. John
19,26), and is rendering to him the offices of a filial piety. Nor need we exclude
the sense which seems to have prevailed in Jewish circles, where the pupils
of great Rabbis were described as their sons. It meets us in the sapiential
books of the Old Testament (e.g. /87/ Prov. 1,8,
υἱέ = בְּנִי,Sir. 7,3),
and in our Lord's reference to the “sons” of the Pharisees. <note
11> If, in early manhood, John Mark had been accustomed to sit at the
feet of Peter in the assemblies of the Church of Jerusalem, their remembrance
of the relation which once existed between them would entitle the aged Apostle
to regard Mark in the light of a son.
But St. Peter's words further imply that Mark was with him, discharging the
duties of this quasi filial relation, at the time when the letter was
written. It is possible to reconcile this statement with the data of
the life of John Mark?
Assuming as we may venture to do, that the Babylon of 1 Peter is Rome, and
the συνεκλεκτή the Roman
Church, we see before us the aged Apostle dictating a letter, which he proposed
to send to Asia Minor by the hands of one of his disciples. The disciples by
whom the letter is to be transmitted is Silvanus, and he may reasonably be identified
with the person of the same name who is associated with St. Paul in 1
Thessalonians 1,1; 2 Thessalonians 1,1; 2 Corinthians 1,19, the Silas of the
Acts (15-18). If this identification is correct, he is the colleague whom St.
Paul chose to supply the place of Barnabas, when Barnabas took Mark with him
to Cyprus. The letter with which Silvanus is now charged by St. Peter is addressed
to the Churches of Asia Minor in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
among which would be the Churches of Ephesus and the Lycus valley, to whom St.
Paul had written during his first imprisonment. Moreover, this letter from St.
Peter, when it comes to be examined, is full of reminiscences of two of St.
Paul's letters, the Epistle to the Romans and the circular Epistle “to the Ephesians.” <note 12> /88/ The whole situation is most suggestive.
St. Peter writes from Rome to the Pauline Churches; he bases much of his teaching
on St. Paul's Epistles to the Roman Church an the Churches of Asia; he sends
this letter by the hands of one of St. Paul's former colleagues, he sends greeting
from another. Is it possible to avoid the conclusion that, when 1 Peter was
written, St. Paul has finished his course? The care of the Pauline Churches
has fallen on St. Peter; the two oldest associates of St. Paul, both originally
members of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 12,12; 15,22),
have transferred their services to the surviving Apostle. But though the leader
is changed, the teaching is the same, and St. Peter is careful to shew, both
by the character of his Epistle and his selection of colleagues, that he has
no other end than to take up and carry on the work of St. Paul.
If we assent to these conclusions, no doubt will remain as to the identity
of the Mark of 1 Peter with the Mark of Colossians and Philemon, the John Mark
of the Acts. That in this case the association of Mark with St. Peter followed
the death of St. Paul is scarcely a serious difficulty. The tradition which
represents the two Apostles as having suffered on the same day is probably due,
as Bishop Lightfoot shews,<note 13> to the synchronous
deposition of their bodies in the cemetery on the Appian Way, June 29th, 258.
Dionysius of Corinth states, it is true, that they were martyred κατὰ
τὸν αὐτὸν χρόνον,
“but the expression must not be too rigorously pressed, even if the testimony
of a Corinthian could be accepted as regards the belief in Rome,” and, we may
add, the testimony of a bishop who wrote in the second half of the second century
as regards matters of fact which belong to the history of the first. <note
14> /89/ Lightfoot, indeed, while divorcing the martyrdom of St. Peter
from that of St. Paul, placed the death of St. Peter first; but the opposite
view is not inconsistent with the evidence, and is more in harmony with the
phenomena presented by 1 Peter <note 15>. The precise
date of 1 Peter is still, it is true, an open question. Prof. Ramsay would place
it a.d. 75-80; Dr. Sanday does “not think it easy to prolong [St. Peter's] life
beyond the year 70.” <note 16> But in either case,
if we allow the identification of St. Peter's “son” with St. Paul's “fellow-worker”,
the Epistle contributes two important facts to the personal history of St. Mark.
After the death of St. Paul he attached himself to that other great teacher
from whom he had learned his earliest lessons of faith and life. When he appears
in a New Testament writing for the last time, John Mark is still at Rome, near
the grave of St. Paul, and ministering to the old age of St. Peter.
The tradition of the Church, which is reserved for a second paper, will lead
us to connect the minister, colleague, and son of Apostles with the Evangelist
to whom Alexandria owed her faith, and Rome and all Christendom the earliest
and freshest of the Synoptic records of the Ministry and Passion.
Note 1: For the accentuation see Blass on Acts 12,25, and
Gr. des NTlichen Griechisch, p. 15f. The form Μάρκος
occurs in several inscriptions (C.I.G. 887. 5644. 6155)
Note 2: C.I.G. 6155, Μάαρκος
5109, Μᾶρκος στρατιώτης;
3162, Μ. ταμίας; 191, γραμματεὺς
βουλῆς και δήμου
Μ. Εὐκαρπιδου Ἀζηνιεύς.
Note 3: There are two curiously close parallels in the
later Greek inscriptions: Dittenberger, 1127-8, Λεύκιος
ὁ καὶ Μᾶρκος Μαραθώνιος
1142 Ἅλιος ὁ καὶ Μᾶρκος
Χολλειδης. These inscriptions belong
to the years a.d. 170-190
Note 4: William Mitchell Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller
And The Roman Citizen, p. 71
Note 5: For example of the use of ὑπηρέτης
in Biblical Greek see Prov. 14,35; Sap. 4,4; Dan 3,46 (Th. and LXX.); Matt 5,25;
26,58; Luke 1,2; John 18,18; Acts 26,16; 1 Cor 4,1. An examination of these
passages will shew that the word covers a wide range of offices, and may be
used in reference to any duties not inconsistent with the position of a responsible
Note 6: William Mitchell Ramsay, The Church in the Roman
Empire before a.d. 170, p. 61f
Note 7: On Jewish settlements in Cyprus see Schürer II,
ii pp. 222. 232 (E.T.), and cf. Acts 11,20.
Note 8: ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ
καὶ Βαρνάβας οὐκ
Note 9: περὶ οὗ ἐλάβετε
ἐντολάς, ἐὰν ἔλθῃ
πρὸς ὑμᾶς, δέξασθε
αὐτόν (see Lightfoot 's note ).
Note 10: Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Biblical Essays,
Note 11: Matt. 12,27 = Luke 11,19. Cf. the reference in
Iren. 4,41.42 to a saying of quidam ante nos – possibly Pothinus, as
Note 12: Sanday and Headlam, Romans, p. lxxiv ff.;
Hort, Romans and Ephesians, p. 168f.
Note 13: Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Clement of Rome ii., p. 499f
Note 14: Harnack refers also (Chronologie, i. p.
242) to Clem. R., Cor. 6: τούτοις
(sc. Πέτρῳ καὶ Παύλῳ)
αἰκίαις καὶ βαςάνποις
... ὑπόδειγμα κάλλιστον
ἐγένοντο ἐν ἡμῖν
where, as Lightfoot says, “the reference must be chiefly, though not solely,
to the sufferers in the Neronian persecution.” But the passage does not necessarily
imply that these sufferings synchronised with those of the Apostles, still less,
as Harnack admits (p. 243 n), that the martyrdom took place in the year 64.
That St. Peter was believed to have been buried in the Vatican has suggested
that he was among the victims of the first outbreak of persecution (Lightfoot,
Harnack), but does not amount to a proof of the fact.
Note 15: See William Mitchell Ramsay, The Church in
the Roman Empire before a.d. 170, p. 280ff.
Note 16: Lightfoot in: Expositor, 4.8. p.411ff.