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People's New Testament People's NT
by Barton Johnson
INTRODUCTION TO MARK.
The Second Gospel was written by Mark, the kinsman of Barnabas, and the companion of Paul in his first missionary journey. When and where it was written is uncertain. Of its author the following facts are gathered from the New Testament: He is first named in Acts 12:12. His mother's name was Mary, and we learn from Colossians 4:10, that she was a sister of Barnabas. She dwelt in Jerusalem, and this city was probably Mark's early home. He was converted by Peter (1 Peter 5:13), it has been supposed, at the great ingathering on the day of Pentecost. He became a minister (Acts 12:25), attended Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey did not prove satisfactory to Paul (Acts 15:38), and as Barnabas insisted on taking him, he and Paul parted company on the second missionary journey. That Paul and Mark were afterwards intimate is shown by the subsequent history. We find him by Paul's side during his first imprisonment at Rome, A. D. 61-63; and he is acknowledged by him as one of his few fellow-laborers who had been a "comfort" to him during the weary hours of his imprisonment (Colossians 4:10-11; Philemon 1:24). We next have traces of him in 1 Peter 5:13. "The church that is in Babylon . . . saluteth you, and so doth Marcus, my son". From this we infer that he joined the spiritual father, the friend of his mother, at Babylon, then and for some hundred years afterwards returned one of the chief seats of Jewish culture. From Babylon he would seem to have returned to Asia Minor; for during his second imprisonment, A. D. 68, Paul, writing to Timothy, charges him to bring Mark with him to Rome, on the ground that he was "profitable unto him for the ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). From this point we gain no further information from the New Testament respecting the Evangelist. It is most probable, however, that he did join the Apostle at Rome, whither also Peter would seem to have proceeded, and suffered martyrdom along with Paul. After the death of these two great pillars of the Church, ecclesiastical tradition affirms that Mark visited Egypt, founded the Church of Alexandria, and died by martyrdom. This tradition is, however, very uncertain.
Mark was not one of the twelve, and there is no reason to believe that he was an eye and ear witness of the events which he has recorded; but an almost unanimous testimony of the early fathers indicates Peter as the source of his information. The most important of these testimonies is that of Papias, who says, "He, the presbyter (John) said: Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, wrote exactly whatever he remembered; but he did not write in order the things which were spoken or done by Christ. For he was neither a hearer nor a follower of the Lord, but, as I said, afterward followed Peter, who made his discourses to suit what was required, without the view of giving a connected digest of the discourses of our Lord. Mark, therefore, made no mistakes when he wrote down circumstances as he recollected them; for he was very careful of one thing, to omit nothing of what he heard, and to say nothing false in what he related." Thus Papias writes of Mark. This testimony is confirmed by other witnesses.
Tradition affirms that Mark wrote for the benefit of Gentile Christians, and this view is confirmed by the fact that he often explains Jewish customs, where Matthew, writing for Jews, omits the explanation as if well understood. In the comments on Mark references will be found to the parallel passages in Matthew, where full explanatory notes will be found.