An occasional associate of Peter and Paul, and the probable author of the second gospel. Mark's lasting impact on the Christian church comes from his writing rather than his life. He was the first to develop the literary form known as the "gospel" (see GOSPEL) and is rightly regarded as a creative literary artist.

John Mark appears in the New Testament only in association with more prominent personalities and events. His mother, Mary, was an influential woman of Jerusalem who possessed a large house with servants. The early church gathered in this house during Peter's imprisonment under Herod Agrippa I <Acts 12:12>. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) took John Mark with them when they returned from Jerusalem to Antioch after their famine-relief visit <Acts 12:25>. Shortly thereafter, Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey as far as Perga. He served in the capacity of "assistant" <Acts 13:5>, which probably involved making arrangements for travel, food, and lodging; he may have done some teaching, too.

At Perga John Mark gave up the journey for an undisclosed reason <Acts 13:13>; this departure later caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas when they chose their companions for the second missionary journey <Acts 15:37-41>. Paul was unwilling to take Mark again and chose Silas; they returned overland to Asia Minor and Greece. Barnabas persisted in his choice of Mark, who was his cousin <Col. 4:10>, and returned with him to his homeland of Cyprus <Acts 15:39>, (also <Acts 4:36>).

This break occurred about A. D. 49-50, and John Mark is not heard from again until a decade later. He is first mentioned again, interestingly enough, by Paul-- and in favorable terms. Paul asks the Colossians to receive Mark with a welcome <Col. 4:10>, no longer as an assistant but as one of his "fellow laborers" <Philem. 24>. And during his imprisonment in Rome, Paul tells Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome, "for he is useful to me for ministry" <2 Tim. 4:11>. One final reference to Mark comes also from Peter in Rome; Peter affectionately refers to him as "my son" <1 Pet. 5:13>. Thus, in the later references to Mark in the New Testament, he appears to be reconciled to Paul and laboring with the two great apostles in Rome.

Information about Mark's later life is dependent on early church tradition. Writing at an early date, Papias <A. D. 60-130>, whose report is followed by Clement of Alexandria (A. D. 150-215), tells us that Mark served as Peter's interpreter in Rome and wrote his gospel from Peter's remembrances. Of his physical appearance we are only told, rather oddly, that Mark was "stumpy fingered." Writing at a later date (about A. D. 325), the church historian Eusebius says that Mark was the first evangelist to Egypt, the founder of the churches of Alexandria, and the first bishop of that city. So great were his converts, both in number and sincerity of commitment, says Eusebius, that the great Jewish philosopher, Philo, was amazed.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

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