The Gospel According to St. Mark

by Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

Partial extract from Father Alexander and the Eastern Orthodox Church

Also see The Gospels by Bishop Alexander

The Evangelist Mark also bore the name "John." He too was a Jew by birth, but did not belong to the Twelve. For this reason, he could not have been a constant listener and travel companion to Christ as St. Matthew had been.

He wrote his Gospel based on conversations with St. Peter and under his guidance. In all probability, he was an eyewitness only to the last days of the Lord's earthly life. Only the Gospel of Mark mentions a youth who, throwing a cloak over his own naked body, followed the Lord when He was taken prisoner in the garden of Gethsemane, but left his cloak and fled naked when the guards grabbed him (Mark 14:51-52). Ancient tradition perceives this youth as St. Mark himself, the author of the second Gospel.

His mother, Mary, is mentioned in the book of Acts as one of the women most devoted to Christ. In her home in Jerusalem the faithful gathered for prayer. It is very likely that the upper room where Jesus ate the last Passover with His disciples and instituted the Eucharist (Holy Communion) was in Mark's home.

Mark later traveled with St. Paul on his first missionary journey; the other traveling companion was Barnabas, a maternal uncle to Mark. Mark was with the Apostle Paul in Rome when he wrote the epistle to the Colossians.

Later, apparently, St. Mark became a fellow traveler and collaborator with St. Peter, which is substantiated by the words of Apostle Peter himself in his first Epistle in which he writes: "She who is in Babylon, elected together with you, greets you, and so does Mark my son" (1 Peter 5:13). Most likely Babylon was used as another name for Rome).

Prior to his departure, St. Paul summons him again and writes to Timothy: "Take Mark with you, for I need him to serve" (2 Tim. 4:11). According to ancient tradition St. Peter designated St. Mark the first Bishop of the church in Alexandria where St. Mark ended his life as a martyr.

According to Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis, as well as that of St. Justin the Philosopher and St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Mark wrote his Gospel based on discussions with St. Peter. St. Justin refers to it directly as the "written recollections of Peter." Clement of Alexandria claims that the Gospel of St. Mark essentially represents a written version of St. Peter's sermons, which St. Mark documented at the request of Christians living in Rome.

The very context of St. Mark's Gospel testifies to the fact that it was designated for gentiles who converted to Christianity. It minimally references the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Old Testament and even fewer quotations are cited from the Old Testament Scriptures. Additionally, we find Latin words, such as speculator and others. Even the Sermon on the Mount, which serves as an explanation of the superiority of New Testament Law over the Old Testament, is omitted.

Instead, St. Mark's main objective is to present in his Gospel a strong and clear narration of Christ's miracles, emphasizing through them God's heavenly greatness and omnipotence. In his Gospel, Jesus is not "a descendant of David" as in that of Matthew, but the Son of God, Lord and Master, Universal King.