Little is known of Mark as a person. He is called "John" in three of the texts of the New Testament (Acts 12:12,25; 13:5,13; 15:37). The early Christians gathered at his family's house in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on Paul's first missionary journey as far as Perga in Pamphylia. The last mention of Mark is in the Acts when it is noted that he journeyed to Cyprus with Barnabas.
Mark's closest relationship seems to have been with Peter. Peter sends Mark greetings in his first letter (5:13), and Papias, a 2nd-century Christian writer, states that Mark copied down the words of Peter and thus composed the Gospel that carries his name. As far as can be judged from the testimony of Christian writers in the 2d and 3d centuries, Mark composed his Gospel in Greek some time between A.D. 63 and 70. If, as has been surmised, Peter was one important source for Mark's Gospel, and if the assigned date of composition is correct, it is possible that Mark accompanied Peter to Rome, going on from there after Peter's death.
Scholars who have studied the text of Mark's Gospel agree in general that he used some basic literary source related to the present Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mark's Gospel presents the least amount of historical or geographical information of all four Gospels. Mark is the first author to use the term Gospel, which originally seems to have referred to the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To this basic core of early Christian teaching Mark added other elements of Jesus' early life, thereby creating the Gospel format we find in the other Gospels.
Mark presents the life of Jesus within a framework which is made up of certain themes: the Messiahship of Jesus; his preaching of the Kingdom of God; the miracles of Jesus; the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and the last instructions of Jesus to his followers. Internal examination of his Gospel supports the view that Peter was a direct source for much of Mark's material. Mark's Gospel in one sense represents the most simple form of the early Christian message, or kerygma. As the Messiah, Jesus spends some time in the desert. He then assembles his disciples, preaches the new message, works miracles to prove its authenticity, and is finally overtaken by his God-appointed destiny to die on a cross and thus achieve the salvation of all men. He shows himself after death to prove that he is alive and is the source of life.
It is not known how or where Mark finished his life. The Egyptian Church claimed Mark as its founder and patron saint. Another tradition associates Mark with Aquileia in northern Italy. It was a group of refugees from Aquileia who founded Venice on the Adriatic in the 6th century and designated Mark, under the symbol of the winged lion, as the patron saint and defender of the future, prestigious Republic of Venice.
Mark W. Lynn, BA, MA, MS, PhD
Liturgical Activities Chairman
Florida State Council