Mark the Evangelist

Saint Mark the Evangelist (i.e. the gospel writer), a.k.a. Mark the Disciple

Icon of Saint Mark the Evangelist. He is shown holding his Gospel with the winged lion looking on.

Mark was one of the four evangelists (i.e. the author of one of the gospels), and one of the 70 disciples (mentioned in Luke 10:1-24). Mark was NOT one of the twelve apostles chosen and invested (ordained) by Jesus. After traveling and evangelizing Jews and Gentiles in Anatolia, Greece and Dalmatia. (A.D. 41 through A.D. 43), Mark was sent by Simon Peter and to Alexandria, Egypt and he establish the Church of Alexandria.

According to Eusebius of Caesarea (in his Ecclesiastical History), Herod Agrippa I, in his first year of reign over the whole of Judea (A.D. 41), killed James, the son of Zebedee and arrested Saint Simon Peter, planning to kill him after the Passover. Peter was saved miraculously by angels, and escaped out of the realm of Herod (Acts 12:1–19).

Peter fled from Jerusalem went to Antioch, then through Asia Minor (visiting the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1), and arrived in Rome in the second year of Emperor Claudius (A.D. 42; again in Ecclesiastical History). Somewhere on the way, Mark joined up with Simon Peter and then traveled with him an a traveling companion and interpreter. According to “unbroken tradition” Mark is understood to have traveled through and evangelized in Dalmatia until he reached the Roman city of Aquileia (located on the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea just East of current day Venice. Ancient tradition asserts that the see of Aquileia was founded by St. Mark, who was sent there by St. Peter, prior to Mark’s mission to Alexandria. Again, according to Eusebius Mark the Evangelist wrote the Gospel of Mark, before he left for Alexandria in the third year of the Emperor Claudius (in A.D. 43).

Mark wrote his eye witness account of the Gospel of Mark sometime between A.D. 50 and A.D. 66 while he was the Bishop of Alexandria.

Mark was seated as the first Bishop of Alexandria a leadership position which was routinely also referred to as the Patriarch of Alexandria or the Pope of Alexandria. The terms patriarch and pope which were interchangeable with the term bishop in the first 6-8 centuries of Christianity. The Church in Alexandria, which became one of the five most important, authoritative and influential churches of the first millennium of Christianity (along with the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, and Rome). Mark completed his eye witness the Gospel of Mark while he was the bishop of Alexandria (written between A.D. 41 and A.D. 66). Mark’s Gospel is often considered to be the earliest of the so called synoptic gospels (the other two synoptic gospels are the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke). Some scholars consider Matthew to have written his gospel account earlier then Mark.

Early Christian illustrations of the four evangelists depict them as “the four living creatures” which are around the throne of God in Heaven (see Ezekiel 1:2-10 and Revelations 4:7-9). Saint Mark is symbolize him as a winged lion, (with Matthew, who is shown as a winged man or angel, Luke who is shown as a winged ox or bull, and John who is shown as an eagle).

According to Eusebius (in his Ecclesiastical History) Mark was succeeded by Annianus as the bishop of Alexandria in the eighth year of Nero (in A.D. 62 or 63). Ancient oral tradition says that Mark was martyred in A.D. 68.

Statue of Mark the Winged Lion (in Venice)

Early in the history of Venice, Saint Mark was adopted from Aquileia as being the Venician patron saint. In 829 (see 829, LCC-04), Venetian merchants stole the relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria and transported then back to Venice. They built the Basilica of Saint Mark located adjacent to (and connected to) the palace of the Doge of Venice on the Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) to house the relics. The initial basilica was completed by 832 and the first St Mark’s Campanile (bell tower) was built during that same century.

Hippolytus of Rome (see A.D. 199) in On the Seventy Apostles distinguishes Mark the Evangelist (2 Tim 4:11), John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37), and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10; Philemon 1:24). According to Hippolytus, they all belonged to the “Seventy Disciples” who were sent out by Jesus to disseminate the gospel (Luke 10:1 and following) in Judea and beyond.