John Mark, The Author of the Gospel of Mark

Sunday, July 14, begins a new study of the Gospel of Mark in our adult classes. While there is no direct internal evidence of John Mark’s authorship, it was the unanimous testimony of the early church that this Gospel was written by him.  The most important evidence comes from Papias (c. A.D. 140), who quotes an even earlier source naming John Mark as the author.

John Mark was a cousin to Barnabas and served as a companion to the Apostle Paul in his missionary work and later assisted the Apostle Peter in Rome. Three names appear in the New Testament for him: John Mark, his Jewish and Roman names; Mark; and John. The King James Bible calls him Marcus.  His mother was hosting the prayer meeting at her house when an angel helped Peter escape jail (Acts 12:1-12). The family was presumably wealthy enough to have a maidservant (Rhoda) and host large worship meetings.

John Mark found out that forgiveness is possible. So are second chances. Paul forgave John Mark and gave him a chance to prove his worth. Peter was so taken with John Mark he considered him like a son.

Paul made his first missionary journey to Cyprus, accompanied by Barnabas and John Mark. When they sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.  Some think Mark may have become homesick or ill.  A popular theory is that Mark was simply afraid of all the hardships that lay ahead. Regardless, Mark’s behavior soured him with Paul and caused a debate between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39). Paul refused to take John Mark on his second missionary journey, but Barnabas still had faith in him and took him back to Cyprus, while Paul traveled with Silas instead.

Over time, Paul changed his mind and forgave Mark. In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul says, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (NIV)

The last mention of Mark occurs in 1 Peter 5:13, where Peter calls Mark his “son,” no doubt a sentimental reference because Mark had been so helpful to him.

John Mark’s Gospel is the earliest account of Jesus’ life, and may have been told to him by Peter when the two spent so much time      together. Come, let’s study together!