(Μάρκος, from the frequent Latin surname Marcus, as the word is Anglicized only in Col 4:10; Phm 1:24; 1Pe 5:13), the evangelist, is probably the same as "John whose surname was Mark" (Ac 12:12,25). Grotius indeed maintains the contrary, on the ground that the earliest historical writers nowhere call the evangelist by the name of John, and that they always describe him as the companion of Peter and not of Paul. But John was the Jewish name, and Mark, a name of frequent use among the Romans, was adopted afterwards, and gradually superseded the other. The places in the N.T. enable us to trace the process. The John Mark of Ac 12:12,25, and the John of Ac 13:5,13, becomes Mark only in Ac 15:39; Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 1:24. The change of John to Mark is analogous to that of Saul to Paul; and we cannot doubt that the disuse of the Jewish name in favor of the other is intentional, and has reference to the putting away of his former life, and entrance upon a new ministry. No inconsistency arises from the accounts of his ministering to two apostles. The desertion of Paul (Ac 13:13) may have been prompted partly by a wish to rejoin Peter and the apostles engaged in preaching in Palestine (Benson; see Kuinol's note), and partly from a disinclination to a perilous and doubtful journey. There is nothing strange in the character of a warm impulsive young man, drawn almost equally towards the two great teachers of the faith, Paul and Peter. Had mere cowardice been the cause of his withdrawal, Barnabas would not so soon after have chosen him for another journey, nor would he have accepted the choice.
John Mark was the son of a certain Mary, who dwelt at Jerusalem, and was therefore probably born in that city (Ac 12:12). He was of Jewish parentage (Col 4:10). He was the cousin (ἀνεψιός) of Barnabas (Col 4:10). It was to Mary's house, as to a familiar haunt, that Peter came after his deliverance from prison (Ac 12:12), and there found "many gathered together praying;" and probably John Mark was converted by Peter from meeting him in his mother's house, for he speaks of "Marcus my son" (1Pe 5:13). This term has been taken as implying the natural relation by Bengel, Neander, Credner, Hottinger, Tholuck, Stanley (Serm. on the Apost. Age, p. 95), but this is contrary to the view of the earlier writers (Origen, ap. Eusebius, H. E., 6:25; Eusebius, H. E. 2:15; Jerome, De Vir. h. c. 8). The theory that he was one of the seventy disciples is without any warrant. Another theory, that an event of the night of our Lord's betrayal (A.D. 29), related by Mark alone, is one that befell himself (Olshausen, Lange), must not be so promptly dismissed. "There followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked" (Mr 14:51-52). The detail of facts is remarkably minute; the name only is wanting. The most probable view is that Mark suppressed his own name, while telling a story which he had the best means of knowing. Awakened out of sleep, or just preparing for it, ill some house in the valley of Kedron, he comes out to see the seizure of the betrayed Teacher, known to him and in some degree beloved already. He is so deeply interested in his fate that he follows him even in his thin linen robe. His demeanor is such that some of the crowd are about to arrest him; then, "fear overcoming shame" (Bengel), he leaves his garment in their hands and flees. We call only say that if the name of Mark is supplied, the narrative receives its most probable explanation. John (Joh 1:40; Joh 19:26) introduces himself in this unobtrusive way, and perhaps Luke the same (John 24:18). Mary the mother of Mark seems to have been a person of some means and influence, and her house a rallying point for Christians in those dangerous days (Ac 12:12). A.D. 44. Her son, already an inquirer, would soon become more. Anxious to work for Christ, he went with Paul and Barnabas as their "minister" (ὐπηρέτης) on their first journey; but at Perga, as we have seen above, turned back (Ac 12:25; Ac 13:13). On the second journey Paul would not accept him again as a companion, but Barnabas his kinsman was more indulgent; and thus he became the cause of the memorable "sharp contention" between them (Ac 15:36-40). Whatever was the cause of Mark's vacillation. it did not separate him forever from Paul, for we find him by the side of that apostle in his first imprisonment at Rome (Col 4:10; Phm 1:24). A.D. 56. In the former place a possible journey of Mark to Asia is spoken of. Somewhat later he is with Peter at Babylon (1Pe 5:13). Some consider Babylon to be a name here given to Rome in a mystical sense — surely without reason, since the date of a letter is not the place to look for a figure of speech. Of the causes of this visit to Babylon there is no evidence. It may be conjectured that he made the journey to Asia Minor (Col 4:10), and thence went on to join Peter at Babylon. On his return to Asia he seems to have been with Timothy at Ephesus when Paul wrote to him during his second imprisonment, and Paul was anxious for his return to Rome (2Ti 4:11). A.D. 64.
When we desert Scripture we find the facts doubtful, and even inconsistent. If Papias be trusted (quoted in Eusebius, II.E. 3:39), Mark never was a disciple of our Lord, which he probably infers from 1Pe 5:13. Epiphanius, on the other hand, willing to do honor to the evangelist, adopts the tradition that he was one of the seventy-two disciples who turned back from our Lord at the hard saying in John 6 (Cont. Haer. 51:6, p. 457, Dindorf's recent edition). The same had been said of Luke. Nothing can be decided on this point. The relation of Mark to Peter is of great importance for our view of his Gospel. Ancient writers with one consent make the evangelist the interpreter (ἑρμηνευτής) of the apostle Peter (Papias in Eusebius, H. E. 3:39; Irenaeus, Haer. 3:1; 3:10, 6; Tertullian, c. Marc. 4:5; Jerome, ad Ifedib. vol. ix, etc.). Some explain this word to mean that the office of Mark was to translate into the Greek tongue the Aramaic discourses of the apostle (Eichhorn, Bertholdt, etc.); while others adopt the more probable view that Mark wrote a Gospel which conformed more exactly than the others to Peters preaching, and thus "interpreted" it to the Church at large (Valesius, Alford, Lange, Fritzsche, Meyer, etc.). The passage from Eusebius favors the latter view; it is a quotation from Papias. "This also [John] the elder said: Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, wrote down exactly whatever things he remembered, but yet not in the order in which Christ either spoke or did them; for he was neither a hearer nor a follower of the Lord's, but he was afterwards, as I [Papias] said, a follower of Peter." The words in italics refer to the word interpreter above, and the passage describes a disciple writing down what his master preached, and not an interpreter orally translating his words. SEE MARK, GOSPEL OF. The report that Mark was the companion of Peter at Rome is no doubt of great antiquity. Clement of Alexandria is quoted by Eusebius as giving it for "a tradition which he had received of the elders from the first" (παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνέκαθεν πρεσβυτέρων, Eusebius, H. E. 6:14; Clem. Alex. Hyp. p. 6). But the force of this is invalidated by the suspicion that it rests on a misunderstanding of 1Pe 5:13, Babylon being wrongly taken for a typical name of Rome (Eusebits, H. E. 2:15; Jerome, De Vir. ill. c. 8). Sent on a mission to Egypt by Peter (Epiphanius, Haer. 2:6, p. 457, Dindorf; Eusebius, H. E. 2:16), Mark there founded the Church of Alexandria (Jerome, De Vir. ill. c. 8), and preached in various places (Nicephorus, H. E. 2:43), then returned to Alexandria, of which Church he was bishop, and suffered a martyr's death (Nicephorus, ibid. and Jerome, De Vir. ill. c. 8) in the eighth year of Nero. According to the legend, his remains were obtained from Alexandria by the Venetians through a pious stratagem, and conveyed to their city, A.D. 827. Venice was thenceforward solemnly placed under his protection, and the lion, which mediaeval theology had selected from the apocalyptic beasts as his emblem, became the standard of the republic. The place of the deposition of his body having been lost, a miracle was subsequently wrought for its discovery, A.D. 1094, which figures in many famous works of art. Where his remains now lie is, according to the Roman Catholic Eustacius, "acknowledged to be an undivulged secret; or, perhaps, in less cautious language, to be utterly unknown.