Fri 23 March 2018

St Mark the Evangelist

Tuesday 25 April

It is to St Mark that we owe the word 'gospel' meaning 'good news' He it was who opened his book with the direct statement, 'The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God'. And the gospel continues in this vein - a direct and carefully constructed account to explain to his readers that the death of Jesus on the Cross was no accident but all part of God's plan. This clear intention may help to explain the curious end to his book (few scholars believe that the last 11 verses are his).

For Mark, perhaps there was no need to write any more because he and his readers knew exactly why the tomb was empty! Jesus, the Son of God had risen! Unfortunately, Mark, or Marcus was one of the most popular names at the time of our Lord. We therefore cannot be certain that the Mark referred to in other parts of the New Testament was the one who wrote the gospel. It could be that it was in Mark's mother's house that the Last Supper was held. It could be that Mark was the young man who fled naked from the scene of Jesus' arrest.

Mark, the writer, was certainly a Hellenic Jew, and it may have been the same gospel-writer who accompanied his cousin Barnabas to Cyprus and who was later with Peter and Paul in Rome. Tradition has it that, after the deaths of these two great apostles, Mark took the good news to Egypt where he became Bishop of Alexandria. Here his shrine became particularly venerated by early Christian pilgrims.

In the ninth century AD his relics were brought to Europe for safekeeping and placed under the high altar in the great St Mark's cathedral in Venice. There is some debate over the dating of his gospel (sometime between AD 64 and AD 75) but it is generally thought to be the first that was written.

Certainly, it is as the Evangelist that he is remembered and revered and, in the many pictures of him, he is nearly always depicted holding a book and a pen.

Richard Allen