Thoughts on ancient gospels and the like

14 July 2007

Mark: some of the candidates

Filed under: authors,Flavian,Herodians,Julio-Claudians,Mark — markandmore @ 22:39

So, who did write the Gospel of Mark?

Here are some of the persons who have been suggested:

1) The John Mark who appears several times in the New Testament, Peter’s secretary, and the first bishop of Alexandria. The founder of Coptic Christianity and whose body lies in the Cathedral San Marco in Venice. The orthodox version which we looked at in detail in the previous post.

2) Ptolemaeus Chennus (Ptolemy the Quail). This nomination relies on the fact that Dennis MacDonald in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark analyzes the Gospel as a transvalued emulation of mainly the Odyssey, but also parts of the Iliad. Ptolemaeus Chennus wrote an ‘anti-Homer poem’ which we no longer have – unless it is the Gospel of Mark. Ptolemaeus Chennus – like John Mark – was an Alexandrian who came to Rome. He wrote versions of old mythologies that rewrote the past.

3) Marcus Mettius Epaphroditus (+23 – 96?). Sometimes known as Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus. The name ‘Epaphroditus’ means ‘of Aphrodite’, which may mean that he was raised as a sex slave, but not necessarily. Other New Testament characters e.g. Titus, Saulus have names with sexual connotations. Other NT characters have names dedicated to Greek gods: Apollos, Artemas (from Artemis), Zenas (=Zenodorus=gift of Zeus), Tychius (from Tyche). He was born in Chaeronea in Greece, a slave in the house of Archias, a grammaticus, who educated him. He was later sold to a Roman eques (of the lessor nobility), Marcus Mettius Modestus, who was prefect of Egypt in the +50s ruling from Alexandria (so like John Mark, Marcus Epaphroditus also came from Alexandria). Modestus freed Epaphroditus, and as per custom Epahroditus took the name of his ex-master. He moved to Rome, founded a school, founded a lepaphroditus_s.jpgibrary of over 30,000 scrolls, owned two houses and published several books: a grammatical Commentary on Homer (see Dennis MacDonald above), Lexeis (literary styles), Peri Stoicheion (first principles of language), a commentary on the Aitia by Callimachus of Cyrene, a commentary on the Shield of Heracles attributed to Hesiod. He also sponsored three of the books by Flavius Josephus. He rose at the court of Nero, first apparitor Caesarus, then viator tribunicius and finally libellis, which means that he drafted Nero’s replies to petitions. (As John Mark was secretary to Peter, Marcus Epaphroditus was secretary to Nero). In +65 he learned of the Piso conspiracy and shopped it to Nero. In exchange he received military honours and great wealth. When Nero was declared a public enemy by the Senate in +68, Epaphroditus and a few other freedmen helped him escape from Rome, and finally helped him to suicide (or maybe just killed him). He returned to the imperial court under Domitian, again as secretary. He also protected his now-freed slave philosopher, Epictetus, when Domitian was persecuting the philosophers (as John Mark had protected a slave devoted to himself). Finally Domitian had Epaphroditus executed. He also appears in Philippeans 2:25, 4:18, 4:23 as Paul’s emissary to the court of Nero. He is recognized as a saint by the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.

See Robert Eisenman. James the Brother of Jesus.

4) Marcus Julius Agrippa (28 – 100?). The last king of the Herodian dynasty. He was raised in Alexandria. He was the only male Herodian of his generation descended from the Hasmodians (via Herod’s wife Miriam). He was known to the Samaritans as Marqeh bar Titus (he, like Josephus, had been adopted into the Flavian family) who wrote texts and hymns that became part of the Samaritan tradition, and is regarded by them as the second Moses. He was recognized as the messiah of Daniel 9:24-7. He ruled as king an area in Syria for at least 30 years after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in +70. At the end of his life when he had fallen out with the Romans and was in their prison, he wrote another gospel, The Gospel of Me, explaining that the male child who reappears in the Gospel of Mark was himself.

See the various websites by Stephan Huller here, here and here

1 July 2007

The Life of Mark

Filed under: biography,Mark,walkons — markandmore @ 23:43


For someone who is basically a postulation because a text must have an author, Mark has a remarkably detailed biography.

Walk-ons in the New Testament

In his own gospel, it has been proposed that Mark is the young man who runs off naked (14:51-2), and the servant who carried water to the house of the last supper (14:13).

In John’s gospel, it has been proposed that Mark was one of the servants at the wedding celebrations in Cana who poured out the water now turned to wine (2:1-11), and the one who hosted the disciples after the death of Jesus and to whose house the resurrected Jesus came (20:19).

In Luke’s gospel, it has been proposed that Mark was one of 70 apostles sent by Jesus (10:1); in his sequel, it is proposed that Mark is ‘John Mark’ the son a Mary(Acts 12:12,25, 15:37,39), John (13:5, 13:13), and Mark (15:39); In Luke’s epistles, Mark is mentioned at 2 Tim 4:11.

In Paul’s epistles, Mark appears at Col 4;10 as a cousin of Barnabas, and Philemon 1:24.

In Peter’s epistles he appears at 1 Peter 5:13, described as the son of the author, presumably Peter.

Outside the New Testament

Eusebius quotes Papias that Mark had been Peter’s secretary and that the gospel is based on Peter’s reminiscences.

While preaching on the shores of the Adriatic his ship took shelter from a storm in the lagoon to be later called San Francesco della Vigna, and an angel appeared and told him of the future city of Venice. Mark also founded a church at Aquileia in the lagoon.

There is a strong tradition that Mark was the first bishop of Alexandria, that he performed many miracles, including healing a cobbler with an injured hand who became his successor, Bishop Anianus. Jesus appeared to Mark in his cell before he was executed in 67 or 68 (which raises the problem of his apparent knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 which is hinted at in his gospel). Several ancient Christian writers, Dorotheus, Eutychius and the Chronicon Paschale, state that Mark’s body was burnt. However the Acts of St Mark, 4th century, claims that a miraculous storm permitted his followers to steal away the body and bury it in a church.pdvd_002.jpgKing of Kings, 1927

Cecil B. Demille’s King of Kings, 1927


Venice has a tradition that Mark came down from Heaven to rescue a slave who was devoted to his shrine, and was about to be executed. Another legend relates how during a storm, a stranger (Mark) persuades a fisherman to pick up two other saints, and then go out to sea where they encounter a ship filled with demons intending to destroy Venice. The three saints destroy the demons instead. Mark pays the fisherman with a ring from his sanctuary to be taken to the Doge.

In either 815 or 828 Venetian sailors stole most of Mark’s body and smuggled it to Venice by hiding it under pork meat which the muslim guards avoided. Venice deposed its existing patron saint, Theodore, and built the cathedral San Marco in Mark’s honour.

Copts maintain that Mark’s head is still in St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, and every year on the 30th day of the month of Babah, they commemorate its appearance.

In 1063, during the construction of a new basilica in Venice, St. Mark’s relics could not be found. However, according to tradition, in 1094 the saint himself revealed the location of his remains by extending an arm from a pillar.

In 1968 a delegation from the Coptic Pope to the Catholic Pope was given a piece of bone that had been given to the Catholic Pope by Cardinal Urbani, patriarch of Venice, and said that the rest of Mark remains in Venice.


Did they get the wrong body?

The Tomb of Alexander the Great was in Alexandria, and its location was well known in Roman times. The tomb disappeared in the dark ages. Andrew Chugg argues that the Venetian sailors in 815 or 828 stole the wrong corpse. They stole that of Alexander himself, and that it is Alexander who lies in the cathedral San Marco in Venice. !!!

JCJ Metford Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend Thames and Hudson 1983 under ‘Mark, St’

Wikipedia entry on Mark the Evangelist

Andrew Chugg Alexander’s Tomb

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