Who is John Mark?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Post Reply
John2
Posts: 3308
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 4:42 pm

Who is John Mark?

Post by John2 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:56 am

While I've heard of John Mark, I've never thought about him before, and now I'm curious to see what there is to see about him and let the chips fall where they may.

As far as the NT goes, it looks like he is only mentioned in Acts, and as far as Acts goes I bring some presumptions to the table. For reasons I've given on other threads and don't feel the need to get into now, I suspect it was written by Paul's (and later Josephus') patron Epaphroditus and that he was executed by Domitian c. 95 CE and that Acts was thus written no later than c. 95 CE.

And despite thinking that Acts is pro-Pauline and has an agenda of smoothing things over between Paul and Jewish Christian leaders, and despite also thinking that it uses (and distorts) Josephus, and setting aside that it makes up dialogue and uses what I call "special effects" (as more or less all ancient writings do), I think the author of Acts was in a position to know some things about early Christians and their writings, and it makes me wonder if there could thus be something to what they say about John Mark.

I also bring what Papias says about the gospel of Mark being written by a follower of Peter to the table, since Papias (who I date c. 100 CE) was also in a position to know some things about early Christians and their writings, and I take what he says about the gospel of Mark seriously.

I am also open to the possibility that the Mark in Philemon 1:24 could be Papias' Mark and/or John Mark, but I need to give that more thought.

And while I gather that the identity of John Mark with the author of the gospel of Mark (and/or Paul's Mark) is later patristic speculation, not knowing where else to start, I thought I'd look at what Acts says about John Mark with that idea in mind and see what I think about it.

Right off the bat Acts 15:36-40 jumps out at me:

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left ...

This reminds me of the what Paul says in Gal. 2:11-13 about Barnabas joining Peter when he and other Jews separated from Gentiles in Antioch:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

So here in Acts we have a guy named John Mark who followed Barnabas and not Paul, and in Galatians Barnabas sided with Peter and not Paul, which fits the idea that John Mark could be the Mark that Papias says was a follower of Peter. Hm.
Last edited by John2 on Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it good? Winding, finding places to go.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 7516
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:50 pm

John2 wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:56 am
Right off the bat Acts 15:36-40 jumps out at me:
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left ...
This reminds me of the what Paul says in Gal. 2:11-13 about Barnabas joining Peter when he and other Jews separated from Gentiles in Antioch:
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
So here in Acts we have a guy named John Mark who followed Barnabas and not Paul, and in Galatians Barnabas sided with Peter and not Paul, which fits the idea that John Mark could be the Mark that Papias says was a follower of Peter. Hm.
Acts 15.36-40 has always felt to me like an explanation of the rift between Paul and Barnabas which avoids its theological nature as described in Galatians 2.11-13.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ

John2
Posts: 3308
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 4:42 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by John2 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:11 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:50 pm
John2 wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:56 am
Right off the bat Acts 15:36-40 jumps out at me:
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left ...
This reminds me of the what Paul says in Gal. 2:11-13 about Barnabas joining Peter when he and other Jews separated from Gentiles in Antioch:
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
So here in Acts we have a guy named John Mark who followed Barnabas and not Paul, and in Galatians Barnabas sided with Peter and not Paul, which fits the idea that John Mark could be the Mark that Papias says was a follower of Peter. Hm.
Acts 15.36-40 has always felt to me like an explanation of the rift between Paul and Barnabas which avoids its theological nature as described in Galatians 2.11-13.

That's something to chew on. But what if we factor in the Mark in Philemon 1:24? If Philemon is genuinely Pauline and the Mark there is John Mark, it could be in keeping with Acts 15:38-39, since it says that John Mark had at least once been Paul's "fellow worker" (as per Philemon).

... but Paul did not think it wise to take him [John Mark], because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.

And while I don't believe it is historical (or, rather, I see it as spinning what Josephus says about the Simon in Ant. 19, who I think could be the historical Peter and which you and I have discussed before), Peter's visit to John Mark's house after escaping from prison in Acts 12 is in keeping with Papias' Mark being a follower of Peter.

So I would take your supposition regarding Acts' spin of Galatians the same way I see Acts spinning Ant. 19. Just like it doesn't necessarily mean that Peter did not exist and have a run in with Agrippa in the latter case despite the spin, perhaps it doesn't necessarily mean John Mark didn't exist and wasn't a follower of Peter despite the spin in the former case.
Last edited by John2 on Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it good? Winding, finding places to go.

davidmartin
Posts: 270
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:51 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by davidmartin » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:32 pm

why not take it further?
The Gospel of Mark was the gospel produced by the 'John Mark' / 'Barnabas' church mission that was distinct from Paul's. The stuff in Acts and name dropping in Paul's letters are attempts to make them either seem closer, on the same page or recognise differences did exist but draw no meaning from them. Didn't the gospel of Mark originate in Egypt, the one place Paul didn't go.
I wouldn't put much in John Mark's closeness to Peter, that might also be trying to be harmonising things
I suspect the 'Jewish myths' mentioned in the NT epistles might refer to Gospels like Mark!

John2
Posts: 3308
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 4:42 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by John2 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:41 pm

davidmartin wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:32 pm
why not take it further?
The Gospel of Mark was the gospel produced by the 'John Mark' / 'Barnabas' church mission that was distinct from Paul's. The stuff in Acts and name dropping in Paul's letters are attempts to make them either seem closer, on the same page or recognise differences did exist but draw no meaning from them. Didn't the gospel of Mark originate in Egypt, the one place Paul didn't go.



I could live with all that.

I wouldn't put much in John Mark's closeness to Peter, that might also be trying to be harmonising things

But it would be in keeping with Papias' Mark being a follower of Peter.
Look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it good? Winding, finding places to go.

John2
Posts: 3308
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 4:42 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by John2 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:02 pm

That "the gospel produced by the 'John Mark' / 'Barnabas' church mission ... was distinct from Paul's" seems obvious enough from Jesus' pro-Torah position in the gospel of Mark, e.g., 7:9-13:

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it good? Winding, finding places to go.

davidmartin
Posts: 270
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:51 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by davidmartin » Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:06 pm

John2, i'll be honest, when someone like Papias or some other obscure quote supports a pet theory of mine i'm the first to yank it out and see it as a highly prized gem. i've no intention of stopping doing that either! But really even someone as early as Papias is not especially reliable a witness. It's not clear from these fragments what's going on or if he's just telling the story how he heard it
I mean if you take the Clementine stuff as representing Peter from the Ebionite tradition, then how could John Mark be associated with Peter and the gospel Mark, when the Ebionites had some earlier Matthew gospel already? There some quite noticable theological differences between the two gospels, like 'hell' which abounds in Matthew but is absent in Mark i would argue

John2
Posts: 3308
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 4:42 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by John2 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:12 pm

davidmartin wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:06 pm
John2, i'll be honest, when someone like Papias or some other obscure quote supports a pet theory of mine i'm the first to yank it out and see it as a highly prized gem. i've no intention of stopping doing that either! But really even someone as early as Papias is not especially reliable a witness. It's not clear from these fragments what's going on or if he's just telling the story how he heard it

Well, sure Papias bases what he says about Mark and Peter on what he heard, but by my reckoning he heard from (or things that came from) at least one person (John the presbyter) who was alive during his time and was alive in the time of Jesus.

I mean if you take the Clementine stuff as representing Peter from the Ebionite tradition, then how could John Mark be associated with Peter and the gospel Mark, when the Ebionites had some earlier Matthew gospel already? There some quite noticable theological differences between the two gospels, like 'hell' which abounds in Matthew but is absent in Mark i would argue

I see the Clementine writings as misrepresenting Peter, i.e., as using sources that represent the post-70 CE Ebionite faction of Jewish Christianity rather than the Nazarene faction I think Peter belonged to.
Look at the sky, look at the river, isn't it good? Winding, finding places to go.

davidmartin
Posts: 270
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:51 pm

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by davidmartin » Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:42 pm

i tend to see John the presbyter as a leader at the time of a merging of Pauline, 'Ebionite', and other churches under a more central structure in the late 1st century. I don't see it as a direct continuation of some more original, first church but a later in-gathering under different leaders. I think Papias is reliable to this time.
I think there was always a 'Peter' faction, some joined in with the above merger which gave the gospel of Matthew, others refused and became the Ebionites and went more normative Judaism. Just like with the John community, some joined giving the gospel of John, some refused and went more gnostic. The original first church was probably somewhere in between all these during the original period of unity from which all these others sprang, i have a hard time believing Jesus would have approved of all this!

perseusomega9
Posts: 629
Joined: Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:19 am
Contact:

Re: Who is John Mark?

Post by perseusomega9 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:58 pm

He's a cipher for a 'major pivotal' character that joined johannine christianity with markionite christianity and ultimately subsumed under Peter's authority. Give it up about acts, its mid 2nd century
The metric to judge if one is a good exegete: the way he/she deals with Barabbas.

Who disagrees with me on this precise point is by definition an idiot.
-Giuseppe

Post Reply