St. Mark the Apostle

John Kitto

St. Mark the Apostle

In the dispersion of the apostles for propagating the gospel is different parts of the world, after our Lord’s ascension into heaven, St. Mark was by Peter sent into Egypt, where he soon planted a church in Alexandria, the metropolis; and such was his success, that he converted great multitudes of people, both men and women, to the Christian religion.

St. Mark did not confine himself to Alexandria and the Oriental parts of Egypt, but removed westward to Lybia, passing through the countries of Marmarcia, Pentapolis, and others adjacent, where, though the people were both barbarous in their manners and idolatrous in their worship, yet by his preaching and miracles he prevailed on them to embrace the tenets of the gospel; nor did he leave them till he had confirmed them in the faith.

After this long tour he returned to Alexandria, where he preached with the greatest freedom, ordered and disposed of the affairs of the church, and wisely provided for a succession by constituting governors and pastors of it. But the restless enemy of the souls of men would not suffer our apostle to continue in peace and quietness; for while he was assiduously laboring in the vineyard of his Master, the idolatrous inhabitants, about the time of Easter, when they were celebrating the solemnities of Serapis, tumultuously seized him, and, binding his feet with cords, dragged him through the streets and over the most craggy places to the Bucelus, a precipice near the sea, leaving him there in a lonesome prison for that night; but his great and beloved Master appeared to him in a vision, comforting and encouraging him under the ruins of his shattered body.

Early the next morning the tragedy began afresh; and they dragged him about in the same cruel and barbarous manner till he expired. But their malice did not end with his death, for they burned his mangles body after they had so inhumanly deprived it of life; but the Christians gathered up his bones and ashes, and decently interred them near the place where he used to preach. His remains were afterward, with great pomp, removed from Alexandria to Venice, where they were religiously honored, and he was adopted the titular saint and patron of that state.

He suffered martyrdom on the 25th of April, but the year is not absolutely known; the most probably opinion is that it happened about the end of the reign of Nero.

His Gospel, the only writing he left behind him, was written at the entreaty and earnest desire of the converts at Rome, who, not content with having heard St. Peter preach, pressed St. Mark, his disciple, to commit to writing an historical account of what he had delivered to them, which he performed with equal faithfulness and approved by St. Peter, it was commanded to be publicly read in the assemblies. It was frequently styled St. Peter’s gospel, not because he dictated it to St. Mark, but because the latter composed it from the accounts St. Peter usually delivered in his discourse to the people. And this is probably the reason of what St. Chrysostom observes, that in his style and manner of expression he delights to imitate St. Peter, representing a great deal in a few words.

Resources: This story is adapted from John Kitto's 1870 History of the Bible and represents the commonly accepted views about this apostle among rank and file believers in the late 19th century.

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