What Do We Know about Mark in the Bible?

We know Mark wrote one of the gospels, but do we learn anything about Mark in the Bible? Does he show up in the narratives, or does he have some connection to the story that we learn from outside sources? The answer turns out to be a little bit of both.

Updated Feb 14, 2024
What Do We Know about Mark in the Bible?

Have you ever wondered who Mark in the Bible was? We know he penned a gospel. The oldest and shortest gospel bears his name. But who was this man named Mark? Was he actually the author of this gospel? If so, where did he get his information about Jesus if he wasn’t one of the twelve disciples?

Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark in the Bible?

If you’re like me, you may be so familiar with the list of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that you don’t think twice about their authors or question who they were. We know Matthew followed Jesus leaving his tax collector’s booth. John reminds us throughout his gospel he was one of Jesus’s favorites. We also know Luke hung out with Paul and wrote Acts. But what about Mark?

According to the Blue Letter Bible, the earliest manuscripts include “KATA MARKON,” which means “According to Mark.” It is interesting, however, to know that “Mark” was his surname and John was his first. We meet him in the twelfth chapter of Acts after Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. After he escaped, Peter went to John Mark’s mother’s house.

“When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people were gathering and praying” (Acts 12:12).

Perhaps he was given the name Mark because there was already a John. Regardless, his name and story can be found throughout the Bible with a little digging. It’s quite interesting. His story is one of redemption and acceptance despite his age and failure.

Do We See Mark in the Bible?

Some scriptures reveal Mark’s relationship with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas. Barnabas was his cousin. Paul offers this information in his letter to the church in Colosse as he instructs the church to welcome Mark if he comes to see them (Colossians 4:10). Mark’s relationship with Paul, however, was not always this pleasant.

In Acts 12:25 and 13:5, John Mark tagged along with his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their missionary journey from Jerusalem to Cypress. He was their “helper,” but in Acts 13:13, Luke details John Mark’s return to Jerusalem. The nature of his return is revealed a few chapters later in Acts 15 when Barnabas and Paul disagree about including John Mark in another journey.

“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, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord” (Acts 15:37-40).

John Mark left his ministry position. Not that I would’ve blamed him. In Acts 13, a sorcerer who opposed Paul and Barnabas was struck blind after Paul, full of the Holy Spirit, told him the Lord would make him blind. Maybe it was too much for John Mark to handle. He was afraid.

It is believed he ran away another time also. That story is found in his own gospel. He writes about a young man hiding in the Garden of Gethsemane. We aren’t given his name, but many believe it was John Mark:

“A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind” (Mark 14:51-52).

Some believe Jesus and the disciples celebrated their last Passover in John Mark’s mother’s home. Ed Jarrett writes about this in his article, “Who was Mark in the Bible?” Jarrett theorizes that if the Last Supper was held in Mark’s mother’s home, Judas might have first gone to their home to arrest Jesus. He believes Mark could’ve run wearing only his bedclothes to the garden to warn Jesus, but it was too late. Mark’s inclusion of this story of the runner in the Garden of Gethsemane was his way of verifying his eyewitness of Jesus’s arrest.

Why Do We Read Mark If He Wasn’t a Disciple of Jesus?

Though Mark was an eyewitness of Jesus, he was not one of the twelve disciples. Paul didn’t trust him, and we know he was a runner, so why would his gospel be included in the Bible? How would he know so much about Jesus? It’s a great question, and I’ve got a great answer.

John Mark was like a son to another disciple who knew what running was like. His name was Peter. Peter affectionately refers to Mark as his son in 1 Peter 5:13. Church fathers believed that John Mark was Peter’s interpreter in Rome and wrote his gospel with the guidance of Peter to encourage those under persecution there. It’s theorized that Mark’s gospel is really Peter’s story—his memoir.

It’s important to know that Paul eventually embraced this young believer too. After Barnabas gave him a second chance, Paul later called him a coworker (Philem. 24; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).

What Is the View of Jesus by Mark in the Bible?

Mark opens his gospel with the proclamation of Jesus as Christ. Perhaps Peter influenced Mark’s focus on Jesus as Messiah. After all, Peter first proclaimed his faith in Jesus as Christ (Mark 8:27-30). “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed one.” This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach, or “Messiah.”

This gospel focuses on Jesus’s Messiahship and His mission. The introduction declares: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark’s action-packed gospel pens story after story of the miracles and authority of Jesus. His favorite word, euthus, which means immediately, is used 41 times, propelling the stories of healing, raising the dead, casting out demons, feeding thousands, and walking on water, to name a few of the miracles.

According to Mark Strauss, this gospel can be divided into two parts. The first section focuses on Jesus’s authority as the Son of God. The second concentrates on Jesus’ mission to die for the world’s sins. It’s interesting to see this clear shift in the book’s center. Mark contains 16 chapters. Read Mark’s words in chapter eight:

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

Do We Know What Happened to Mark?

Like many of the first-century disciples of Christ, the Bible does not tell us what happened to Mark. Church tradition about his life and martyrdom provide an explanation for what happened later. According to John Kitto, Peter sent Mark to Egypt to spread the gospel. Kitto explains that Mark’s ministry was very successful, and he planted a large church in Alexandria, but despite his success there, it was in Alexandria where Mark was martyred.

According to tradition, his feet were bound by ropes, and he was drug through the streets of Alexandria for two days. After his death, his body was burned. It’s believed his death was on April 25, but the year is unknown. His remains were later removed from Alexandria and placed in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

Photo Credit: Sedmak/Getty Images

Andy Lee is an event speaker, blogger, YouTuber, and award winning author of three books, A Mary Like Me; The Book of Ruth Key-Word Bible Studyand Radiant Influence: How an ordinary girl changed the world. She passionately teaches how to find life in God's Word in order to live abundantly. You can catch her life giving messages weekly on Instagram and YouTube. She also provides monthly Bible reading plans and articles on her website www.wordsbyandylee.com.

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