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GOSPEL OF MARK—ON WHAT OCCASION PUBLISHED—ASCRIBED TO THE DICTATION OF PETER BY ALL THE FATHERS.
THE author of the second gospel, as they stand in the Canon, was Mark; the same who is mentioned in the first Epistle of Peter, (v. 13;) but whether he was the same as John Mark, of Jerusalem, who travelled for a while with Paul and Barnabas, has been doubted by Grotius, Cave, Dupin and Tillemont; but the common opinion is in its favour, and the objections to it are not of much weight: and as there is no clear evidence, that there were two persons of this name mentioned in Scripture, I shall consider all that is said of Mark, as having reference to the same person.
Paul was offended at him because he declined accompanying him and Barnabas on the whole tour which they made, to preach the gospel; for, when they came to Perga, Mark departed from them, and returned to Jerusalem. And when Paul and Barnabas were about to undertake a second journey together, the latter insisted on taking Mark as their minister, but Paul would by no means consent to it, because he had forsaken them on their first mission. This difference of opinion gave rise to a sharp altercation, which terminated in the separation of these venerable colleagues. 166Mark now. travelled with Barnabas, but, probably, soon afterwards attached himself to Peter, with whom he seems to have continued until the death of that apostle.
But Paul himself seems to have been reconciled to Mark, and to have valued his assistance in the work of the ministry; for, in his second Epistle to Timothy, he writes, “Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable unto me for the ministry.” 2 Tim. iv. 11. He also mentions him in his Epistle to Philemon. Phil. 24.
When this gospel was composed, has not been particularly mentioned by any ancient author, except that it is said to have been after Peter came to Rome, which could not be much earlier than A. D. 62 or 63. It is stated, that Mark was requested by the brethren at Rome to put down in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching; and on this account, this gospel among the primitive Christians was as familiarly known by the name of the gospel of Peter as of Mark. This circumstance has led some to assert, that Mark wrote his gospel in Latin, as this was the language of Rome; but in those days almost all the Romans understood Greek. And the Jewish converts, who composed a large portion of the first churches, understood Greek much better than Latin. But there is no need to argue this point. There is no ancient author who testifies that Mark wrote in Latin. The testimony is uniform that he wrote in Greek.
Baronius is almost the only learned man who has advocated the Latin origin of the gospel of Mark, and he has nothing to produce in favour of this opinion from antiquity, except the subscription to the Syriac, 167Arabic and Persic versions of the New Testament, where, at the end of Mark’s gospel, it is said, “He spoke and preached in Latin at Rome;” but this does not say that he wrote his gospel in Latin. But these subscriptions are of very little authority in matters of this kind. No one knows when, or by whom they were placed there; and, although three versions are mentioned, they make up no more than one witness, for, probably all the others borrowed this inscription from the Syriac.
Augustine called Mark “the abridger of Matthew;” and it must be confessed, that he often uses the same words, and tells more concisely what the other had related more copiously; yet, there is satisfactory evidence, that Mark’s gospel is an original work. It contains many things which are not in the gospel of Matthew, and some mentioned by that Evangelist are here related with additional circumstances.
All authors do not agree that Mark wrote his gospel at Rome, but some think at Alexandria: the former opinion, however, was received with almost universal consent. See the testimony of Irenaeus before cited. To which may be added what he says in another place, that, “Mark begins with the prophetic spirit which came down from above to men, saying, the beginning of the gospel of Christ.”
Some of the testimonies of the Fathers respecting this gospel will now be given.
Eusebius out of Papias, and a lost work of Clement of Alexandria, relates, “That when Peter in the reign of Claudius, had come to Rome, and had defeated Simon Magus, the people were so inflamed with love for the Christian truths, as not to be satisfied 168with the hearing of them, unless they also had them written down. That accordingly they, with earnest entreaties, applied themselves to Mark, the companion of Peter, and whose gospel we now have, praying him that he would write down for them, and leave with them an account of the doctrines which had been preached to them; that they did not desist in their request, till they had prevailed on him, and procured his writing that which is now the gospel of Mark; that when Peter came to know this, he was, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, pleased with the request of the people, and confirmed the gospel which was written for the use of the churches.”5858Ecc. Hist. lib. ii. c. 15.
The same Eusebius relates in another part of his works, what Papias had testified concerning Mark’s gospel, “That Mark, who was Peter’s interpreter, exactly wrote down whatsoever he remembered, though not in the same order of time in which the several things were said or done by Christ; for he neither heard nor followed Christ, but was a companion of Peter, and composed his gospel, rather with the intent of the people’s profit, than writing a regular history; so that he is in no fault, if he wrote some things according to his memory, he designing no more than to omit nothing which he had heard, and to relate nothing false.”5959Ecc. Hist. lib. iii. c. 39.
Another testimony from Clement of Alexandria is given by Eusebius, in which it is said, “When Peter was publicly preaching the gospel at Rome, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, many of the converts desired Mark, as having been long a companion of Peter, and who well remembered what he preached, 169to write down his discourses: that upon this he composed his gospel, and gave it to those who made this request; which when Peter knew, he neither obstructed nor encouraged the work.”6060Ecc. Hist. lib. vi. c. 14.
Irenæus says, “That after the death of Peter and Paul who had been preaching at Rome, Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote down what he had heard him preach.” Tertullian informs us, ” That the gospel published by Mark may be reckoned Peter’s, whose interpreter he was.” Origen adds, “That Mark wrote his gospel according to the dictates of Peter.” Jerome tells us, “That Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote a short gospel from what he had heard of Peter, at the request of the brethren at Rome, which when Peter knew, he approved and published in our churches, commanding the reading of it by his own authority.”
Besides these testimonies which are very explicit, and all go to show that Mark received his gospel from the preaching of Peter, there are some internal evidences which look the same way. There are in the other Evangelists several circumstances and facts which make very much for the credit of Peter, not one of which is hinted at in this gospel. Particular instances of this kind may be read in the third volume of “Jones’ New Method of Settling the Canon.”
Of the canonical authority of this gospel no one of the ancients, I believe, ever entertained a doubt. Some of the moderns, however, have questioned whether we have any evidence, that Mark and Luke wrote by a plenary inspiration since they were not apostles. But that Mark’s gospel is canonical, is established by all 170the rules applicable to the case. It was always contained in the early catalogues; was read as Scripture in the churches; was quoted as Scripture by the Fathers; was inserted in the earliest versions; and never doubted formerly, by any Christian writer. But this subject will be resumed hereafter.
Eusebius reports, “That Peter, out of the abundance of his modesty, did not think himself worthy to write a gospel; but Mark, who was his friend and disciple, is said to have recorded Peter’s relations, and the acts of Jesus.” And again, “Peter testifies these things of himself, for all things recorded by Mark are said to be memoirs of Peter’s discourses.”
In the Synopsis ascribed to Athanasius it is said, “That the gospel according to Mark was dictated by Peter at Rome, and published by Mark, and preached by him in Alexandria, Pentapolis and Libya.”
The testimony of Epiphanius is, “That Matthew wrote first, and Mark soon after him, being a companion of Peter at Rome; that Mark was one of the seventy disciples, and likewise one of those who were offended at the words of Christ, recorded in the sixth chapter of the gospel of John; that he then forsook the Saviour, but was afterwards reclaimed by Peter, and being filled with the Spirit wrote a gospel.”
Gregory Nazianzen says, “That Mark wrote his gospel for the Italians.” Chrysostom testifies, that “Mark wrote in Egypt at the request of the believers there;” but in another place, he says, ” It cannot be ascertained in what place each of the Evangelists wrote.” Victor informs us, “That Mark was also called John, and was the son of Mary; that he wrote a gospel after Matthew; that for a while he accompanied 171Paul and Barnabas his relation, but when he came to Rome he joined Peter. When he was obliged to quit Rome, he was requested by the brethren to write a history of his preaching, and of his heavenly doctrine; with which request he readily complied.”
Cosmas of Alexandria writes, “That Mark the second Evangelist wrote a gospel at Rome, by the dictation of Peter.” Œcumenius says, “This John who also is called Mark, nephew to Barnabas, wrote the gospel which goes by his name; and was also the disciple of Peter.”
Theophylact informs us, “That the gospel according to Mark was written at Rome, ten years after the ascension of Jesus Christ, at the request of the believers there; for this Mark was a disciple of Peter. His name was John, and he was nephew to Barnabas, the companion of Paul.”
Euthymius concurs exactly in this testimony. His words are, “The gospel of Mark was written about ten years after our Lord’s ascension, at the request of the believers at Rome, or, as some say, in Egypt; that Mark was, at first, much with his uncle Barnabas and Paul, but afterwards went with Peter to Rome, from whom he received the whole history of his gospel.” Nicephorus says, “Only two of the twelve have left memoirs of our Lord’s life, and two of the seventy, Mark and Luke.” And a little after, “Mark and Luke published their gospels, by the direction of Peter and Paul.” Eutychius, patriarch of Alexandria, has the following words: “In the time of Nero, Peter, the prince of the apostles, making use of Mark, wrote a gospel at Rome, in the Roman language.”
The reader will recollect, that this last writer lived 172as late as the tenth century, which will account for his calling Peter the prince of the apostles, a language entirely foreign to the early ecclesiastical writers. And Selden is of opinion, that by the Roman language he meant the Greek, which was then in common use at Rome; and it is well known, that in our times the modern Greek language is called Romaic. Jones and Lardner concur in the opinion of Selden.173
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