Mark's Gospel

Why did Mark write the Gospel bearing his name?


After Jesus' ascension in AD 30, oral tradition became important. Those who spent time with Jesus and heard his teachings as an eyewitness had authority. However, as these eyewitness passed away, there was an acute need to record the events and teachings of Jesus. Also, by AD 60 Paul's epistles were widely circulated among the churches throughout the Roman Empire, when Paul received no firsthand instructions from the Lord.

Thus, the Roman congregation pleaded John Mark to put in writing what Peter had taught. The outline was approved by Peter, but since Peter died in 67 AD, he did not see the Gospel bearing Mark’s name. Under Peter's direction, Mark began to write his Gospel shortly before Peter's death, but completed it thereafter. Most scholars date it 60 - 70 AD. (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Tertullian, and St. Jerome signify that it was written before St. Peter's death. Mark died in AD 68. Matthew copied it and added extras, and Luke had access to both. John was written around AD 100.)
In substance, it was Peter’s Gospel, except for the description of Jesus’ arrest, as he was an eyewitness.

Here are three sources.

John MacRory (Catholic Encyclopedia)

"We are here confronted, however, with the testimony of Papias, who quotes an elder (presbyter), with whom he apparently agrees, as saying that Mark did not write in order: "And the elder said this also: Mark, having become interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately everything that he remembered, without, however, recording in order what was either said or done by Christ. For neither did he hear the Lord, nor did he follow Him, but afterwards, as I said, (he attended) Peter, who adapted his instructions to the needs (of his hearers), but had no design of giving a connected account of the Lord's oracles [v. l. "words"]. So then Mark made no mistake [Schmiedel, "committed no fault"], while he thus wrote down some things (enia as he remembered them; for he made it his one care not to omit anything that he had heard, or set down any false statement therein" (Euseb., "Hist. Eccl.", III, xxxix). Some indeed have understood this famous passage to mean merely that Mark did not write a literary work, but simply a string of notes connected in the simplest fashion.

Theodoretus (bishop of Cyrus, city founded by King Cyrus) in a letter (Chapter VIII) "The disciple and interpreter of Peter wrote a short gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome embodying what he had heard Peter tell. When Peter had heard this, he approved it and published it to the churches to be read by his authority as Clemens in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes and Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, record. Peter also mentions this Mark in his first epistle, figuratively indicating Rome under the name of Babylon "She who is in Babylon elect together with you saluteth you and so doth Mark my son."

So, taking the gospel which he himself composed, he went to Egypt and first preaching Christ at Alexandria he formed a church so admirable in doctrine and continence of living that he constrained all followers of Christ to his example. Philo most learned of the Jews seeing the first church at Alexandria still Jewish in a degree, wrote a book on their manner of life as something creditable to his nation telling how, as Luke says, the believers had all things in common at Jerusalem, so he recorded that he saw was done at Alexandria, under the learned Mark. He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.

Urantia Book The Gospel by Mark. John Mark wrote the earliest (excepting the notes of Andrew), briefest, and most simple record of Jesus' life. He presented the Master as a minister, as man among men. Although Mark was a lad lingering about many of the scenes which he depicts, his record is in reality the Gospel according to Simon Peter. He was early associated with Peter; later with Paul. Mark wrote this record at the instigation of Peter and on the earnest petition of the church at Rome. Knowing how consistently the Master refused to write out his teachings when on earth and in the flesh, Mark, like the apostles and other leading disciples, was hesitant to put them in writing. But Peter felt the church at Rome required the assistance of such a written narrative, and Mark consented to undertake its preparation. He made many notes before Peter died in A.D. 67, and in accordance with the outline approved by Peter and for the church at Rome, he began his writing soon after Peter's death. The Gospel was completed near the end of A.D. 68. Mark wrote entirely from his own memory and Peter's memory. The record has since been considerably changed, numerous passages having been taken out and some later matter added at the end to replace the latter one fifth of the original Gospel, which was lost from the first manuscript before it was ever copied. This record by Mark, in conjunction with Andrew's and Matthew's notes, was the written basis of all subsequent Gospel narratives which sought to portray the life and teachings of Jesus.

St. Mark's sarcophagus in Basilica di San Marco, Venice.

It was St. John Mark who established the Alexandrian church. Mark's body was later removed to Venice, Italy when the Moslems invaded Alexandria in 640 AD. Most of the early theologians and heresies originated in Alexandria, rather than in Rome even though Apostles Peter and Paul both died there.


St. Mark's shin bone, resting in Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy.