John Mark - Author of the Gospel of Mark

Profile of John Mark, Evangelist and Companion of Paul

John Mark
Oil Painting ‘San Marcos’ by Jusepe Leonardo (1601–1653). Image: Public Domain

John Mark, writer of the Gospel of Mark, also served as a companion to the Apostle Paul in his missionary work and later assisted Peter in Rome.

Three names appear in the New Testament for this early Christian: John Mark, his Jewish and Roman names; Mark; and John.  The King James Bible calls him Marcus.

Tradition holds that Mark was present when Jesus Christ was arrested on the Mount of Olives.  In his Gospel, Mark says:

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, NIV)

Because that incident is not mentioned in the three other Gospels, scholars believe Mark was referring to himself.

John Mark first appears by name in the book of Acts.  Peter had been thrown in prison by Herod Antipas, who was persecuting the early church.  In answer to the church's prayers, an angel came to Peter and helped him escape.  Peter hurried to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many of the church members were praying.

Paul made his first missionary journey to Cyprus, accompanied by Barnabas and Mark.  When they sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.  No explanation is given for his departure, and Bible scholars have been speculating ever since.

Some think Mark may have become homesick.

  Others say he might have been ill from malaria or some other disease.  A popular theory is that Mark was simply afraid of all the hardships that lay ahead.  Regardless of the reason, Mark's behavior soured him with Paul, who refused to take him on his second trip.  Barnabas, who had recommended his young cousin Mark in the first place, still had faith in him and took him back to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas instead.

Over time, Paul changed his mind and forgave Mark.  In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul says, "Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (NIV)

The last mention of Mark occurs in 1 Peter 5:13, where Peter calls Mark his "son," no doubt a sentimental reference because Mark had been so helpful to him.

Mark's Gospel, the earliest account of Jesus' life, may have been told to him by Peter when the two spent so much time together.  It is widely accepted that Mark's Gospel was also a source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Accomplishments of John Mark

Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark, a short, action-packed account of the life and mission of Jesus.  He also helped Paul, Barnabas, and Peter in building and strengthening the early Christian church.

According to Coptic tradition, John Mark is the founder of the Coptic Church in Egypt. Copts believe Mark was tied to a horse and dragged to his death by a mob of pagans on Easter, 68 A.D., in Alexandria. Copts count him as the first of their chain of 118 patriarchs (popes).

John Mark's Strengths

John Mark had a servant's heart.  He was humble enough to assist Paul, Barnabas, and Peter, not worrying about credit.

  Mark also displayed good writing skills and attention to detail in writing his Gospel.

John Mark's Weaknesses

We don't know why Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas at Perga.  Whatever the shortcoming was, it disappointed Paul.

Life Lessons

Forgiveness is possible.  So are second chances.  Paul forgave Mark and gave him a chance to prove his worth.  Peter was so taken with Mark he considered him like a son.  When we make a mistake in life, with God's help we can recover and go on to achieve great things.

Hometown

Jerusalem

Referenced in the Bible

Acts 12:23-13:13, 15:36-39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; 1 Peter 5:13.

Occupation

Missionary, Gospel writer.

Family Tree

Mother -  Mary
Cousin -  Barnabas

Key Verses

Acts 15:37-40
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 brothers to the grace of the Lord.

(NIV)

2 Timothy 4:11
Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (NIV)

1 Peter 5:13
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. (NIV)

Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
New Testament People of the Bible (Index)