Review of Chapter 8 of Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke

In this chapter Wenham finishes up going over the evidence pertaining to Mark’s gospel.

The first piece of additional evidence is the tradition of the Alexandrian church which makes Mark the founder of that church:

  • Eusebius, HE 2.16: “And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria.”
  • Eusebius, HE 2.24: “When Nero was in the eighth year of his reign, Annianus succeeded Mark the evangelist in the administration of the parish of Alexandria.”
  • Eusebius, Theophania 4.7: “Those [churches] too that are in Egypt and in Alexandria itself, did he [Simon] again, not by his own means, but by those of Mark, his disciple, erect. Of those also, that are in Italy and among the nations adjoining, he was the Steward (Dispenser): and he made his disciple Mark the Teacher and Fisherman of those in Egypt.”
  • Eusebius gives the names of the bishops after Mark as: Annianus, Abilius, Cerdo, Primus, Justus, and Eumenes (HE 3.21; 4.1; 4.4; 4.5.5).
  • Jerome, De Vir. Ill. 8: “Mark 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. . . . 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. . . . He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.”
  • The Apostolic Constitutions 7.46: “Of Alexandria, Annianus was the first, ordained by Mark the evangelist.”
  • Epiphanius, Adv. Haer. 51.6: “Mark, having written the gospel, is sent by the holy Peter to the region of Egypt” (p. 175).

These references indicate that by the fourth century churches in the East and West acknowledged Mark as the founder of the Alexandrian church. Considering Mark’s rather undistinguished role in the New Testament this tradition must be taken seriously. Counter-arguments are generally arguments from silence.

If we assume that all mentions of Mark in the New Testament refer to the same person, we get this sequence: Mark’s home in Jerusalem was at the centre of the Christian movement (Acts 12:12) and he must have drunk in Peter’s teaching in those early days. He gained some reputation as a useful worker (both in the Jerusalem church and with Peter in Rome?), for after his cousin Barnabas (who was a leader of the work in Antioch) had visited Jerusalem with Paul with famine relief in c. 46, Mark went back with him (12:25). He started out on the first missionary journey in c. 47, but at Pamphylia he withdrew and returned to Jerusalem, much to Paul’s disgust (13:5, 13). (Had his training under Peter made him uneasy at Paul’s radicalism?) On the eve of the second missionary journey in c. 49 he seems to have been with them again in Antioch, but this time Paul and Barnabas parted, and Mark went with his cousin to Cyprus (15:37-39). This expedition lasted perhaps a year. He appears again at the writing of Colossians (4:10), Philemon (24) and 1 Peter (5:13), usually placed in Rome and not usually dated before the 60s. We get a last glimpse of him in 2 Timothy 4:11.

This gives 42-46 as the limits of Mark’s (first) time in Rome and allows somewhere between 44 and 46 for the writing of his gospel there. There is a whole decade in the 50s when he could have been evangelising in Egypt and Cyrenaica, a work to which he could have returned in the later 60s. He might even have left Rome in 44 or 45 and worked in Egypt for a year or two around 44-46. (p. 177)

The second piece of additional evidence is a fragment from Qumran known as 7Q5. J. O’Callaghan thought this fragment contained Mark 6:52f. If this is the case then Mark must have been written before 68, when Cave 7 and Qumran was sealed. However, this position is highly contested.

A final consideration is that much of Mark’s gospel pertains to events where Peter was an eyewitness. Wenham points to H. D. A. Major’s Reminiscences of Jesus by an Eye-Witness to further support his point.

Wenham ends by dating Mark to about 45.

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One thought on “Review of Chapter 8 of Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke

  1. Pingback: Review of Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke | Biblical Scholarship

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