Thursday, May 24, 2007

St. Mark as the Young Man in Gethsemane

Is it possible for a theory to be so orthodox that it becomes 'un-orthodox'? Here's my theory on St. Mark as the young man in Gethsemane who flees naked.

St. Mark was a young man at the time of Christ[1]. He was the cousin of Barnabas[2] and presumably became a disciple (whether direct or indirect) through the testimony of Barnabas before Christ’s crucifixion. His mother’s name was Mary, a widow[3].

Since Barnabas was one of the seventy (according to Eusebius), it is not unlikely that Mark heard about Jesus shortly after that occurrence. My guess is that Mark was 13 or 14 at this time (but of course, we have no evidence so that is complete speculation).

Since his mother’s house was a known gathering place in the very earliest Christian Church, a couple things can be reasonably assumed. 1. They knew and were followers of Christ before His death 2. They knew the other apostles 3. They had at least some wealth since the house was apparently fitting for a meeting place. Mark was educated in the Greek language and it seems apparent from his gospel that he had an interest in linguistics. He takes time to write words in the original tongue and then translate them for his readers[4].

Thus, my theory is this: Mark learns of Jesus through his cousin Barnabas in the second or third year of Jesus’ ministry. Mark (still just a teenager and living in Jerusalem) is unable to follow this great prophet (perhaps the Messiah) but when he hears that Jesus has come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast in 30 AD, he is ecstatic. Perhaps even against the direction of his mother, he looks on from a distance as much as possible during Jesus’ week long stay in and around Jerusalem and Bethany.

On Holy Thursday, Mark somehow learns of the location of the upper room. Maybe his house was near the one which held the upper room (or as has been suggested by some, it actually was the house of the upper room[5]). He must have known somehow (as others apparently did) that something big was about to take place or perhaps he really understood just how great of a prophet was among them and didn’t want to miss a thing.

Whatever the reason, he follows the disciples from a distance to the Mount of Olives and then later to Gethsemane[6]. He stays the entire time and possibly even gets close enough to hear some of Jesus’ prayer. When Judas Iscariot arrives with the armed men[7], Mark finds himself in harm’s way and remains motionless, fearing for his life.

They are only focused on arresting Jesus at first, but after the arrest and the struggle that followed, chaos ensues. The disciples scatter off[8]. Some of the armed men try to capture the fleeing disciples as witnesses – especially those who seem to be within grasp.

There must not have been any full-fledged man hunt for the disciples since none of them were caught and Peter even stays close enough to follow the mob back to Jerusalem[9]. But one of the disciples (maybe still dazed) takes off in a random direction which happens to be very close to Mark’s hiding place and a guard follows close behind. Seeing that his cover is blown, Mark springs to his feet and turns to run after the disciple. He just barely makes it; and in fact – perhaps he really did sneak out of his house because he is only wearing a linen cloth[10]. The guard actually lunges, seizing Mark but his grip isn’t firm. Mark manages to wiggle free and flees naked – leaving his garments behind[11]. Imagine him explaining that one when he comes home to his mother!


[1] In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter calls Mark his son. This would imply that Peter is older and probably significantly older than him.

[2] Colossians 4:10

[3] She is assumed to be a widow since she is named as the owner of the house in Acts 12:12

[4] For example: Mark 7:34

[5] Oxford Annotated New Revised Standard Version suggests this. Some have also suggested that Judas Iscariot first led the mob back to the house of (John) Mark where they had the last supper and Mark ran off to warn Jesus of the betrayal.

[6] Mark 14:26, 32

[7] Mark 14:43

[8] Mark 14:46-50

[9] Mark 14:54

[10] This is odd because we know the temperature is chilly since Peter soon warms himself by the fire. (Mark 14:54, 67)

[11] Perhaps this story seems a bit fabricated, as if I don’t have any solid evidence to base my assumptions about Mark. But I think the details must be very similar to what I have suggested if such an event occurred. (Even from a secular “historical” perspective, the event is highly plausible. The early Christian Church would have no real reason to invent such an event except for the possible, albeit unlikely, reference to Amos 2:16 and Genesis 39:12. Still, the ‘embarrassment’ of the story and no apparent prophetic fulfillment makes it highly unlikely to have been invented by the early Christians). The man was ‘following Jesus’, he was wearing nothing but a linen garment, and he was young. We must assume it is someone who knew of Jesus – a follower (not merely in a literal sense). It could be one of the 70 (and indeed Mark is said by some relatively late patristic sources to be one of the seventy) however, I believe that Mark was very young and that he was not one of the 70. These notions along with the fact that St. Mark is the only one of the gospel writers to mention the incident, lead me to believe that he was, in fact, the young man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52. Whether it actually was Mark, at least some of these extra-biblical details, I think, must be true of some young man.

2 comments:

Rick said...

When are people going to wake up? The new Testament belongs to Judas as does the future of Christianity.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Your opinion has been noted.