only the foundations of the great Apostolic churches of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch but also the writing of the Gospels by St. Mark and St. Luke and the translation of St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel into Greek. Because of their many similarities to one another, these three Gospels are called the ‘synoptic’ (‘one view’) Gospels. 12
To ensure that the Gospel taught in each new church remained exactly the same as that being taught in Jerusalem, each travelling Apostle had always needed a written Gospel to leave with each new church he founded. At first St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel sufficed for such ‘Nazarene’ churches as those we know of in Samaria, Damascus, Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. According to traditions, most of the Apostles travelled eastwards, outside the Roman Empire. These seem to have concentrated their efforts on members of the Jewish diaspora. St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel would have remained sufficient for their purposes.* 13
Inside the eastern Roman Empire, however, Gospels in Greek were very soon needed. In 40 came the first Gospel in Greek, the Gospel according to St. Mark. From all the traditional accounts of how this Gospel first came to be written, it is clear that requests for a written record had been made to St. Mark not by St. Peter but by his hearers after St. Peter himself had departed elsewhere. The definite need for a Gospel in Greek existed from the time of Cornelius’ conversion. At the request of Cornelius and the new church in Caesarea, but after St. Peter had returned to Jerusalem, St. Mark first wrote his summary of St. Peter’s preaching. When he heard afterwards that his secretary had written in Greek a summary of his preaching, St. Peter had, at first, neither approved nor disapproved. St. Mark had written not a formal Gospel but rather a collection of St. Peter’s Remembrances. Many of the remembered episodes ended with a remark on the amazement of witnesses. For this reason this ‘Gospel’ originally had ended abruptly (at 16:8) with how, after the Resurrection, the women ‘said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid’.* 14
Only later, in 42, when he departed from Caesarea for Rome, did St. Peter approve St. Mark’s work for use as a Gospel. In 43 St. Mark was sent by St. Peter from Rome to found a church at Alexandria in Egypt. Thus in 42, and certainly by 43, St. Mark’s Gospel had acquired official status. It could now be copied and multiplied for use in the Greek-speaking churches being founded in Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. (A copy even found its way to the Essene settlement at Qumran in the wilderness between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.)* 15
St. Mark did not remain long in Alexandria, but he remained the Apostolic episcopos (‘supervisor’) of that church until 62 when he was succeeded by St. Anianus, the city’s first resident bishop. In that year he returned to Rome where, along with St. Luke, he assisted St. Peter and St. Paul with finalising the New Testament scriptures and until their martyrdom. Because of the abrupt and unsatisfactory ending of his collection of St. Peter’s Remembrances, St. Mark later (with St. Luke’s assistance, possibly at
Published on Nov 29, 2011
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...