Christianity’s African Connection – Part 3

Hundreds of years before Saint Mark ever blotted the pages of history the Greeks had been migrating to the continent of Africa.  This seemingly insignificant migration, starting shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, would make this region of the world prime real estate for millennia to come.

Mark, John (Jehovah is a gracious giver and a defense)

Mark was born into a well-traveled Jewish family of the tribe of Levi that had trading skills and wealth.

The first mention of Mark in the New Testament is in the book of Acts as the son of Mary:

“When he realized what had happened, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, who was also called Mark, where many [believers] were gathered together and were praying continually [and had been praying all night]. Acts 12:12 AMP

Peter, and probably others, obviously visited the house of Mary often since a servant-girl recognized his voice without seeing his face:

“When he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.  Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy, she failed to open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gateway. Acts 12:13,14 AMP.

According to African Christian tradition, at least four major events happened at the house of Mary, the mother of Mark:

  1. Where they ate the Passover
  2. Where they hid after the death of Jesus Christ
  3. Where in its upper room the Holy Spirit came upon them
  4. Where the first Christian Church was inaugurated.

Mark was obviously well acquainted with the gospel and those who propagated it.  According to ‘Hippolytus of Rome’ Mark the cousin of Barnabas was one of the ’70 disciples’ who was sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel as it states in the book of Luke:

“After these things, the Lord appointed seventy others also and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.

Luke 10:1 NKJV

Dr. Thomas C. Oden writes in his book, ‘The African Memory of Mark’, that when Mark returned from his missionary journeys to the ‘north and west’ with Paul and Peter, he continued on under the guidance of Peter to the south: Africa.

Mark, like a homing pigeon, was making his way to a most familiar place, home.  It is said that he first planted Christianity on the African continent in Egypt.  But according to the ninth-century historian, Sawirus, he went home, to Cyrene, in upper Libya.  He shared the gospel and performed many miracles among the Jews and Gentiles in Cyrene before moving on to Alexandria.

Papias (AD 60-130), bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, is the one from whom we learned Mark’s gospel is based on the preaching of Peter.  Then in A.D 325, approximately, Eusebius, a church historian, writes that Mark was the first evangelist to Egypt, the founder of the churches of Alexandria.

There is a vast and rich history of Mark being the most likely of all candidates to plant Christianity firmly on the African continent.  The foundation had already been laid for him to give his newfound faith, Christianity, the best start it could possibly have anywhere in the world. 

A half millennia before Mark was born Alexander the Great commissioned the greatest library the world had ever seen to be built in Alexandria.

The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (Septuagint) was translated in Alexandria. 

The methodology used for interpreting Scripture was formed and shaped by Africa’s greatest investigating mind of sacred texts, Origen.  By the fourth and fifth centuries, Africa had produced the world’s foremost biblical scholars such as Tyconius, Didymus the Blind, and Augustine of Hippo.

African influence, culture, art, and philosophy shaped the minds of Christians the world over.  We would be hard-pressed to fully know the Christian experience without fully knowing its rich history.

Dr. Thomas C. Oden cites in his book ‘How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind’: “The vast learning community of philosophers, scientists, writers, artists and educators that surrounded the Alexandrian library of the third century provided the essential archetype of the university for all of medieval Europe.”