The African Connection to Christianity – Part 2

Tradition has it that Saint Mark founded the Church of Alexandria around 49 A.D just a few years after Claudius ascended to the throne of Rome.

The Egyptian Church see itself in the reflection of many prophecies in the Old Testament, such as the one in the book of Isaiah:

“In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border.  And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them.” Isaiah 19:19-21 NKJV

Many significant saints in early Christianity have given their voices in support of Mark in Africa – such as those of Clement, as well as Eusebius, Jerome and John Chrysostom, and others.

Within five hundred years of Mark’s arrival in Alexandria Christianity had spread throughout Egypt.

We know how Christianity leaped from Jerusalem to Alexandria; but how did Mark come from Cyrene to Jerusalem?

Dr. Thomas C. Oden says it best in his book ‘The African Memory of Mark’: “Troubles had been brewing for decades for the Jews of Africa: wars, subjugation, and rebellion.  The family of Mark must have grieved in their goodbyes to African friends and neighbors.  But they were going where Diaspora Jews all longed to be – the blessed temple to which faithful Jews constantly prayed to return.  The holy city of Jerusalem had special meaning for Diaspora Jews, a large number of whom had taken up permanent residence in Africa.”

Mark and his family certainly had the connections to make the journey to Jerusalem.  Barnabas, Mark’s uncle, was quite prosperous in the land where they were going, as Acts 4:36 would attest to: “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

Barnabas’ exuberant generosity sparked a well of inspiration for others to surrender their all to the common fund of the first Christian community.

When Mark and his family moved from Africa, under duress, it only makes sense that they would have linked up with Barnabas.  After all, Mary, Mark’s mother, was the sister of Barnabas.

Mark became acquainted with Peter and Paul through Barnabas.  He eventually became the scribe and interpreter of all that the Apostle Peter preached on.

Papias mentions Mark in one of his works entitled “Interpretation of the Oracles of the Lord” where he says:
“And the elder used to say this, Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.”

Irenaeus spoke on Mark as well in his book, “Against Heresies” where he also reported that Mark wrote his Gospel as a scribe for Peter, this is what he said:

“Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed on his preaching to us in written form”

I’m glad I was able to share a small part of Mark’s historical record with you, and how he fits into the ‘African Christian’ connection narrative. 

I am looking forward to sharing the third part of this series with you.  And as always, be safe and, God bless.

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