Pachomius Library]


Life of the Apostle and Evangelist Mark

by Severus, Bishop of Al-Ushmunain (fl. ca. AD 955 - 987)

Translated from the Arabic by B. Evetts
(from Patrologia Orientalis, first series)


* In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, the One God.

The first biography of the history of the holy Church. The history of Saint Mark, the Disciple and Evangelist, Archbishop of the great city of Alexandria, and first of its Bishops.

In the time of the dispensation of the merciful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when he appointed for himself disciples to follow him, there were two brothers living in a city of Pentapolis in the West, called Cyrene. The name of the elder of them was Aristobulus, and the name of the other was Barnabas; and they were cultivators of the soil, and sowed and reaped; for they had great possessions. And they understood the Law of Moses excellently well, and knew by heart many of the books of the Old Testament. But great troubles came upon them from the two tribes of the Berbers and Ethiopians, when they were robbed of all their wealth, in the time of Augustus Caesar, prince of the Romans. So on account of the loss of their property, and the trials which had befallen them, they fled from that province, in their anxiety to save their lives, and travelled to the land of the Jews.

Now Aristobulus had a son named John. And after they had taken up their abode in the province of Palestine, near the city of Jerusalem, the child John grew and increased in stature by the grace of the Holy Ghost. And these two brothers had a cousin, the wife of Simon Peter, who became the chief of the disciples of the Lord Christ; and the said John whom they had surnamed Mark, used to visit Peter, and learn the Christian doctrines from him out of the holy Scriptures.

And on a certain day, Aristobulus took his son Mark to the Jordan, and while they were walking there a lion and a lioness met them. And when Aristobulus saw them approaching him, and perceived the violence of their rage, he said to his son Mark: "My son, seest thou the fury of this lion who is coming to destroy us ? Escape now, and save thyself, my son, and leave them to devour me, according to the will of God Almighty." But the disciple of Christ, the holy Mark, answered and said to his father: "Fear not, my father, Christ in whom I believe will deliver us from all danger."

And when the lions approached them, Mark, the disciple of the Lord Christ, shouted against them with a loud voice, and said: "The Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, commands that you be rent asunder, and that your kind be cut off from these mountains, and that there be no more offspring to you here for ever."

Then the lion and the lioness burst asunder in the midst at that moment, and perished straightaway; and their young were destroyed. And when Aristobulus, the father of Mark, saw this great miracle which was manifested by his son, through the power of the invincible Lord Jesus Christ, he said to his son: "I am thy father who begat thee, Mark, my son; but today thou art my father, and my saviour and deliverer. And now, my dear son, I and my brother pray thee to make us servants of the Lord Jesus Christ whom thou preachest." Then the father of holy Mark and his uncle began to learn the doctrines of Christ from that day.

And Mary, the mother of Mark, was the sister of Barnabas, the disciple of the apostles.

After this, the following event took place. There was in those regions, in a town called Azotus, a very large olive-tree, the size of which was greatly admired. And the people of that city were worshippers of the moon, and prayed to that olive-tree.

So when the holy Mark saw them pray, he said to them: "As for this olive-tree, which you worship as God, after eating its fruit and burning its branches for fuel, what can it do? Behold, by the word of God whom I worship, I will command this tree to fall to the ground, without being touched by any tool."

Then they said to him: "We know that thou workest the magic of the Galilean thy master, and whatever thou wilt thou doest. But we will call upon our god the moon, who raised up for us this olive tree that we might pray to it."

The holy Mark answered and said to them: "I will cast it down to the ground; and if your god shall raise it up, then I will serve him together with you".

And they were satisfied with these words. And they removed all men from the tree, saying: "See that there be no man concealed in it".

Then the holy Mark raised his face to heaven, and turned himself towards the East, and opened his mouth and prayed saying: "O my Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, hear thy servant, and command the moon, which is a second attendant on this world, and gives light by night, to let its voice be heard by thy decree and by thy authority, before these men who have no God, and to make known to them who created it, and who created all creation, and who is God, that they may serve him; although I know, O my Lord and God, that it has no voice nor power of speech, and that it is not customary for it to speak to anyone; so that its words might be heard at this hour through thy irresistible power, that these men who have no God may know that the moon is not a god, but a servant under thy authority, and that thou art its God. And command this tree, to which they pray, to fall to the ground, so that all may recognise thy dominion, and that there is no God but thou, with the good Father and the Holy Ghost, the giver of eternal life. Amen."

And at that hour, as soon as he had finished his prayer, a great darkness occured, at midday, and the moon appeared to them shining in the sky. And they heard a voice from the moon, saying: "O men of little faith, I am not God, that you should worship me, but I am the servant of God and one of his creatures, and I am the minister of Christ my Lord, whom this Mark, his disciple, preaches; and it is he alone that we serve and to whom we minister". At the same moment the olive tree fell. And great fear came upon all who witnessed this miracle.

But as for the people who worshipped and served the tree, they were angry, and rent their garments, and seized the holy Mark and beat him, and gave him up to the unbelieving Jews, who cast him into prison. That night the holy Mark saw in his sleep the Lord Christ, saying to Peter: "I will bring forth all those that are in prison." So when he awoke from his sleep, he saw the doors of his prison open; and he and all those with him in prison went forth; for the gaolers of the prison were asleep like dead men. But the multitudes who witnessed what took place said: "There is no end to our work with these Galileans, for they do these deeds by Beelzebub, the chief of the devils."

And Mark was one of the Seventy Disciples. And he was one of the servants who poured out the water which Our Lord turned into wine, at the marriage of Cana in Galilee. And it was he who carried the jar of water into the house of Simon the Cyrenian, at the time of the sacramental Supper. And it was also he who entertained the disciples in his house, at the time of the Passion of the Lord Christ, and after his resurrection from the dead, where he entered to them while the doors were shut.

And after his Ascension into heaven, Mark went with Peter to Jerusalem, and they preached the word of God to the multitudes. And the Holy Ghost appeared to Peter, and commanded him to go to the cities and the villages which were in that country. So Peter, and Mark with him, went to the district of Bethany, and preached the word of God; and Peter remained there some days. And he saw in a dream the angel of God, who said to him: "In two places there is great dearth." So Peter said to the angel: "Which places meanest thou?" He said to him: "The city of Alexandria with the land of Egypt, and the land of Rome. It is not a dearth of bread and water, but a dearth arising from ignorance of the Word of God, which thou preachest." So when Peter awoke from his sleep, he told Mark what he had witnessed in his dream. And after that, Peter and Mark went to the region of Rome, and preached there the word of God.

And in the fifteenth year after the Ascension of Christ, the holy Peter sent Saint Mark, the father and evangelist, to the city of Alexandria, to announce the good tidings there, and to preach the word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is due glory, honour and worship, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the one God forever. Amen.


Martyrdom of the holy Mark, and his preaching in the city of Alexandria.

In the time of the dispensation of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, after his Ascension into heaven, all the countries were allotted among the apostles, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that they might preach in them the words of the good tidings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And after a time it fell to the lot of Mark the evangelist to go to the province of Egypt, and the great city of Alexandria, by the command of the Holy Ghost, that he might cause the people to hear the words of the gospel of the Lord Christ, and confirm them therein; for they were in error and sunk in the service of idols, and in the worship of the creature instead of the Creator. And they had many temples to their contemptible gods, whom they ministered to in every place, and served with every iniquity and magical art, and to whom they offered sacrifices among themselves. For he was the first who preached in the province of Egypt, and Africa, and Pentapolis, and all those regions.

So when the holy Mark returned from Rome, he betook himself first to Pentapolis and preached in all its districts the word of God, and shewed many miracles; for he healed the sick, and cleansed the lepers, and cast out devils by the grace of God which descended upon him. And many believed in the Lord Christ through him, and broke their idols which they used to worship, and all the trees which the devils used to haunt, and from which they addressed the people. And he baptized them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One God.

And so the Holy Ghost appeared to him, and said to him: "Rise and go to the city of Alexandria, to sow there the good seed which is the word of God." So the disciple of Christ arose and set out, being strengthened by the Holy Ghost, like a combatant in war; and he saluted the brethren, and took leave of them and said to them: "The Lord Jesus Christ will make my road easy, that I may go to Alexandria and preach his holy gospel there." Then he prayed and said: "O Lord strengthen the brethren who have known thy holy name that I may return to them rejoicing in them." Then the brethren bade him farewell.

So Mark journeyed to the city of Alexandria; and when he entered in at the gate, the strap of his shoe broke. And when he saw this, he thought: "Now I know that the Lord has made my way easy." Then he turned, and saw a cobbler there, and went to him and gave him the shoe that he might mend it. And when the cobbler received it, and took the awl to work upon it, the awl pierced his hand. So he said: "Heis ho Theos"; the interpretation of which is, "God is One". And when the holy Mark heard him mention the name of God, he rejoiced greatly, and turned his face to the East and said: "O my Lord Jesus, it is thou that makest my road easy in every place."

Then he spat on the ground and took from it clay, and put it on the place where the awl had pierced the cobbler's hand, saying: "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One living and eternal God, may the hand of this man be healed at this moment, that thy holy name may be glorified." Then his hand at once became whole.

The holy Mark said to him: "If thou knowest that God is one, why dost thou serve these many gods?" The cobbler answered him: "We mention God with our mouths, but that is all; for we know not who he is."

And the cobbler remained astonished at the power of God which descended upon the holy Mark, and said to him: "I pray thee, O man of God, to come to the dwelling of thy servant, to rest and eat bread, for I find to-day thou hast conferred a benefit upon me." Then the holy Mark replied with joy: "May the Lord give thee the bread of life in heaven!" And he went with him to his house. And when he entered his dwelling, he said, "May the blessing of God be in this house!" and he uttered a prayer.

After they had eaten, the cobbler said to him: "O my father, I beg thee to make known to me who thou art that hast worked this great miracle." Then the saint answered him: "I serve Jesus Christ, the Son of the ever living God." The cobbler exclaimed: "I would that I could see him." The holy Mark said to him: "I will cause thee to behold him."

Then he began to teach him the gospel of good tidings, and the doctrine of the glory and power and dominion which belong to God from the beginning, and exhorted him with many exhortations and instructions, of which his history bears witness, and ended by saying to him: "The Lord Christ in the last times became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came into the world, and saved us from our sins." And he explained to him what the prophets prophetised of him, passage by passage.

Then the cobbler said to him: "I have never heard at all of these books which thou speakest of; but the books of the Greek philosophers are what men teach their children here, and so do the Egyptians."

So the holy Mark said to him: "The wisdom of the philosophers of this world is vanity before God." Then when the cobbler had heard wisdom and the words of the Scriptures from the holy Mark, together with the great miracle which he had seen him work upon his hand, his heart inclined towards him, and he believed in the Lord, and was baptised, he and all the people of his house, and all his neighbours. And his name was Annianus.

And when those that believed in the Lord were multiplied, and the people of the city heard that a man who was a Jew and a Galilean had entered the city, wishing to overthrow the worship of the idols, their gods, and had persuaded many to abstain from serving them, they sought him everywhere; and they appointed men to watch for him. So when the holy Mark knew that they were conspiring together, he ordained Annianus bishop of Alexandria, and also ordained three priests and seven deacons, and appointed these eleven to serve and to comfort the faithful brethren. But he himself departed from among them, and went to Pentapolis, and remained there two years, preaching and appointing bishops and priests and deacons in all their districts.

Then he returned to Alexandria, and found that the brethren had been strengthened in the faith, and had multiplied by the grace of God, and had found means to build a church in a place called the Cattle-pasture [Ta Boukolou], near the sea, beside a rock from which stone is hewn. So the holy Mark greatly rejoiced at this; and he fell upon his knees, and blessed God for confirming the servants of the faith, whom he had himself instructed in the doctrines of the Lord Christ, and because they had turned away from the service of idols.

But when those unbelievers learnt that the holy Mark had returned to Alexandria, they were filled with fury on account of the works which the believers in Christ wrought, such as healing the sick, and driving out devils, and loosing the tongues of the dumb, and opening the ears of the deaf, and cleansing the lepers; and they sought for the holy Mark with great fury, but found him not; and they gnashed against him with their teeth in their temples and places of their idols, in wrath, saying: "Do you not see the wickedness of this sorcerer?"

And on the first day of the week, the day of the Easter festival of the Lord Christ, which fell that year on the 29th of Barmudah, when the festival of the idolatrous unbelievers also took place, they sought him with zeal, and found him in the sanctuary. So they rushed forward and seized him, and fastened a rope round his throat, and dragged him along the ground, saying: "Drag the serpent through the cattle-shed! [Syromen ton boubalon en tois Boukolou!]" But the saint, while they dragged him, kept praising God and saying: "Thanks be to thee, O Lord, because Thou hast made me worthy to suffer for thy holy name." And his flesh was lacerated, and clove to the stones of the streets; and his blood ran over the ground.

So when evening came, they took him to the prison, that they might take counsel how they should put him to death. And at midnight, the doors of the prison being shut, and the gaolers asleep at the doors, behold there was a great earthquake and a mighty tumult. And the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and entered to the saint, and said to him: "O Mark, servant of God, behold thy name is written in the book of life; and thou art numbered among the assembly of the saints, and thy soul shall sing praises with the angels in the heavens; and thy body shall not perish nor cease to exist upon earth."

And when he awoke from his sleep he raised his eyes to heaven, and said: "I thank thee, O my Lord Jesus Christ, and pray thee to receive me to thyself, that I may be happy in thy goodness." And when he had finished these words, he slept again; and the Lord Christ appeared to him in the form in which the disciples knew him and said to him: "Hail Mark, the evangelist and chosen one!" So the saint said to him: "I thank thee, O my Saviour Jesus Christ, because thou hast made me worthy to suffer for thy holy name." And the Lord and Saviour gave him his salutation, and disappeared from him.

And when he awoke, and morning had come, the multitude assembled, and brought the saint out of the prison, and put a rope again round his neck, and said: "Drag the serpent through the cattle-shed!" And they drew the saint along the ground, while he gave thanks to the Lord Christ, and glorified him, saying: "I render my spirit into thy hands, O my God!" After saying these words, the saint gave up the ghost.

Then the ministers of the unclean idols collected much wood in a place called Angelion, that they might burn the body of the saint there. But by the command of God there was a thick mist and a strong wind, so that the earth trembled; and much rain fell, and many of the people died of fear and terror; and they said: "Verily, Serapis, the idol, has come to seek the man who has been killed this day."

Then the faithful brethren assembled, and took the body of the holy Saint Mark from the ashes; and nothing in it had been changed. And they carried it to the church in which they used to celebrate the Liturgy; and they enshrouded it, and prayed over it according to the established rites. And they dug a place for him, and buried his body there; that they might preserve his memory at all times with joy and supplication, and benediction, on account of the grace which the Lord Christ gave them by his means in the city of Alexandria. And they placed him in the eastern part of the church, on the day on which his martyrdom was accomplished (he being the first of the Galileans to be martyred for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in Alexandria), namely the last day of Barmudah according to the reckoning of the Egyptians, which is equivalent to the 8th day before the kalends of May among the months of the Romans, and the 24th of Nisan among the months of the Hebrews.

And we also, the sons of the orthodox, offer glory and sanctification and praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is due laud and honour and worship, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the Giver of Life and Consubstantial One, now and forever.


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Mark's Day 1996.

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the translator Basil and the 
scribes Tychon, Marsha, Michael, George, Mark, Margaret, Andre, 
Simrete Selassie, and Edward! 


               THE END, AND TO GOD BE THE GLORY!