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The African Memory of Mark

Chapter 9

Mark’s Martyrdom Sites in Alexandria

Dr. Oden recounts the location and antiquity of sites associated with St. Mark’s martyrdom.  Dr. Oden also argues that the great antiquity of these accounts supports the reasonableness of the accounts of Mark’s martyrdom.

Key Names and Terms:

Peter of Alexandria: a Bishop of Alexandria.  He was martyred for his faith in AD 311.  Before he was taken, tradition holds that he went to St. Mark’s church, which housed the remains of John Mark, to pray.



Dr. Oden again asks us a question that has been raised for us many times before. 

“If these sites were a legend crassly invented out of thin air centuries after the attested events, how could they have been received consensually worldwide without a whisper of any debate?  How could so many be so fooled for so many centuries?”


Bear in mind that these events here recounted were taken as factual even up to the rise of skepticism in historical and philosophical circles during the enlightenment in Europe.  These are places and traditions that, as Dr. Oden notes, inspired people to come back and pray before their own martyrdoms for the faith in times far closer to these reported events.  The implied question: Does it take a greater faith to believe that these things could not have happened or greater credulity to believe that they did? What do you think?


Consider the time span between the martyrdom of Mark and the martyrdom of Peter of Alexandria (AD 68-311).  Clearly Peter must have been aware for some time of his life of the connection between Mark and Bucalis.  Why did he go to this place?  What connection did he see between himself and Mark as he foresaw his coming martyrdom? 


What are the assumptions we must make?

•   If we are to believe that people like Eusebius and Alexander, who themselves received a full and well-developed tradition concerning Mark.

•   If we are to believe that the Venetians, operating hundreds of years closer to these events, were fooled about the identity of the remains they took.

Isn’t it fair to say that, if we can’t give credit to the work of historians of hundreds of years ago, that we have to be basically historical agnostics about all of history?  If not, then why?


What is significant about the fact that the earliest Christian writers debated the date of John Mark’s martyrdom in Alexandria, but not the fact of it (178)?