Clement of Alexandria on Mark

January 23, 2013

Here are three excerpts from Clement of Alexandria on Mark in the original languages with various translations I found available online (there is still the scholarly stalemate about whether the Letter to Theodore should be accepted into Clement’s canon, but the Greek text with M. Smith’s translation is available here and Scott Brown’s new translation in his Mark’s Other Gospel).  There are some interesting new and conflicting details given below about the relationship of Mark to the other evangelists, the location of the evangelist’s writing the Gospel, the make-up of Mark’s audience, the situation that gave rise to the production of the Gospel, and the reaction of Peter when he learns the news (note that Peter is still alive unlike some other patristic traditions on Mark!).  I will try to get at what Clement, or Eusebius who paraphrases him, is up to in his account of the origins of Mark at the EABS conference.

Αὖθις δ’ ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς ὁ Κλήμης βιβλίοις περὶ τῆς τάξεως τῶν εὐαγγελίων παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνέκαθεν πρεσβυτέρων τέθειται, τοῦτον ἔχουσαν τὸν τρόπον· προγεγράφθαι ἔλεγεν τῶν εὐαγγελίων τὰ περιέχοντα τὰς γενεαλογίας, τὸ δὲ κατὰ Μάρκον ταύτην ἐσχηκέναι τὴν οἰκονομίαν. τοῦ πέτρου δημοσίᾳ ἐν Ρώμῃ κηρύξαντος τὸν λόγον καὶ πνεύματι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἐξειπόντος, τοὺς παρόντας, πολλοὺς ὄντας, παρακαλέσαι τὸν Μάρκον, ὡς ἂν ἀκολουθήσαντα αὐτῷ πόρρωθεν καὶ μεμνημένον τῶν λεχθέντων, ἀναγράψαι τὰ εἰρημένα· ποιήσαντα δέ, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον μεταδοῦναι τοῖς δεομένοις αὐτοῦ·ὅπερ ἐπιγνόντα τὸν Πέτρον προτρεπτικῶς μήτε κωλῦσαι μήτε προτρέψασθαι. τὸν μέντοι Ἰωάννην ἔσχατον, συνιδόντα ὅτι τὰ σωματικὰ ἐν τοῖς εὐαγγελίοις δεδήλωται, προτραπέντα ὑπο τῶν γνωρίμων, πνεύματι θεοφορηθέντα πνευματικὸν ποιῆσαι ευ0αγγέλιον. τοσαῦτα ὁ Κλήμης. (in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.14.5-7, Greek from Stephen Carlson’s website)

Again, in the same books, Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner:  The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first.  The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it.  When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. But, last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.  This is the account of Clement. (Arthur Cushman McGiffert)

And again in the same books [the Outlines], Clement states a tradition of the very earliest presbyters about the order of the gospels; and it has this form.  He used to say that the first written of the gospels were those having the geneologies, and that the Gospel of Mark had this formation.  While Peter was publically preaching the Word in Rome and proclaiming the gospel by the the [sic] Spirit, the audience, which was numerous, begged Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been said, to write down the things he had said.  And he did so, handing over the Gospel to those who had asked for it.  And when Peter got to know about it, he exerted no pressure either to forbid it or to promote it… (Bernard Orchard in The Order of the Synoptics, pg 166)

But again in those very books Clement presented a tradition of the original elders about the disposition of the gospels, in the following manner: He said that those gospels with genealogies were openly published, but Mark had this procedure: when Peter was in Rome preaching in public the word and proclaiming the gospel by the spirit, those present, who were many, entreated Mark, as one who followed him for a long time and remembered what was said, to record what was spoken; but after he composed the gospels, he shared it with anyone who wanted it; when Peter found out about it, he did not actively discourage or encourage it; but John, last, aware that the physical facts were disclosed in the gospels, urged by friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual gospel. So much for Clement. (Stephen Carlson, see further Stephen C. Carlson, “Clement of Alexandria on the ‘Order’ of the Gospels,” NTS 47 [2001]: 118-25 to justify his translation “openly published”)

Τοσουτον δ επελαμψεν ταις των ακροατων του Πετρου διανοιαις ευσεβειας φεγγος, ως μη τη εις απαξ ικανως εχειν αρκεισθαι ακοη μηδε τη αγραφω του θειου κηρυγματος διδασκαλια, παρακλησεσιν δε παντοιαις Μαρκον, ου το ευαγγελιον φερεται, ακολουθον οντα Πετρου, λιπαρησαι ως αν και δια γραφης υπομνημα της δια λογου παραδοθεισης αυτοις καταλειψοι διδασκαλιας, μη προτερον τε ανειναι η κατεργασαθαι τον ανδρα, και ταυτη αιτιους γενεσθαι της του λεγομενου κατα Μαρκον ευαγγελιου γραφης. γνοντα δε το πραχθεν φασι τον αποστολον αποκαλυψαντος αυτω του πνευματος, ησθηναι τη των ανδρων προθυμια κυρωσαι τε την γραφην εις εντευξιν ταις εκκλησιας.  Κλημης εν εκτω των υποτυπωσεων παρατεθειται την ιστοριαν, συνεπιμαρτυρει δε αυτω και ο Ιεραπολιτης επισκοπος ονοματι Παπιας, του δε Μαρκου μνημονευειν τον Πετρον εν τη προτερα επιστολη, ην και συνταξαι φασιν επ αυτης Ρωμης, σημαινειν τε τουτ αυτον, την πολιν τροπικωτερον Βαβυλωνα προσειποντα δια τουτων· Ασπαζεται υμας η εν Βαβυλωνι συνεκλεκτη και Μαρκος ο υιος μου (in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 2.15.1-2; unaccented Greek from

And so greatly did the splendor of piety illumine the needs of Peter’s hearers that they were not satisfied with hearing once only, and were not content with the unwritten teaching of the divine Gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, a follower of Peter, and the one whose Gospel is extant, that he would leave them a written monument of the doctrine which had been orally communicated to them. Nor did they cease until they had prevailed with the man, and had thus become the occasion of the written Gospel which bears the name of Mark. And they say that Peter – when he had learned, through a revelation of the Spirit, of that which had been done – was pleased with the zeal of the men, and that the work obtained the sanction of his authority for the purpose of being used in the churches. Clement in the eighth book of his Hypotyposes gives this account, and with him agrees the bishop of Hierapolis named Papias.  And Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle which they say that he wrote in Rome itself, as is indicated by him, when he calls the city, by a figure, Babylon, as he does in the following words: The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you; and so does Mark my son (Arthur Cushman McGiffert)

And the light of religion lit up the minds of those who heard Peter, so much so that they were not sufficiently satisfied with one single hearing, nor with theunwritten teaching of the divine preaching, and with all kinds of encouragements they besought Mark, whose gospel is extant, a follower of Peter, that he might leave for them also a note, in writing, of the teaching that had been delivered to them through the word, and they did not cease before prevailing with the man, and becoming the causes of this writing of the gospel called according to Mark. And they say that the apostle, when he came to know what had been done, it having been revealed to him by the spirit, was pleased with the desire of men, and the writing was authorized for the petition of the churches. Clement in the eighth of the Outlines sets forth the record, and the Heirapolitan bishop, Papias by name, also testifies with him, and they say that Peter remembers Mark in in the first epistle, which he also ordered together in Rome itself, signaling this very thing, calling the city Babylon most figuratively through these words: She who is in Babylon, elect with you, greets you, as well as Mark my son. (Ben C. Smith)

But such a light of piety shone on the minds of those who heard Peter that they were not nearly satisfied with a single hearing or with an unwritten account of the divine proclamation.  And so with all kinds of entreaties they begged Mark (whose Gospel is now in circulation), a follower of Peter, that he might leave behind a written record of the teaching that had been given to them orally.  And they did not rest until they prevailed upon him.  To this extent they were the impetus for the writing called the Gospel According to Mark.  And they say that when the Apostle came to know what had happened, after the Spirit revealed it to him, he delighted in their eagerness and authorized the writing to be read in the churches.  Clement passes along this story in the sixth book of the Outlines, and the one who is called Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis, corroborates his account, pointing out in addition that Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle, which also they maintain was composed in Rome itself… (Bart Ehrman, LOEB, pg. 97)

Marcus, Petri sectator, praedicante Petro evangelium palam Romae coram quibusdam Caesareanis equitibus et multa Christi testimonia proferente, petitus ab eis, ut possent quae dicebantur memoriae commendare, scripsit ex his quae a Petro dicta sunt evangelium quod secundum Marcum vocitatur (Adumbrationes in epistolas canonicas in 1 Peter 5:13)

Mark, the follower of Peter, while Peter was publically preaching the Gospel at Rome in the presence of some of Caesar’s knights and uttering many testimonies of Christ, on their asking him to let them have a written record of the things which had been said, wrote the Gospel which is called the Gospel of Mark, form the things said by Peter… (Bernard Orchard in The Order of the Synoptics, pg 131)