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Preface to the Gospel of Mark
by Blessed Theophylact

The Gospel According to St. Mark was written ten years after the Ascension of Christ. This Mark was a disciple of Peter, whom Peter calls his son, that is, his spiritual son. He was also called John (Acts 12:12), and the nephew of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and the companion of Paul (Philemon 24). But eventually he accompanied Peter the most, and was with him in Rome. The believers in Rome begged Mark not only to preach orally, but also to give them a written account of Christ’s life. He agreed, and composed it immediately. God revealed to Peter that Mark had written this Gospel, and when he saw it, Peter confirmed its truth, and sent Mark as bishop to Egypt. There Mark preached and established the Church in Alexandria, enlightening all those in that sunny land to the south. The character of this Gospel, therefore, is unclouded and clear, containing nothing that is hidden.

Mark’s Gospel agrees with Matthew’s in every respect, except that Matthew goes into greater detail. And while Matthew begins with the Nativity of the Lord according to the flesh, Mark begins with the prophet and forerunner John. Therefore, though it may appear incomprehensible, some have given this understanding of the four Evangelists: God, Who sits upon the four-faced Cherubim, as Scripture says (see Ezekiel 1:10, 10:14; also Rev. 4:7) gave us the Gospel which likewise appears in four forms, but is held together by one Spirit. Just as one of the Cherubim had the face of a lion, and another the face of a man, and another the face of an eagle, and another the face of a bullock, so it is with the preaching of the Gospel.

The Gospel of John has the face of a lion, for the lion is royal and princely; and John began his Gospel with the royal and lordly dignity of the divine Word, saying, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. But the Gospel of Matthew is in the likeness of a man, for it begins with the Nativity according to the flesh and the incarnation of the Word. The Gospel of Mark is likened to an eagle, for it begins with the prophet and forerunner John. And the prophetic gift, by which one can foresee and keenly perceive things that are a great way off, is like an eagle. For it is said that the eagle is the most keen sighted of all the animals, and can even gaze at the sun without shutting its eyes. The Gospel of Luke is like the bullock, because it begins with the priestly service of Zacharias, in the course of which he made sacrifice for the sins of the people, sacrificing a bullock.

But Mark begins his Gospel by describing the way of life of the Forerunner. Listen then to what he says …

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