Biblical scholar reopens search for Mark the Evangelist

Using modern biblical, historical and sociological scholarship, a researcher has, for the first time, established criteria for identifying the author of the Gospel According to Mark.

Dr. Michael Affleck, a theologian, lawyer and educator, who will present his findings in a paper at the World Congress for the History of Religion in Erfurt, Germany, being held August 24-28, believes that, when the criteria are employed, they point to one particular man in first century Judea as the likely author of Mark’s Gospel. The identity of the writer has never been known though the gospel is one of the most widely read books in the history of Western civilization.

“The search for the author of the foundational writing of Christianity requires that rigorous search criteria be established,” Affleck said.   “Based on a thorough review of scholarship, the mystery of the identity of gospel author can be solved using the criteria already known in biblical research.”

According to Affleck, the gospel author was literate in multiple languages; had an elite wealthy family; had Greco–Roman as well as Hebrew education; had compositional writing ability; had access to the leadership of the Jesus movement and the court of the House of Herod and had a library. Additionally, the author had to have been alive in 70 CE. An accurate identification must explain both the events that led to the writing and events that follow the writing. Lastly, the gospel text must be consistent with the author and the purpose for which he wrote.

The criteria are interdependent and point to an extremely limited number of people who are possible candidates. Specifically, the search for Mark leads to a prince from House of the Herod, a future ruler of Judea and Galilee. Affleck concludes that Berenicianus, the oldest son of Queen Bernice and nephew to King Agrippa II, fits the criteria and was likely the author known as Mark. His identification as Mark the Evangelist opens biblical scholarship to an entirely new era in understanding Jesus himself.

Affleck holds doctorates in education (Buffalo) and law (Syracuse) as well as a master’s degree in theological studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He first presented his findings on Mark at the International Colloquium "Fragmentary Evidence and Shadowy Characters: The Search for Early Christian Groups and Movements" (February 2015), Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.