The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing Early Church Tradition

Thomas C. Oden (Author)


We often regard the author of the Gospel of Mark as an obscure figure about whom we know little. Many would be surprised to learn how much fuller a picture of Mark exists within widespread African tradition, tradition that holds that Mark himself was from North Africa, that he founded the church in Alexandria, that he was an eyewitness to the Last Supper and Pentecost, that he was related not only to Barnabas but to Peter as well and accompanied him on many of his travels. In this provocative reassessment of early church tradition, Thomas C. Oden begins with the palette of New Testament evidence and adds to it the range of colors from traditional African sources, including synaxaries (compilations of short biographies of saints to be read on feast days), archaeological sites, non-Western historical documents and ancient churches. The result is a fresh and illuminating portrait of Mark, one that is deeply rooted in African memory and seldom viewed appreciatively in the West.

Product Details

IVP Academic
Publish Date
July 11, 2011
6.0 X 1.0 X 8.9 inches | 0.95 pounds
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About the Author

Thomas C. Oden (1931-2016; PhD, Yale University) was Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics Emeritus at Drew University. He authored or edited many books, including After Modernity--What? and Classical Pastoral Care. Oden also served as an executive editor of Christianity Today, as chairman of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and as general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.


"I trust that this book by Thomas Oden will remind believers that their African spiritual ancestors include Abraham, Jesus, Mark, and thousands of others. Rejoice, believers from the continent of Africa, that you have a spiritual history that dates back to creation. I trust this book will stimulate African scholars to continue research into the African memory of Mark."--James Plueddemann, Trinity Journal, Spring 2014
"[T]his reader is grateful to Oden for retelling the theologically profound African story of Mark and opening scholars to a neglected aspect of the reception history of the Gospel of Mark."--Michael Kok, Relegere, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2012)
"Oden has stumbled upon a fascinating African church tradition and has presented it in an accessible way. . . . It desires to stir a passion within the reader to expore African Christianity more and to read further."--Christopher A. Beetham, Themelios 37.1
"A fresh and unusual perspective on early Church history, this text will surely interest both believers and church historians alike."--Publishers Weekly, July 11, 2011
"Oden has organized a fascinating collection of traditions on Mark. For any reader interested in the history of the evangelization of Africa or the life of Mark the Evangelist, this book would be a valuable resource. Oden has made a good case for the African memory of Mark and helped a new generation of Christian ministers and scholars in the Global South to find their place in early Christianity."--Stephen O. Presley, Southwestern Journal of Theology, Fall 2014
"Anyone who enjoys learning about narratives of redemptive history across the globe will benefit from it."--Matthew M. Whitehead, Bible Study Magazine, September October 2011