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John Mark – Author of the Gospel of John with Jesus' mother

© A.A.M. van der Hoeven, The Netherlands, updated June 6, 2013,
1. Introduction – the beloved disciple and evangelist, a priest called John ............................................................ 4
2. The Cenacle – in house of Mark ánd John ......................................................................................................... 5
3. The rich young ruler and the fleeing young man ............................................................................................... 8
3.1. Ruler (‘archōn’) ........................................................................................................................................ 10
Cenacle in the house of Nicodemus and John Mark .................................................................................... 10
Secret disciples ............................................................................................................................................ 12
3.2. Young man (‘neaniskos’) ......................................................................................................................... 13
Caught in fear .............................................................................................................................................. 17
4. John Mark an attendant (‘hypēretēs’) ............................................................................................................... 18
4.1. Lower officer of the temple prison ........................................................................................................... 18
4.2. Sacristan of the temple synagogue ........................................................................................................... 24
4.3. Secretary of the Council of the Temple .................................................................................................... 24
“Ministers of the Word” (‘hypēretai tou Logou’) ........................................................................................ 29
5. John Mark Levitical – a priest (‘hiereus’) ....................................................................................................... 30
5.1. “A priest wearing the ‘petalon’” (Eusebius) ............................................................................................. 31
5.2. The grave cloth given to “the servant of the priest” (Gospel of the Hebrews) ......................................... 31
John Mark’s temple ‘sindōn’ lost … ........................................................................................................... 32
… and bought by Joseph of Arimatea, and returned by Jesus ..................................................................... 35
6. John Mark, author of the Gospel of John with Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus ............................................ 42
7. Not John of Zebedee ........................................................................................................................................ 46
7.1. Killed by the Jews .................................................................................................................................... 46
7.2. Finding the Cenacle .................................................................................................................................. 47
7.3. Before the Council ................................................................................................................................... 47
7.4. At Jesus’ tomb .......................................................................................................................................... 51
****************** Intermezzo: THE SHROUD OF TURIN ******************** ............. 54
8. Abrupt end and not-connecting resumption of the Gospel of Mark ................................................................. 61
9. Anonymous end and anonymous resumption of the Gospel of John - John the Elder ..................................... 61
10. Other candidates for the authorship ............................................................................................................... 65
11. Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................................... 67
Bibliography ......................................................................................................................................................... 69
Abbreviations ........................................................................................................................................................ 69
Fig. 1. Jerusalem in the days of Jesus ................................................................................................................... 70
Fig. 2. John Mark “a follower of Peter” (Church Father Clement cited by Eusebius: 2,15,1-2) ........................... 17
Fig. 3. ‘Sindōn’ and toga ...................................................................................................................................... 35
Fig. 4. A possible configuration of Antonia, the Watch Gate and the temple prison ........................................... 71
Fig. 5. A sketch of the sanctuary of the temple, accessible through nine gates.................................................... 72
Fig. 6. “beloved disciple”: from John the Apostle via John the Elder to John Mark ............................................ 63
Table 1. Some charachteristics of the beloved disciple, John Mark, and John of Zebedee ................................... 73
Table 2. Similarities between the beloved disciple, Nicodemus and the householder of the Cenacle .................. 13
Table 3. The anonymous disciple at the gate and Joseph of Arimatea .................................................................. 15
Table 4. Identities at arrest and grave ................................................................................................................... 16
Table 5. The Council of the Temple and the porch and prison of the Watch Gate ............................................... 21
Table 6. Ministers who delivered words (e.g. decrees and verdicts) in stead of prisoners.................................... 30
Table 7. Priest and Levitical.................................................................................................................................. 36
Table 8. Westcott’s concentric circles of proof ..................................................................................................... 44
Table 9. Phases in the development of the Gospel of John ................................................................................... 45
Table 10. John of Zebedee versus John Mark ....................................................................................................... 48
Table 11. Other candidates for the authorship ...................................................................................................... 67
This article shows that the anonymous author of the Fourth Gospel, called the Gospel of John,
probably was John Mark, a young inhabitant of Jerusalem and, after Jesus’ resurrection,
member of the first church of Jerusalem and author of the Gospel of Mark. Characteristics of
the author of the Fourth Gospel, who is described and acts in it as “the disciple whom Jesus
loved” and who is described by the Early Church Fathers as “a priest [who] wore the
sacerdotal plate”, are compared to the characteristics of John Mark, known from the Acts of
the Apostles and Paul’s letters, and also to the characteristics of the anonymous rich young
ruler and of the anonymous fleeing young man, both known from Mark’s gospel as
approaching, but then leaving, the still mortal Jesus. This article also shows that the
traditional identification of the anonymous author with the apostle John, son of Zebedee, is
The usual argument against John Mark as the beloved disciple and author of the Fourth
Gospel is that he was not an apostle following Jesus, so he could not have written about Jesus’
activities outside of Jerusalem. This article says that John Mark could have written about
these activities, if he had the co-operation of Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, who was also
his own ‘mother’ from the moment when Jesus, dying on the cross, recommended them to
each other as ‘mother’ and ‘son’, saying to them “Behold your son” and “Behold your
mother”. From that moment he even “took her to his own home”. Jesus’ mother, who is
anonymous in the Fourth Gospel, just like the author and beloved disciple himself is
anonymous in it, is a co-author of this gospel, and this also explains the literary and
theological difference between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John.
John Mark, author of the Gospel of John with Jesus’ mother
1. Introduction – the beloved disciple and evangelist, a priest called John
In the so-called Fourth Gospel, named the Gospel of John (which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ
according to John), there is a disciple of Jesus, who is five times described as “the disciple,
whom Jesus (He) loved” (John 13,23 19,26 20,2 21,7.20), for instance in these verses,
describing what Jesus said from upon the cross:
“When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to
his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your
mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19,26-27;
Bible citations are from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), unless otherwise
In the so-called “second ending” of this gospel (John, chapter 21), which was added to the
twenty chapters of the original, it is stated that the gospel was written by this “disciple whom
Jesus loved”:
“20 Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain
close to his breast at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray
21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?"
22 Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?
Follow me!"
23 The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet
Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain
until I come, what is that to you?"
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written
these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be
written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be
written.” (John 21,20-25)
This second ending, which speaks of “we” (verse 24) and of “I” (verse 25), was seemingly not
written by the beloved disciple, but the original gospel is surely “his testimony”, and it ends
with the so-called “first ending”:
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not
written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20,30-31)
The name of the beloved disciple is not mentioned in this gospel, but the oldest and only
testimonies about the name of the person that produced the gospel, are the testimony of the
so-called Muratorian Canon from ca. 170 CE,1 and the testimony of Irenaeus, a bishop from
Smyrna in Asia Minor, who both say that his name was John and that he was a disciple.
Irenaeus wrote in about 185 CE:
1 ; more on this Canon is below in
one of the notes in chapter 9.
“Then John, disciple of the Lord, who also lay on his breast, himself published the
gospel, while he was staying at Ephesus in Asia” (Irenaeus: 3,1,1, cited in Eusebius:
And another early testimony is that of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus in the time of Emperor
Septimius Severus, i.e. 145 to 211 CE, who stated that the beloved disciple was a priest,
wearing the high priestly crown plate (Eusebius: 3,31,3 5,24,2). So, the beloved disciple was a
John, but which one is not clear from the other, later, conflicting testimonies2, and also in our
times there is much discussion, with many publications, about the unknown author. The most
usual opinion is that the beloved disciple was the apostle John, son of Zebedee, who with his
brother James was called out of their fisherman’s boat by Jesus at the Lake of Galilee to
become his followers and later his apostles (Matt 4,21 10.2 John 21,2). But also John Mark, a
young inhabitant of Jerusalem and member of the first church and author of the Gospel of
Mark (Acts 12,12.25 13,5.13 15,37.39 2Tim 4,11 Col 4,10 Phm 24 1Pet 5,13) has been
mentioned as a possible candidate, by Wellhausen in 1908 CE, and by Sanders and Parker in
1960 (Sanders and Parker: 97-110).
The intention of this article is to make plausible the thesis that John Mark was indeed the
beloved disciple, who put the Fourth Gospel in writing at Ephesus in Asia Minor (today’s
Turkey), and that he did this with Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus.
At the end of this article is a table with a survey of most of the arguments of this article, in
which in the left column are characteristics of the author and beloved disciple, in the right
column characteristics of John Mark, and in the middle the arguments that link the
characteristics on its left and right. The Cenacle is a linking element with its own arguments
on the left and right (see table 1).
2. The Cenacle – in house of Mark ánd John
Important events, described in the New Testament, happened in a place where Jesus’
disciples were gathered: the Last Supper with Jesus in a “large upper room” in Jerusalem
(Mark 14,13-17), the appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples in “the house” where
“the doors were shut” (John 20,19.26), the continuing with one accord in prayer and
supplication in “the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and
Andrew, ...” and the other apostles (Acts 1,13-14).
Traditions of Cyril of Jerusalem in 348 CE and the nun Aetheria in 385 CE ascertain
that these events all took place in the same upper room (now called the Cenacle,
because Jesus’ Last Supper took place here: cena is Latin for meal, diner).
A tradition exists of the pilgrim Theodosius in 530 CE, who tells that the upper room
was in the house of Mark, the evangelist: “From Golgotha it is 200 paces to holy
Sion, the mother of all churches; which Sion our Lord Christ founded with His
apostles. It was the house of S. Mark the Evangelist.”3 This was the headquarters of
the church in Jerusalem (Brownrigg: 175), “the house of Mary, the mother of John
whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12,12). See fig. 1 for a map of Jerusalem in
Jesus’ time.
That the Cenacle was in the house of John Mark, also complies with the fact that
both in the Cenacle and in the house of John Mark was restricted access: in the
Cenacle in the first period after Jesus’ crucifixion the doors were shut for fear of the
Jews (John 20,19.26), and, fourteen years later, in the house of John Mark the young
3 Theodosius, On the Topography of the Holy Land 1,43-44,
woman who kept the door at night didn’t admit Simon Peter by herself, even though
she had already recognized his voice (Acts 12,12-16). Apparently one didn’t open
the door, unless one was sure it would not cause danger.
The householder of the house of the Cenacle is anonymous in all gospels, because
Jesus arranges the preparation of the Last Supper in the Cenacle in such a way that
none of the bystanders then, would know to whose house He would go4. The
householder of John Mark’s house is anonymous too, for in Acts 12,12 the house is
merely described as “the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was
Mark”; the name of the master of the house is not mentioned, and in Jesus’ times
“Mary” was the most popular name for a woman: 25% of all Hebrew women were
called Mary.5 “Mark” (Marcus) was the Roman name of this John, and may have
been given to him by the Romans, and probably was known to the “most excellent
Theophilus” in Rome to whom Luke wrote his Gospel and Acts (Lu 1,3 Ac 1,1) after
58 CE.
It is remarkable that Mark in his gospel states about Jesus in the night of the Last
Supper: “when it was evening he came with the twelve” (Mark 14,17) – instead of
‘he went with the twelve.’ Mark thus betrays that his view-point lay inside the
Cenacle and not with the twelve apostles.
Not only do indications exist that the Cenacle was in the house of John Mark, but also that it
was in the house of the beloved disciple:
In 658 CE Bishop Arculf made a drawing of the church that has been built on the
place of the upper room, “showing in this one building, facing east, the cenacle or
supper-room on the south-east side (once within the house of St Mark) and the rock
of the dormition [of Mary] on the north-west side (once within the house of St John).
This accords exactly with the location of the cenacle and the dormition shrines
today” (Brownrigg: 169).
The beloved disciple was present at the Last Supper, enjoying the privilege of
leaning on Jesus’ bosom (John 13,23), probably because he was at home and one of
the hosts of Jesus and his apostles. “According to the Jewish custom, the host, or, in
his absence, … “his firstborn son sat to the right of the guest, his head leaning on the
latter’s chest””.6 Note that when the Gospels say that Jesus was there “with the
twelve” (Mt 26,20) and that “the apostles were with Him” (Lu 22,14), this doesn’t
necessarily mean He was there with only the twelve apostles.
Of Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the beloved disciple is said that at Jesus’ death on Good
Friday “from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19,25-27), but
also that until Pentecost, i.e. fifty days later, she was in the Cenacle, for there the
apostles “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women
and Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1,13-14).
A direct indication for the identification of the house of the beloved disciple with the
house of John Mark is the place where Simon Peter stayed. On Easter morning,
when it was still dark, he was in the house of the beloved disciple, for from there he
“came out” and ran towards the grave accompanied by the beloved disciple, and they
returned home together: “Then the disciples went away again unto their own home”
(John 20,1-4.10 AV). Later that same day, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, and
also during the nine days after Jesus’ ascension, when they continued with one
accord in prayer before Pentecost, Simon Peter was in the Cenacle (John 20,24 Acts
4 Mark 14,12-16
5 R. Reich, Caiaphas name inscribed on bone boxes, Biblical Archeology Review 18/5 (1992)
6 Cazelles, Johannes p. 480, cited by Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth, 2007, p. 225
1,13). And much later, in the night when an angel had helped Simon Peter escape
from prison, but his guards hadn’t noticed anything yet, Simon Peter, when this had
become clear to him, went to the house of John Mark, where many were in prayer
for him:
“10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to
the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord,
and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately
the angel left him.
11 And Peter came to himself, and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord
has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all
that the Jewish people were expecting."
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of
John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together
and were praying.” Acts 12,10-12
Simon Peter understood that at this moment he was still able to go to his own place of
abode, because he wasn’t searched for by Herod’s soldiers yet. If he wanted to show
himself to the people in this house as a free man, and if he wanted to take some
personal things with him on his flight, he would have to do it now, for as soon as his
escape would be discovered, he would be searched for here immediately. That the
young woman who kept the door recognizes his voice also indicates that he was a well
known person here. Peter lets his escape also be reported to “James and to the
brethren” (Acts 12,17), who apparently were not in the house, probably because they
were, as usual, in the temple and in their own homes (cf. Acts 21,18)7. After this, Peter
leaves for another place. Only in the early morning Herod’s soldiers discover his
escape (Acts 12,1-12.18).
Soon after Simon Peter had fled from Jerusalem to some unrecorded places, one of
which is assumed to be Antioch in Syria because of the traditional liturgical feast of
St. Peter’s Chair in Antioch on February 22, John Mark went to Antioch and from
there to Perga. But from Perga he suddenly returned to Jerusalem (Acts 12,25
13,5.13). The explanation could be that he followed Simon Peter, his guest
inhabitant of the Cenacle, to where he had fled, Antioch and Perga, and that there it
became clear that Simon Peter would not return to Jerusalem for the time being, but
would travel on.8 Therefore John Mark may have been sent back to Jerusalem to his
home, the Cenacle, by the undercover Simon Peter (possibly “Simeon who was
called Niger” in Antioch (Acts 13,1)), and perhaps urged by Simon Peter and/or
other apostles and Jerusalem disciples, orally or by letter, to put in writing in Koine
Greek, for the whole world, in the Gospel according to Mark, the still vivid
memories of himself and those of the rest of the Cenacle’s inhabitants of Simon
Peter’s narratives and teachings about Jesus. Tradition, in the voices of Irenaeus,
Papias and Clement, says that Mark was “a follower of Peter”, and that “he
accompanied Peter” and that he wrote down Peter’s teachings in the Gospel of Mark
“after their departure [of Peter and Paul]” – i.e. after Peter and Paul had departed
from “among the Hebrews” –, and that Peter was still alive then.9 Eusebius says
7 This James was James the Just, “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1,19). The thesis of their being in
the temple is elaborated in my article “James and the brothers”,
8 This travel was later interrupted by an unforeseen short return to Jerusalem for the Apostolic
Council in c. 49 CE.
9 “Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were
preaching and founding the church in Rome. After their departure [from among the Hebrews], Mark, the disciple
and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter” (Irenaeus: 3.1.1.
Mark proclaimed his own gospel in Alexandria (from about 54 – 62 CE),10 so before
the death of Simon Peter in Rome in 64 CE.
All these indications for the identity of the house of the beloved disciple and the house of
John Mark, are also indications for the identity of the beloved disciple and John Mark
3. The rich young ruler and the fleeing young man
It’s generally accepted that John Mark, twice taken on a journey by and having a close
relationship with Barnabas, mentioned in the Acts, was the same as the evangelist Mark, the
nephew of Barnabas (Col 4,10 Acts 12,12.25 15,37)11.
“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their
mission, bringing with them John whose other name was Mark.” Acts 12,25
“And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.” Acts 15,37
“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas
(concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, receive him)”
Col 4,10
Of the evangelist Mark is also generally accepted, that he himself was the person, who, as the
rich young ruler, asked Jesus about eternal life and who was looked at and loved by Jesus
(Mark 10,17-22)12. For this detail, of being looked at and loved, is only mentioned in the
cited by Eusebius: 5,8,2-3). “And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote
down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or
deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied
Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities, but with no intention of giving a regular narrative
of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For
of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the
statements” (Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor in 1st half of 2nd century, cited by Eusebius: 3,39,15).”
“6. … during the reign of Claudius, the all-good and gracious Providence … led Peter … to Rome … . He …
carried the costly merchandise of the light of the understanding from the East to those who dwelt in the West,
proclaiming the light itself … 1. And so greatly did the splendor of piety illumine the minds of Peter’s hearers
[in Rome (West) or in the Jerusalem he had just left (East)] 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.
2. And they say that Peter when he had learned, through a revelation of the Spirit, of that which had been done
[so Mark did not write the Gospel of Mark in Rome, and Peter was still alive then], 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” (Eusebius: 2,14,6 - 2,15,2). Justin Martyr (100-169 CE) quotes from the Gospel of Mark as being
“the memoirs of Peter” (Justin Martyr: Dialogue 106.3) and Peter's speech in Acts 10,34-40 serves as a good
summary of the Gospel of Mark. Also Tertullian (ca. 160-235 CE) (Adversus Marcionem IV,5) and Origen (ca.
185-254 CE) (cited by Eusebius: 6,26) confirm the tradition. That Papias says that Mark neither heard nor
followed Jesus complies with his sadly leaving Jesus, as the rich young ruler, and with his secret discipleship,
which apparently was not betrayed by the apostles, who saw him at Jesus’ breast at home, in the Cenacle. This
secret discipleship is discussed in the next chapters.
10 Eusebius: 2,16 2,24 3,14
Gospel of Mark and not in the corresponding pericopes (= gospel paragraphs) in Luke and
Matthew, and therefore it is supposed that John Mark was himself this young man:
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and
asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" …” (Mark 10,17)
(“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit
eternal life? …” (Luke 18,18))
“And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do
not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’" And he said to
him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." Then Jesus, looking at him,
loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have
and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the
cross, and follow Me." But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he
had great possessions.” (Mark 10,18-22 NKJV)
(“When the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful; for he had great
possessions.” (Matt 19,22))
The similarities between the rich young ruler and the beloved disciple are the following:
The rich young ruler was loved by Jesus (the verb used for ‘love’ in Mark 10,21 is
‘agapō’; NA27) and also the beloved disciple was loved by Jesus (four times ‘agapō
(John 13,23 19,26 21,7.20) and once ‘phileō’ (John 20,2 NA27))13.
The rich young ruler came running to Jesus (detail only in Mark); the beloved disciple
ran to Jesus’ open grave (detail only in John) (Mark 10,17 John 20,3-5).
The rich young ruler was advised to follow Jesus and to take up the cross (detail only
in Mark 10,21 NKJV); the beloved disciple stood by the cross of Jesus (detail only in
John 19,25-27).
The rich young ruler asked Jesus how “to inherit eternal life” (Mark 10,17); the
beloved disciple wrote the gospel of the “eternal life”: in it John literally used the
expression “eternal life” seventeen times (John 3,15.16.36 4,14.36 5,24.39
6, 10,28 12,25.50 17,2.3); in the other gospels, beside in the rich young
ruler’s own question to Jesus (Matt 19,16 Mark 10,17.30 Luke 18,18), it is used only
once, when a certain expert in God’s Law, given to Moses, asks Jesus the same thing:
how to inherit eternal life (Luke 10,25). Furthermore, in John 14,6 Jesus Himself says:
“I am the way, the truth and the life”. In fact John wrote all the gospel of Jesus for his
readers to “have life in his name” (John 20,30-31), and this is his final gospel
statement. In his letter 1John he mentions “eternal life” six times (1John 1,2 2,25 3,15
5,11.13.20), and in 1John 1,2 and 5,20 he calls Jesus “the eternal life” in person.
The rich young ruler remains anonymous in the Gospel of Mark; the beloved disciple
remains anonymous in the Gospel of John, and also Jesus’ virgin mother remains
anonymous in this gospel.
From the pericopes of Luke and Matthew we know, that the “man” that ran up to Jesus (Mark
10,17), was not only rich, but also a “ruler” (‘archōn’ Luke 18,18) and a “young man”
(‘neaniskos’ Matt 19,20.22).
13 All Greek citations are from the 27th Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek basic text (oldest
manuscripts) of the New Testament.
3.1. Ruler (‘archōn’)
The rich young man is a “ruler” (Luke 18,18). The Greek word used is ‘archōn’, which means
‘a ruler, commander, chief, leader’, and which was an official title in the Jewish communities
(Schürer: II, 518). Nicodemus, a Pharisee only known from John’s gospel, was a “ruler” too
(‘archōn’ John 3,1), and the Talmud14 says that Nicodemus was very rich (Lightfoot: John
3,1), and this is confirmed by his ability to instantaneously bring “a mixture of myrrh and
aloes, about a hundred pounds” for Jesus’ burial15. The rich young ruler addresses Jesus with
‘Rabbi’ (in Greek ‘didaskalos’) = “Teacher”, like Nicodemus does.16 The rich young ruler
already believed in the existence of eternal life even before he spoke to Jesus and therefore he
could have belonged to the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection of the dead.17 In this he
again resembles Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee. Furthermore, Jesus had already spoken to
Nicodemus about the gift of eternal life and the rich young ruler asks Jesus how to “inherit”
this life (John 3,15-16 cf. John 17,2; Mark 10,17). Because of all of this, it is possible that the
rich young ruler was an heir of Nicodemus. When Jesus told the rich young man that he had
to observe the commandments (God’s Law given to Moses), he answered “Teacher, all these
have I observed from my youth”, which was probably due to his being brought up in the
house of Nicodemus, who was “the teacher of Israel”.18 Nicodemus was a disciple of Jesus
secretly – he “came to Jesus by night” (John 3,1-2) –, and many other rulers believed in Him:
“Nevertheless many even of the authorities (‘archontōn’ = rulers) believed in him, but
for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the
synagogue.” John 12,42 (RSV).
Cenacle in the house of Nicodemus and John Mark
As already said, even Jesus arranges the preparation for his last Passover meal in such a way
that no one of the bystanders then, or of the readers of the gospel later, would know to whose
house Jesus would go for this Passover meal: the house of his secret disciples Nicodemus and
John Mark19. Also in Acts 12,12 the householder of the Cenacle is anonymous, for the house
is described as “the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark”, and in
Jesus’ times “Mary” was the most popular name for a woman: 25% of all Hebrew women
were called Mary.20 And the fact that the two disciples, sent out for the preparation of the
meal and ordered to say to the householder: “The Teacher says, Where is my guest room,
where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?” (Mark 14,14), had to follow an
anonymous man carrying a jar of water – in Biblical times only women carried water for their
homes –, makes one think of what the Talmud says about Nicodemus (who called Jesus
“Teacher” and thus would understand what was meant by “the Teacher says”21): that he was,
or felt, responsible for the provision of water for the people who came to Jerusalem for the
14 The first written compendium of Judaism's oral law and its discussion by the rabbi’s of 200-
500 CE.
15 John 19,39; a Roman pound was the equivalent of about 0,33 kilogram
(, so Nicodemus
brought about 30 kilos of the extremely precious mixture.
16 Mark 10,20 John 3,2
17 Luke 18,18 Acts 23,8
18 Mark 10,20-21 John 3,10
19 Mark 14,12-16
20 R. Reich, Caiaphas name inscribed on bone boxes, Biblical Archeology Review 18/5 (1992)
21 John 3,2
feast in the temple, and that he even wanted to pay for the water he lent for that purpose.22
Jesus told Nicodemus in their first secret, nightly, conversation (John 3,1-21) that “unless one
is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” and that “The wind
blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or
whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit”23: in the Cenacle, at the Last
Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples with water, symbolizing the forgiveness of their
sins through Jesus’ sacrificial ministry, and later He blew the Holy Spirit on them, thus giving
them the power to forgive other men’s sins in His name.24 And Nicodemus, when he visited
Jesus secretly at night “first”25, may have told Jesus, that Jesus could visit him secretly at
night too, and that he had a large guest room Jesus could use with his disciples in case He
would need it, e.g. when Jesus’ time had come26 to be “lifted up” (i.e. condemned and hung
on the cross) by the successors of Moses (John 3,14-15). After all, Jesus had told Nicodemus
that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3,14-15), and He – who when
Passover was at hand “knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father”
(John 13,1) – lets his disciples tell the householder of the Cenacle: “The Teacher says, My
time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples”.27 And perhaps it is
not a coincidence that some ancient documents based on the work of the second century
author Tatian claim that Nicodemus had his private conversation with Jesus during his last
Passover in Jerusalem.28
(It is probable that Jesus in his discourse with Nicodemus, when referring to Moses lifting up the serpent, meant
that Nicodemus himself was to lift up the Son of Man, as Nicodemus was not only “a ruler of the Jews” and “the
teacher of Israel” (NKJV, ‘ho didaskalos tou israel’)29 and thus one of the “Pharisees [sitting] on Moses seat” of
whom Jesus said “practice and observe whatever they tell you”30, but, according to Acts 13,27-29, also one of
the “rulers” of Jerusalem who “fulfilled [the prophets] by condemning him”, and who “asked Pilate to have him
killed”, and “took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb”, for only Nicodemus assisted Joseph of
Arimatea at Jesus’ burial.31 Nicodemus may have consented in the condemnation of Jesus by the Great
Sanhedrin – of which he was a member as “a ruler” and “the teacher of Israel” – because Jesus Himself had let
him know “My time [to be lifted up] is at hand”. 32 The teacher Nicodemus had said to Jesus “we know that you
are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him”33, thus
indirectly asking Jesus whether He had come to take Nicodemus’ place as “the teacher of Israel” in the Great
22 John Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica,
Matthew – 1Corinth, Hendrickson Publishers, reprinted from the 1859 edition, on John 3,1
(Taanith, fol. 20.I Avoth R. Nathan, c.7). The title of this priestly functionary was “digger of
wells” (Lightfoot on John 3,1).
23 John 3,5.8
24 John 13,5; “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you
retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20,22-23).
25 “Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh
and aloes” John 19,39, ‘prōton’ = first (of all); at first. So here it could mean that Nicodemus
came to Jesus (secretely at night) first, and that Jesus came to Nicodemus (secretely at night)
later: at the night of the Last Supper. It also may mean that Nicodemus in the beginning had
come to Jesus secretly, but now, at the burial, came to (the dead) Jesus openly.
26 John states twice that “no one arrested him [Jesus], because his hour had not yet come”
(John 7,30 and John 8,20).
27 Matt 26,18
28 Ricciotti: 319
29 John 3,1.10
30 Matt 23,2-3
31 John 19,38-42; Also Joseph of Arimatea was a member of the Great Sanhedrin, and thus a
32 Matt 26,18
33 John 3,2
Sanhedrin, because Nicodemus himself could not do the signs that Jesus did. Jesus answers him by telling him
that Nicodemus “must be born anew”, “born of water and the Spirit”, but that the Son of man (=Jesus) Himself
“must … be lifted up” (to die on the cross) and was sent “not to condemn the world” (as a president/member of
the Great Sanhedrin could do), “but that the world might be saved through him” – He came “to give up his life as
a ransom for many”.34)
Secret disciples
A remarkable fact is that only John’s gospel mentions the existence of Nicodemus, and
reveals that he was a secret disciple, like Joseph of Arimatea was a secret disciple “for fear of
the Jews”, as John says (John 3,2 7,50 19,38-39). The fact that the doors of the Cenacle,
where the apostles stayed after Jesus’ crucifixion, were shut “for fear of the Jews”, again as
John says (John 20,19.26), may represent not (only) the apostles’ fear but (most of all)
Nicodemus’ fear that the apostles would be found in his upper room.
Also the beloved disciple, author of the Fourth Gospel, must have been a disciple of Jesus
secretly, for, when standing at Jesus’ cross, he is not interrogated or recognized as a disciple
by the high priests, scribes (experts in Holy Scripture) and elders, who were mocking Jesus on
the cross, nor by the soldiers there, of whom some probably were the same as the officers who
that night had arrested Jesus and had seen Simon Peter with Him in the garden Gethsemane,
and had interrogated Simon Peter – “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” John 18,26 –
and had recognized him as a disciple when he sat down with them by the fire in the high
priest’s courtyard.35
Of Nicodemus may also be deduced from the Talmud that at some point he lost his riches and
that his family was very impoverished36. The cause may have been that Nicodemus became a
public disciple of Jesus, and therefore was “put out of the synagogue” (John 12,42) and thus
out of his public function by the Jews. Also John Mark became a public disciple of Jesus
some time after Jesus’ resurrection, e.g. when he went to Antioch with Paul in about 44 CE
(Acts 12,25) (see table 2). From at least 54 CE he was the bishop of Alexandria in Egypt.37
And in the year 62 CE many rulers caused commotion by their apparent public belief in Jesus
as the Christ:
“But as many as believed did so on account of James.38 Therefore when many even of
the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees,
who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the
Christ” (Eusebius: 2,23,10).
34 John 3, – Mr 10,45
35 Matt 27,41-43 John 3,1-2 19,26.38-39; 18,15-27
36 Lightfoot on John 3,1 (Chetubb. fol. 66.2.)
37 Eus. 2,16 2,24 3,14,21 (for a time schedule see my article “The Elder and the Elect Lady –
Joseph ‘Peter’ and Mary in Rome”,
38 Again, this James is James the Just, “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1,19), and not the apostle
James of Zebedee.
John Mark Nicodemus Master of the Cenacle
is a very rich ruler is a very rich ruler of the Jews
addresses Jesus with Teacher addresses Jesus with Teacher is told on behalf of Jesus: “The
Teacher (Jesus) says ...”
believed in eternal life believed in eternal life, as he was a
asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life had heard that belief in Jesus gave
eternal life
(was taught and) had observed all the
commandments from his youth
was the teacher of Israel: taught the
commandments to Israel
wore a ‘sindōn’ (see below) wore a ‘sindōn’ (see below)
didn’t become a public disciple
was a secret disciple: he came to Jesus
by night
Jesus came to the Cenacle by night;
it had closed doors for fear of the
is loved by Jesus is protected by Jesus, who
preserved his anonymity as host of
the Cenacle
was responsible for the water for the
festive pilgrims
an anonymous young man (and not
a woman!) carried water to the
was told he had to be born anew from
water and Spirit
in the Cenacle Jesus washed his
disciples’ feet with water, and later
blew the Holy Spirit on them
was told that Jesus had to be lifted up
(when his time had come)
was told: “My time is at hand”
had his private conversation with Jesus
during his last Passover
was the host of Jesus during his last
brought more than 30 kilos of a precious
mixture of spices for Jesus’ burial
is an anonymous beneficiary of
Jesus in offering Him and his
disciples his Last Passover meal in
his house
became a public disciple lost his riches
Table 2. Similarities between the beloved disciple, Nicodemus and the householder of the Cenacle
3.2. Young man (‘neaniskos’)
The rich young ruler was a “young man” (‘neaniskos’ Matt 19,20.22) and in the Gospel of
Mark is a detail, which is not in the other gospels, which is that a young man, who followed
Jesus when He was arrested and carried along to the high priests, is seized by the officers, the
servants of the high priests, but escapes by leaving his linen cloth in their hands and fleeing
“And there followed him a certain young man (‘neaniskos’), having a linen cloth
(‘sindōn’- pronounced ‘sindone’) cast about his naked body; and the young men
(‘neaniskoi’) laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”
(Mark 14,51-52 AV)
Mark is the only evangelist who mentions this incident, and tradition says that Mark himself
was this fleeing young man.39 But, as the rich young man (‘neaniskos’), Mark may also have
been one of the young men (‘neaniskoi’) who carried Jesus along. And when Jesus was
39; This is also what 13th century Coptic
hagiography says (R. Allen, Mark 14,51-52 and Coptic Hagiography, Biblica Vol. 89 (2008)
brought to the high priest, according to the Gospel of John, also Simon Peter and another,
anonymous, disciple followed Him, and this disciple is described as “known to the high
“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known
to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus, while Peter
stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest,
went out and spoke to the maid who kept the door, and brought Peter in.” John 18,15-
16 (RSV)
So, beside the possibility that Mark knew the flight incident because he was himself the
fleeing young man or one of the young men who took Jesus to the high priest, Mark also
could have heard the story about the naked fleeing young man from Simon Peter or from the
anonymous disciple known to the high priest and standing at the gate. Or he was himself this
anonymous disciple.
This disciple, described by John as “the other disciple, who was known to the high priest”
next to Simon Peter, is generally regarded as the same as the anonymous beloved disciple,
because the next time John describes an anonymous disciple he writes: “the disciple whom he
loved, standing near” (John 19,26) and “Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom
Jesus loved” (John 20,2). But the fact that the anonymous disciple known to the high priest
could just walk into the courtyard of the high priest along with the officers of the high priests
without being questioned, proves that the woman at the gate and the officers knew him as
someone known to the high priest, but were completely ignorant of his discipleship of Jesus.40
So, he probably was a secret disciple, which is confirmed by the fact that also the evangelist
doesn’t reveal this disciple’s identity to the readers of his gospel. The two properties of this
specific anonymous disciple – his being known to the high priest and his secret discipleship –
are the exact characteristics of “Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but
secretly, for fear of the Jews” (John 19,38) and who was “a respected member of the council”
(Mark 15,43). This “council” is the Great Sanhedrin, which was presided over by the high
priest,41 and which consisted of priests, scribes and elders. Joseph of Arimatea was a
crafsman, an artisan in stone, for he laid the dead body of Jesus “in his own new tomb, which
he had hewn in the rock” (Matt 27,60). So, he was not not a scribe or temple priest but, as a
member of the Great Sanhedrin, an elder. And thus he may have been one of the “elders” who
were present when Jesus was seized in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, for there Jesus
spoke “to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against
him” (Lu 22,52). Joseph’s position of counsellor complies with the authority whereby he
overruled the door maid and let Simon Peter enter the high priest’s courtyard (John 18,15-16).
The fact that this anonymous secret disciple had the courage to let Simon Peter enter, also
complies with Joseph of Arimatea’s other courageous deeds: a) he “was a member of the
council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed”
concerning the elimination of Jesus (Luke 23,50-51) b) he “took courage and went to Pilate,
and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15,43) c) he personally buried Jesus’ body “in his
own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the
tomb, and departed” (Matt 27,60) (see table 3).
40 The still unrecognized Simon Peter, on the other hand, had to stay outside at the gate:
unlike the disciple, known to the high priest, he was a stranger to the door maid and the
temple servants. Only after he had entered the high priest’s courtyard, and had joined the
servants who were sitting in the warmth and the light of the fire, Simon was interrogated and
recognized as a disciple of Jesus (Luke 22,54-56).
41 Either the high priest Annas or Caiphas. Caiphas certainly was the president of the Council
of the Temple (see paragraph 4.1.2. for its description), which formed a distinct block within
the Great Sanhedrin.
anonymous disciple at high priest’s gate Joseph of Arimatea
is known to the high priest is known to the high priest, as he was a
member of the Great Sanhedrin, presided
over by the high priest
was a secret disciple was a secret disciple
is present at Jesus’ arrest is an elder, and elders were present at Jesus’
overrules doormaid of high priest is a ruler beside the high priest
is courageous:
- lets Simon Peter enter the high priest’s
is courageous:
- had not consented in the council’s decision
that Jesus had to die
- asked Pilate for Jesus’ dead body
- personally buried Jesus in his own grave,
just outside Jerusalem
Table 3. The anonymous disciple at the gate and Joseph of Arimatea
If the courageous deed, of allowing Simon Peter’s entry into the high priest’s courtyard by
using his own authority, had been performed by the evangelist, the beloved disciple, he
certainly would have written that it was the beloved disciple who did it. But he didn’t write
this, but he did, perhaps deliberately, allude to himself being “the other disciple, who was
known to the high priest” next to Simon Peter (John 18,16), by calling himself “the other
disciple, the one whom Jesus loved”, also next to Simon Peter, only a few paragraphs further
(John 20,2). This allusion was the nearest he could get to the courageous deeds of Joseph of
Arimatea. The positive deeds of his own, he could mention, were the lying at Jesus’ breast (at
home in secret) and the asking who would be Jesus’ traitor (only after Simon Peter had told
him to ask this), the standing at the foot of the cross (where also high priests, scribes and
elders like Joseph of Arimatea were present42), his telling Simon Peter that the man at the
shore of the Lake of Tiberias was the risen Jesus (without rushing to Jesus himself, but only
later following Simon Peter in the boat), and the attempt to follow the risen Jesus (only after
Simon Peter had started to follow Jesus).
So, the real identities of those present at Jesus’ arrest and at the cross probably were as
shown in the table below (see table 4). The fleeing young man was, as tradition says, John
Mark, the anonymous disciple at the gate, known to the high priest, was Joseph of Arimatea,
and the anonymous beloved disciple at the cross was John Mark. The apostle John of Zebedee
had fled Jesus at his arrest when “all foorsook Him, and fled” (Mark 14,50), and was hiding in
the Cenacle with “doors being shut” (John 20,19.26).
42 Matt 27,41-43
Table 4. Identities at arrest and grave
Another good reason – beside the argument from tradition and John’s (deliberately)
unclear and suggestive gospel recount – why it is probable that John Mark was the young man
who initially followed the band that had seized Jesus, and who was seized himself but fled
naked, is that this young man apparently had followed the captured Jesus with Simon Peter.
This is exactly what the beloved disciple did at least five other times, according to the Gospel
of John:
1) when “Peter … came out” and went to Jesus’ empty grave, he followed Peter, for he only
outran him later (John 20,3-4);
2) he entered the empty grave only after Simon had entered it (John 20,6-8);
3) when Simon Peter said he went fishing at the Sea of Tiberias (to be able to meet Jesus
there alone?), he and some others decided to go and accompany Simon Peter (John 21,3);
4) he went to Jesus at the shore of the lake only after Peter had gone to Him (John 21,1-7);
5) after Simon Peter had started to follow the risen Jesus, he too tried to follow Jesus (John
And also in his identity of John Mark, he is known as “a follower of Peter” (Clement in
Eusebius 2,15,1-2), e.g. right after Simon Peter had fled from Jerusalem to Antioch, John
Mark went to Antioch too (Acts 12,17-25). (Beside the following of (Peter and) Jesus, also
the running (to Jesus) is a characteristic of all of John Mark’s three anonymous identities: as
the rich young ruler he ran to Jesus, kneeled and called Him “Teacher”, as the young man in
the linen cloth he ran from the officers, but possibly in the direction of the city, where Jesus
was going, and as the beloved disciple he ran to Jesus’ grave, wondering whether it was
totally empty or not. There are no other running male disciples in the gospels.)
The beloved disciple had followed Jesus and Simon Peter and the other apostles from the
Cenacle (his home, and in his home dress, only an expensive linen cloth = ‘sindōn’) to the
Mount of Olives, and from there he followed Jesus and Simon Peter to the olive-yard
Gethsemane on this Mount, and then he even must have secretly followed Jesus from where
He left Simon Peter, James ánd John of Zebedee, to the place a little further where He fell
down and prayed in solitude: Mark’s gospel (Mark 14,35-36.39) cites this private prayer of
Jesus! It is important to note that, when Jesus, afther his prayer in agony, returned to his
apostles Simon Peter, and James and John of Zebedee, He found them sleeping (Mark 14,37-
40), and this happened twice. So these apostles certainly weren’t the source of information for
the citation of Jesus’ prayer in the Gethsemane, but it probably was John Mark, who was used
to following Jesus secretly. This is another reason why it is probable that John Mark again
secretly followed Jesus and Simon Peter to see what would happen to Jesus after He had been
arrested. Here is a figure showing the sixteen times John Mark, in this or one of his three
anonymous identities, followed Jesus and Simon Peter:
Fig. 2. John Mark “a follower of Peter” (Church Father Clement cited by Eusebius: 2,15,1-2)
Caught in fear
When John Mark was caught by the ‘hypēretai’ (= temple officers, temple attendants) who
arrested Jesus (John 18,3.12 NA27), obviously because they thought that the young man
following them was a disciple of Jesus, he fled naked, obviously because he did not want to
be treated as a disciple of Jesus, now captured and bound. And it is also obvious that, as the
ruler John Mark, just like Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus, was a well known and
respected person, he did not even want to be recognized by the ‘hypēretai’, for then they
would know or suspect he was a secret disciple of Jesus, since he hadn’t come to the Mount
of Olives with them, but most probably with Jesus. Nevertheless, after his flight he possibly
ran home naked, put on some cloths, ran to the high priest’s palace in Antonia - thus again
following Jesus and Simon Peter, who wanted “to see the end” (Matt 26,58) -, and stood there
beside Jesus, when the high priest Annas asked Him about “his disciples and his teaching”
(John 18,19). There Jesus pointed his finger to the ‘hypēretai’ standing by, who knew his
teaching from his discourses in the temple – He had said to them “Day after day I sat in the
temple teaching, and you did not seize me” (Matt 21,23 26,55) and “the officers (‘hypēretai’)
then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why did you not bring
him?" The officers (‘hypēretai’) answered, "No man ever spoke like this man!"” (John 7,45-
46) –, and He said to Annas “behold, they know what I said” (John 18,19-22). Perhaps the
rich young ruler, the beloved disciple, the fleeing young man, felt he himself, as a (secret)
disciple, was, or would soon be, pointed at by Jesus, as someone who knew what He said,
and, as he had just narrowly escaped from being caught as a disciple, still felt he had to shake
off every suspicion, and therefore was the “one of the officers (‘hypēretai’) standing by” who
“struck Jesus with the palm of his hand” saying “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
(John 18,22). For John Mark was himself a ‘hypēretēs’, as Acts 13,5 tells us, and therefore
probably still caught in his fear to be recognized by the other (lower) ‘hypēretai’ standing by,
as the disciple that escaped them in the darkness of the Garden, and now also fearing to be
betrayed by Jesus to the high priest as one of his secret disciples.
But although only Annas, Jesus and the ‘hypēretai’ were present, John could not help
reporting this incident in the Fourth Gospel.
4. John Mark an attendant (‘hypēretēs’)
In this chapter some possibilities for the specification of the Jewish office of the “ruler” John
Mark will be explored.
4.1. Lower officer of the temple prison
The servants of the high priests, who took Jesus in, are described by Mark as just “young
men” (‘neaniskoi’ Mark 14,43.52). But the Gospel of John clarifies that these young men
were “‘hypēretai’ (plural of ‘hypēretēs’) of the high priests (plural) and Pharisees”, and
“‘hypēretai’ of the Jews” (John 18,3.12): they were the ‘hypēretai’ who once were charged to
arrest Jesus, when He was teaching in the temple, but who initially didn’t do this because they
heard and respected his teachings, and said “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7,14-
37.45-469). Later, nevertheless, they were the ‘hypēretai’ at the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane
(John 18,3.12), and the ‘hypēretai’ sitting in the high priest’s courtyard at night (Matt 26,58
Mark 14,54 John 18,18). After Jesus’ face had been slapped when Annas asked Him about his
disciples and doctrine (John 18,22), the ‘hypēretai’ struck and mocked Jesus in prison at night
(Mark 14,65 Matt 26,67-68), and the next day, at midday, the ‘hypēretai’ called out to Pilate
for Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19,6). These ‘hypēretai’ were under command of one or more
captains of the temple who kept order in the temple. In the New Testament there are captains
of the temple, also sitting in the high priest’s courtyard (Luke 22,52.55), the Captain of the
Temple with ‘hypēretai’ taking action in the temple, arresting disturbers (Acts 5,24.26 (4,1)),
and Judas conferring with the high priests and captains of the temple about how to betray
Jesus to them (Luke 22,4). So, the ‘hypēretai’ were servants of the temple, officers in public
service, who had to restore order when it had been violated.
Their barracks – the barracks of the temple prison – were part of the temple’s tower-
fortress Antonia, where also the barracks of the ordinary temple guard (which had to prevent
disorder and theft), the city guard, and the Roman guard were located (Josephus: War 5,5,8).
Antonia was the most secured place of the city and thus the best place to keep prisoners, and
its gate was called the “Watch Gate” (Madaule: 46, “Tor der Wache”), which is an equivalent
of “Prison Gate”, as in Ne 12,39 both names translate ‘shah-ar’ = gate, ‘mattara’ = a jail, as a
guard house (D.V. translation resp. AV translation). In Acts 5,18 the temple prison is called
“the public prison” (NIV), ‘in full view of all’ (‘dēmosia’ Acts 5,18 NA27 = public, in public
places, in full view of all), for the Watch Gate of the temple, opening onto the Tyropoeon
valley, in which the market place was located, was used by the citizens of Jerusalem to come
and go to the temple; thus the offenders of the temple order, who were kept in the public
prison in this gate, were subjected to the scorn and ridicule of all (see fig. 4). This is
illustrated by the fact that, when the apostles were imprisoned and beaten for preaching Jesus’
name in the temple, they were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for
the name” (Acts 5,17-42): their imprisonment and corporal punishment were visible to all
Jerusalem’s inhabitants.
[The temple prison in the first temple was in the “the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD”: this
was the northern temple gate in which Jeremiah was beaten and put in the stocks for a day and a night, after he
had prophecied in the temple (Jer 19,14 20,2-3). The Catholic Encyclopedia states that ‘Benjamin’ was “The
name of the northern gate of the Temple, where Jeremias was imprisoned (Jer.,xx,2; xxxviii,7,14), probably the
same as "watch-gate" (II Esdras, xii,38 [Ne 12,39]) and as the one spoken of in Jeremiah (viii, 3,5,16; ix,2)”. In
the second temple (of Nehemiah) the prison will have been in “the Prison Gate” (Neh 12,39 AV), which was also
in the northern temple/city wall and also called the “Watch Gate” (D.V. translation) and “Gate of the Guard”, the
third translation of ‘shah-ar’ ‘mattara’ (NASB, RSV, ASV, HNV). In Herod’s temple, which was the same as the
second temple, but extended into the northern direction, there was a “Watch Gate” as well (Madaule: 46, “Tor
der Wache”). This gate, which probably housed the prison just as in the times of Jeremiah and Nehemiah, was in
the northern part of the western wall of the Temple Mount at the foot of the fortress Antonia, in which the
ordinary temple guards were stationed as well. Here Simon Peter and John of Zebedee were being detained from
the evening to the next day and later all the apostles were detained here for part of the evening and night and
beaten the next day (Acts 4,3 5,18-19.25.40).]
That the high priest’s palace and courtyard, to which Jesus was brought, were part of the
temple fortress Antonia as well, and not in Caiphas’ private house in the upper city (see fig.
1), can be made plausible from Josephus’ description of Antonia – Josephus being a first
century historian – and from the number of high priests who have lived in the temple fortress,
and it can be proved from Simon Peter’s movements in the night when Jesus was arrested.
[Josephus describes Antonia as a building that looked like a fortress from the outside, but was like a palace
inside: “a palace, it being parted into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for
bathing, and broad spaces for camps” (Safrai: 984; Josephus: War 5,238-45). Historically several high priests
before Caiphas, and probably also after him, have lived in the temple and in the temple fortress (Hilkiah and
Jehoiada (2Kings 22,3-5 2Chron 22,11-12), Simon the Maccabean, and Hyrcanus, and “his sons and … their
sons after them”, e.g. Aristobulus I, and his widow queen Salome Alexandra, and Hyrcanus II (1Macc 13,52;
Josephus: Antiquities 18,4,3), and probably also Jesus ben Gamala in ± 64 CE (Josephus: Antiquities 20,9,4; this
Jesus’ wife Martha demanded that a carpet was laid before her feet when she went to (the sanctuary of) the
temple (Rops: 191)). Also Edersheim (ch. 4, p. 65) states that the high priest possessed a house in the temple.
And it is important to note that not only the prison’s ‘hypēretai’, but also the ordinary captains of the temple
were sitting in the high priest’s courtyard after Jesus had been brought in there (Luke 22,52-55). They even lit a
fire there, as if they were at home (Luke 22,52.55 John 18,18). So, the high priest’s courtyard apparently was
shared by and accessible to both the prison guards and the ordinary temple guards. And as the ‘hypēretai’ were
sitting “below” by the fire in the high priest’s courtyard in the night when they had taken in Jesus (Mark 14,66
John 18,18), the high priest’s palace may very well have been in one of the upper floors of Antonia. Moreover,
the chambers where the high priest and the standing Council of the Temple43 used to gather, were inside the
sanctuary, in the south western corner of the Court of the Priests, and were only accessible during day-time, and
then only by priests and Levites (Edersheim: ch. 4 and 2). So, these chambers could not be used when Jesus was
brought in. It is probable that in the night when the ‘hypēretai’ were sent to arrest Jesus on the Mount of Olives,
Annas and Caiphas were both waiting for Jesus’ arrival in Caiphas’ palace in Antonia, for then Matthew 26,57,
which says that the ‘hypēretai’ brought Jesus “to Caiphas” (i.e. to Caiphas’ palace in Antonia), does not
contradict John 18,13, which says Jesus was brought “to Annas first”, and then sent to Caiphas (John 18,24).
That the high priest’s palace and courtyard were not far from the prison and the barracks of the ‘hypēretai’ in the
western temple gate, the Watch Gate, and that they even were in the same building, is proved by Simon Peter’s
43 See paragraph 4.3. for its description.
movements in this night (see fig. 4 and table 5). Peter had entered the high priest’s courtyard through the porch
just like Jesus, and even after Jesus had been brought from Annas to Caiphas, Peter just needed to have walked
“out into the porch” to be able to see Jesus turn and look at him; only after that Peter “went out”. 44 This proves
that Annas and Caiphas saw Jesus in the same building. But when and where did Peter see Jesus turn and look at
him? Scripture says that Jesus turned and looked at Peter at the moment when Peter, while standing in the porch,
denied Jesus for the third time and the cock crew. For Peter to be able to see Jesus, one usually imagines Jesus
as, very coincidentally, being led across the high priest’s courtyard at that particular moment (to be brought to
the prison, in order to be ready for the examination by the Great Sanhedrin, which took place in the temple’s
court room the next morning). But at Peter’s third denial Jesus was not being led in the direction of the porch,
where Peter was, for Jesus had to turn to be able to look at Peter in the porch. This proves that Jesus still wasn’t
leaving the building and that also the prison thus was in the same building.45 So, the eye-contact in the usual
reconstruction described above, would have to have been even briefer and more coincidental, for right after Peter
denied Jesus, Jesus must not only have crossed Peter’s sight from the porch, but Peter must also have looked in
that direction (as if he knew Jesus was there), like also Jesus must have known that Peter was in the porch, to be
able to turn and look at him. All of this just seems too coincidental. The following reconstruction is a more
plausible explanation of Peter’s looking at Jesus: While Jesus is interrogated by Annas inside Caiphas’ palace in
Antonia, Peter is interrogated in the courtyard by one of the maids. After his first denial of Jesus Peter goes “out
into the porch”, the porch of the Watch Gate at the foot of Antonia. While Jesus is interrogated by Caiphas and
the Council of the Temple46, by this time assembled in Caiphas’ palace, Peter gets interrogated for the second
time as well, by another maid, and he denies Jesus again. But he keeps waiting in the porch, as he wanted “to see
the end”.47 “After an interval of about … an hour” another man interrogates Peter and after his third denial of
Jesus the cock crows for the second time, and then “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22,59-61): after
the Council of the Temple had condemned Jesus to death, He had been taken to and locked up in Antonia’s
“public prison”, which was in the same building and also ‘in full view of all’ in the Watch Gate, where Peter was
still waiting to see the end. So, here in the Watch Gate, after Peter and Jesus had already seen and recognized
each other, and after the cock crew, Peter saw how Jesus turned and looked at him from the prison, and he “went
out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22,62).48 Then the “men who held Jesus” – Mark 14,65 specifies they were
‘hypēretai’ – “mocked Him and beat Him” (Luke 22,63). This is something the ‘hypēretai’, as officers of the
public temple prison, would and could do in the temple prison.
In the upper city on the western hill of Jerusalem archaeologists found the so-called “house of Caiphas”, with
a store-house, treasury, palace, court of justice, guardroom and cells, complete sets of weights and measures,
used only by priests, and a huge stone door-lintel inscribed: 'This is Korban or offering'; “In the very centre of
the courtroom is the mouth of the bottle-necked prison, into which the condemned prisoner could be lowered
after trial” and also the other prisoners were in the gloom of the lower floor beneath the courtroom: “Descending
to a third level there is a complete guardroom, all round the walls of which are still the staples for the prisoners’
chains. On one side is a small window opening on to the bottle-necked condemned cell. Below this window, …,
is a block on which the guard stood to peer down into the gloom of the cell below him” (Brownrigg: 26). This
again proves that Jesus was in the public prison of Antonia, for if Jesus had been trialled by Caiphas in his
private house in the upper city, He would have been in a dark cell under the courtroom, and thus would not have
been visible to Simon Peter. And the temple’s ‘hypēretai’ certainly wouldn’t have lowered themselves into
Caiphas’ dark pit cell to mock and beat Jesus there.]
44 Mark 14,68//Matt 26,71 (AV); Luke 22,61; Matt 26,75//Luke 22,62
45 It is improbable that Jesus had already passed Peter in the porch (of Caiphas’ private house in the upper city)
and was leaving the building when He turned and looked at Peter when Peter denied Jesus, for then Peter would
have seen Jesus approaching the porch and would have understood that Jesus was being led out of the building,
and thus would have gone outside, out of the porch, immediately, to be able to follow Jesus and the ‘hypēretai’
secretly when they were outside the building, leading Him to some other place. He would not have waited until
Jesus had passed him in the porch and have let a servant interrogate him about Jesus then.
46 This priestly council will be described in paragraph 4.3.
47 Matt 26,58
48 Matt 26,75 Luke 22,62
Table 5. The Council of the Temple and the porch and prison of the Watch Gate
John 18
Luke 22 Mark 14 Matt 26 conclusions
13 to Annas 54 into the high
priest’s house
53 to the
high priest
57 to Caiaphas the
high priest
(indicating the
place, not the man)
Annas and Caiaphas both
waited for Jesus in Caiphas’
house in Antonia and
Jesus went to Annas first
15 entered the
‘aule’ (courtyard)
of the high priest
55 in the middle
of the ‘aule’
54 into the
‘aule’ of
the high
66 And as Peter
was below in the
58 Peter into the
high priest’s ‘aule’
“to see the end”
69 Now Peter
was sitting
outside in the
Peter into the ‘aule’ on the
ground level of the Antonia
tower and adjoining the Watch
17 maid 56-57 maid 66-68 one of the
69-70 maid first question and denial
68 Peter went
out into the
porch (‘pro-
(cock crowed)
71 Peter gone
out into the
Peter out of the ‘aule’ into the
porch (‘pro-aule’) of the Watch
(cock crowed)
24 Jesus to
55 the
59 the whole
Annas sends Jesus to Caiphas
and the Council of the Temple
25 they 58 someone else 69-70 maid 71-72 maid second question and denial
59 after an
interval of about
an hour
70 after a little
When the meeting of the
Council of the Temple had
26-27 servant 59-60 still
70-71 the
73-74 they third question and denial
27 cock crowed 60 cock crowed 72 second .. cock
74 cock
cock crowed
(second time)
61 the Lord
turned and
looked at Peter
Jesus in public temple prison
(‘in view of all’)
in the Watch Gate, where Peter
63-65 the men
who were
holding Jesus …,
beat him
65 the guards
received him
with blows
67-68 some
slapped him
the ‘hypēretai’ in the temple
prison in the Watch Gate
day, the elders of
the people
15,1 morning,
whole council
27,1 morning,
elders of the
In the morning Jesus was led
before the Great Sanhedrin
28 from Caiaphas
to the praetorium,
early, 29 Pilate
23,1 before
15,1 to Pilate 27,2 to Pilate To Pilate
And also Pilate probably had a (military) office in Antonia, as was the traditional opinion for
many centuries, for in this fortress also the Roman guard was stationed49, and the place where
Pilate condemned Jesus and washed his hands in front of the crowd resembles the place of the
temple (the ‘pterugion’) where some other authorities stood and/or spoke to the crowd.
[Razis: When Nicanor’s 500 Syrian soldiers set fire to the doors of the courtyard of the temple fortress, Razis,
“the father of the Jews” (2Macc 14,37), tried to kill himself by the sword in (his office in) the temple fortress,
and then ran up on the wall and threw himself down from this (temple) wall and fell on the ground, but survived
this fall.
“When the troops were about to capture the tower and were forcing the door of the courtyard, they
ordered that fire be brought and the doors burned. Being surrounded, Razis fell upon his own sword, …
But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly, and the crowd was now rushing in through the
doors. He bravely ran up on the wall, and manfully threw himself down into the crowd. But as they
quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. Still alive and aflame
with anger, he rose …” (2Macc 14,37-46)
James the Just: He was thrown down from the ‘pterugion’ (= literally: a little wing, figuratively: any pointed
extremity, a battlement (New American Standard Greek lexicon)) of the temple by the priests who ran up to him,
when he spoke with authority to the crowd in and around the temple on the Feast of Passover, as the high priests
had asked him to do (addressing him: Oh, just one, to whom we all owe obedience). Also James survived this
fall (Eus: 2,23,10-12.14-16).
“Therefore stand on the battlement (‘pterugion’) of the temple that you may be clearly visible on high,
and that your words may be audible to all the people, for because of the Passover all the tribes, with the
Gentiles also, have come together.’ So the Scribes and Pharisees mentioned before made James stand on
the battlement (‘pterugion’) of the temple, and they cried out to him and said, ‘Oh, just one, to whom
49 Josephus: War 5,5,8 (234-245)
we all owe obedience, since the people are straying after Jesus who was crucified, tell us what is the
gate of Jesus?’ (Eusebius 2,23,11-12, translation of Lake: 173)
Jesus: The devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the ‘pterugion’ of the temple and to survive this fall
(Matt 4,5 Lu 4,9) (to show his authority by the place where He stood, and to show his invincibility by surviving
the fall, like the most respected Raxis and James both did).
“Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people; and when there was a great hush, he
spoke to them in the Hebrew language … (And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew
language, they were the more quiet)”.
Paul spoke from the top of the stairs that led from the Court of the Gentiles to Antonia, after “the tribune of the
cohort” (‘chiliarchos’ = the Roman military tribunal50) had rescued him from the crowd that had thrown him out
of the sanctuary and had tried to kill him in the Court of the Gentiles (Acts 21,40 22,2).
Before this happened, Paul “went in” to James (Acts 21,17-18). The manuscripts of this verse use the Greek verb
‘eiseimi’ (NA27) for “went in”, which indeed means: ‘to go in, enter’, but is used only four times in the New
Testament: three times in Acts of the Apostles and once in the epistle to the Hebrews.51 In these four cases it is
used solely for the entering of the inner courts of the temple. After the verses cited above (Paul “went in with us
to James”) the verb appears again six verses further: “Paul … the next day purifying himself with them entered
(a form of ‘eiseimi’) into the temple” (AV).52 The third case is about the lame man who, when he saw “Peter and
John about to go into the temple” asked for alms, and the fourth time it is about the priests who “went always
into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God” (AV).53 As the lame man sat at the Beautiful Gate,
which opened on the inner Court of the Women, and as the priests entered the “first tabernacle”, which in
Herod’s temple were the inner courts, the conclusion is that James and Paul will also have been in one of the
inner courts of the temple.54 This is confirmed by the following:
“Then Paul took the men (the men ‘under a vow’ = Nazarites), and the next day purifying himself with
them entered (a form of ‘eiseimi’) into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of
purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them”55
The office where this signifying of Nazarites had to be done was in the sanctuary, viz. in the inner Court of the
Women, in the chamber of the Nazarites (see fig. 5). So, here “the temple” means the sanctuary, as in the
following vicissitudes of Paul:
“When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple,
stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, crying out, "… This is the man who … also brought
Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place." For they had previously seen Trophimus the
Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then …
they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were
trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort … He at once took soldiers and centurions,
and ran down to them; … and arrested him [Paul] … he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.
And when he [Paul] came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of
the crowd; … As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "May I say
something to you?" And he said, "Do you know Greek? … Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in
Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; I beg you, let me speak to the people." And when he had given him
leave, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people; and when there was a great
hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language … .”56
Also here “the temple” must mean the sanctuary (i.e. the inner courts), for every Greek, and thus also
Trophimus, was allowed to enter the Court of the Gentiles (a Gentile = a not-Jew) but was forbidden on pain of
death to enter the sanctuary. So, Paul was dragged out of the sanctuary into the Court of the Gentiles, and the
Roman military tribunal took him from this public court to the steps leading to Antonia, where Paul spoke to the
Pilate: He sat on his judgement seat on the sixth hour (= at midday) on the day of preparation of Passover on
‘Lithostrōtos’ (= Pavement, mosaic), in Hebrew ‘Gabbata’ (= ‘elevated’ or ‘platform’; the Syrian and Persian
versions read Gaphiphtha, which signifies a fence or enclosure, from the Aramaic ‘gab’ =
bulwarks/breastworks/battlement). Here he executed judgement on Jesus and washed his hands in front of the
crowd (which stood in the Court of the Gentiles of the temple and possibly in the Tyropoeon valley, see fig.4)
and here the words “Behold the Man!” (“Ecce Homo”) were spoken (Mt 27,19.24 John 19,13 John 19,5).
50 Online Bible Greek Lexicon 5506
51 Acts 3,3 21,18 21,26 Heb 9,6 (Strongs 1524); The other verb for ‘to enter’ (‘eiserchomai’)
is used 198 times in the N.T.
52 Acts 21,26 NA27
53 Acts 3,3 Heb 9,6 NA27
54 Acts 3,2; see fig. 3.
55 Acts 21,23-24.26
56 Acts 21,27-40
The place Gabbata, as can be deduced from the meanings of the names, probably was an elevated paved
platform, enclosed with a fence or battlement (cf. “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a
battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.” De 22,8 AV),
and probably fit with a pointed extremity (the ‘pterugion’, also translated as ‘battlement’): a kind of pointed
fenced balcony, from where one could speak to and be seen by the crowds in the temple courts. It was probably
near the top of the stairs that led the priests who threw down James the Just, and the Roman tribunal who rescued
Paul, from the Court of the Gentiles to the top of the temple wall and to Gabbata. So the platform was, most
probably, on one of the upper floors of Antonia, at its south-eastern corner (see fig. 4). Concerning Gabbata it is
said that “For centuries it was thought that the imprisonment and trial of Jesus took place in the Antonia
fortress”57. Today some theories say that Gabbata was in the palace of Herod in the upper city (see fig. 1).58
These theories refer to Josephus, War 2,14,8:
“Now at this time Florus took up his quarters at the palace; and on the next day he had his tribunal set
before it, and sat upon it, when the high priests, and the men of power, and those of the greatest
eminence in the city, came all before that tribunal; upon which Florus commanded them to deliver up to
him those that had reproached him, …”.
But as the procurator Florus took up his quarters in Herod’s palace in 64/65 CE, and as this was well after the
years 30-33 CE of Jesus and Pilate, the procurator Pilate may still have had his quarters and tribunal in Antonia.
That Pilate and Jesus were in Antonia, facing the crowds in the temple courts, is confirmed by the fact that the
‘hypēretai’, whose working terrain was the temple59, were able to call out to Pilate for Jesus’ crucifixion at
midday (John 19,6).]
Now, suddenly, it is very significant that John Mark himself is not only a ‘neaniskos’, just as
the prison officers, but is also called a ‘hypēretēs’ in Acts 13,5:
“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their
mission, bringing with them John whose other name was Mark. … And when they
were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and
they had also John to their minister (‘hypēretēs’).” Acts 12,25 13,5 (AV NA27)
The papyrologist and professor of early Christian history Carsten Peter Thiede said the
following about it:
"Mark was the helper or assistant of Barnabas and Paul. But this is not what the Greek
text says. It uses the word 'hypēretēs', which may indeed mean assistant or helper. But
Luke uses it to read thus: ‘They had with them John, the ‘hypēretēs'’. Hypēretēs is an
attribute given to Mark himself, in his own right, not in relation to Paul and Barnabas.
What then does it mean?"60
The Jews used the word ‘hypēretēs’ (literally ‘under-rower’) to signify an assistant, a helper,
in a public hierarchical ministry. As shown above, a lower officer of the temple prison was a
‘hypēretēs’61, but not every ‘hypēretēs’ was necessarily an officer of the temple prison. There
were other public offices in the temple, with the title ‘hypēretēs’ attached to them.
57 Harris: 147-148
58 e.g. Harris: 147-148, and a theory in the article of the Jewish Encyclopedia on Gabbatha
59 When they arrested Jesus on behalf of the Council of the Temple and the scribes and elders,
they were accompanied by a band of soldiers (‘speira’ John 18,3.12), probably because the
Mount of Olives did not belong to the ‘hypēretai’s proper working terrain.
60 Thiede: 50
61 Luke 22,52 Acts 5,26; Verreth: 125
4.2. Sacristan of the temple synagogue
Thiede explains the term ‘hypēretēs’ for John Mark in Acts 13,5 with the verse Luke 1,2, in
which is spoken of “ministers of the Word” (‘hypēretai tou logou’), and assumes that Mark
was considered a minister of the Word of God because he would already have put in writing
the Gospel of Mark. But maybe Mark, even before writing this gospel, had already been a
servant of the Word in his daily office: as a servant of the Word of God of the Old Testament.
Mark may have been a paid employee of one of the synagogues of the temple: a sacristan, as
there also was a sacristan (the Greek text says ‘hypēretēs’ NA27) in the synagogue of
Nazareth, who handed the book of Isaiah to Jesus and received it back (Luke 4,20), and as in
the Jewish settlements under king Antiochus III the Greek word ‘hypēretēs’ was the
equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘hazzan’, indicating the sacristan of a synagogue: ‘hazzanim’
were the paid employees of the community and synagogue, as religious functionaries out of
the Hebrew tribe of Levi62.
John Mark is mentioned as just one of Paul’s fellow travellers, when the departure of Paul and
Barnabas from Jerusalem is described63, but he is titled ‘hypēretēs’ at the very moment when
is described that Paul and Barnabas preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.
At this moment a ‘hypēretēs’ of the type with good knowledge of the books of the Bible and
the procedure in a synagogue – a sacristan – was very useful indeed64. If the ‘hypēretēs’ Mark
had the office of sacristan of the main temple synagogue – Jews used the Greek translation of
the Hebrew Bible, called the Septuagint, in worship and religious study until the second
century CE –, this would comply with his literary knowledge which allowed him to write the
Gospel of Mark (and John) in Greek: he would not have been an ordinary soldier of the
temple prison, who probably weren’t literate. Also the fact that the rich young man was a
ruler (‘archōn’), excludes that he was an ordinary soldier.
But his being a ruler also seems to exclude that he (still) was an ordinary sacristan. It is
possible that, after having been a paid sacristan, he became the ruler (‘archōn’) of one of the
temple synagogues, like Jairus was the ruler (‘archōn’) of a synagogue in Galilee65. But the
ruler of a synagogue, who ministered in this office gratis, would not have remained a paid
‘hypēretēs’ as well. And John Mark, as the young ruler, was both a ‘hypēretēs’ and a ruler,
and he was rich. So, John Mark probably had, or had been promoted to, still another function
with the title ‘hypēretēs’.
4.3. Secretary of the Council of the Temple
An indicative fact is that the anonymous evangelist knew the officers of the temple prison
very well, for he knows it was the officer Malchus, whose ear had been cut off by Simon
Peter and healed by Jesus in Gethsemane, and he even knows it was his right ear, and also
knows that it was Malchus’ relative who had seen Simon Peter in the garden of Gethsemane
and who interrogated him in the high priest’s courtyard66. And he is the only evangelist to
62 Josephus, Ant. 4,214 13,67; Epiphanius, Haer. 30,11; Safrai: 469-470. Levi was the name
of one of the twelve sons of Jacob (= Israel), son of Isaac, son of Abraham.
63 Acts 12,25
64 Acts 13,5; cf. 2Tim 4,11; Jesus made Paul his ‘hypēretēs’, and Paul called himself one of
the “ministers (‘hypēretai’) of Christ (‘christos’ = the anointed) and stewards of the mysteries
of God” (Acts 26,16 1Cor 4,1) (Likewise John Mark was a ‘hypēretēs’ of the anointed high
priest Caiphas).
65 “a ruler (‘archōn’) of the synagogue” Luke 8,41 NA27 ; John 18,10 Luke 20,50-51
66 John 18,10.26
write that ‘hypēretai’ of the high priests were in the band of soldiers that arrested Jesus, and
also among the persons calling out for his crucifixion67.
A possibility is that John Mark, for instance after having been the sacristan and/or ruler of a
temple synagogue – where on feast days the high priest and the representatives of the
Israelites gathered for the reading of the Torah68 – became a servant of the spoken and written
word of the high priest as the secretary (‘grammateus’ cf. LXX 2Sa 8,17 Neh 13,13) of the
Council of the Temple, which was presided over by the high priest. This standing council
consisted of ruling temple priests, such as treasurers, administrators and the like, and it
regulated in detail everything connected with the affairs and services of the sanctuary and it
was a court that rendered legal decisions affecting the priesthood; its members were also
called “the elders of the priests” and “the councillors”69. Maybe John Mark was also the
secretary of the Great Sanhedrin, which functioned as the court for criminal affairs and in
other instances as the court for religious and civil affairs. The Great Sanhedrin consisted of
priests, scribes (‘grammateus’ in the sense of biblical scholar70) and elders of the people, of
whom many were Pharisees; and the priestly Council of the Temple formed a distinctive
block within the Great Sanhedrin71. John Mark certainly was a man of letters, for he was able
to write the Gospel of Mark in Greek. And perhaps it is not mere coincidence that very near to
the Cenacle was the so-called “house of Caiphas” (see fig. 1).72
In Josephus’ description of how Moses gave the constitution of government to the assembled
people, is the following:
“Let there be seven men to judge in every city, and these such as have been
before most zealous in the exercise of virtue and righteousness. Let every judge
have two officers (‘hypēretai’) allotted him out of the tribe of Levi.” (Josephus:
Antiquities 4,8,14)73
Also the judge who is mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, had
a ‘hypēretēs’ as his officer.74 In local communities it was common for the tribunals to sit in
the synagogue and also public meetings could be held there75. In these cases the sacristan of
the synagogue was the secretary of the judges and of the community as well76. In the temple,
however, the Council of the Temple gathered in a courtroom in the Court of the Priests, which
was only accessible for priests and Levites, and the Great Sanhedrin gathered in the Hall of
Hewn Stones in the Court of the Israelites (see fig. 5), and thus not in the temple’s synagogue.
So, a temple sacristan could not easily have both functions. John Mark was most probably of
67 John 18,3 19,6
68 Safrai: 904-05
69 Mishnah Shekalim 5 and Tamid, Lightfoot: ch. 4, p. 70, Edersheim: ch. 4, p. 70, Safrai:
602, 874
70 The Online Bible Greek Lexicon 1122 gives these three meanings for ‘grammateus’ in the
Bible: 1) secretary 2) Scriptural scholar 3) religious teacher. Strong’s concordance 1122 gives
only the general meaning: ‘a writer, i.e. (professionally) scribe or secretary:— scribe, town-
71 Safrai: 602
72 The site of his house is reported by the famous “Pilgrim of Bordeaux”, who wrote the book
“Itinary” (“Itinerarium Burdigalense”) about his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 333 CE (text: 10Bord07bJerus.html; map of sites of Cenacle
and House of Caiphas: L. Grollenberg: map 4).
73 Safrai: 470, note 5: “two uphre´tai of the tribe of Levi”
74 Matt 5,25 NA27
75 Safrai: 942-43
76 Safrai: 935-36.
a Levitical family and probably even a priest (see next paragraph), so he could enter the
courtroom of the Council of the Temple, and be its secretary.
Futhermore, as the evangelist of the Gospel of John, he was able to cite in his gospel the
very words that Caiphas spoke about Jesus in the meeting of the high priests and Pharisees:
that He would have to die for the people.
“So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council […] But one of them,
Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you
do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people,
and that the whole nation should not perish."” John 11,47.49-50 (RSV)
This could mean that the evangelist was personally present when these words were spoken77.
Now it is important to note, that this plan of Caiphas must have leaked towards Jesus in some
way, because right after Caiphas had taken this decision, but still before the command was
given that anyone who knew Jesus’ place of abode had to betray this to the chief priests and
Pharisees, Jesus “therefore” – because of only this decision – already walked no more openly
among the Jews but went into a city called Ephraim78. The secretary of the council, as the
secret beloved disciple of Jesus, could have been the start of this information leak towards
This plot resembles and is pre-imaged by the spy work of Hushai (king David’s secret friend
at the court of king Absalom, where he was a counsellor), whose message to David made
David flee unto the desert.79
“And when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to
Absalom, "Long live the king! Long live the king!" … Then Hushai said to Zadok and
Abiathar the priests, "Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of
Israel; and thus and thus have I counselled. Now therefore send quickly and tell David,
‘Do not lodge tonight at the fords of the wilderness, but by all means pass over; lest
the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up.’"” 2Sa 16,16 17,15-16
Absalom’s counsellor Ahithophel gave Absalom the advice to kill only the weary and
discouraged David, and none of the people with him, in order to let “all the people … be at
peace”, and this also resembles and pre-images how only Jesus, in his sorrow and agony, was
arrested on the Mount of Olives, to “die for the people” – as Caiphas said –, and how all his
disciples fled:
“Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, "Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I
will set out and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and
discouraged, and throw him into a panic; and all the people who are with him will flee.
I will strike down the king only, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride
comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will
be at peace."” 2Sam 17,1-3
“And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,
"Sit here, while I pray." And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to
be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful,
77 This first “council” (John 11,47 ‘sunedrion’ NA27) that was gathered by the chief priests
and Pharisees to discuss the case ‘Jesus’, was not the Council of the Temple, whose members
were all priests. But the Council of the Temple did form a distinct block in the Great
Sanhedrin (Safrai: 602).
78 John 11,53-57
79 2Sam 16,16-19 17,1-21
even to death; remain here, and watch." …. And … Judas came, one of the twelve, and
with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the
elders. … And they laid hands on him and seized him. … And they all forsook him,
and fled.” Mark 14,32-50
Note that the apostle Judas Iscariot went to deliver Jesus to the high priest precisely and
probably deliberately when John Mark was reclining at the breast of Jesus, and thus could not
warn Him (John 13,18-30). And the temple money was not kept by the secretary, but by other
high priests: the two ‘katholikin’ (chief treasurers) and the three ‘gizbarin’ (under-
treasurers).80 Nevertheless, John Mark had heard from Caiphas that Jesus would die for the
people (John 11,51 18,14), and he may finally have agreed because Jesus had already said that
He had to be rejected by the high priests and be killed as fulfilment of the prophets (Luke 9,22
18,31-33), and that He had come to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10,54). At the
Last Supper Jesus said: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him” and to Judas:
“What you are about to do, do quickly” (Mark 14,21 John 13,27). After the arrest, in the
nightly meeting at Caiphas’, “They all condemned him as worthy of death” (only Mark
The text of the Gospel of Mark also describes the exact words and events of Jesus’ trial before
Caiphas and the Council of the Temple at night (“council” Matt 26,59 Mark 14,55), which for
this occasion had assembled in the palace of Caiphas and in which also “scribes”
(‘grammateis’: here having to mean ‘secretaries’) but no elders of the people were present,
and thus was not the Great Sanhedrin.81 So, the source of information for Mark’s text almost
must have been John Mark himself, as the secretary who had personally written down the
records of this nightly high priestly council. His being the secretary of Caiphas and the
Council of the Temple would explain very well how John Mark knew by name the ‘hypēretai’
of the temple prison, stationed in the courtyard of Caiphas’ palace and charged to take in
offenders of the temple order. Edersheim says about the Council of the Temple that “this
judicatory, which ordinarily did not busy itself with criminal questions, apparently took a
leading part in the condemnation of Jesus”.82 But it was legal to bring Jesus before the
Council of the Temple – which in certain cases acted as a court of justice with the power to
inflict corporal punishments (Acts 5,40 and Tosefta Menahot 13,21)83 and even the death
penalty84 –, because Jesus had violently removed the sellers of sacrificial oxen and sheep and
80 Edersheim: ch. 4, p. 70
81 Mark 14,53-65 Matt 26,57-68 (NA27); a scribe, in the sense of an expert in Holy Scripture,
could not be a member of the strictly priestly Council of the Temple, unless he was a (high)
priest too. Matt 26,57 does speak of “the elders”, but these are probably the elders of the
priests (as “the elders” in Acts 6,10-12 7,1), for only the next morning there are “elders of the
people” (Matt 27,1; cf. “elders of Israel” Acts 4,5-6.8 5,21.27-28 (AV)).
82 Edersheim: ch. 4, p. 70
83 “Woe is me because of the House of Boethus. Woe is me because of their staves. Woe is
me because of the house of Qadros. Woe is me because of their pen. Woe is me because of the
house of Elhanan. Woe is me because of their whispering. Woe is me because of the house of
Ismael ben Phiabi. For they are high priests, and their sons, treasurers, and their sons-in-law,
supervisors, and their servants come and beat us with staves” (Tosefta Menahot 13,21
Neusner: Tosefta 1467-1468). Boethus, Qadros, Elhanan, and Ismael ben Phiabi are the
names of high priests and their high priestly dynasties.
84 E.g. on Gentiles (= not-Jews) who entered the temple’s inner courts: “Quite lately, they
who have dug under the ruins of the Temple have discovered one of those tablets in the Court
of the Temple which warned Gentiles, on pain of death, not to advance farther into the
sanctuary. The tablet answers exactly to the description of Josephus, and its inscription is
almost literally as he gives it” (Edersheim: ch. 7, p. 106). “Thus was the first enclosure. In the
doves, and also the moneychangers, from the temple,85 and therefore, in the view of the high
priests, was an offender of the temple order and obstructer of the sacrificial service of the
sanctuary, which was regulated by the priests of the Council of the Temple.
If John Mark, who was both a ruler (‘archōn’) and a ‘hypēretēs’, was the secretary of the
high priest and the ruling Council of the Temple, his titles would be the same as those of the
secretary of the court of justice of the six supreme judges of Athens: both ‘archōn’ and
‘hypēretēs’.86 In the political organisation of Athens of the fifth century BCE a ‘hypēretēs’
was either 1) a secretary (‘grammateus’), 2) an under-secretary, 3) a herald of the magistrates
(such as judges) and political institutions, or 4) an actual ‘hypēretēs’: a lower officer, e.g. a
doorkeeper, hall guard, or executioner.87 As the officers of the Jerusalem temple prison had
the corresponding Athenian title (‘hypēretēs’), John Mark, as the secretary of the Council of
the Temple, may have had the two corresponding Athenian titles as well: both ‘hypēretēs’ and
‘archōn’. And, as already said, also for the Jews in general it was normal to call John Mark
‘hypēretēs’, just as every secretary of a judge, and to call him ruler (‘archōn’), just as every
member of the ruling Council of the Temple and every member of the Great Sanhedrin.
According to the Talmud, if an ordinary temple guard was found asleep at his post at night,
his clothes would be set on fire; this is literally alluded to by John in his Book of Revelation:
“Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that
he may not go naked and be seen exposed!” (Rev 16,15)88
and according to John Lightfoot, the renowned hebraist and New Testament scholar, both the
Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel “must have been written by one who had been at
one time an actor in [the Temple services] … it seems highly improbable that a book so full of
liturgical allusions as the Book of Revelation – and these, many of them, not to great or
important points, but to minutiae [= very small details] – could have been written by any other
than a priest, and one who had at one time been in actual service in the Temple itself, and thus
become so intimately conversant with its details, that they came to him naturally, as part of
the imagery he employed” (Lightfoot: 106-107).
Other references of John Mark to the temple service are his citing Jesus who said
midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps: this was
encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner
to go in under pain of death” (Josephus: Antiquities 15,11,5). At day time Levites who served
as the assistants of the priests in the sacrificial service were forbidden, on pain of death, to
enter the Holy Place or to touch the altar (Rops: 458-59). “The laws of Levitical cleanness …
were most rigidly enforced upon worshippers and priests. If a leper, or any other who was
'defiled', had ventured into the sanctuary itself, or any priest officiated in a state of
'uncleanness,' he would, when discovered, be dragged out and killed, without form of process,
by 'the rebels’ beating.' Minor punishments were awarded to those guilty of smaller offences
of the same kind” (Edersheim: ch. 4, p. 61; Tosefta Menahot 13,21). And according to the
Talmud, if an ordinary temple guard was found asleep at his post at night, his clothes would
be set on fire (Lightfoot: 107) (M. Middoth I:2).
85 Matt 21,12 Mark 11,15 John 2,13-21
86 Verreth: 125 and 107
87 Ibid.
88 The “keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed” (Rev 16,15)
may be something of which the author (John Mark) wished that it had happened to himself,
when he ran from the officers in Gethsemane, but which unfortunately did not happen to him:
he had to leave his garment and go naked.
“Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in
the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly
and find you asleep” (Mark 13,35-36).
These were almost the same words as the ones used in the Talmud for the unexpected coming
of the superintendent of the priests, who would knock on the door of the priests’ dormitory to
call them to their daily duty: “And at what time does the superintendent come by? Not all the
times are the same. Sometimes he comes at cockcrow, or near then, earlier or later” (Neusner:
863). Another reference to the temple service is his citing Jesus who during the Last Supper
washed the feet of his disciples – who had already washed their hands at the start of the meal
– and said to them
“He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean
(‘katharos’) all over” (John 13,10 NA27).
This was the ritual rule for the temple priests, who were obliged to immerse their whole body
only once in the morning, and then only to wash their hands and feet every time they (re-)
entered the sanctuary, to be ritually clean (‘katharos’ means ritually clean in John 13,10 Rev
15,6 Ezr 6,20 Lev 24,6 2Ch 13,11 LXX) and thus fit to enter and perform their priestly duties
(Lightfoot: 112-113).
“Ministers of the Word” (‘hypēretai tou Logou’)
The Book of Revelations was written at the end of the first century by a John who knew and
was known to the seven churches in Asia Minor and who directed his admonitions to them
(Rev 1,1.4.11 2,1-3.22), and who has traditionally been regarded as the same as the author of
the Fourth Gospel and John’s letters 1John, 2John and 3John. A unique characteristic of the
books John, 1John and Revelation is that in them Jesus is called “the Word” (‘ho logos’) in
person (both in John 1,1.14 1Jn 1,1 5,7 and in Rev 19,13).
So, the evangelist John Mark, who called Jesus “the Word”, and who was a ‘hypēretēs’ (=
“minister” Acts 13,5), may have been the first of “the ministers of the word/Word”
(‘hypēretai tou logou’ as opposed to the ‘hypēretai’ of the prison), who “delivered” (‘para-
didōmi’: also used as ‘to put in prison’, ‘to run in’89) “the things which have been
accomplished among us”:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative [gospel] of the things which
have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from
the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word …” (Luke 1,1-2)
John Mark put in words and delivered to the church both the Gospel of Jesus according to
Mark and the Gospel of Jesus, who is “the Word”, according to John. The ‘hypēretēs’ of the
synagogue of Nazareth “delivered” (‘epi-didōmi’) the book of Isaiah to Jesus (Luke 4,17-20).
And a Pharisaic scribe, as a minister of the Word of God, delivered (‘para-didōmi’) decrees to
the Jewish people, to supplement the Word of God of the Bible (Mark 7,13). “And as they
[Paul and Barnabas] went through the cities, they delivered (‘para-didōmi’) unto them the
decrees to keep, that had been ordained by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem”
(Acts 16,4 KJ21). Thus John Mark, the ‘hypēretēs’ – not of the prison but of the word of the
89 John Mark used it thus when he wrote that John the Baptist was “put in prison” in only one
word: a form of ‘para-didōmi’ (Mark 1,14 RSV) and when he wrote “… the chief priests …
bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered (a form of ‘para-didōmi’) him to Pilate. …
he [Pilate] knew that the chief priests had delivered (a form of ‘para-didōmi’) him for envy”
(Mark 15,1-10) (cf. Paul, “dragging off both men and women delivered (‘para-didōmi’) them
up to prison”; “binding and delivering to prison both men and women” (Acts 8,3 and 22,4)).
council –, may have written and delivered the decrees of the Council of the Temple and the
Great Sanhedrin to the priests and the people (see table 6).
of the
of the
“Pharisees and scribes”
(ministers of the Word of God)
John Mark Paul and Barnabas
(=Mark) of the
Word” (= ‘John’)
“making the Word of God of no
effect through your tradition
(‘paradosis’ from ‘para-
didōmi’), which ye have
delivered (‘para-didōmi’)”
(Mark 7,13 KJ21)
delivered (‘para-
didōmi’) unto them
the decrees to keep,
that had been
ordained by the
apostles and elders
... at Jerusalem”
(Acts 16,4 KJ21)
prisoners Book of
‘paradosis’ =
tradition, decree,
public ordinance
decrees of the
Council of the
Gospels of Jesus,
who is “the
Table 6. Ministers who delivered words (e.g. decrees and verdicts) in stead of prisoners
In Athens a ‘hypēretēs’ was either a secretary or a herald of an institution.90 John Mark, as a
Christian ‘hypēretēs’, was a secretary of the Church, and Paul was made a secretary and a
herald of the mysteries of the Church by Jesus:
“But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to
make thee a minister (‘hypēretēs’, secretary/herald) and a witness (‘martus’, herald, cf.
Ac 1,8) both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I
will appear unto thee; (Ac 26,16)
“So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or
Cephas … all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. Let a man so
account of us, as of the ministers (‘hypēretai’, secretary) of Christ, and stewards
(‘oikonomoi’ – managers/treasurers, in the administration) of the mysteries of God.
(1Co 4,1)
Paul didn’t want to take John Mark with him on his missionary journey (Ac 15,37-40), but
later did want the secretary John Mark to be with him in his house-prison in Rome, as he was
profitable to Paul for “the ministry” (‘diakonia’, also ‘administration’, Strong’s 1248):
“Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me
for the ministry.” (2Tim 4,11)
5. John Mark Levitical – a priest (‘hiereus’)
John Mark could have owed his riches and rulership in the temple hierarchy to a relationship
with an aristocratic family of priests. Mark’s uncle Barnabas was of the tribe of Levi91, the
tribe out of which the priests and Levites were taken. And also Nicodemus probably was a
relative. According to Lightfoot a certain story in the Talmud depicts Nicodemus as the priest
who was responsible for the provision of water for the pilgrims who came to the feast in the
temple of Jerusalem (Lightfoot: John 3,1)92. The prologue to the Gospel of Mark in the
Vulgate represents Mark as “Mark the Evangelist, who exercised the priestly office in Israel, a
Levite by race”.93
90 Verreth: 125 and 107
91 Acts 4,36 Col 4,10
92 Here Lightfoot cites the Talmud: Taanith, fol. 20.I Avoth R. Nathan, c. 7.
93 Catholic Encyclopedia on St. Mark,
5.1. “A priest wearing the ‘petalon’” (Eusebius)
And according to Eusebius, the beloved disciple John was/became (‘egenēthē’) a priest
(‘hiereus’) wearing/carrying (‘pephorekōs’ from ‘pherō’ = to carry) the ‘petalon’,94 which
word was used in the Septuagint – the 3rd to 1st century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew
Bible – for the golden crown plate of the high priest: Ex 28,36 29,6 39,30 Le 8,9 LXX). The
word has also (probably erroneously) been interpreted as the high priestly “breastplate”95,
which is sometimes called ‘ephod’ in the Bible.96
5.2. The grave cloth given to “the servant of the priest” (Gospel of the Hebrews)
The burial cloths, in which Joseph of Arimatea buried Jesus’ dead body, are called ‘othonia’
by John (19,40) and by the editor of the inserted verse Luke 24,12 (describing what Simon
Peter saw), and ‘sindōn’ by the three synoptics97. A ‘sindōn’ (a Greek word of uncertain,
perhaps foreign, origin) was an expensive fine linen cloth,98 and it is used in the New
Testament only for Jesus’ burial cloth (Mark 15,46) and for the garment that the fleeing
young man “wearing nothing but a linen garment (‘sindōn’)” left behind (Mark 14,51-52
Joseph of Arimatea had buried Jesus’ body in “pure”, or “clean”, linen cloths (Mt 27,59). The
Greek word used here (‘katharos’) is not only ‘generally clean’, but also ‘ritually clean’,
‘Levitically clean’, as required for garments used in the temple: see the use of ‘katharos’ in
this sense by John in his referral to a temple priest’s ritual washing (John 13,10), and also in
John’s verse Rev 15,6 on the clothing of the angels who came out of the temple. Also in the
Greek Old Testament ‘katharos’ is used when referring to the purity of the temple (e.g. Ezr
6,20 Lev 24,6 2Ch 13,11 (LXX)).99 And all priests and Levites who worked in the sanctuary
of the temple had to wear linen, and wool was forbidden in the temple (Eze 44,17-18).
It is remarkable, that only for John Mark it was decisive to see that in Jesus’ open grave not
only the ‘othonia’ (windings) lay at the entrance, but also the cloth that had covered his face
(‘soudarion’ similar to the Aramaic ‘soudara’ = large veil or mantle, cf. Targum Ruth 3,15)
94 'hos egenēthē hiereus to petalon pephorekōs' (Eusebius: 5,24,2-3).
95 translation of Kirsopp Lake, Ecclesiastical History, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard
University Press 1926: “John, … who was a priest wearing the breastplate” (5,24,2)
96 Every priest serving in the temple wore a white linen garment, of which at least the breast
piece was called ‘ephod’ (Ex 28,31 1Sa 14,3 22,18; e.g. the young Samuel wore a linen
‘ephod’ in the sanctuary (1Sa 2,18 14,3)). The high priest wore a more costly woven ‘ephod’,
ornamented with a golden breast plate, engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel
and containing the Urim and Thummim, and in the Hebrew Bible the high priest’s breast
piece is often denoted by just the general term ‘ephod’ (1Samuel 21,9 23,9 30,7 Hosea 3,4).
97 ‘othonia’ plural of ‘othonion’, (small) linen cloth, winding, bandage (Strong’s), NA27 John
19,40 20,5-7 Luke 24,12; ‘sindōn’, an expensive, fine linen cloth (Strong’s), NA27 Matt 27,59
Mark 15,46 Luke 23,53. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called synoptics (Greek for ‘together-
view’) because their three gospels have approximately the same view and describe the same
events of Jesus’ public life in the same way. John describes some similar but also some
altogether different events.
98 G.J.M. Bartelink, Grieks-Nederlands woordenboek (Greek-Dutch dictionary) (Utrecht/
Antwerpen 1958) 221
99 Former Professor of Religious Studies D. Fulbright states that “it is indisputable that
kaqaroj in Matthew 27:59 is a reference to Levitical purity” (“A Clean Cloth”- What Greek
Word Usage Tells Us about the Burial Wrappings of Jesus, 2005, p. 15-17,
lay inside the grave, neatly “wrapped up into one place” (Douay translation) or “rolled up in a
place by itself” (RSV), in Greek: ‘entetuligmenon eis hena topon’ (John 20,5-8 NA27). This
may mean ‘rolled up, without rolling it to the left or right but by keeping the roll in the
direction of one place’, just as a priest would roll up his long fine linen garment that is easily
creased by folding or careless rolling. The beloved disciple entered the tomb, and then “saw
(the roll) and believed” (that Jesus had risen) (John 20,8).
According to the 1st or 2nd century Gospel of the Hebrews, cited by Jerome in De Viris
Illustribus 2, Jesus’ “linen cloth” / “grave clothes” were given to “the servant of the priest” by
the risen Jesus100. Furthermore, according to Pfeiffer, professor of iconography and Christian
art history, a grave cloth may have been kept by Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, and John,
the evangelist,101 and, according to Van Haelst, a, or the, grave cloth was brought to Ephesus
by Mary102. According to the ancient authors Irenaeus, Polycrates and Eusebius, John and
Mary arrived together in Ephesus, where John wrote the Fourth Gospel.103 All this indicates
that the beloved disciple and evangelist was this “servant of the priest”: the Levitical temple
minister (‘hypēretēs’) and ruler (‘archōn’) John Mark, secretary of the high priest Caiphas.
John Mark’s temple ‘sindōn’ lost …
The reason why the beloved disciple “saw – the ‘sindōn’ – and believed” (John 20,8) may
have been that the ‘sindōn’ in which Jesus’ dead body was buried, was his own ‘sindōn’, his
own expensive linen garment, left in the hands of the ‘hypēretai’ when they nearly caught him
on or near the Mount of Olives, but now rolled up as a priest’s garment again.
The Hebrew word ‘ephod’, for a priest’s garment, is transliterated to Greek in the Septuagint
as ‘ephoud’ (1Sa 2,18), and translated as ‘stolē’ (2Sa 6,14 1Ch 15,27 a.o.), as ‘hierateius’ (=
priesthood, Hos 3,4), and as ‘epōmida’ (= garment attached to the shoulder104, Ex 28,4), but
never as ‘sindōn’. Lightfoot in his commentary on Mark 14,51-52105, says that the word Nwdys
= ‘sindōn’ was used in the Talmud (Menacoth fol. 40.I) for a Jewish linen upper-garment
(‘talith’ = cloak), (also) worn by boys and priests, especially in the summer in Jerusalem, and
that “with this garment they commonly covered their head when they prayed”. Lightfoot also
cites the Talmud: “the ‘talith’ whereby the boy covers his head, and a great part of himself”
and “the priests who veil themselves when they go up into the pulpit with a tyl+ = ‘talith’
which is not their own”, and also “Nicodemus went to a little oratory, and covered himself,
and prayed” and “Nicodemus goes to his oratory again, covers himself and prays”106.
So, John Mark may have worn an ‘ephod’ as under garment and, on certain occasions in
summer, a ‘talith’, a ‘sindōn’, as upper garment. And as John Mark, as the rich young ruler,
“had great possessions” (Mr 10,22), he may have owned quite a few of these ‘talith’s, in his
case probably resembling the long, rectangular, purple edged, togas of his Roman collegue
100 Jerome (in Latin: Hieronymus), De Viris Illustribus 2. “When the Lord had given the linen
cloth to the servant of the priest, He went to James and appeared to him …” (other translation:
“but the Lord, after he had given his grave clothes to the servant of the priest, appeared to
James” (
101 (S. Sora, Treasures from Heaven:
Relics From Noah’s Ark to the Shroud of Turin (Hoboken 2005) p. 46)
102 Van Haelst: 28. The Shroud of Turin was and is an expensive, costly woven (twill
herringbone weave), rectangular 4,4 x 1,1 m, linen cloth, with a long seam near one of the
long edges (
103 Irenaeus designates this John as “John, the disciple of the Lord” (Eusebius 3,23), and
Polycrates designates him as “John, who leaned on the Lord's breast” (Eusebius 3,31).
104 G.J.M. Bartelink, Greek-Dutch Dictionary, Utrecht 1958, p. 107
105 Lightfoot: vol. 2 p. 458-460
106 Lightfoot on John 3,1 (vol. 3 p. 262), citing the Talmud: Taanith, fol. 20.I. Avoth R.
Nathan, c. 7.
secretaries of Pilate,107 but made of linen. (A toga was a white woollen rectangular Roman
upper-garment, a couple of meters long, which was wrapped around a man’s body, over a
tunic. The white toga of a Roman senator had a purple edging along one of the long edges to
distinguish him as a ruler.) In his temple office John Mark had to wear temple garments,
which had to be white linen (Ex 28,5-6 2Ch 5,12). But, as the young man who ran to Jesus
and said that he had observed all the commandments from his youth (Mark 10,20), he had
also fulfilled the commandment of Num 15,38:
“Say to the children of Israel that through all their generations they are to put on the
edges of their robes an ornament of twisted threads (‘tsiytsith’), and in every ornament
(‘tsiytsith’) a blue cord (‘pathiyl’ = cord, twisted thread).” Num 15,38 (Bible in Basic
Here the expression “an ornament of twisted threads” translates just the one word ‘tsiytsith’,
which means (figuratively) ornament. But in the Septuagin t Num 15,38, the word ‘tsiytsith’
is translated as ‘kraspedon’ = hem, margin (Strong's 2899).108 So, the commandment of Nu
15,38 can be read as a prescription to put on every robe an ornamental margin with a blue
cord in it. Fulfilling this commandment for his all white linen temple garment, Mark probably
applied a margin to his cloak by making a long seam a few centimeters from one of its long
edges. Note that it was the custom of Pharisees to “enlarge the borders (‘kraspeda’) of their
garments” (Mt 23,5 KJ21). And even though the margin could not contain the purple wool of
a senator’s toga, it was comparable to the Roman purple edging and it distinguished him as a
Jewish ruler.109
The fact that the young man who followed the captured Jesus, had his ‘sindōn’ “cast about his
naked body” and could leave it behind and flee naked (Mark 14,51-52), indicates that this
‘sindōn’ certainly wasn’t an ‘ephod’, which had “joined” “shoulder pieces”110 and could not
as easily be put off, while running, as a ‘talith’ or toga. Lightfoot says that, as the ‘sindōn’
was usually worn as an outer garment, some think that the person who wore it in the night
when Jesus was captured had been roused from his bed.111 So it may certainly have been worn
by the beloved disciple, who, while lying in bed, or elsewhere at home, heard that Jesus had
come to the upper room of his house, and who then, with his (perhaps brand new) ‘sindōn’
cast about his naked body, rushed to Jesus and was allowed to lie down at Jesus’ breast, on
the bench where Jesus already lay amidst the benches of his apostles. “According to the
Jewish custom, the host, or, in his absence, … “his firstborn son sat to the right of the guest,
his head leaning on the latter’s chest””.112 And when Jesus and the Twelve went to the
Gethsemane, he followed them wearing only his ‘sindōn’. In the beginning of the
evening/night, when Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, it was not as cold yet as three long
prayers of Jesus – one of at least an hour (Mt 26,40) – later and after the effectuation of the
arrest, when it started to get cold: the prison officers, also the ones who had remained in their
107 “Following up on this motif, R.A. Veenker comments that in the ancient Near East, the
hem of the garment was closely identified with the person of the wearer. It was regarded as an
extension of the owner's personality and authority (Veenker, 1976. “Hem”. The Interpreter’s
Dictionary of the Bible (Supplementary Volume). Nashville: Abingdon, p.401.).” Albert R.
Dreisbach, Jr., The Shroud and Healing, 1999 (Revised)
109 Only the high priest’s normal liturgical cloths had to be blue, purple and scarlet (Exod 28),
but when performing the prescribed rites of the Day of Atonement he too wore only white
garments (Safrai: 897).
110 Ex 28,6-7
111 Or that he was a sect member, e.g. of the sect of Banus – the sect joined by the first
century Jewish historian Josephus (Josephus, Life 2) – who macerated their bodies with
hunger and cold (Lightfoot: vol. 2, p. 458-460).
112 Cazelles, Johannes p. 480, cited by Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth, 2007, p. 225
own court yard when their collegues were arresting Jesus, only decided to kindle a fire there
after Jesus had been brought in (Lu 22,55). And when John Mark left home, he probably
didn't expect Jesus to stay on the Mount of Olives that long: only Jesus knew He would get
arrested there (Mt 26,30-47). Now an upper room usually could be reached directly from the
street, without having to enter the house.113 So, when Jesus left the upper room directly to the
street, it was quite natural for John Mark to simply follow Jesus without re-entering the house.
The fact that only the young man wearing the ‘sindōn’ there, was caught by the temple
officers, and Simon Peter was not, indicates that the ‘sindōn’ probably was white and thus
more visible at night than the ordinary cloths of the fisherman Simon Peter. When the young
man fled naked, he wasn’t caught again, probably because he had become less visible when
leaving the white ‘sindōn’.
John Mark called his garment a ‘sindōn’ and not a toga, probably because a (Roman) toga
was invariably made of wool114, and his ‘toga’ was made of linen, because wool was not
allowed in the temple (Eze 44,17). And he could call it a ‘sindōn’, because it resembled a
linen ‘talith’, but was decorated with a seam. John Lightfoot (on Mark 14,51-52) also says,
that a ‘talith’ (a ‘sindōn’) usually also had the blue corded tassels (called ‘tsiytsith’) attached
to its corners, as prescribed by Num 15,38 for all upper garments, although there was a
discussion among the rabbis whether a linen garment could have the usually woollen tassels,
as this would go against the commandment not to wear garments made of two different kinds
of material (Lev 19,19 De 22,11); for this reason some rabbis loosened the woollen tassels
from their linen talith.115 In order to obey the commandments of Nu 15,38 (fringes/tassels)
and Ex 28,5-6 (white) for his temple garment, John Mark’s ‘sindōn’ probably had holes in the
corners of the margin to which a tassel could be fastened (for out-of-temple situations, such as
the House of Caiphas in the Upper City and perhaps also for Caiphas’ office palace in
Antonia) or loosened (for in-temple situations, especially for when inside the sanctuary of the
temple, where the Council of the Temple gathered in a courtroom in the Court of the Priests
and where the Great Sanhedrin gathered in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Court of the
Israelites).116 Another possibility is that he had two blue cords hidden inside the ornamental
seam, at its two endings; then they would be present in the inside of the white garment, but
their color would not be visible. John Mark could wear his almost Roman upper garment,
because he didn’t have a liturgical function but only an administrative one, in which he must
have had frequent contact with his Roman, toga wearing, colleagues, the secretaries of the
Roman procurator Pilate stationed in Antonia, where Caiphas’ and John Mark’s office was
located as well. As John Mark had both a Hebrew name (Nnxwy = ‘Jochanan’) and a Roman,
Latin, name (Marcus), he may also have worn both a Hebrew linen priestly ‘ephod’, as an
under garment, and a unique Roman-Jewish linen toga-talith, as an upper garment (see fig.
113 S. Safrai, M. Stern, D. Flusser, W.C. van Unnik (eds.), The Jewish People in the First
Century (Assen/Amsterdam 1976) p. 731
115 Lightfoot on Mark 14,51, vol. 2 p. 458-460
116 The commandment of De 22,12 “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of
your cloak with which you cover yourself” is not literally obeyed then, but as some rabbis
didn’t wear fringes on their ‘talith’ at all, only two fringes would be a good alternative. And
perhaps John Mark even made four fringes, to the four corners of the margin.
117 The measurements Donald Smith gives in Issue #46 of the Newsletter of the British
Society for the Turin Shroud for a tallit/himation are 118,4 cm by 444 cm
( at “Can you help”). And the Wikipedia article on Tallit
( reads, on the "Tallit gadol" (= big tallit): "Sizes of
tallitot vary, and are a matter of custom and preference. Some are large enough to cover the
whole body while others hang around the shoulders". A Roman toga was “a cloth of perhaps
twenty feet (6 metres) in length” (
Fig. 3. ‘Sindōn’ and toga
… and bought by Joseph of Arimatea, and returned by Jesus
Mark had left his ‘sindōn’ in the hands of the ‘hypēretai’. Mark’s fellow secret disciple, the
elder Joseph of Arimatea, who was present when the soldiers set out for Jesus, and who
probably had seen that the escaping young man left his ‘sindōn’, and who entered the high
priest’s courtyard with the ‘hypēretai’, may have bought the ‘sindōn’ from these ‘hypēretai’
(see table 7).
On January 24, 2011, I read about the book of the renowned antiquities expert John N. Lupia,
The Ancient Jewish Shroud at Turin, Regina Caeli Press, 2010, and its cover says that “the
Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen tallit garment type worn by Essenes at Qumran before
A.D. 66” ( This supports my thesis on John Mark’s
temple garment, in that the Essenes were originally orthodox temple priests, Levites and
Nethinim, who focussed on purity in the temple and therefore protested against its illegal
practices and its desacration and moved to Qumran. The white clothing of the Qumran
Essenes corresponded to the obligatory white linnen temple clothing (see my article The
Eleven – Jesus appeared risen to the Officers of the Temple Prison,,
August 1, 2010). Besides, Joseph Caiphas probably had been a Qumran Essene, and lived in
the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem (see my articles With Child of the Holy Spirit – Joseph
willing to give her in marriage to his heir,, March 23, 2009 and Jesus
and Isaac – Joseph Caiphas,, July 7, 2009), and his secretary John Mark
lived in the house of the Cenacle, virtually next door to Caiphas (see my article John Mark –
Author of the Gospel of John with Jesus’ mother,
The Jewish Encyclopedia says on the Tallit: “The original allit probably resembled the
"'abayah," or blanket, worn by the Bedouins for protection from sun and rain, and which has
black stripes at the ends. The finer allit, very likely, was similar in quality to the Roman
pallium, and was worn only by distinguished men, rabbis, and scholars (B. B. 98a; Gen. R.
xxxvi.; Ex. R. xxvii.). The allit of a "talmid akam" extended to within a hand-breadth of the
length of the bottom of his undergarment (B. B. 57b). The allit was sometimes worn partly
doubled, and sometimes with the ends thrown over the shoulders (Shab. 147a; Men. 41a).”
(, see also the image
gid=1901 )
Beloved disciple John Mark
Priest Levitical
Wearing the ‘petalon’ or
‘ephod’ (linen undergarment)
(worn by priests in the temple)
Wearing a ‘sindōn’ (linen upper garment)
In temple only linen was allowed (Nicodemus
covered himself with a ‘sindōn’ and prayed)
Saw the ‘sindōn’ and believed
(and took it to Ephesus)
Realized that his lost ‘sindōn’, bought
from the ‘hypēretai’ by Joseph of
Arimatea, was rolled up by the risen
Jesus for him.
Left his ‘sindōn’ in the hands of the
(Jesus gave ‘sindōn’ to)
the servant of the priest
Is ‘hypēretēs’: temple attendant and assistant
of a judge, and ‘archōn’: ruler (as Nicodemus)
Was literate (wrote Gospel of
John in Greek)
Was literate (wrote Gospel of Mark in Greek)
Cites Caiphas (Athenian ‘hypēretēs’+’archōn’ = the
secretary of the judges) So, he probably was
the secretary of Caiphas and the Council of
the Temple.
Table 7. Priest and Levitical
Garments were objects of value and thus merchandise, for the soldiers at Jesus’ cross
deliberately “divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each
should take” (Mark 15,24), and they said about Jesus’ tunic, which was “without seam118,
woven from top to bottom”: “"Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be"”
(John 19,23-24). The rich Joseph of Arimatea may have bought John Mark’s unique ‘sindōn’
from the ‘hypēretai’, because he needed it for Jesus’ burial as there was no time left to go and
by a new cloth in the city because the Sabbath (Saturday) was very near, on which no one was
allowed to work or even bury someone. And all the sellers of cloths would already have left
the market place for the same reason: they weren’t allowed to work, or even close their shops
and secure their merchandise, on the Sabbath. Still, Joseph bought a ‘sindōn’, after Jesus had
died and Joseph had received the burial permission from Pilate in Antonia, which he could
enter at the end of that afternoon just as freely as he had done the night before at the arrest of
Jesus, and where the ‘hypēretai’ still kept John Mark’s ‘sindōn’.119
In Jesus’ days, which is before the death of Rabbi Gamaliel II, who died in the beginning of
the second century CE, it was still the custom to bury a person in the garments he had worn in
life, so they didn’t have to be new:
“In Biblical times persons, especially of high rank, were arrayed at burial in the
garments, ornaments, and weapons which they had worn in life … To be buried
without garments was considered a disgrace … As a token of honor, it was customary
to cast the most costly garments and ornaments upon the bier of a dear relative or
friend … In fact, since funeral expenses became common extravagances and an object
of alarm to the relatives, R. Gamaliel II. set the example by the order he gave for his
own funeral, and thus introduced the custom of burying the dead in simple linen
garments (Ket. 8b; M. K. 27b).”120
The tractates on mourning, Shab. 23,5 and Sem. 1,2-3, of the Talmud don’t say that the burial
garments had to be new or even clean either.121 Jesus’ own cloths had been divided among the
118 “without seam” = ‘arragos’ = not sewn together: of a single piece = “without a join” (BBE)
119 The prison officers didn’t have a shop or stall on the market place, so they could have sold
the ‘sindōn’ to Joseph while they were standing in the court yard of the temple prison, or just
outside the porch of the temple prison, either on the side of the market place in the Tyropoeon
valley or on the side of the Court of the Gentiles, where one also could buy (‘agorazō’)
merchandise (Mr 15,46 Mt 21,12 NA27) (see fig. 4 and its description in paragraph 4,1.).
soldiers who had crucified Him and who were Romans, for over Jesus’ head “they put the
charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews"” (Matt 27,35-37). The
high priests strongly protested against this title, written and even “put” their by Pilate (John
19,19), but Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written” (John 19,22). So, it certainly
weren’t the high priests’ hypēretai who put it there. After the crucifixion Jesus’ cloths were in
the hands of the ritually unclean Roman soldiers, and probably brought to the ritually unclean
Roman praetorium (cf. John 18,28). So, Jesus’ cloths were already defiled by the touch of the
Romans anyway. But John Mark’s temple sindōn was still very near Pilate’s praetorium, in
the ritually clean hands and barracks of the temple’s prison guards. This was a very
providential opportunity for Joseph to spare Jesus a disgraceful burial and to give Him the
burial even of a temple priest. Here must be stressed that none of the evangelists writes that
Joseph bought a new ‘sindōn’ (see Matt 27,59 Mr 15,46 Lu 23,53 John 19,40). It was only the
grave that was “new” (Mt 27,60 John 19,41), not the ‘sindōn’. Joseph did buy a “clean”
‘sindōn’ (Mt 27,5 ‘katharos’), which may mean, as already explained above, that he bought
the ritually clean ‘sindōn’ that had been lost by John Mark (and that may have been optically
clean too and worn only once for a few hours). It is significant now that (only) John says that
Jesus, who was considered to be the Christ – the “high priest” and “priest for ever” (Ps 110,4
Heb 5,6.10 6,20) – was buried “as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19,40):
“Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture
of myrrh (‘smurna’) and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. They took the
body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices (‘aromata’), as is the
burial custom of the Jews.” John 19,39-40
Only John and Joseph of Arimathea knew that He was buried in a priest’s garment: John
Mark’s own ‘sindōn’. But Nicodemus also abode by the burial custom of the Jews by bringing
for Jesus Christ (= ‘Messiah’ = Anointed High Priest-King) an enormous amount of the most
costly spices, of which the myrrh could be used for the sanctifying anointment of the high
priest – cf. the ‘murou’ with which the anonymous woman of Mark 14,3 anointed Jesus’ head
–, and the myrrh and aloe wood also could be used for the incense sacrifice brought by the
chosen priest in the Holy Place of the sanctuary of the temple.122
Besides the secret of having lost his ‘sindōn’ another secret of John Mark may have been
that he gave Jesus a slap in the face before Annas. This act and the argument used by the
‘hypēretēs’ to justify his slapping Jesus “Is that how you answer the high priest?” (John
18,22) would not be expected or accepted from an ordinary lower prison officer, who
should only act to order123, but they comply very well with John Mark’s office of ruler and
secretary of the high priest(s), in which he was the daily witness of how all people, small and
great alike, addressed the high priest with great awe and reverence, and in which he himself
122 anointment: “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet-
smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred and fifty, and of aromatic cane two
hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of
olive oil a hin; and you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer;
a holy anointing oil it shall be.” Ex 30,23-25; also see Ex 40,15 37,29 Le 8,12 1Jn 2,20 Online
Bible Greek Lexicon 5545 and New American Standard Greek Lexicon 4666; fumigation
sacrifice: Ex 30,34-38 Ps 45,8 141,2 Pr 7,17 Lu 1,9 Online Bible Greek Lexicon 250 and
Strong’s 07004 and 2370
123 When the ‘hypēretai’ were sent to arrest Jesus when He was preaching in the temple, they
didn’t even do this because they heard and respected Jesus’ teachings: “The officers
(‘hypēretai’) then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why did
you not bring him?" The officers (‘hypēretai’) answered, "No man ever spoke like this man!"”
(John 7,14-37.45-46).
had to address these priests with all due respect every day. And although only Annas, Jesus,
and the ‘hypēretai’ were present when Jesus received his first slap in the face the Council
of the Temple was only present when Jesus was led before Caiphas later that night,124 and the
other high priests, scribes and elders were only present in the morning, when Jesus was led
before the Great Sanhedrin125 , the incident is reported in John’s gospel. This suggests the
presence of the evangelist himself at this incident.
A fact is that after this first slap in the face Jesus was beaten further by the other
‘hypēretai’.126 If one of their rulers had slapped Jesus before He even had been trialled, then
the lower officers felt they could freely beat Jesus too. When Jesus was in prison, ready for
the trial the next morning, the “men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they
also blindfolded him and asked him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?"” (Luke 22,63-65
AV). The officers of the temple prison asked Jesus to point out the one that struck Him, and in
this way took revenge on Him for pointing his finger to them in Annas’ room, as the ones
who had heard Him in the temple.127 And the cloth which they used for blindfolding Him,
literally “covering him up” (Darby-translation) (‘perikalupsantes’ Lu 22,64 NA27 = cover all
around, i.e. entirely’, Strong’s 4028), may very well have been the ‘sindōn’ which they
perchance had gotten into their hands at Gethsemane and had brought to the prison, with
After Jesus’ trials and crucifixion Joseph of Arimatea used John Mark’s ‘sindōn’ for the
burying of Jesus’ dead body, and left it in his own, new and secured grave, where it was
expected to be destroyed by the decaying corps. (Somewhere between the burial and the
finding of the ‘sindōn’ in the empty grave, an image of Jesus’ beaten face and body may have
been formed on it, as can be seen on the Shroud of Turin.128) And somewhere between the
burial and the finding of the ‘sindōn’, which already by St. Ephrem has been identified with
the ‘soudarion’ (Aramaism for mantle) of John 20,7129, it was neatly rolled up and placed at a
124 Matt 26,59 Mark 14 55 John 18,24
125 Matt 27,1 Mark 15,1 Luke 22, 66
126 Mark 14,65 Luke 22,63-64
127 This again confirms that the ‘hypēretai’ (Mark 14,65) were officers of the temple prison.
128 The image of the face on the Shroud of Turin, according to pathologists, shows a black
eye, a broken nose and various other contusions of the face. The fact that the Turin Shroud
was washed after it had been woven, and has starch impurities, indicates that it may have been
a washed garment (facts A15 and A20 in “Evidences for Testing Hypotheses About the Body
Image Formation of the Turin Shroud”, Giulio Fanti et al., 3rd International Dallas
Conference, September 2005,
129 “St Ephrem is the first writer we know of to identify sindon and soudarion. From the
seventh century the Latin equivalent sudarium (and equivalents in all Romance languages,
Georgian and Armenian) is used to translate both shroud and smaller face cloths, including
Veronicas. In Syriac, Arabic and Aramaic, the vernacular of Palestine, equivalents of
sudarium designated a square cloth used as a skirt, wide mantle, or ample veil over the head
and enveloping the wearer. (Wuenschel cites Abbe Levesque's 'Le Suaire de Turin et
L'Evangile', Nouvelle Revue Apologetique 1 (1939) 228.) The Abbé thinks that John's
soudarion used in the burials of Lazarus and Christ should be interpreted in this Semitic
sense, since the fourth Gospel abounds in Aramaisms. In support he refers to the current
practice of the Druzes, ancient inhabitants of the Lebanon, who fold a shroud over the head
down to the feet and tie it with bands at neck, feet and hand levels. He equates the bands with
the keiriai of John 11:44, which kept Lazarus bound. He suggests that the othonia in the case
of Christ would include the keiriai and the soudarion which, if used in the Semitic sense,
would be the equivalent of the Synoptists' sindon. (Wuenschel (1) 50, 61, 82)” (M. Green,
Enshrouded in Silene, 1969,
certain place. As already said, it is remarkable, that only for John Mark it was decisive to see
that in Jesus’ open grave not only the ‘othonia’ (windings, linen cloths) lay at the entrance,
but also the cloth that had covered his face lay inside the grave, “not lying with the ‘othonia’”
but neatly “wrapped up into one place” (Douay translation) or “rolled up in a place by itself”
(RSV), in Greek: ‘entetuligmenon eis hena topon’ (John 20,5-8 NA27). This may mean ‘rolled
up, without rolling it to the left or right but by keeping the roll in the direction of one place’,
just as a priest would roll up his long fine linen garment that is easily creased by folding or
careless rolling. But it may also refer to the special place where the roll lay, namely on the
stone platform where Jesus had lain – or on the rock floor right under it –, at his head. This is
what the Mishnah and its commentary says about the priests who slept on stone
platforms/raised pavements of stone along the walls of the priests’ guard room in the temple:
“They did not sleep in the consecrated garments. But they spread them out, doubled
them over, and lay them down under their heads, and cover themselves with their
own clothes” (Tamid 1,1 J, translation by Neusner)
“The priests on watch did not sleep in the priestly garments. Instead, they folded
(ןילפקמ) them, placed them at their heads, and wore their own clothes.” (Mishneh
Torah by Maimonides)130
“There is no sign in Jewish habits till the fall of Jerusalem and even later, of the use of the
sudarium, a simple veil for covering the face, having been a regular custom. It would seem
rather that they were content to lay the shroud over the face and the front of the body. This
custom still exists in the East, and is to be found among the Druses and among the ancient
inhabitants of the country.” P. Barbet, A doctor at Calvary, France, 1950,
“Bruno Bonnet-Eymard, "Le 'Soudarion' Johannique negatif de la gloire divine," in Lamberto
Coppini and Francesco Cavazzuti, eds., La Sindone, scienza e fede (Bologna: Editrice
CLUEB 1983) 75-89, argues that the word soudarion used by John 20:5-7) and its late Latin
variant used here (n. 31) may derive from soudara, a middle eastern word of the O.T. period
(Ruth 3:14), which indicated not a sweat cloth or chin-band but a large poncho of linen which
was placed over the head, which covered the entire body, and came down to the feet.” (D.
“the book of Ruth mentions her being asleep at the feet of Boaz, wrapped in a mantle. Rather
than using the Hebrew word mitpachat for mantle, the Targum pseudo- Jonathan uses the
Aramaic soudara (Ruth 3:15), into which Boaz put six measures of barley the following
morning. If the soudara were simply a handkerchief it would seem doubtful that it would be
able to hold such a quantity of barley.” (Guerrera, V., "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for
Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, 2001, pp.31-32, cited by S.E. Jones on
“Luke, who had previously used the word sindon before the Resurrection (Luke 23:53), refers
to the othonia found in the tomb after the Resurrection (Luke 24:12). The word othonia,
therefore, can refer to collective cloths of various sizes. Evidence to support this theory can
be found in a fourth century inventory made by a Roman government official who was
making his way from upper Egypt to Antioch around the year 320 A.D. Under the heading of
othonia he listed a number of linens, including four sindones and two types of handkerchiefs.
[Humber, T., "The Sacred Shroud," Pocket Books: NY, 1978, p.68]" (Guerrera, V., "The
Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, 2001, pp.32-33, cited S.E.
Jones on
130 J. Neusner, The Mishnah – A New Translation, Yale 1988, p. 863; “The Chamber of the
Hearth was a large, domed structure, surrounded [on the inside] with projections of stone. The
elders of the priestly watch of that day slept there(24) with the keys to the Temple Courtyard
in their hands. The priests on watch did not sleep in the priestly garments.(28) Instead, they
Maimonides says that they did not lay the clothes under their heads and use them as pillows,
for they were not allowed to derive benefit from the priestly clothes outside the sacrificial
service, because they contained a mixture of linen and wool (Sha’atnez).131 And in his text the
hebrew word used here for “doubled”/“folded” is ןילפקמ
132 and in the Jastrow Hebrew
Dictionary the verb לפק is translated as “to double, fold, roll up”.133 So, ןילפקמ certainly could
be expressed in Greek as entetuligmenon, which means “rolled up”.134 And the fact that the
priests first spread out the clothes, also indicates that they probably rolled them up, for folding
could be done while the garment hung down from the hands. And a priest probably first
spread out all his garments on top of each other (cloak = ‘talith’, tunic = ‘ephod’, girdle,
underpants and head covering)135, and then made one single roll of them, for in this way his
garments would not get mixed up with the garments of the priests who slept next to him. It is
important to note, that only the girdle contained a mixture of wool and linen, and therefore
could not be allowed to be used outside the sacrificial service.136 So, it indeed must have been
the fact that the girdle was inside the roll, which was the cause that the whole roll could not be
used as a pillow: all his clothes were rolled up together and in one place, at his head. Now,
when the beloved disciple – the secretary of the Council of the Temple, which regulated these
folded them, placed them at their heads(29), and wore their own clothes.” Footnote 24: Tamid
26b explains that they slept on these protrusions, because it was disrespectful to bring beds
into the Temple complex. Footnote 28: This refers to the four priestly garments which an
ordinary priest was required to wear while serving in the Temple.
Rambam, Beis Habechirah 8,
131 “Instead, they folded them, placed them at their heads,(29) … Footnote 29: The priests
could not place their priestly garments under their heads to serve as pillows, for they were
forbidden to derive benefit from them. See Yoma 69a. In his commentary to Tamid, Chapter
1, Mishnah 1, the Rambam explains that this prohibition was instituted because the priestly
garments contained Sha'atnez, a mixture of linen and wool. Hence, though a priest was
permitted to use them during the Temple service, once that service was concluded, he was
forbidden to do so. See also the Kessef Mishneh.”
(Rambam, Beis Habechirah 8,
132 The Hebrew text according to Maimonides is:
ןמצע ידגב ןישבולו ןהישאר דגנכ ןתוא ןיחינמו ןתוא ןילפקמ אלא הנוהכ ידגבב םינשי םירמושה םינהכה ויה אל .ו
:תוטמה לע ונשיי אלש םיכלמה תוריצח ירמוש לכ ךרדכ ץראה לע םינשיו
133 M. Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and
Midrashic Literature, Judaica Treasury, 1971, 2004, p. 1401
134 Online Bible Greek Lexicon 1794; the 1984 New International Version even translates
John 20,7 as “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.”
135 “The priests (Piske Tosaphoth in Menacoth numer. 150.) who veil themselves when they
go up into the pulpit, Mhl wny)# tyl+b with a cloak which is not their own,” (J. Lightfoot,
on Mark 14,51, vol. 2 p. 458-460); “And he in whom no cause of invalidation was found
dresses himself in white clothing and cloaks himself in a white cloak and goes in and serves
with his brethren, the priests.” Middot 5,4 (J. Neusner, The Mishnah – A New Translation, p.
883); “The high priest serves in eight garments, and an ordinary priest in four: tunic,
underpants, head covering, and girdle.” Yoma 7,5 (J. Neusner, p. 277) So, a priest entered the
sanctuary wearing the four ordinary clothes plus the cloak (‘talith’), but put off the cloak,
when he actually performed the rites of the service.
136 Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Kli Hamikdash 8, halacha 11-12
details – entered the tomb, he “saw (the roll, placed at the head) and believed” (that Jesus had
risen – and he didn’t know this from Scripture) (John 20,7-9).
If Joseph of Arimatea had taken away Jesus’ dead body on the first day after the Sabbath for
reburying (this is discussed below), he would have taken the ‘sindōn’ too, not only because it
was his property, bought from the ‘hypēretai’ for a high price, but also because it facilitated
the carrying of Jesus’ body. This last argument is the reason why, when the empty grave and
linen cloths were found, they kept the departing Peter “wondering in himself at that which
was come to pass” (Luke 24,12). But the moment John Mark sees his ‘sindōn’ lying there in
the grave, identifiable by the ornamental seam and rolled up as a priest’s garment and placed
at the head, he realizes it must have been laid there by Jesus for him: it had to have been done
by someone who knew it was a priest’s garment and nevertheless left it in the grave, and thus
by someone who had seen that John Mark fled from the ‘hypēretai’ leaving his ‘sindōn’, and
who knew that Joseph of Arimatea bought it, and who would understand that John Mark, as a
secret disciple, would want the garment back as it was the proof of his discipleship (and who
knew that John Mark would be one of the first visitors of the grave).137 This person was not
one of the ‘hypēretai’, for they would simply have taken possession of the precious linen cloth
again and would not have left it in the grave, nor Joseph of Arimatea (or Nicodemus) – he
would have taken the body with the ‘sindōn’ –, nor Simon Peter – he had been with John
Mark all night and didn’t know the grave was empty and wondered about what had happened
–, nor John Mark himself, so only a risen Jesus could have done it. John Mark interprets the
rolled up ‘sindōn’ as a personal gift from Jesus to himself, and takes it from the grave, and
thus takes away the proof of his discipleship. In this sense the risen Jesus “had given the grave
cloth(s) to the servant of the priest”, as Jerome cites the Gospel of the Hebrews. Perhaps John
Mark already then, or some time after he had seen the risen Jesus in person, found the image
of Jesus’ face and its bruises, but he certainly understood that Jesus had returned his
bloodstained garment to him, as a sign that Jesus forgave him his secret discipleship, his
fleeing from the ‘hypēretai’, and his slapping Jesus’ face in Annas’ room in Antonia, just like
the three identical questions which the risen Jesus directed to Simon Peter at the See of
Tiberias – “do you love me?” (John 21,15.16.17) – referred to Simon Peter’s three denials of
Jesus in the high priest’s courtyard and porch. John Mark doesn’t destroy the ‘sindōn’,
perhaps because it could be regarded as the proof of Jesus’ resurrection, and perhaps because
of its significance: Jesus’ personal forgiveness for John Mark, “the servant of the priest”. John
takes the ‘sindōn’ with him to Ephesus in Asia Minor.138
Now the Talmud says that the garments of the priests who had been dismissed from their
sacrificial service in the temple (of a week’s shift, about twice a year) were laid in “wall
niches there, on which were written [the names] of the various pieces of clothing”.139 And the
fact that the priests put on a ‘talith’ “which was not their own”,140 indicates that also a
137 It is not sure whether the women who entered the empty grave first, saw the ‘sindōn’
(Luke 23,55-24,12 Mark 16,1-8 Matt 28,1-8), so it is possible that either they didn’t pay
attention to it because they saw the angel(s), or didn’t know what to think of it (just as Peter),
or that it was taken out of the grave before the women arrived and then put back there
deliberately (by Jesus) only after the women had left and before Simon Peter and John Mark
reached the grave.
138 Sora: 46, Van Haelst: 28. According to Ian Wilson the Shroud of Turin may have been the
same as the “Mandylion”, a cloth with the “Image of Edessa” (of at least Jesus’ face) that
showed up in 525-600 CE in Edessa, another town, now called Sanliurfa, in Asia Minor,
today’s Turkey. ( and
139 Tamid 5,3; Neusner: 869-870
140 “The priests (Piske Tosaphoth in Menacoth numer. 150.) who veil themselves when they
go up into the pulpit, Mhl wny)# tyl+b with a cloak which is not their own,” (J. Lightfoot,
sacrificing priest’s ‘talith’ was perhaps a garment that was rolled up and kept in a wall niche
in the priests’ dormitory or in the Chamber of Hewn Stones for the next shift of priests. It
were the members of the Council of the Temple who judged, in the Chamber of Hewn Stones,
whether a new priest was fit to start his sacrificial ministry in the temple141 and who allowed
him to wear a priest’s ‘talith’:
“And it judged the priesthood. And a priest in whom was found a cause of
invalidation dresses himself in black clothing and cloaks himself in a black cloak
and departs and goes his way. And he in whom no cause of invalidation was
found dresses himself in white clothing and cloaks himself in a white cloak and
goes in and serves with his brethren, the priests.”142
In this way Jesus’ leaving his rolled up ‘talith’ in the empty tomb, hewn in the rock, for the
priest John Mark perhaps could be seen as a sign that Jesus judged John Mark fit and that He
extended his New Testamental high priestly sacrificial ministry to John Mark.
After Jesus had been wrapped in the ‘sindōn’, it couldn’t be used as a garment anymore,
for it had been used as the burial cloth of a dead man, and was thus, to John Mark’s standards,
ritually unclean. Perhaps this is the reason why John Mark called the initial cloth in which
Jesus was to be buried a ‘sindōn’ (Mark 15,46), but called the empty grave cloths ‘soudarion’
and ‘othonia’ (John 20,6-7). But of course John Mark also knew that the words ‘othonia’ and
‘soudarion’ would not as easily be associated with his own garment as the word ‘sindōn’
would. Nevertheless, the Greek word ‘soudarion’ is one of the many Aramaisms in the Gospel
of John; it derives from the Aramaic word ‘soudara’, meaning large veil or mantle (cf.
Targum Ruth 3,14-15).143
6. John Mark, author of the Gospel of John with Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus
Since Jesus’ crucifixion, when Jesus told his mother Mary “Woman, behold, your son”, and
told the beloved disciple, standing by, “Behold, your mother”, these two lived together in
Jerusalem in John’s house144. It is thought that together they lived in Ephesus, where they
arrived together. At Ephesus John published the Fourth Gospel.145 It is not unreasonable to
assume that John wrote this gospel together with Mary. John Mark was in Ephesus with
Timothy (2Tim 4,11) and if he was the evangelist John, the co-authorship of Mary would
explain the difference in style and contents between the Gospel of Mark and the Fourth
Gospel, named the Gospel of John. The author of the Fourth Gospel is a man according to
grammar (“the disciple, whom (on) he loved”, “what shall happen to this man” – outov)146,
and so it was John who put the pen to papyrus for the Gospel of John, but also for the Gospel
of Mark. The Gospel of Mark are Simon Peter’s oral narratives put in writing, perhaps almost
literally, by John Mark.147
on Mark 14,51, vol. 2 p. 458-460)
141 A. Edersheim (1825-1889), The Temple – Its Ministries and Services (Peabody 1994), ch.
4, p. 70, S. Safrai, M. Stern, D. Flusser, W.C. van Unnik (eds.), The Jewish People in the
First Century (Assen/Amsterdam 1976) p. 602, 874
142 Middot 5,4 (J. Neusner, The Mishnah – A New Translation, p. 883)
143 See above, note on St. Ephrem, supported by Levesque, Wuenschel, Green, Barbet,
Bonnet-Eymard, Guerrera, and Humber.
144 John 19,25-27
145 Irenaeus (Eusebius: 5,8,4)
146 NA27 John 16,26 21,21
147 Eus 2,14-15 3,39,15 5,8,2-3, 6,26
Internal evidence concerning the authorship of the Fourth Gospel is indirect. B.F.
Westcott’s well-known “concentric circles of proof” for the authorship148 (see table 8), which
he used in 1881 CE to identify the apostle John of Zebedee, can all be applied to the ‘mother-
and-son’ couple John Mark and Mary. Here must be stressed that the claims of Westcott’s
fourth and fifth circles of proof, claiming that the evangelist was an apostle and ‘the apostle
whom Jesus loved’, are invalid:
B.F. Westcott:
John of Zebedee, fisherman-apostle
My study:
John Mark and Mary, Jesus’ virgin mother
1 The author of the Fourth Gospel was a Jew. Jesus’ virgin mother Mary and John Mark
both were Jews.
2 It was a Jew of Palestine. The details known about Jerusalem (e.g.
the Pool of Siloam and the Pool Bethesda,
John 5,2 9,7.11) fit with the knowledge of
John Mark, who lived in Jerusalem (better
than with the knowledge of the Galilean
fisherman John of Zebedee).
3 The author was an eyewitness of the events he
Jesus’ mother Mary was in the company
of Jesus and his disciples at least at Cana
and in Capernaum and (until) at the foot
of the cross149. John Mark was an
eyewitness of the events in Jerusalem: the
entrance into Jerusalem and the temple,
the Last Supper, the arrest, the trials, the
crucifixion, the empty grave and the
4 a) The author was an Apostle, because of the
scope of his description, the acquaintance
with the thoughts and feelings of the disciples
at critical moments, the recollection of words
spoken among themselves, the familiarity
with the places to which they withdrew from
time to time and the acquaintance with
imperfect or erroneous impressions the
apostles received initially.
b) The author was an Apostle because he
stood very near to the Lord: he knew the
Lord’s emotions, the grounds of his actions
and even the mind of the Lord in many
a) All of these reasons (on all the
occasions, mentioned by Westcott) can be
explained either by the presence of Jesus’
virgin mother Mary as one of the
“women” who followed and served Jesus
and his apostles (Mark 15,40-41 Luke 8,1-
3), or by the presence of John Mark.
b) This standing very near to the Lord and
this knowledge serve as very good
arguments to defend that the author was
Jesus’ virgin mother Mary.
148 See bibliography. See also
149 John 2,1.12 19,25-27; Pope Benedict XVI, during the general audience of February 14,
2007, stated about Jesus’ mother: “Becoming a disciple of Christ, Mary manifested at Cana
her complete trust in him (cf. John 2:5) and followed him to the foot of the cross, where she
received a maternal mission from him for all his disciples of all times, represented by John
(cf. John 19:25-27)” (
150 John 2,24 ff, 4,1 5,6 6,15 7,1 16,9 (motives), 11,33 13,21 (emotions), 6,6.61.64
5 The author was the Apostle John.
a) John 21,24 assigns authorship to “the
apostle whom Jesus loved”.
b) He was known to the high priest.
c) He stood in close relationship to Peter.
d) the author should be one of the three
favorite apostles of the synoptics:
Peter, James and John.
a) This is not accurate, because John
21,24 and John 21,20 and 21,23 all say it
was the “disciple” – not the ‘apostle’ –
“whom Jesus loved”.
b) The being known to the high priest was
a characteristic of the anonymous disciple
at the gate, and needn’t be applied to the
beloved disciple (and it certainly was a
characteristic of another secret disciple,
Joseph of Arimatea, as he was a member
of the Great Sanhedrin).
c) Simon Peter lived in John Mark’s house
from 30 to 44 CE.
d) There is no basis for this assumption.
6 Corroboration: John (the apostle) is not
mentioned by name anywhere in the Fourth
(Refutation of Westcott’s argument: The
apostle James of Zebedee, brother of the
apostle John, isn’t mentioned by name
anywhere in the Fourth Gospel either.)
Corroborations for John Mark:
1) John Mark is not in the Fourth Gospel
at all: not by name, nor by deeds (as rich
young ruler).
2) Jesus’ mother is not mentioned by
name anywhere in the Fourth Gospel
3) John Mark is not mentioned by name
anywhere in the Gospel of Mark.
Table 8. Westcott’s concentric circles of proof
Another argument that supports the authorship of Mary is that the Fourth Gospel proclaims
Jesus as being God, born in the flesh: “The Word was God”, “the Word was made flesh”
(through Mary), “the only begotten God” (John 1,1.14.18). Mary, Jesus’ virgin mother, could
be posited as the author of the Fourth Gospel in the sense in which antiquity defined
authorship: “The author is the person whose ideas the book expresses, not necessarily the
person who set pen to papyrus”151. The renowned New Testament scholar Brown identifies
several phases in the development of the Fourth Gospel, and these phases could correspond to
its several authors (see table 9):
151 Brown and Collins: 1034-1054; Brown: lxxxvii.
Phases in the developme