Thomas C. Oden’s new book The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing Early Church Tradition published by IVP arrived in my mailbox today. When I opened it my initial thought was that I didn’t have time to read a book about the tradition of Mark in Africa. While interesting no doubt to some, I have other things with which to concern myself and Mark’s traditions in Africa was not one of them.
In a pause between tasks this afternoon, I decided to pick up the book and see what it was about. Boy was I surprised! The book sizes up to be not only a very interesting read, but an important contribution to a gaping whole in many of our histories of Christian faith. I had no idea of the traditions about John Mark in Africa.
The African memory of Mary is an epic personal narrative. It begins with the birth and family of Mark, and their transit from Africa to Jerusalem. In traditional memory, Mark’s family, fleeing civil disorder in Africa, moved to Palestine when Mark was young, sometime during the first three decades of the first century. He had joined Peter’s mission by the early forties, and returned to Libya and Egypt in the forties or fifties to his death in the sixties (36).
Oden’s book, written not to scholars, but to interested believers, will no doubt inform us Western evangelicals of a very important part of our Christian history. A little book like this reminds me of how woefully inadequate my knowledge of the Christian faith is. It reminds me that I need to wake up every day pursuing both a wider and deeper knowledge of the Christian faith of which I believe and in which I stand.