I have previously posted on why I think Mark’s congregation in Rome had Alexandrian roots. Here I build on that post and discuss why I think Mark was an Alexandrian.
Mark’s congregation/audience trusted him to conform to their doctrine
I believe that the the audience at Mark’s play was the Roman congregation patronized by Flavia Domitilla (plus Flavia’s entourage). Mark’s play had to be compatible with their doctrine about Jesus, the Law, etc. The play did not have to be the average or mainstream of their doctrine. Mark had to know the congregation’s official doctrine thoroughly, in order to know what he could say in the play. The only way he could have known it was to be a member himself. If Mark’s congregation was Alexandrian in origin, most likely he was also.
Mark is traditionally associated with Alexandria
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria claims to have been founded by Saint Mark.
1. And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria.
2. And the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life.Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.”, II, xvi
Eusebius is reporting two traditions of Alexandrian orthodox Christianity. In #1, sometime prior, Alexandrian orthodox leaders believed that Mark as a founder was plausible to their congregants and potential congregants. I don’t know why they thought that Mark was plausible as a founder. The most likely reason is that he was Alexandrian. Hometown boy makes good in Rome.
In #2, Eusebius appropriates Philo’s Thereapeutae as Mark’s first congregants. This is not a big leap if Philo’s Therapeutae were indeed the intellectual founders/hometown teachers of Mark’s Roman congregation. Eusebius merely backdates proto-Christianity in Mark’s time, in Rome, to Philo’s time, in Alexandria.
The only Judean theater we know of was in Alexandria
One of my baseline assumptions is that Mark wrote a play that was performed on a stage with actors, a set, etc.
The play was written for a Judean audience. Its scenarios were drawn from Judean Scripture. Its hero speaks wisdom from Judean sources. The action takes place in Judea and Galilee among Judean and Galilean people.
The only place that we know that had a Judean theater tradition, that is, staged plays with Judean stories, was Alexandria. Granted, the one extant playwright, Ezekiel the Tragedian, wrote several centuries before Mark. But there is no reason to think the audience for such plays decreased, or that such plays were no longer of interest.
In addition, if any place in Mark’s time offered plays on Judean themes, it was Alexandria. Why? There was a large and well-to-do Judean population, that spoke Greek. They likely learned Greek drama during their elementary education and attended Greek plays during their adulthood. It is natural that, like Ezekiel, they turned to their national literature for dramatizations of their own stories. There were enough Judeans to make such productions worthwhile, for festivals and special occasions. And therefore in Mark’s time, there were at least a few Judeans who wrote plays on Judean themes.
Mark must have written other plays before he wrote the Gospel play. At least some of them must have been performed. Could the Gospel play have been his first play on a Judean subject? Possible but unlikely. So whether his earlier plays were performed privately or publicly, the most likely location for the performances was Alexandria. (Note: in Mark’s time, private theater performances, as far as we can tell, were rare and expensive. I discuss this in the book. I add now that I think that Mark had written plays for competitions held within the Judean community of Alexandria, and for private performances there and perhaps elsewhere in North Africa and Rome.)
Mark and the Judeans of Alexandria used the Septuagint
The Septuagint (LXX) was created in Alexandria, more than 300 years before Mark wrote. During this time the Judean population of Alexandria remained Greek-speaking and used the LXX as Scripture. Mark’s references to the LXX, and his emulation of its literary style in his narrative text, imply deep familiarity with it. (I recognize that there were other cities, such as Cyrene, Salamis, and Rome, with Hellenized, Greek-speaking Judean populations. Alexandria, however, was the largest.)
The burden is now on other scholars to provide an alternative to my reconstruction. Not a dismissal that “this is all speculation.” Of course it’s speculation. But my scenario makes sense of the data extant while conceptualizing Mark as a real-life human being with a real history and real-life motives. It brings Mark down to earth.