An Alternative Explanation
The word Gospel is derived from God’s spell. Spell is an ancient word meaning story or news i.e. God’s story or news. Gospel has been further interpreted to mean the “God’s or good news” first mentioned in Mark. The four Canonical Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written in the years 60 AD to 110 AD, long after the death of Jesus, by authors that are not known with any degree of certainty. Traditionally, the first gospel was Matthew, followed by Mark then Luke and finally John. But current consensus puts Mark as first in line, written around 65 AD to 73 AD. Mark is often associated with one of the 12 Apostles or possibly a disciple that traveled with Peter after the crucifixion. Most bible scholars feel that the first rendition of Mark was written in Greek for a Roman audience. There is however no certainty of who Mark was. To add to the mystery and confusion, the Coptic church claims their founder to be Mark. According to Coptic tradition, Mark died a martyr’s death in 68 AD at the hands of pagans who placed a rope around his neck and dragged him around Alexandria until he was dead. His remains were said to have been burned after his death according to early Christian sources. But later sources place the remains of St. Mark at a tomb in Alexandria at the main crossroads of that city.
As luck would have it another famous man was entombed at the same cross roads – Alexander the Great. Alexander was born in 356 BC to King Philip II and Queen Olympia of Macedonia, a backwaters land to Greece. He was raised by his mother to become a great man. His teachers were handpicked by her and imported at great cost. Leonidas, the Greek general and hero of Thermopylae, became his teacher for military tactics, and no less than the great philosopher Aristotle taught Alexander all the known science and arts of the time. Phillip was assassinated by his own guard. Olympia, Alexander’s mother, is often suspected as the person behind the assassination. Alexander became King of Macedonia at age 20. He became master of Persia, Greece, and Egypt. His empire spanned from India to the Mediterranean Sea, the greatest empire ever on the face of the earth to date. But Alexander never saw his 33rd birthday. On one of his campaigns in Babylon he was felled by a mosquito bite that gave him malaria. He died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II. His body was preserved in honey and eventually reached Alexandria, the city he founded on the shores of the Mediterranean. Alexander the Great indeed became greater in death than in life. He was promoted to a deity, a god. His tomb was the destination of many great men, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Augustus. It was Augustus who accidentally knocked off the nose of the dried corpse, trying to place a wreath on his head. Later Alexander’s tomb became a pagan monument that Christians despised. Political and civil unrest, fomented by Christians, destroyed great monuments such as the Library of Alexandria and also caused the disappearance of Alexander’s tomb around 400AD. Strangely and by sheer coincidence St. Mark’s mausoleum appears, as luck would have it, around the same time, at the same crossroads in Alexandria where Alexander’s tomb was said to have been. Since it became a Christian mausoleum it was left alone by the angry Christian marauders.
Fast forward 400 or so years. There is great concern over the Ottoman Empire expansion. Much thought is given to stopping this expansion. It is the eve before the first Crusade. Venice is a city in a critical strategic location as a staging area for launching attacks on the Ottoman Empire’s seat of power, Constantinople. Venice needs a boost to attract business, investors, and generally a “buzz” that is so all important to create the forces that propel human enthusiasm and lead to activity, attention and profit. Advertising theory has been around a long time.
There were two energetic entrepreneurial business men from Venice who traveled to Alexandria, Egypt. They came upon the tomb of St. Mark, or so they were told. What a great find! What if Venice could acquire those bones, those holy relics of Christianity, of no less a person than one of Jesus’ apostles and the author of the first Gospel? A great Cathedral would be built over those bones. It would become a shrine, a place of worship, a place that would attract pilgrims to pay homage to such a symbol of Christianity. It was not easy, but the two adventurers stole the body of the “saint”. In their scramble to get away they managed to break off the head and had to leave it behind… (I wonder if that head was missing a nose). In any case, they made off with the rest of the body. To get it out of the city and onto a boat going to Venice they had to use clever means to hide it. Alexandria was under Ottoman rule. Islam was the religion of all the army, police, inspectors, and in fact practically everyone. Pork is an anathema to Muslims. What better way to hide the body than under a bunch of pork bellies and ham hocks? No respectable Muslim would touch such unholy filth. The body was never noticed and made it to Venice intact sans head. As envisioned by the pair, a great cathedral was erected, and of course is called Saint Mark’s Cathedral. The bones were enshrined under the main altar.
Looking at this body snatching event of hundreds of years ago, what are the odds of there being another, possibly more likely, explanation of the whole event? Saint Mark, if he existed at all, was cremated according to the closest historical witnesses. There was no body of Saint Mark according to several levels of available evidence. There seems to be a “slight of body tricks” conjured for the gullible audience, worthy of a Harry Houdini or David Copperfield. One body disappears only to appear as another body, at the same time in history, and at the same cross roads in Alexandria, which is then stolen by two entrepreneurial thieves and brought to Venice, just at a time when that city needed a boost to attract business. The evidence seems rather strong that the body of Alexander the Great rests under the altar of Saint Mark’s Cathedral. It would be supreme irony that a Pagan Deity’s bones are the mistaken object of worship in a Christian church.