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In Mark 14:51, we read about a youth who flees, after he sees Jesus being arrested:

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Many speculate that the young man was Mark himself. But then, having become one of the Evangelists later, he would not have referred to himself as a certain young man, unless of course, he had a terrible guilt feeling which he did not want to acknowledge.

My question therefore is: How does the Catholic Church explain the omission of identity of the young man referred to in Mk 14:51?

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  • Perhaps it was humility or a near feeling rather than guilt. The incidence described in 14:51 is of such little intrinsic significance that it if it was not Mark himself there is little reason remaining to answer why it is in the Gospel of Mark at all. He thus shows that his first-hand knowledge of the events he is describing is very limited/almost nothing. Maybe he had been woken from his sleep by the commotion, and without time to properly dress, quickly went outside to see what was going on and then follow. Probably, this is the only first-hand eye-witness testimony in this Gospel. – Andrew Shanks Dec 16 '20 at 7:34
  • This fits with early accounts of how the Gospel of Mark was produced... from the preaching of the Apostle Peter and approved of by him. – Andrew Shanks Dec 16 '20 at 7:36
  • We must equally remember that the Gospels were written at a time when persecution was still a strong reality and the authors of the Gospels did not desire to too readily reveal the names of the faithful too overtly either. – Ken Graham Dec 16 '20 at 8:07
  • Further, no author of the Gospels give their name as author within the text. If they had it might suggest they were asking us to believe the text on the grounds of their own integrity. It was the Apostles who confirmed the Gospels were inspired by God & the early church gave added testimony by receiving them as from God (John 21:24). Of all the holy writings of the NT, the Gospels, biographies of the Lord of Glory, are the holy of holies; it would defile them to bear the name of the human author, & darken/blur that they are given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. See 1 Tim 5:18 & Lk 10:7 – Andrew Shanks Dec 16 '20 at 8:51
  • The entire content of Mark is contained within Matthew's account (except for 55 verses, I am told, but have not myself researched that.) I would suggest that Mark read Matthew (which appears to have been written early in the first century) and he perceived that, within Matthew's setting forth of the Kingdom of Heaven and its King, was another aspect of Jesus Christ - the Messenger of the Covenant. So he extracted all that was needed, added the fifty five verses, and presented a new way of seeing Jesus of Nazareth. And, perhaps (it cannot be proven) added his own, youthful failing. Up-voted +1. – Nigel J Dec 16 '20 at 18:09
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How does the Catholic Church explain the omission of identity of the young man referred to in Mk 14:51?

Yes there are several interpretations as to who this young man may have been. The Church offers no definitive answer to this equation.

Being a Catholic all my life and having been in a Catholic seminary for four years, I can confirm that the majority of Catholic theologians consider the young man to be St. Mark himself.

When one of Jesus’ followers (“a certain young man”) is captured at the same time Jesus is being arrested (in Mark 14:51-52), but then leaves his garment behind as he escapes naked, Pakaluk is able to make sense of the strange detail.

“It seems that this young man is Mark himself,” he writes. “It is a detail too small to include otherwise, and it seems unlikely that anyone else would have noticed it in the darkness and confusion. The telling of the incident has a humorous tone of self-congratulation, which is difficult to account for if it is someone other than Mark.”

Can you imagine if you had been the follower of Jesus who was apprehended at the same time as him, but then slipped away from your captors by wriggling free of your clothes? No doubt you would be wryly retelling that unique story for the rest of your life.

Pakaluk notes how the episode is only self-congratulatory for Mark in the same way that Peter ironically notes his own shortcomings: “The detail is humorous, and if written by Mark, self-depreciating.” - St. Peter’s memoirs: a vivid take on a familiar Gospel (The BC Catholic)

Naked fugitive

The Betrayal of Christ, with a soldier in pursuit of Mark the Evangelist

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The young man was not St. Mark, but there has been speculation of his identity:

Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., commentating on St. Mark's Gospel 14:51, writes:

Ver. 51. And a certain young man followed him having a linen cloth cast round about his naked body; and they laid hold on him. That is, he was clothed (amictus, Vulg.) with a linen vest over his naked body. It is plain, from the word amictus, that this piece of linen was a kind of linen garment, fitting the body, but so that it might easily be put on and off the back. This is also clear from Pollux, who calls the linen cloth περιβόλαιον, i.e., a veil, a cloak, a covering.

You will ask who this young man was:

  1. S. Epiphanius (Hæres. 78) and S. Jerome, or whoever the author is on Ps. 38, think that he was James the Lord’s brother.
  2. Bede and S. Chrysostom, S. Ambrose, S. Gregory, and Baronius think it was S. John; for he was a youth, and the youngest of the Apostles. But that it was neither John nor James, nor any of the Apostles, is plain from this, that Mark has just before said, ver. 50, then all His disciples, meaning Apostles, forsook Him and fled.
  3. Theophylact and Euthymius think that the young man was someone from the house of John Mark, in which Christ had eaten the Passover.
  4. And more probably, Cajetan (in Jentaculis) and others conjecture that this young man was a member or servant of a house adjacent to the garden, who, being awoke by the noise made by those who were apprehending Christ as they passed by, rose up from his bed, and ran to see what was being done. That he was a favourer or disciple of Christ appears from what Mark says, he followed Him. Wherefore also the officers laid hold of him i.e., they wished to hold him by seizing his garment. The Hebrew active verbs often signify commencement and effort.
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Roman Catholic Scholarship here does not specifically identify the person, but mentions how Church Fathers have identified different men, and also gives the modern identification.

51-52. This enigmatic detail is found exclusively in Mk. Its purpose is elusive; but it heightens the desertion of Jesus by his own. The young man is not identified; idle conjectures have named various candidates: John the Apostle (Ambrose, Chrysostom, Bede); James, “the brother of the Lord” (Epiphanius); John Mark (many modern commentators). -- Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. (1996). The Jerome Biblical commentary (Vol. 2, p. 55). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

The modern identification as the author, John Mark, is based on how John identifies himself in his gospel.

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