The story of Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross of Jesus as related in the gospel of Mark is quite remarkable for both its brevity and its content. It is conveyed in s single verse in Mark 15:21 as Jesus is being led away by the Romans to be crucified. Even more remarkable is that his sons are mentioned by name–Alexander and Rufus. It seems clear that they ended up part of the Jesus Movement since the author of Mark mentions them as if his readers would readily recognize their names. There is also evidence that Rufus, one of the two sons, is a Roman citizen.
As I related in the first video of this series on the “Ten Jerusalem Tombs and the Tales they Tell,” there was an ossuary with the names of Simon & Alexander, from Cyrene, discovered in a tomb in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem in 1941, one of the great overlooked discoveries related to our understanding of the early followers of Jesus. This ossuary comes from a fully provenanced excavation of a first century Jerusalem tomb, carried out by two respected archaeologists: Sukenik and Avigad. We learn much about this family from the ossuaries and other evidence in the tomb.
The ossuary is in a storeroom at Hebrew University, drawing little attention. Included at the end of this video is a photo collage of our visit there in 2005 with a film crew headed by Simcha Jacobovici. There are of course “minimalists” who will say–well who knows if these are the father and son mentioned by Mark–but the correspondence is remarkable and the likelihood high. I have discussed this in detail in my book, The Jesus Discovery.