Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Ending of Mark (Part 4 of 4): Internal Issues

     In the case against the final twelve verses of Mark 16, internal issues frequently cited include the following. (1) The vocabulary and style of vv. 9-20 appear to be non-Markan; seventeen words occur in these verses that are not found elsewhere in the Gospel, three of which appear more than once. (2) The connection between v. 8 and v. 9 seems awkward. (3) The subject of v. 8 is the women, but in v. 9 Jesus is the presumed subject. (4) Mary Magdalene is identified in v. 9, even though she is mentioned in 15:47 and 16:1, while the other women of 16:1-8 are forgotten.
     In order for these charges to appear credible, a number of variables have to be overlooked that would otherwise significantly weaken the objections, particularly those centered on a hypothetical Markan vocabulary and style (see Biblical Authorship Part 3). If Mark based his Gospel on the oral testimony of the apostle Peter (as early tradition claims),1 and if Peter was incarcerated and/or killed before the Gospel was finished (a conjecture supported by biblical information and early tradition),2 Mark could have written the ending by himself, and the final section would therefore be entirely Markan, while the preceding material would represent a Petrine-Markan blend.
     Since the conclusion of the Gospel deals with unique subject matter that is not previously discussed, would it not therefore call for distinctive terminology? Three words in this section occur in the New Testament only in the post-resurrection accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, and John. Of the seventeen words in this paragraph that do not appear elsewhere in Mark in duplicate form, eight do occur in varied forms and are thus part of the so-called "Markan vocabulary" after all, not to mention the rest of the terminology that comprises nearly 90% of the text! Applying the same scrutiny to the twelve verses preceding this section (15:44–16:8), we find that sixteen of these words and phrases do not occur elsewhere in the Gospel either. Moreover, by subjecting the last twelve verses of Luke’s Gospel to the same test, we discover no less than nine words that do not occur elsewhere in Luke, four of which are found nowhere else in the Greek New Testament (see J. W. McGarvey, NT Commentary: Matthew and Mark 380).
     The connection between v. 8 and v. 9 seems awkward only if it is viewed as an attempted continuance of the previous empty tomb section. But if v. 9 is the beginning of a new paragraph (relating to the appearances of the resurrected Christ), the break is normal in Mark’s rapid-fire Gospel (cf. 1:3-4, 8-9, 13-14, 34-35, 39-40; 2:17-18, 22-23; 3:12-13, 19-20, 30-31; 3:35–4:1; 4:9-10, 20-21, 25-26, 29-30; 6:13-14, 29-30; 6:56–7:1; 7:13-14; 7:37–8:1; et al.). Note that v. 8 and v. 9 are separated by the conjuntion de, "which is elsewhere a sign of a definite break in the Gospel" (D. E. Nineham, Saint Mark 197 n.; cf. R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation 62 n.).
     Although v. 9 begins with the masculine participle anastas ("rising") and the nearest antecedent is the women of v. 8, an unbiased reader can easily distinguish between an unrelated spatial antecedent and the more obvious conceptual antecedent of vv. 6-7. Compare Mark 7:30, where the subject is two females (the Syro-Phoenician woman and her daughter), immediately followed by v. 31 where "he" (Jesus) is the subject (cf. 2:12-13; 6:44-45; 14:2-3).
     Mary Magdalene is named in v. 9 because she is the subject of the beginning of a new paragraph, particularly in view of her being the first to whom Jesus appeared. Bruce Metzger’s objection that the use of anastas de ("now rising") and the position of prōton ("first") "are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8" (Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] 105) unnecessarily assumes continuance rather than an apparent break and the start of a new section. Note that Mary Magdalene is also mentioned back in 15:40, but no scholarly eyebrows are raised by the repetition of her name in 15:47 and immediately again in 16:1!
     Allen Black comments: "it is important not to overrate the significance of the problem. There is no doctrine or practice discussed in vv. 9-20 that is not taught elsewhere in the New Testament" (Mark 293). While this statement is generally true, the reference in v. 18 to drinking "anything deadly" is without parallel in the New Testament. Nevertheless, Papias of Hierapolis reported that he had learned from the daughters of the apostle Philip concerning Justus Barsabas (cf. Acts 1:23-24), "though he drank a deadly poison, experienced nothing injurious through the grace of the Lord" (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.9).
     Everyone agrees that the last twelve verses of Mark’s Gospel bear strong affinities to the other biblical accounts of the resurrection (i.e. the information is authentic) and serve as a fitting epilogue (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 8:2; 24:13-51; John 20:1-23; Acts 1:9; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6; 14:3, 9-10; 16:16-18; 28:3-9; Hebrews 2:3-4). The case against the traditional ending does not appear to be as compelling as most critical scholars would have us believe. In fact, the tenacity of this passage in avoiding complete omission from nearly all current standard Greek texts and translations, despite overwhelming opposition, bears testimony to its apparent veracity.3
–Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1Papias of Hierapolis reports that Mark was "Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord" (as quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15). According to Jerome, Peter’s interpreter was Mark, "whose gospel was composed with Peter narrating and him writing" (Ad Hedibiam 120). "Mark reads like a shorthand account of a story by an impromptu speaker--with all the repititions, redundancies and digressions which are characteristic of living speech" (B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels 162-64).
     2Mark was summoned to Rome by Paul (2 Timothy 4:11) and was with Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13) not long before Peter’s martyrdom (2 Peter 1:13-15) at the hands of Nero (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.25.1-8). The proposed scenario above is bolstered by the fact that Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.2) and Clement of Alexandria (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.14.5-7) agree that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome but disagree as to whether this was before or after Peter’s death.
     3For a more detailed assessment of the documentary evidence, consult the works of James Snapp, Jr., including Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. 

Related Posts: Ending of Mark Part 1Ending of Mark Part 2, Ending of Mark Part 3, Text of NT Part 1, Text of NT Part 2


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