Author Topic: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel  (Read 3025 times)

Dan Fienen

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Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« on: March 18, 2021, 11:53:53 AM »
As all of us, except perhaps those devoted to the One Year Lectionary, know this is Year B and the primary Gospel this year is that of Mark. As we approach Easter, one of the things that we must come to terms with is the way that Mark treats the Easter story and the notorious and abrupt ending to the Gospel in the earliest manuscripts. Many theories have been advanced as to how the Gospel should end, including the possibility that very early in the textual transmission the original ending was lost. There are a couple of endings given in early manuscripts that round out Mark’s account of Jesus with Resurrection appearances like those given in the other Gospels.

In the introductory material for his first Marcan commentary Mark 1:1-8:26 in the Concordia Commentary series, James Voelz argues that the 16:8 ending is the original ending and that to end the Gospel with that ambiguous ending fits with the themes and point of the Gospel.

Quote
Simply and succinctly put, in the Second Gospel we see a story hard to follow and a hero difficult to understand Therefore, we cannot see clearly to believe (cf. 8:22-26). Or as summarized by the Jewish leaders at the cross (15:32): “the Christ, the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross in order that we may see and believe” (‘ίνα ỉ‛δωμεν καί ϖιστεύσωμεν)! In fact, this is exactly what this Gospel will not give: seeing to believe; clear sight to understand; unambiguous evidence to be sure. In this strange and perplexing Gospel, seeing is not believing; on the contrary, seeing follows from believing, not the other way around.

. . .

This, then, is what Mark’s Gospel is about: the ambiguity of the evidence, the necessity of believing in the face of such evidence, and the reliability of Jesus’ Word.
(Mark 1:1-8:26, Voelz, p. 55, emphasis original)

Thus the demand of the Jewish leaders at the cross for evidence that they can see before they will believe, is met not with the evidence of resurrection appearances, but with ambiguity and a refusal to meet their demands.

Voelz went on to point out another instance in the Gospel where a demand for evidence that can be seen was denied. In Mark 8 Jesus conversed with Pharisees who demanded a sign from heaven. Jesus declared that the demand for a sign was characteristic of a wicked and adulterous generation. And no sign would be given but that of Jonah.

Quote
What, then, is the message of this book? According to our analysis it is this: in this age, the reign and rule of God in Jesus Christ has come in power, but in hiddenness, as it were, in humility and lowliness. The goal of the ministry Jesus was to serve, not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45). Therefore, the true revelation of the Son of God was at the cross, where he gave his life as that ransom.
(Mark 1:1-8:26, Voelz, p. 61, emphasis original)


Quote
But the answer of the Second Gospel is this: “It was ever thus. If you had been there, it would not have been any easier than it is today. The evidence would have been ambiguous, even with your Lord. What you have is what the disciples and the women had, also on that Easter morning; you have the promise of his Word a Word that is ever sure.
(Mark 1:1-8:26, Voelz, p. 61)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 01:05:18 PM by Dan Fienen »
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Dan Fienen

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2021, 12:24:16 PM »
Apologetics has been a standard genre of Christian literature since the earliest Church Fathers. In the last half century, many books have been published that attempt to present a case for Christianity based upon evidence that can be seen and analyzed, and upon which conclusions can be based.

If James Voelz is correct in his understanding of the message of Mark, or even if he has only hit upon one theme in Mark, it suggests that we may need to be careful about an over reliance on evidence that we can find as a basis for and support of our faith.

That is not to say that there is no place for consideration of the evidence that is available. The New Testament itself is not without presentations of evidence in support of the Christian Gospel.

Paul, in the great Resurrection Chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 goes on in some length listing the witnesses and evidences for the Resurrection. Many of those witnesses were at that time still alive and could be interviewed, although some had died. The miracles of Jesus were discussed as signs pointing to who and what He was and that many believed at least in part because of those miracles. So signs and evidences are not totally rejected.

A couple of the miracles are especially instructive to this point. Jesus' healing of the paralytic in Capernaum (Mt. 9:2-8, Mk. 2:1-12, and Lk. 5:17-26) Jesus began by forgiving the man his sins. When that was met with skepticism, Jesus added the healing of the man's paralysis, "That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." (Mt. 9:6) A visible sign to support Jesus' claims supplied by Jesus! Apparently all use of evidence and signs was not forbidden.

Of special interest was the healing of the man born blind, John 9. This miracle amply demonstrated the limitations of providing evidence. The Jewish leaders disputed that this miracle indicated Jesus' divine nature and so they thoroughly investigated the miracle and the man healed to discredit this as evidence. Every bit of their investigation substantiated the miracle and still they refused to believe.

What this means for our use of apologetics is not simple. It is clear that we cannot overcome all opposition to the Gospel and provide an irrefutable foundation for our faith simply by accumulating enough evidence. Faith, in the end, is still faith and not proof. But neither is evidence useless.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 01:07:41 PM by Dan Fienen »
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2021, 01:38:59 PM »
I believe that simply stated, Mark's gospel ends with all of Jesus' followers being unfaithful. The men ran away in the Garden, the women leave and disobey the command to spread the news. However, our unfaithfulness doesn't change Jesus' faithful. The risen Jesus will appear to the disciples in Galilee just as he had promised, regardless of their belief or knowledge of the resurrection.


The women's silence is not the last word. Jesus' promise is.


I like the thought an essay on the ending made: "When is the ending not the end? When it stops in the middle of a sentence; and when there's an empty tomb and a resurrection."


Related to this, Mark 1:1 talks about "the beginning of the Gospel …." I think that the whole Gospel is "the beginning." We, the readers through the centuries, determine how the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, continues.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

RDPreus

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2021, 01:46:22 PM »
What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

I think I'll go with the Catechism over textual critics who reject the testimony of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.

George Rahn

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2021, 01:49:51 PM »
A different take on this:  Who is left at the end of Mark 16:8?  You, the reader/hearer are.  Jesus says in certain terms to go to Galilee.  There you will see Him as He told you. 
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 01:51:37 PM by George Rahn »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2021, 02:02:46 PM »
What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

I think I'll go with the Catechism over textual critics who reject the testimony of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.


Then you also have to deal with the following verses: 17 "These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages. 18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.”


Those "vast number of Greek manuscripts" that include the longer ending come from the 5th-15th centuries. The two oldest Greek manuscripts (4th century) do not include it. They are not in an Old Latin manuscript (4th-5th century) nor in a Syriac manuscript (4th-7th century). Even older authors: Clement of Alexandria (215) and Origen (254) show no knowledge of the longer ending. Eusebius (339) and Jerome (420) attest that the ending was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark that they knew.


A number of copies from the 10th-15th centuries mark the longer ending with asterisks or obeli, which was the conventional way of indicating a spurious addition to a document.


Both the external evidence (oldest manuscripts) and internal evidence (at least nine words that occur no where else in Mark,) and the awkward transition from v. 8 to v. 9, favor vv. 9-20 as later additions.


However, questions remain: Did the evangelist intend to end the gospel at v. 8? Was there another sheet of manuscript that was lost?


I think that the ending at v. 8 fits well the themes of Mark's gospel.


While 16:16 may be a favorite verse, other verses are not so favorable. Similarly, even though the Gospel of Thomas is not canonical, there are verses that are likely to go back to Jesus - and many that do not.



« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 02:33:04 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2021, 02:07:44 PM »
What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

I think I'll go with the Catechism over textual critics who reject the testimony of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.


Then you also have to deal with the following verses: 17 "These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages. 18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.”




So? Those things have all happened among Christians.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2021, 02:37:34 PM »
What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

I think I'll go with the Catechism over textual critics who reject the testimony of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.


Then you also have to deal with the following verses: 17 "These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages. 18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.”




So? Those things have all happened among Christians.


Note: I added to my post.


And many more have died from snake bites and poison. A friend, based on these verses, with the church he was attending, believed so strongly that the laying on of hands would heal him that he stopped taking his insulin. He ended up in the hospital. They tried again, trying to muster up even more faith in the truth of v. 18; their prayers and the laying on of hands would bring healing. Stopped the insulin. Ended up hospitalized. He stopped going to that church. He is religious about taking his insulin now.


I think that more damage has been done by these verses than any help they may offer.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

John_Hannah

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2021, 02:37:51 PM »
Mark 16:9-20 is most certainly part of the canonical scriptures and is to be to be treated as such. These verses may not have been written by the same author as the rest of Gospel named by long standing tradition "Mark." They probably were not. I agree with Prof. Voelz.

Peace, JOHN
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RDPreus

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2021, 04:56:53 PM »
What benefits does Baptism give?
It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

I think I'll go with the Catechism over textual critics who reject the testimony of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.


Then you also have to deal with the following verses: 17 "These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages. 18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.”


Those "vast number of Greek manuscripts" that include the longer ending come from the 5th-15th centuries. The two oldest Greek manuscripts (4th century) do not include it. They are not in an Old Latin manuscript (4th-5th century) nor in a Syriac manuscript (4th-7th century). Even older authors: Clement of Alexandria (215) and Origen (254) show no knowledge of the longer ending. Eusebius (339) and Jerome (420) attest that the ending was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark that they knew.


A number of copies from the 10th-15th centuries mark the longer ending with asterisks or obeli, which was the conventional way of indicating a spurious addition to a document.


Both the external evidence (oldest manuscripts) and internal evidence (at least nine words that occur no where else in Mark,) and the awkward transition from v. 8 to v. 9, favor vv. 9-20 as later additions.


However, questions remain: Did the evangelist intend to end the gospel at v. 8? Was there another sheet of manuscript that was lost?


I think that the ending at v. 8 fits well the themes of Mark's gospel.


While 16:16 may be a favorite verse, other verses are not so favorable. Similarly, even though the Gospel of Thomas is not canonical, there are verses that are likely to go back to Jesus - and many that do not.

Irenaeus quotes from Mark 16:19 in Against Heresies.  That's in the 2nd century.  In P 45, just a few pages of Mark's Gospel survive.  What do we have of Mark's Gospel in P 45 (about 225 A.D.) corresponds closest to Codex Washingtonianus in the 4th or 5th century which contained the long ending of Mark.  It is reasonable to assume that P 45 did as well.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2021, 05:05:12 PM »
Brian, you think more damage has been done by those verses than any help they may offer? Perhaps reading them prescriptions instead of descriptions leads people astray, but that’s what real pastors are for— not ditching the verses they don’t like, but helping people apply them properly.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2021, 06:02:50 PM »
Mark 16:9-20 is most certainly part of the canonical scriptures and is to be to be treated as such. These verses may not have been written by the same author as the rest of Gospel named by long standing tradition "Mark." They probably were not. I agree with Prof. Voelz.


Did we not also inherit the Apocrypha as canonical scripture? Shouldn't they be treated as such?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2021, 06:16:44 PM »
Mark 16:9-20 is most certainly part of the canonical scriptures and is to be to be treated as such. These verses may not have been written by the same author as the rest of Gospel named by long standing tradition "Mark." They probably were not. I agree with Prof. Voelz.


Did we not also inherit the Apocrypha as canonical scripture? Shouldn't they be treated as such?

Is canonical (having to do with the biblical canon) also to ignore the issue that the Bible is a collection of writings as it also tends to the question as to the apostolic and prophetic writings of the Old and New Testaments (cf. Formula of Concord)? I am not a fan of taking the whole Bible as we have it today as canon even though the issues about what comprises the canon must be involved  in evaluating content (ie. apostolic and prophetic).
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 06:38:00 PM by George Rahn »

John_Hannah

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2021, 06:22:14 PM »
Mark 16:9-20 is most certainly part of the canonical scriptures and is to be to be treated as such. These verses may not have been written by the same author as the rest of Gospel named by long standing tradition "Mark." They probably were not. I agree with Prof. Voelz.


Did we not also inherit the Apocrypha as canonical scripture? Shouldn't they be treated as such?

Why not? It's fine for a majority of Christians.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2021, 06:29:02 PM »
Irenaeus quotes from Mark 16:19 in Against Heresies.  That's in the 2nd century.


It's also quoted in the Diatesseron (2nd century).


Quote
In P 45, just a few pages of Mark's Gospel survive. What do we have of Mark's Gospel in P 45 (about 225 A.D.) corresponds closest to Codex Washingtonianus in the 4th or 5th century which contained the long ending of Mark.  It is reasonable to assume that P 45 did as well.


The old manuscripts that omit it are א and B, both 4th century.
Those that include it include A C D W (5th century) K Δ Θ Π Ψ (9th century)


It is not just external evidence, such as the manuscripts that are used, but also internal evidence. Bruce Metzger in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, writes: "(a) the vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non-Markan (e.g. ἀπιστέω, βλάπτω, βεβαιὀω, ἐπακολουθέω, θεάομαι, μετὰ ταῦτα, πορεύομαι, συνεργέω, ὕστερον are found nowhere else in Mark; and θανάσιμον and τοῖς μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ γενομένοις, as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament). (b) The connection between ver. 8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel. Thus, the subject of ver. 8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in ver. 9; in ver. 9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she had been mentioned only a few lines before (15:47 and 16:1); the other women of verses 1-8 are now forgotten; the use of ἀναστὰς δἐ and the position of πρῶτον are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8. In short, all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with ver. 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion. In view of the inconcinnities between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to fill up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century." (pp. 104-105)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 06:47:43 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]