Monday, February 17, 2014


In general, I thought Michael Brown had the better of the argument in his response to Matt Waymeyer, both in his post and subsequent exchanges with Waymeyer in the commentbox. However, this particular appeal is a very bad move on Brown's part:

And if we look to Mark 16:17-20 as an early historical witness (if not as Scripture itself), it promises that healing and deliverance will take place through “those who believe,” just as Jesus said in John 14:12: “‘And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ . . . And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” - See more at:

i) To begin with, it's reckless of Brown to promote the Long Ending of Mark. In all likelihood, that's a 2C scribal interpolation. 

The issue isn't just academic. Many of us have seen pictures of Appalachian Pentecostal church services where parishioners test their faith by free handling Eastern diamondback or timber rattlesnakes. Predictably, some parishioners die every so often from snakebite. On a related note is the practice of drinking strychnine.

And like-minded missionaries could spread the practice to Africa or India. So it needs to be challenged. 

For his own protection, is possible that some charlatans stage the event by using rattlesnakes which have been defanged or had their venom glands surgically removed. And some bites a dry bites. Envenomation doesn't automatically occur. But fatalities continue to happen now and again. 

ii) The spurious Long Ending of Mark is also used to prooftext the necessity and sufficiency of baptism for salvation. 

iii) What about the evidential value of the Long Ending as a historical witness? Insofar as the Long Ending is a pastiche of isolated anecdotes in the Gospels and Acts, it's an early historical witness to those books.

However, to suggest it's an early historical witness to Christian practice is like saying an apocryphal gospel is a historical witness to the life of Christ. But that's hardly a reliable source. That's like Elaine Pagels and Dominic Crossan resorting to the Gospel of Thomas to reconstruct the historical Jesus. 

It may attest what was going on within the social circles of an anonymous 2C scribe, but of course, there were heretical as well as orthodox factions in 2C church history. Did the scribe travel in heretical or orthodox circles? How demographically representative is this snapshot of 2C church history? We have no frame of reference. 

Brown needs to publicly retract this argument. 

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