Sunday, January 04, 2015

The ending of Mark

i) Some scholars (e.g. Evans, Edwards, Gundry, Stein, Wright) think the original ending was lost. I myself don't think there's any compelling reason to believe the ending we have (16:1-8) is not the original ending.

To be sure, Mark's account gives the Resurrection somewhat short-shrift compared to Matthew and Luke. However, that's a misleading comparison. After all, his Gospel is much briefer to begin with. 

ii) More to the point, the ending may be briefer simply because Mark had less information than Matthew, Luke, and John. He may not have seen the risen Christ, unlike Matthew and John. Likewise, he may not have interviewed as many people as Luke. He just wrote what he knew, based on personal observation, without conducting the kind of extensive investigations that Luke did. 

To take a comparison, consider the Civil War. You have foot-soldiers writing home. Their accounts are based on personal experience. What they saw. It may include anecdotes from comrades. 

Then you have accounts written by the generals. That's based in part on firsthand observation. But they also have a much broader sense of the war. They are in communication with other commanders. They know what's going on elsewhere. 

Then you have Civl War historians. They comb through a wide range for primary source material. They didn't witness the events, but their account is based on eyewitness material. And it covers much more ground precisely because they aren't confined to their personal experience.  

On this analogy, Mark is like letters by a foot-soldier in the Civil War. He writes about what he's seen in theater, as well as information he's garnered from campfire conversations with his comrades.

Matthew and John are like Civil War generals. They write from firsthand experience as well. But they are privy to things the foot-soldier is not.  

Luke is like a Civil War historian, who collects oral histories from veterans. 

iii) But assuming, for the sake of argument, that the ending is less than we'd expect, here's another possibility: what if Mark saw that he was running out of room on his scroll, and had to present an abbreviated account of the Resurrection?

It's usually said that Luke's Gospel pushes the limits of a scroll. Admitted, Mark is much shorter, but was there a standard length scroll back in the 1C? It's not like you had mass production.

For that matter, I assume longer scrolls were more expensive. What if Mark couldn't afford a full-length scroll, so he had to skimp a bit towards the end? It's hard to estimate how much space you will need to say what you want. 


  1. But what about issues raised with mark writing it? Gotquestions have a summary
    "internal evidence from this passage also casts doubt on Mark as the author. For one thing, the transition between verses 8 and 9 is abrupt and awkward. The Greek word translated “now” that begins v. 9 should link it to what follows, as the use of the word “now” does in the other synoptic Gospels. However, what follows doesn’t continue the story of the women referred to in v. 8, describing instead Jesus’ appearing to Mary Magdalene. There’s no transition there, but rather an abrupt and bizarre change, lacking the continuity typical of Mark’s narrative. The author should be continuing the story of the women based on the word “now,” not jumping to the appearance to Mary Magdalene. Further, for Mark to introduce Mary Magdalene here as though for the very first time (v. 9) is odd because she had already been introduced in Mark’s narrative (Mark 15:40, 47, 16:1), another evidence that this section was not written by Mark".


    "Furthermore, the vocabulary is not consistent with Mark’s Gospel. These last verses don’t read like Mark’s. There are eighteen words here that are never used anywhere by Mark, and the structure is very different from the familiar structure of his writing. The title “Lord Jesus,” used in verse 19, is never used anywhere else by Mark. Also, the reference to signs in vv. 17-18 doesn’t appear in any of the four Gospels. In no account, post-resurrection of Jesus, is there any discussion of signs like picking up serpents, speaking with tongues, casting out demons, drinking poison, or laying hands on the sick. So, both internally and externally, this is foreign to Mark".
    What do you make of this?

    1. I don't consider the long ending of Mark to be original. I think that's a scribal interpolation.

    2. OK I see, thanks for the reply

  2. Well Done Steve,

    Philip Comfort is pretty much in agreement with you.

    He doesn't think that argument i) is viable since the last part of the scroll would be the hardest to loose.
    And I don't think that argument iii) is worth the paper that it is printed on :)

    I tackle the argument a bit in a post here-

    It is a lesson for my Sunday School class.