While I do not enjoy drawing attention to the blasphemy that regularly oozes out of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (blasphemy against scientific research, I mean, not blasphemy against God), Dr. James Tabor recently said some things about the ending of the Gospel of Mark for which his employers, publishers, and students should hold him accountable.
Bear in mind that in the current edition of "The Jesus Dynasty," Dr. Tabor wrote the following about Mark 16:9-20, on pages 230-231:
"Pious scribes who copied Mark made up an ending for him and added it to his texts sometime in the late 2nd century A.D. over one hundred years after the original text was composed! This concocted ending became verses 16:9-20, but it is not found in any of our older more reliable copies of Mark. It is in fact a clumsy composite of the sightings of Jesus reported by Matthew, Luke, and John. It contains no independent material that can be identified as specifically from Mark, and the Greek style in which it is written is decidedly non-Markan. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, two of our early Christian scholars, who lived in the 3rd century A.D., do not even know the existence of this "longer" ending. In their day it had not yet appeared. Eusebius and Jerome, Christian writers from the early and late 4th century A.D., know it exists but note that it is absent from almost all Greek manuscripts of which they are aware. Two other "made-up" endings were later put into circulation, as shorter alternatives to this longer traditional ending."
Every sentence I just quoted contains falsehoods and misrepresentations. Figuring that the Gospel of Mark was written in the mid-60's, how did Justin Martyr and Tatian have it in their copies, if 16:9-20 was not added until "over one hundred years after the original text was composed"?
And inasmuch as Mark 16:9-20 is attested by Codices Alexandrinus, Bezae, Ephraemi Rescriptus, etc., and inasmuch as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are the only two Greek manuscripts in which 16:8 is followed by nothing but the closing-title of the Gospel of Mark, how can it be said that Mark 16:9-20 "is not found in any of our older more reliable copies of Mark"? It rather looks like Dr. Tabor believes that we only have two reliable old copies of Mark.
His statements about Clement of Alexandria (who hardly ever used the Gospel of Mark, except for chapter 10) and Origen (who used fewer than half of the 12-verse sections of Mark, and who did not use some much larger sections of the book) deceive his readers, and so do his statements about Eusebius and Jerome. If Mark 16:9-20 "had not yet appeared" by the day of Clement of Alexandria in the third century, how did Irenaeus specifically quote Mark 16:9-20 in the second century?
And, while there is indeed a Shorter (or Intermediate) Ending which circulated in Egypt, it was created as a way of rounding off the narrative, not as an alternative to verses 9-20. And the Shorter Ending is *the* Shorter Ending; the other "shorter alternative" that Dr. Tabor tells his readers about is the product of his confused imagination. (I suspect that he is passing along a garbled statement about the Freer Logion that he received from Robert Grant during his time at the University of Chicago.)
While Dr. Tabor's statements are hopelessly deceptive, in the first edition they were even worse. Initially his comments began with the statement that "Pious scribes who copied Mark made up an ending for him and added it to his text sometime in the 4th century A.D. - over 300 years after the original text was composed." The impossibility of this was pointed out to him, but the resultant changes to the text were minimal.
Now at http://jamestabor.com/2012/08/25/the-strange-ending-of-the-gospel-of-mark-and-why-it-makes-all-the-difference/
he states the following about the abrupt ending (at 16:8):
"This original ending of Mark was viewed by later Christians as so deficient that not only was Mark placed second in order in the New Testament, but various endings were added by editors and copyists in some manuscripts to try to remedy things. The longest concocted ending, which became Mark 16:9-19, became so treasured that it was included in the King James Version of the Bible, favored for the past 500 years by Protestants, as well as translations of the Latin Vulgate, used by Catholics."
Even Dallas Theological Seminary professors (who have spread other falsehoods about Mark 16:9-20) should be able to detect some problems here:
(1) Mark was not placed second because of how its text ended.
(2) "Various" is not a valid way to describe the two endings which follow Mark 16:8 in the MSS. (If I told someone that I own a variety of cars, and then that person found out that I only own two cars one with a bicycle inside it could I really object if that person called me a liar?)
(3) The longer ending is Mark 16:9-20, not 16:9-19.
(4) The King James Version, having been released in 1611 (401 years ago), has not been "favored for the past 500 years."
The inaccuracies just keep coming:
TABOR: "This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark."
In a footnote he claims, as the basis for this statement, Metzger's Textual Commentary. Regarding Metzger's comments, see my critique at http://onyxkylix.blogspot.com/2012/06/mark-16-bruce-metzger-and.html
TABOR: "Clement of Alexandria and Origen (early 3rd century) show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them."
These words do not appear in quotation marks at his blog. But compare the statement from Metzger, p. 123:
METZGER: "Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them."
How is that not plagiarism?
I think that's enough to demonstrate that Tabor's research on Mark 16:9-20 is extremely shallow and extremely derivative. But let's keep going.
TABOR: "It is pretty evident that what the forger did was take sections of the endings of Matthew, Luke, and John . . . and simply create a "proper" ending."
This is what some other writers, particularly James Kelhoffer, have proposed. In the interest of brevity I will just say here that such an idea does not survive close scrutiny; there are no sustained verbal parallels anywhere in Mark 16:9-20 to anything in Matthew 28, Luke 24, or John 20-21, and there are several features that indicate that 16:9-20 was composed independent of the other accounts; in addition, the non-transition between 16:8 and 16:9 indicates that 16:9-20 was not initially composed as the ending to the Gospel of Mark, for why would any author aspiring to conclude the text of Mark not wrap up the scene in 16:8 in the process?
TABOR: "There are two other endings, one short and the second an expansion of the longer ending, that also show up in various manuscripts."
He must be referring to the Shorter Ending (which appears in six Greek manuscripts) and the Freer Logion (which appears in one manuscript, Codex W). But the Freer Logion is not a separate, independent ending; it is an interpolation. It is absurd (NET-readers, please take note) to refer to the Freer Logion as another ending. It's like looking at a ship with a barnacle on it and saying that you have two ships.
TABOR: (referring to the Shorter Ending and the Freer Logion) "I trust that the self-evident spuriousness of these additions is obvious to even the most pious readers."
Indeed it is. The manuscript-evidence for the Shorter Ending is limited to six Greek manuscripts; the versional evidence is centered in Egypt, and it has no patristic support (except the Askew Codex). The Freer Logion is attested in only one manuscript; it has no versional support, and is mentioned by only one patristic writer, Jerome, who probably encountered it in Greek manuscripts that he saw in Egypt in the 380's. Meanwhile, Mark 16:9-20 is attested by over 40 patristic writers in the era of the Roman Empire (including Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Irenaeus in the 100's, over a century before the production-dates of the earliest manuscripts of Mark 16), and by over 1,700 Greek manuscripts, and by versional evidence too abundant to thoroughly describe here. With that in mind we come to the next statement from Dr. Tabor:
TABOR: "One might in fact hope that Christians who are zealous for the "inspired Word of God" would insist that all three of these bogus endings be recognized for what they areforgeries."
It is oversimplistic to assume that the production of a book of the inspired Word of God must be limited to a single author as he sat down to write on a single occasion. Christians, even of the most conservative kind, routinely accept that books such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Jeremiah were not produced in that way. Christians who feel compelled by the evidence to believe that Mark 16:9-20 did not proceed directly from the author of the Gospel of Mark can accept it as a secondary part of the text -- a portion which has a distinct production-history but is nevertheless an integral part of the canonical and inspired text.
Dr. Tabor's data is incorrect; his interpretations are incorrect, and his bibliological approach is incorrect, so it is not surprising that his conclusions about the implications of the ending of the Gospel of Mark are also incorrect. Let's sample a few of those conclusions.
TABOR: "We have strong textual evidence that the first generation of Jesus followers were perfectly fine with a gospel account that recounted no appearances of Jesus."
His basis for this claim about the first generation of Jesus' followers is not from the first century; it is from the testimony of two fourth-century manuscripts, and a statement from Eusebius (also from the fourth century).
TABOR: "We have to assume that the author of Mark's gospel did not consider his account deficient in the least and he was either passing on, or faithfully promoting, what he considered to be the authentic gospel."
Nothing at all compels such an assumption. We cannot demonstrate the exact circumstances in which the Gospel of Mark was composed, but the available evidence indicates that the Gospel of Mark was produced in Rome, in the mid-60's, where plenty of factors could contribute to a scenario in which Mark was interrupted and never had the opportunity to finish his Gospel-account.
TABOR: "What Mark believes is that Jesus has been "lifted up" or "raised up" to the right hand of God and that the disciples would "see" him in Galilee. Mark knows of no accounts of people encountering the revived corpse of Jesus, wounds and all, walking around Jerusalem."
Who does Dr. Tabor think Mark was? Mark was among the Christians mentioned in the opening chapters of Acts, and was writing based on Peter's recollections about Jesus. Only by positing a Mark who wrote independently of Peter (or by positing a Peter who did not say what he is depicted saying in Acts 10:40-43) can anyone imagine that Mark did not know about a strong apostolic tradition about the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
TABOR: "His tradition is that the disciples experienced their epiphanies of Jesus once they returned to Galilee after the eight day Passover festival and had returned to their fishing in despair. This is precisely what we find in the Gospel of Peter."
He is making things up at this point, inasmuch as the "Gospel of Peter" does not, in its extant form, record any appearances of Christ to the apostles. It is one thing to offer something as a theory, or as a speculation. But that is not what Dr. Tabor does. He asserts that Mark's tradition describes visions rather than bodily visits, and that this is precisely what we find in the "Gospel of Peter," whereas in real life, neither the Gospel of Mark nor the "Gospel of Peter" conveys any such thing.
TABOR: "Since Matthew, Luke, and John come so much later, and clearly reflect the period after 70 CE when all of the first witnesses were dead including Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus, they are clearly 2nd generation traditions and should not be given priority."
I may be going out a limb, but it looks to me like when Dr. Tabor says that Matthew, Luke, and John should not be given priority, what he means is that everything they say that implies that Jesus arose from the dead in a physical body and spoke with His followers should only be taken seriously to the extent that it does not contradict the idea that Jesus never did that.
TABOR: "Mark begins his account with the line "The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). Clearly for him, what he subsequently writes is that "Gospel," not a deficient version thereof that needs to be supplemented or "fixed" with later alternative traditions about Jesus appearing in a resuscitated body Easter weekend in Jerusalem."
(In my Bible, Mark's first line is, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" but considering that Dr. Tabor rejects 12 verses at the end of Mark's Gospel, the careless loss of a few words from the beginning is a minor offense. It may, however, say something about Dr. Tabor's basic familiarity with the material that he has been teaching to his students at UNC-Charlotte.)
Although there are still some authors who insist that no significant textual variants have a significant doctrinal effect, Dr. Tabor's rejection of Mark 16:9-20 clearly shows that this is not the case; his case for the spiritualization of Christ's resurrection and ascension (at least, as he has recently expressed it) depends almost entirely on his rejection of Mark 16:9-20.
Look at what Dr. Tabor is saying. Is nobody at UNC-Charlotte noticing how pathetically shallow Dr. Tabor's research is? UNC-Charlotte people, why do you continue to let this doctor commit malpractice upon your students? UNC-Charlotte students, how many times will you let this restaurant serve you a dirt sandwich before you go somewhere else?
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.