In Response To: Dave Gentile
On: Mark's Ending
Dave has raised some interesting points. I diverge somewhat in how I see the
logic of the question, and it may be helpful to offer that view as part of
DAVE: I don't think that the current ending of Mark is original, but it may
not be that Mark originally ended at 16:8 either.
BRUCE: By "current ending" I take it Dave means Mk 16:9f, which is omitted
or italicized in most recently critical editions. Let's start by agreeing
that Mk 16:9f is not part of the discussion.
DAVE: An earlier version of Mark may have contained an ending which is now
totally lost. For some theological reason, it was removed very early, and
then much later the current ending was added.
BRUCE: That is, there was originally something in the place now occupied by
Mk 16:9f, and that this was removed. The current MK 16:9f (if I understand
Dave rightly) would be a later suppletion, posterior to the time Mk was (I
conclude on other evidence) seen by Mt and Lk. I go back to this in a
moment. First, the remainder of Dave's position:
DAVE: But just because we don't believe Mark's current ending is original,
does not mean we must automatically conclude that it originally ended with
the empty tomb. The only argument I can see that one might make in the way
of evidence for such a lost ending is that the later authors certainly
seemed to agree that a key narrative event was missing.
BRUCE: I think, and have previously urged, that the later attempts to supply
an ending for Mk (the traditional Mk 16:9f, the Freer Ending) are excellent
evidence for a sense that Mk ought not to end so up in the air as it does;
the sense among people not that far removed from the Gospel formative period
that Mk 16:8 is a funny way to end a Gospel.
Accepting that early agreement as a welcome support for some modern
impressions, including my own, we next need to ask: Assuming the original
end of Mk, the thing originally in the place now occupied by Mk 16:9f, was
intentionally and not accidentally removed from an earlier state of Mk, is
16:8 a credible artifact of that process? I would think that it is
excessively abrupt, and that an intentional deletion would have left a more
If so, then the possibility of accidental damage re-emerges. This is where I
think the scenario which I earlier proposed makes sense. If the damage was
accidental, why was not the missing material at once supplied? My suggestion
was: because Mk, at the point it came to be used by Mt and/or Lk,, was no
longer part of a live tradition, but instead a relic of a formerly live
tradition. Neither the [most recent] author of the book, nor the community
whose beliefs the book either reflected or inculcated, was available to
provide the missing information. The physical GMk was all there was. My
suggestion for filling out that scenario (there may well be other
possibilities) was that Mk was the Gospel of an early Galilean Christian
group, perhaps suppleted with Mk 13 as late as 71 by someone anxious to
update the work's prophetic power, but that what was left of the group and
of the text-proprietor set within that group was eliminated by the
repressions in conjunction with the years 70-73. Pella. What might credibly
have been imagined to have survived that disaster would be just a slightly
damaged text of GMk, with its ending torn off by circumstance (rather than
theological odium), and supplied as an unprovenanced object to the later
Synoptists, its original community being no longer able to be queried about
what might have lain beyond Mk 16:8, or about any other matter.
If intentional, why was not the nature of the intention known to the
Synoptists operating only a few years later? If accidental, well, that seems
to me to offer possibilities if we are thinking of the years of the early
Just a suggestion. But it does seem to me to meet what I take to be the
data, the situational givens, in the problem.
On the other hand, if it can be shown that Mk 13 can after all be entirely
construed as responsive to the Caligula situation, rather than to the Titus
situation, then even Mk 13 can be old within Mk, and there is no necessity
to posit an addition much later, in the 70's. Then all the more, GMk might
be an old, and uncontexted, object as of the Synoptic composition fervor
following the events of 70-73.
Myself, I like it better, and would be glad to see a strong Caligula
argument for Mk 13. To that end: Would someone care to summarize and refute
Kloppenborg's latest argument (his chief contribution is the Evocatio Deorum
motif)? Or for that matter, to summarize and support Hendrika Roskam's? (see
JBL v124 #3, 553f). I agree with the JBL reviewer that she has the better of
it as against Incigneri's Roman scenario for Mk, but I also agree that her
position needs a little more work.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst