The short ending of Mark: a conjecture
- A number of issues have been raised about the ending of Mark, and the total
Sitz of the gospel. I propose below an explanation-- however, I have been
around historical Jesus studies long enough to know that there is little,
if anything, new under the sun, so I suspect that my explanation has been
proposed before, and critiqued before. Consequently, I would be grateful if
someone would point me to any such prior literature on this idea.
I propose that the Gospel of Mark was written primarily to be read at the
Easter Vigil-- that is, between sundown on the night before Easter, and
dawn on Easter morning. This meant that
* Mark had to be short enough to be read in conjunction with whatever
other Vigil activities might be involved. For example, the modern liturgy
of the Episcopal Church begins the Easter Vigil by prefacing a series of
OT readings with: "the record of God's saving deeds in history, how he
saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God will bring each
of us to the fullness of redemption." There is evidence that the early
church read from the "scriptures" (probably the LXX) in its gatherings, and
such a set of OT readings would be the perfect setup for what follows.
* Mark was written to convey a sense of action and urgency, as has
often been noted (e.g., "immediately" [eutheos] is used 34 times in 14
* The ending of Mark seems cut off because it was meant to be followed
immediately by an Easter Liturgy, echoing the phrase, "He has risen!" (Mark
16:6; cf. Romans 10:9)
* The same Sitz can be used to explain the longer ending: When Mark was
no longer used primarily as a preface to the Easter liturgy, an ending had
to be supplied in place of the Easter Liturgy. It might also explain part
of the motivation for the writing of the gospels of Matthew & Luke.
I take it that the letters of Paul, most likely written before Mark's
gospel, show that the preaching of the Pauline churches stressed the
resurrection (1 Cor 15:3,4,12 sqq & passim; so also Acts 4:33), and
therefore the Easter liturgy, in particular, would have stressed the
resurrection (cf. Romans 10:9).
So-- does anyone have a sense of deja vu about this argument? If so, please
tell me where you've seen it.
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