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The short ending of Mark: a conjecture

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  • Bob Schacht
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 20, 2002
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      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
      chapters.
      * 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.

      Bob


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