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Mark's Ending - Pressure for Ending-Expansion in the First Century

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  • voxverax
    James M. Leonard, Maybe /as a literary innovation,/ the Gospel of Mark was initially unique. But as a testimony to what Jesus said and did, it was not unique;
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 16, 2006
      James M. Leonard,

      Maybe /as a literary innovation,/ the Gospel of Mark was initially
      unique. But as a testimony to what Jesus said and did, it was not
      unique; oral traditions also testified about what Jesus said and
      did. They were not comparable to the Gospel of Mark in terms of
      literary format (since they didn't have any), but their content could
      be compared to the contents of Mark's account.

      JML: "His readership did not have built in expectations of a
      lengthy account of Jesus' resurrection appearances."

      But after reading 14:28 and 16:7, they very probably had an
      expectation of *something,* namely an appearance to the disciples in

      JML: "Only when we compare the later accounts of Matt and Luke do we
      conclude that Mark's ending at 16:8 is lacking."

      No; without Matthew or Luke in the equation, the Abrupt Ending is
      still abrupt. The scene at the empty tomb is not a denouement; it
      indicates that one is coming, and then

      Just like that, the narrative stops. The explicitly predicted
      appearance in Galilee is lacking. Readers of Mark can perceive this
      without having Matthew or Luke for comparison.

      JML: "As it stood to its earliest readers who were
      otherwise not privy to Matt and Luke, the ending was quite
      appropriate, leaving them with the on-going task consigned to the
      women at the tomb."

      I can't mind-read the earliest readers of the Gospel of Mark to
      discern how happy or unhappy they were with the abruptly-ending text,
      but istm that the natural reaction to the AE would be puzzlement,
      since (a) Mark led readers to expect an appearance of Jesus to the
      disciples in Galilee, and (b) having heard or read about Jesus' post-
      resurrection appearances in oral traditions or short compositions,
      Mark's readers expected Peter's Memoirs to say something more about

      JML: "The theory then, is that after Matt and Luke circulated with
      their much fuller endings, there arose some dissatisfaction with
      Mark's relatively muted triumphal ending."

      There's nothing particularly weak about that theory, but
      dissatisfaction with the AE would occur with or without Matthew and
      Luke. (Especially if the AE was known to be an unintended
      consequence of Mark's demise.)

      JML: "Considering Matt and Luke, the short ending of Mark drew
      longer endings like a magnet."

      That makes it sound as if a flock of longer endings popped up out of
      nowhere. Although some scholars have referred to "nine endings" of
      Mark in the MSS, there is really only one serious contender besides
      the Abrupt Ending: the Long Ending.

      JML: "This magnetic pull would have been irresistible, as is
      reflected in the widespread acceptance of the alternative endings
      through Mark's transmissional history."

      Such a magnetic pull, though, was already in place: it was built
      into the text of Mark (in 14:28 and 16:7) and was induced by readers'
      knowledge that there was more to the good news about Jesus (the story
      that Mark's Gospel claimed to be telling). Mark's survivors would
      [be able to easily] perceive that Mark had intended to write more
      about Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, and they would also [be
      able to easily] realize that without a record of Jesus' post-
      resurrection appearance and the commissioning of the apostles, Mark's
      Gospel-account was missing an important part of the story which was
      present in oral traditions, in short texts, and which had been
      proclaimed by Peter.

      JML: "The wonder is that any mss have survived without the fuller

      One could also wonder why, if this magnetic pull toward expansion
      began to exist at some later stage (when the Gospels, at least the
      Synoptics, were collected), instead of already existing the first
      time Mark's survivors read his interrupted text, why we see in the
      MSS only two alternatives to the Abrupt Ending, instead of half a
      dozen locally devised endings.

      I'm pretty sure that if Mark unintentionally stopped writing at the
      end at 16:8, it was nearly inevitable, in light of his Roman
      associates' perception of Mark's intent (as forecast in 16:7) and
      their awareness that Petrine oral tradition included Jesus' post-
      resurrection appearances and His commissioning of the apostles, that
      an ending relating those events would be attached to 16:8 before
      Mark's book would be recopied and distributed for church use.

      And if they possessed a short Markan composition that summarized
      those events, it would be almost inevitable for them to regard that
      summary as sufficient, and use it to conclude Mark's Gospel, rather
      than compose a fresh ending. (This would mean that the master-copy
      of the Gospel of Mark had two pieces: one containing 1:1-16:8, and
      one containing 16:9-20. If the master-copy was preserved for several
      years, but was at some point moved, and lost its second piece en
      route, the presence of 16:9-20 in most of the transmission-stream,
      and the absence of 16:9-20 in a narrow channel of the transmission-
      stream -- a channel which received the incomplete master-copy, or a
      copy of it -- are simply explained.)

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
      Curtisville Christian Church
      Elwood, Indiana (USA)
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