Critique of Black in Perspective on the Ending of Mark
- The fourth chapter of "Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views," is by Dr. David Alan Black. He writes with concern, not only for the text-critical issue about Mark 16:9-20, but for the synoptic problem, and for the evangelical vibrancy of the church. Black begins somewhat apologetically, stating that he does not consider himself a textual scholar and that he participated in the 2007 conference at the request of SEBTS President Dr. Danny Akin, as he also explained in the Preface to the book. Black presents his position in a refreshingly straightforward way, affirming that he is "absolutely convinced" by the external evidence that Mark 16:9-20 is original. The internal evidence, as he interprets it, only shows that Mark 16:9-20 is "different in some ways" from the rest of the Gospel of Mark.
Instead of exploring the absolutely convincing external evidence, Black devotes almost the entire chapter to the task of answering the question about why Mark 16:9-20 is different from the rest of the Gospel of Mark, and his answer is embedded in the chapter's title: "Mark 16:9-20 as Markan Supplement." The discussion is not a normal text-critical analysis at all. For the most part, Black seems to take for granted that the reader is pre-informed about all the external evidence and internal evidence. When, three pages into this 20-page chapter, we enter the section, "The Four Phases in the Development of the Gospels" we leave textual criticism behind and enter the domain of higher criticism. On one hand, this "outside the box" approach is a positive thing, expanding the boundaries of the territory where scholars should look for a solution.
On the other hand, if one rejects Black's theories that Matthew was the first Gospel to be written, that Luke was the second Gospel to be written, then one will certainly reject his theory that Mark was written in Rome by Mark, who based it on the orations of Peter, who consulted the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke as he spoke. And that theory is the foundation of Black's whole case for the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20. On page 120 he finally connects the question about Mark 16:9-20 to his theory about how and why the Gospel of Mark was written: after composing most of the Gospel based directly on Peter's orations, and after distributing copies of those orations, Mark made a definitive edition of Peter's orations in honor of the recently martyred apostle, and included in it his own account of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, based on the narrations of post-resurrection appearances in Matthew and Luke. (Nothing at all is said about the differences between Mark 16:9-20 and the contents of Mt. 28 and Lk. 24.) The influence of copies of the previously distributed Petrine orations, which ended at 16:8, resulted in some copyists' rejection of the added Markan material.
Reading this chapter was like watching someone working a jigsaw puzzle, picking up a puzzle-piece, and saying, "This piece belongs in the puzzle. Let me show you how it fits." Then the puzzle-solver sets that piece aside, works on the rest of the puzzle, and, finally, returns to the first piece and sets it where it belongs. This approach is different from the approach of the other chapter-contributors but there is nothing wrong with it. What is wrong, though, is that Black issues a plethora of contestable assertions, each of which is required for his case. At the end of the chapter, the puzzle-piece of Mark 16:9-20 is set in place, but the correctness of that placement depends on the correctness of the placement of each of the surrounding pieces. Instead of building confidence that Mark 16:9-20 is in its proper place at the end of the Gospel of Mark, Black's chapter tends to only exchange a text-critical question for a dozen questions about the circumstances in which the Gospels were written.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.