Wednesday, August 26, 2009

[TC-Alternate-list] Mark 16:9-20 as the Original Ending of the Gospel of Mark

SA: "What to you is the compelling evidence that Mark was not the author of the resurrection account as the original ending of his Gospel."
That is a well-phrased question, because (although this view is not necessary for the case for the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20) I think that verses 9-20 were written by Mark as a freestanding composition, and that this originally separate composition was attached to the Gospel of Mark by his colleagues at Rome after Mark was forced to stop writing at the end of v. 8.
It would be convenient, in some ways, if the evidence indicated that Mark did proceed to write verses 9-20. That would be a simpler scenario that the one I have pictured. But I don't think the evidence allows such a simple conclusion. That view is /too/ simple; it is simpler than my approach, yes – like a bridge that only reaches halfway across a canyon is simpler than one that reaches all the way across. Here are the pieces of evidence, listed in no particular order, that drive me to the view that Mark 16:9-20 is not the ending that Mark was preparing to compose when he was writing 16:8.
(1) The transition from 16:8 to 16:9 is grammatically very harsh. Mark uses "gar" 67 times on other occasions, and every time it does not end a sentence. The end of 16:8 looks like an interrupted sentence. It is grammatically feasible, but not linguistically probable at all as the conclusion of a narrative. The alleged parallels in an essay by Plotinus, and in a speech by Protagoras, are not the same sort of thing. Plotinus substantially post-dates Mark and the points at which the collections of Plotinus' essays start and stop reflect the editing of Plotinus' assistant Porphyry. As for Protagoras, he simply ends his speech with a clarifying parenthetical phrase. Neither of those compositions resembles the "cliff-hanger" at the end of Mark 16:8. Whereas the closing phrases in the essay by Plotinus, and the speech by Protagoras, wrap up loose ends, the gar-phrase in Mark 16:8 creates one.
Although some interpreters have viewed the end of 16:8 through an optimistic lens, and regarded it as some sort of open-ended invitation to the reader (although the question of exactly what sort of invitation it is varies from interpreter to interpreter), it seems to me that one could tear off the Gospel of Mark at a number of points in 16:1-8, and the same interpreters, using the same optimistic lens, could squint a meaningful and brilliant open-ended ending into existence. It requires much less squinting to see that the end of 16:8 looks like an interrupted sentence because it /is/ an interrupted sentence. Mark's failure to complete the half-sentence indicates that he did not complete the narrative as a whole.
(2) The group of women in 16:8 is not revisited; we go from a group of women that includes Mary Magdalene in 16:8, to an appearance exclusively to Mary Magdalene in v. 9, with no explanation. We never get back to the group of women anywhere in 16:9-20. We never get back to the group of women. Dr. Bruce Terry has pointed out that Mark repeatedly brings a pericope to a close and reopens the narrative with a fresh scene. But in those other sudden transitions (such as from 2:12 to 2:13), things wrap up tidily in the first pericope. That is not the case here. In this case, there is unfinished business in the first scene: Mary Magdalene is in the group of women in 16:8. Nothing is said about how she separated from the others.
Dr. Terry mentioned one case of a pericope with unfinished business which merits further explanation: in 14:65-66, we see the narrative camera focused on a scene where Jesus is being slapped, and then the camera turns back to Peter, and when it returns to Jesus in 15:1, the servants who were slapping him are gone. He compares this to the disappearance of Mary Magdalene's companions. However, it looks to me like the "servants" in 14:65 ("officers" in the NKJV; "guards" in the ESV) should be understood as a group of soldiers whose job was merely to guard Jesus until He was called for, at which point the other soldiers would take Him to trial. In other words, Jesus is handed off from one group of soldiers, in 65a, to a second group of soldiers, or "servants," in 65b. There's a textual variant here – EBALLON versus ELABON – and we also face the question of how hUPHRETAI ought to be translated. But no matter how one slices it, the result remains the same: if the hUPHRETAI = "servants," whose job is only to watch Jesus until the soldiers take Him to trial, then it is no surprise that we don't see then again, since the trial before Pilate commences in 15:1. And if the hUPHRETAI = "officers," leaders of the soldiers, then we /do/ see them again, in the group of soldiers on hand in chapter 15, mentioned in 15:16. Either way, this is not the same kind of inexplicable disappearance of characters that we see between 16:8 and 16:9.
(3) A reference to "the first day of the week" appears in 16:2. Mark would thus have no reason to use the phrase "on the first day of the week" again in 16:9. If 16:9 began a new composition, though, the phrase would be completely appropriate, as would be the new parenthetical phrase that Jesus had cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. (The phrase that refers to the seven demons is not particularly question-raising if one assumes that 16:9-20 was written by Mark right after he wrote 16:8, but it is even more appropriate if 16:9-20 existed as a freestanding composition.)
(3) Mark indicates, by foreshadowing a rendezvous between Jesus and the disciples in Galilee in 14:28 and 16:7, his intention to describe a rendezvous between Jesus and the disciples in Galilee. As Croy and other authors have shown, Mark establishes a pretty clear pattern of prediction-followed-by-explicit-fulfillment in Mark. However, what is predicted in 14:28 and 16:7 is not explicitly fulfilled in 16:9-20. The encounter between Jesus and the disciples in 16:14ff. could be assumed to have occurred in Galilee, but elsewhere Mark makes the fulfillments explicit, leaving no need for the reader to make assumptions.
(4) In 16:10-13, EKEINOS is used as a pronoun four times, and again in 16:20. Mark uses EKEINOS as a pronoun in 12:4-5, too, so this cannot validly be considered a "non-Markan" feature of 16:9-20. But it does show that 16:9-20 is written in a more condensed, more "staccato" style (as more than one author has put it) than 16:1-8. That would be natural in a short freestanding composition that Mark had composed as an easily memorized summary of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances. In this regard it is comparable to the staccato-style summary in First Corinthians 15:3-7. EKEINOS is repeated, somewhat rhythmically, as WFQH is somewhat rhythmically repeated in I Cor. 15:3-7.
Now, on one hand, a person could say that this merely shows the nature of the source Mark was using as he wrote the Gospel of Mark, just as the stylistic features in I Cor. 15:3-7 show the nature of Paul's source without /being/ Paul's source. So this feature is not strong enough to stand alone as evidence that Mark 16:9-20 was not Mark's own deliberate ending. On the other hand, it interlocks with the other points; that is, this feature is neatly explained by the same premise that explains the rest. Those who would argue that Mark 16:9-20 is a natural continuation from 16:8 need to explain why Mark suddenly began to write in this condensed style.
(5) In 16:7, the women, including Mary Magdalene, are instructed by the angel to go tell Jesus' disciples "that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him," but 16:9-11 only says that Mary Magdalene reported that Jesus had appeared to her, and that Jesus is alive and that she had seen Him. It does not say that she said anything about Galilee, or about the angel at the tomb, or about the angel's message. This is accounted for more naturally by the idea that 16:9-20 was attached, than by the idea that Mark wrote it at the same time that he wrote 16:1-8.
(6) 16:7 seems to foreshadow an encounter in Galilee in which Peter will be prominently featured. But in 16:9-20, the climactic reunion between Jesus and the apostles does not feature Peter in any special prominence at all.

(7) The preceding six points stand completely separate from this point, and I expect this point to be persuasive only to those who already see the Proto-Mark model as a probable solution to the Synoptic Problem. If Matthew 28:8-10 and 28:16-20 represent the contents of Matthew's copy of Proto-Mark, then we have grounds to expect Mark to follow up on 16:8 with an ending that resembles Matthew 28:8-20, minus the intervening verses in 28:11-15 about the guards. Such an ending would interlock smoothly with 16:8: the fear of the silent women is relieved when Jesus personally appears to them and restates the angel's command; they report to the disciples; the disciples dutifully depart to Galilee; in Galilee Jesus meets the disciples (and restores Peter, though this is not mentioned in Matthew 28), and commissions them to spread the gospel everywhere.
This interlocks so smoothly with Mark 16:8 that the interlock is /suggestively/ easy, indicating that such an ending was in Proto-Mark, and would thus be the sort of ending which Mark would have intended to follow 16:8 in the Gospel of Mark. But that is not the sort of ending we have in 16:9-20; instead, we see no further trace of Mary Magdalene's companions as Mary Magdalene alone is featured; we see the disciples disbelieving her report; there is no statement to the effect that the disciples left Jerusalem and went to Galilee. This is all accounted for if 16:9-20 is not the ending that Mark had been expecting to write after 16:8.
Besides noting those seven reasons for concluding that 16:9-20 was not written by Mark as the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark, I would also note that the lack of a transition between 16:8 and 16:9 appears to reflects the reverence of the editor (a Roman colleague of Mark) for both Mark 1:1-16:8 and for the LE. A newly composed ending, made expressly for the purpose of concluding the Gospel of Mark, would have a smoother transition. Such high respect for the LE indicates that the editor regarded it as both authoritative and appropriate, and this indicates, in turn, that it was either a Markan composition (a point supported by all the Markan features in 16:9-20 already noted by Farmer) or a composition known to have been approved by Mark and/or Peter for the church at Rome.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.

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