Friday, September 11, 2009

[TC-Alternate-list] The Ending of Mark and Higher Criticism

Steven Avery,
I just now noticed your comments in posts 2715 and 2716.
SA: (summarizing my position) "You believe that the Mark ending was made by Mark, but not as part of his Gospel. Somehow the Gospel started as the shorter version, and then something happened x years later (5 - 10 - 20 ), and a 12 verse length separate writing that Mark was preparing for publishing in the Weekly Gazette describing the resurrection account of Jesus Christ was quickly added to the original Gospel, making what we have today."
Your impression of my theory is partly incorrect. I do believe that 16:9-20 was composed by Mark as a freestanding composition. And I do believe that Mark wrote up to 16:8, and was, at that point, prevented from writing further. But I do not believe that the Gospel of Mark circulated without 16:9-20 before it circulated with 16:9-20. (Proto-Mark was in circulation, but Proto-Mark was never the Gospel of Mark.) The attachment of 16:9-20 occurred before the text was released for dissemination in the church. Also, I do not believe that the attachment of 16:9-20 occurred five or ten or 20 years later; I believe it occurred, as I just said, before the Gospel of Mark began circulating.
SA: "The addition was done while Mark was still alive, in your scenario, I think. So your dates are something like 50 AD and 55 AD (or 65 AD) or 80 AD and 85 AD (or 95), except the latter would be very difficult. (My dates are closer to 45 AD for everything.)"
Steven, a fairly up-to-date draft of my essay is available at the TextExcavation site, and in it you can read my theory and not have to guess about this sort of thing. I put the completion of the Gospel of Mark in 67-68.
SA: "And somehow this discrepancy worked its way into the manuscript line as a permanent difference."
Yes; here is the somehow: an overly meticulous copyist discerned that Mark 16:9-20 was an addition, and on the grounds that it was not added by Mark, this person removed it, preferring to interpret John 21 (or a source-document that has been recast as the first part of John 21) as the proper ending of the narrative that otherwise abruptly stops at Mark 16:8.
SA: "Now you can correct all that, my description was a bit of a combo, but I think it gets the point across."
Okay; I corrected it. There doesn't seem to be much left of your point.
SA: "I think you to a large extent deep-six all your fine efforts with this cumbersome stuff that is totally strange and unnecessary."
The theory that 16:9-20 is not the ending that Mark intended to place after 16:8 is grounded in the internal evidence that I profiled in post #2697; it is not "strange and unnecessary," but flows smoothly from the internal features I described.
SA: "Now your debate opponent quite properly showed your view as a concession that the ending was not original. (Your nuance about 1st century distribution and authority is irrelevant to him, and many others.)"
I think that more thoughtful appraisal of his comments will conclude that he only showed a determination to avoid acknowledging my point. He did not block it at all.
SA: "Now his position is that Mark is a fiction account, not history at all, very likely written in the 2nd century, and any inconvenient verses to a separate ending of Mark are simply handwaved into redactions."
He seems to currently believe that the Gospel of Mark was composed around 130, and redacted (by someone who inserted 14:28 and 16:7) sometime after that. This has not been a distraction from the ongoing debate about Mark 16:9-20, so far.
SA: "There is no discussion really possible, since there are no parameters of agreement."
The debate has been reasonably focused so far.
SA: "And even your debate statement affirmation involves concepts that are totally outside the concepts of your opponent."
The only concept that I think he didn't understand (or did not acknowledge) is the difference between a higher-criticism (that is, production criticism) problem and a lower-criticism (that is, textual criticism) problem. Textual criticism is not concerned about discovering what parts of a book were made by which authors, co-authors, and editors. Textual criticism is concerned about recovering the original form of the text /when it was initially disseminated./ The answer to the question, "What was the original form of the Gospel of Mark before its production was completed?" is that the original form of the Gospel of Mark was some blank papyrus and a few ounces of ink. But realizing that is obviously not our goal. Our goal is to recover the original text as it existed when it was initially disseminated. The question of how many authors or editors contributed to the production of the text up to that point is not a text-critical issue.
SA: "I never had an inkling of an idea there was a suppose "problem"."
Be that as it may, a consideration of the internal features of Mark 16:9-20 raises numerous problems for the idea that Mark 16:9-20 is the ending that Mark wanted to write as the conclusion of his Gospel-account, as I already explained in post #2697.
SA: "The lunacy of judging comparative literary styles when the writer talks of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ ! amazes me. It is like saying the resurrection itself was too abrupt ! "Mark, you must write a segue ... prepare the reader. Jesus, couldn't you stop and at least do a tour in the Galilee before the resurrection?"
Drifting into rhetoric is no substitute for engaging the evidence I presented in post #2697. The problem is not the abruptness of the resurrection; it's the evidence I presented in post #2697.
SA: "You could never give one iota of evidence that your scenario is more "likely" than Mark having died and his cousin adding the account, or Ernest Markingway in Rome. Never."
Yes I can; the consistent traditions that Mark was never bishop of Rome, and that he died in Alexandria, clearly indicate that he did not die in Rome. And putting two and two together, it looks like Mark left Rome at about the same time that Peter died. Set that part of your objection aside, and it looks as if all you are really saying is that other than the reference to Aristion, there is basis for any assertion about the name of the person who completed the Gospel of Mark by attaching 16:9-20. You seem to think that that's a bad thing, but consider what John Burgon had to say: "The question is not at all one of authorship, but only one of genuineness." On p. 12 of "Last 12 Verses of Mark, " Burgon wrote, "If they "ought as much to be received as the last chapter of Deuteronomy (unknown as the writer is) is received as the right and proper conclusion of the book of Moses" – it is difficult to understand why the learned editor should think himself at liberty to sever them from their context, and introduce the subscription KATA MARKON after ver. 8."
SA: "You simply do not understand, nor do you want to understand, the beauty and unity and power and strength of the Gospel."
I do not grant that. The Gospel of Mark, 1:1-16:20, has a providentially integrated beauty, strength, etc -- though this is of course my own non-scientific opinion. The matter of the artistic beauty and divine power of the Gospel of Mark must be preceded by another question: how do /you/ account for the internal features that I listed in post #2697?
SA: "I will encourage every true defender of the resurrection account of Mark to note that your position is really defacto that of an opponent."
That seems to be a result of a misunderstanding of my theory. I uphold Mark 16:9-20 as part of the original text of the Gospel of Mark. At the moment, we disagree about a higher-critical question ("Who is responsible for the presence of Mark 16:9-20 in the Gospel of Mark?") but as far as I can tell, we completely agree on the question of whether the passage should be accepted as part of the original text of the Gospel of Mark, or rejected as a scribal accretion.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
P.S. For reference, here again is post #2697, in which I answer the question, "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.

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