I wrote a paper on the ending of the Gospel of Mark. And here it is.


Lindisfarne Gospels -- MarkI usually never post items like this on the blog. But hey, it’s Friday. Below you’ll find a brief academic paper I wrote exploring different scholarly views on the ending to the Gospel of Mark. I’ve written devotionally on that ending before, but this gave me a chance to explore more of the scholarship behind it.

As a general rule, I don’t think people should put up blog posts that have a Works Cited page attached (haha). Such posts usually go against everything the blog medium stands for: brevity, clarity, and accessibility.

But as I researched this topic, I found it difficult to find similar, short, web-accessible writings and bibliographies like this so, in the interest of academic exploration, I’m putting the paper up here for all the future Googlers that might be able to use this, and for those of you that might care about some of the scholarly opinion concerning Marks’ incredibly odd ending. Enjoy. (You can also find this document on Scribd.)

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BL537 Paper #1: The Ending of Mark

For centuries, the Gospel of Mark more or less sat dormant, gathering the dust of Church interest. It was a broken Gospel, after all. It was a crude, geographically confused, narratively-challenged, more-or-less bastardized version of The Gospel of Matthew. And what of that ending?

But with the Enlightenment came Higher Criticism and with Higher Criticism came not only a “re-illusionment” with Mark, but a dis-illusionment with the supernatural in general. Modernists writers rose up, pessimism sank in. From Eliot’s Wasteland to Kafka’s oddities to Duchamp’s redefinitions, the dark, the strange, and meticulously ordered disorder became the darling of the Modernist Project. And with this interest came a new evaluation of Marks’ ending. Could it be that the boring thesis—that Mark died before finishing his Gospel, or the last page was lost during one of its earliest transmissions—was in fact not true? Could it be that Mark was a man before his time; indeed, could he have been a true Modernist representative, whose dark literary shadows and Messianic secrets intentionally culminated in the strange ending we have bequeathed to us now? It is the contention of this paper that this thesis is not tenable and does not in fact make sense of the data we have before us when looking at the ending of the Gospel of Mark. It falls short due to textual and grammatical manuscript evidence, as well as the structure and literary themes seen throughout Mark’s Gospel.

A brief survey of the literature shows that the discussion is often centered more around exploring why the Gospel may have ended the way it did rather than whether it ended that way in the first place. The initial reason is understandable. After all, the claim of a lost ending is seen as an argument from silence that reflects a seeming inability to sit with unresolved tension. And yet, though this initial instinct is laudable, the resulting justification for pursuing such assumptions quickly devolves into odd interpretations of this stunted ending, as well as an imposition of modern literary theory onto the ancient text.

On the odd front, there are those that take minor Markan thematic elements and make them of such seeming importance that they would dictate his ending. In The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Joel Williams argues that Mark’s ending makes the most sense when seen as a continuation of the Gospel’s juxtaposition of promise and failure. Williams says that though 16:7 predicts the risen Christ will meet with his disciples regardless of their failure or doubt, the women’s silence is meant as a warning that even after the Resurrection disobedience and failure is still possible (22). Laura Sweat, of Princeton Theological Seminary, writes in The Theological Role of Paradox in the Gospel of Mark that Mark’s Gospel ends the way it does in order to highlight Jesus’ presence-within-his-absence; to highlight the often-paradoxical way in which God works and moves in the Gospel; his presence is more often felt in its absence and effects, as is Jesus’ presence in his ominous absence at the tomb (161-162).

Another more common perspective holds that the Gospel, in effect, is demanding active participation from its readers, and in so doing is calling them to action (this is the conclusion of the editors of the NET Bible). For some, this action is evangelization, pointing out the failure of nearly every character in the book to obey Jesus’ proclamation in 13:10 that this Gospel would be preached to all the nations. This puts the burden on the reader to follow these words of the Christ after even the women fail in it (Tolbert 297-9).

Others define this reader-response activity to be found in much more modern literary terms. Robert Fowler, writing in 1986, for example, stresses the “openness” of Mark in its use of irony, parataxis, and metaphor, to put one more burden on the reader of Mark to “finish the story”:

The empty tomb is a narrative gap par excellence. The emptiness of the tomb is a story-level figure for the emptiness the narratee encounters in the discourse of this episode. The empty tomb is indeed empty; it becomes meaning-full only when the reader fills it with meaning. The tomb awaits the fulfillment that only the reader can supply. (154)

One widely-cited defense of the position that Mark’s present ending is original is found in J. Lee Magness’ book Marking the End, in which the author provides an extensive survey of ancient and biblical literature that includes “suspended endings”. He explores their purposes and function, attempting to trace this literary device throughout Mark’s telling of various traditions and stories in his Gospel. The argument is then made that Mark provides ample foreshadowing of this type of abrupt ending, and therefore ancient readers would neither find it odd nor especially surprising that the text ends at 16:8. As for the reason why this is, Elizabeth Malbon summarizes and quotes, saying (329):

The empty tomb signifies the (predicted) resurrection; the announcement stands for (predicted) resurrection appearances; the women’s reaction is the part that represents the whole, the fear that suggests proclamation. [Magness says of] 16:1-8 the ‘emphasis of the Gospel thus shifts from past history to present proclamation, from chronicle to commission’, and from text to reader.

One of the biggest problems with this and other similar approaches (which Magness admits, though he feels is justified) is that he opens with a conscious extended treatment of modern literary theory on the device of “absent endings” and how they demand a reader’s participation in the work. He then goes to provide examples of this device in ancient literature, but he never strays far from reading even these works through this modern literary lens. He (and indeed, most 20th century scholars of Mark) never seems to stray from the modern assumptions and theories through which they strain the texts, most forcefully, Mark. This, in many scholars’ minds, discredits most attempts to find a literary reason for the ending (France 683-684 and Bratcher 506)

There are many problems one can find with these views, even beyond the presuppositions one brings to the interpretive task. The first place one would look is in the textual and grammatical evidence.  In Bruce Metzger’s classic The Text of the New Testament, one can begin seeing some of the contours of the case for a lost ending. Metzger brings up the odd grammar of the final words of 16:8, which would make this an exceedingly odd and unprecedented ending to a work in the ancient world. There is some manuscript evidence that the final verb is of a form that means “they were afraid of”, but the text as it is would not finish the sentence and describe what it is the women feared (326). Also, as is noted throughout the scholarly literature, the book ends with the preposition gar. Metzger points out that not only are there just a few examples of any Greek sentence ending with this preposition, but we have no example of an ancient book ending in this way (326). Lastly, one would note that if Mark’s audience was truly comfortable and absolutely “got” the ending of the book at 16:8, there would be little need for new endings to be added to the book within such a short amount of time after its circulation began (Brooks 272-273). In the textual and patristic evidence, there seems to be a near-universal sense that this ending is mistaken, or at least in need of more (Metzger 80-81, 119-121, 322-327).

Textual uncertainty aside, the clearest evidence for a lost ending comes from the contents of Mark itself. The opening words of the book, proclaiming this to be an account of “the gospel concerning Jesus Messiah, Son of God” (1:1) do not carry with them the ominous foreshadowing that 16:8 entails, and indeed, 16:8 seems to be a completely non-sensical ending in light of this “purpose statement” of the gospel (Guelich 523). Further, the apocalyptic nature of the entire Gospel in nearly all its parables, miracles, and teachings has a future component of which almost all see an explicitly described display of their fulfillment at some point in the narrative (524). Not so, however, of freeing his disciples to speak of the Transfiguration (9:9), nor of meeting his disciples in Galilee (16:7)—both of which are promised to happen after the Resurrection, and yet we never see their fulfillment.

N.T. Wright offers a clear and extensive defense of the “lost ending” hypothesis in The Resurrection of the Son of God and comes at it from many angles, all of which cannot be summarized here. He spends a lot of time showing not only how Mark explicitly shows the reader the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, but the entire structure of the book is built around Resurrection predictions from Jesus that increase in frequency, intensity, and length as the book goes on. It appears to be building to a final climax that never comes in the ending’s form as we have it (620-622). Mark’s well-known use of irony is always shown, not simply implied. When Jesus tells some people to not speak, they do. He tells others to speak, and they don’t. In all of these cases, and others, the reader gets to see this unexpected turn take place. And so, one would expect that the women’s silence would hold similar anticipation for irony being displayed and not merely assumed. Further, in Mark, “fear” is not simply a motif in and of itself that appears on its own. The theme is fuller than that; it is that fear must be overcome by faith in those that are experiencing the fear (623). We do not get to see this from the women of Mark 16. And lastly, the extended section of Jesus’ disputes with the religious leaders lends itself to a belief that Jesus would be seen vindicated in all he was teaching and declaring. Again, we don’t see this in our form of Mark (624).

A brief survey of the scholarly literature concerning the ending of Mark shows that it is incredibly difficult to assess. In the process of coming to conclusions based on such little evidence and much conjecture, one’s own preferences and assumptions will inevitably get caught up in the process. In the course of this current writing, multiples sources were found, each saying what “most scholars” think, and they were each contradictory. This makes it even more difficult to find a solid resting place. Regardless, there can be confidence that scholars have been far too quick to apply modernist literary theory (not to be confused with legitimately helpful applications of modern literary methods, typing, and research), and this has resulted in turning Mark into a type of Faulknerian literary genius, shocking the reader with his inaccessibility that paradoxically (it is assumed) empowers and invites. It is for this presuppositional reason, and the manuscript and internal literary elements of this Gospel, that it appears far more likely that a fuller ending was either intended or written, and was somehow lost to the pages of time.

Works Cited 

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition Notes. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Bratcher, Robert G. and Eugene Albert Nida. A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.

Brooks, James A. Mark. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991.

Fowler, Robert M. Let the Reader Understand: Reader-response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International, 2001. Print.

France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002.

Guelich, R. A. “Mark, Gospel of.” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard. Marshall. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1992. 512-25. Print. The IVP Bible Dictionary Ser.

Malbon, Elizabeth S. “Sense and Absence: Structure and Suspension in the Ending of Mark’s Gospel by J. Lee Magness.” Rev. of Sense and Absence: Structure and Suspension in the Ending of Mark’s GospelJournal of Biblical Literature 107.2 (1988): 327-29. Print.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

Sweat, Laura C. The Theological Role of Paradox in the Gospel of Mark. N.p.: A&C Black, 2013. Print. The Library of New Testament Studies.

Tolbert, Mary A. Sowing the Gospel: Mark’s World in Literary-historical Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. Print.

Williams, Joel F. “Literary Approaches to the End of Mark’s Gospel.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.1 (1999): 21-35. Print.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Vol. 3. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003. Print. Christian Origins and the Question of God.

this writing is licensed under the Creative Commons:

[image credit: a page from the “Lindisfarne Gospels: Mark” by manuscript_nerd on flickr]

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10 thoughts on “I wrote a paper on the ending of the Gospel of Mark. And here it is.

  1. Just thought I’d mention that I have a chiasmus for the GoM that fills in the missing ending. IMO, the GoM ended with a resurrection appearance (or appearances), a return to Galilee, a ‘great commission’, and a ‘Pentecost scene’, empowering the disciples to fulfill their task (an end match for 1:8: the promise that they would be baptized in the Spirit).

    I see ‘Mark’ as an incredibly structured writer and his love and desire for structure provided at least a couple reasons for shortening his ending:

    1). By shortening it, he was able to provide inclusions for his two halves; the second half running from Jesus’ first prediction of death and resurrection … to … his actual death and resurrection.

    2). At the same time, by ‘cutting back his story’ to Jesus’ death and resurrection, he was able to provide a meaningful match between the centre of his chiasmus and the end of his story. The centre focuses on 8:34-38: “Pick up your cross and follow me …” (be willing to die) while the end shows their leader actually willing to do just that, setting the example. In a linear read of Mark, the reader ends with Jesus’ death and resurrection. In a helical read ( a read by matches: A/A’ to B/B’ to C/C’ … to the centre), the reader ends with the Jesus’ teaching to be willing to die.

    Anyway, there you have it. I just found your blog and really liked this paper. I like your writing style. Excellent. I’ve bookmarked you and will be visiting in the future. God bless. All the best in your studies!

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  2. Paul,

    A few notes on this piece:

    “[Mark] was a crude, geographically confused, narratively-challenged, more-or-less bastardized version of The Gospel of Matthew. And what of that ending?”

    …Huh? Isn’t it the other way around? (Except Matthew corrects a few of the geographical and cultural errors in Mark’s witness?) It’s completely backward to say Mark is a version of Matthew..

    “One of the biggest problems with this and other similar approaches (which Magness admits, though he feels is justified) is that he opens with a conscious extended treatment of modern literary theory on the device of “absent endings” and how they demand a reader’s participation in the work. He then goes to provide examples of this device in ancient literature, but he never strays far from reading even these works through this modern literary lens. He (and indeed, most 20th century scholars of Mark) never seems to stray from the modern assumptions and theories through which they strain the texts, most forcefully, Mark. This, in many scholars’ minds, discredits most attempts to find a literary reason for the ending.”

    This seems to be a token case of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. An understanding of ancient literary theory does not mean we are coloring these texts with a “modern lens”. It means the opposite of that. It means we are trying as best as we can to properly contextualize what we are reading so as not to wed our exegesis to a modern consciousness. If a detailed survey of contemporary literature is insufficient to meet your standards of objectivity, what, pray you, /is/ sufficient?

    Your argument here is very weak to me, as it amounts to nothing more than a dismissive treatment of the relevant scholarship which has shown that the Markian ending we have in our earliest witnesses is continuous with other contemporary literature as well as internally consistent with Mark itself. In addition to laying down a counterargument to proponents of the John 16:8 ending, you’d need to also elaborate on how the they have “strained the texts” (a bald claim for which you omit any support).

    It seems very curious, moreover, that you would elide (or be completely insensible to) the central motif of Mark: the Messianic Secret. Throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as repeatedly telling witnesses and his disciples NOT to tell of what he has done. Especially since this theme is exclusive to Mark, I see no dysmorphia whatsoever, between the thematic repetition lacing Mark and the ending it leads up to. The women at the tomb, to whom the events are made known, say nothing to anyone; the secret remains safeguarded. There is harmony here that cannot simply be dismissed by virtue of wishful thinking.

    I’m surprised that you would cite N. T. Wright’s bloviated work. Is it any surprise he ends up with confirming PRECISELY the same conclusions he has held all along? He does so with deemphasizing contradictory evidence, ignoring others, and amplifying the voice of other scholars who track the same evangelical party lines as he does (and who are also as ignorant or as dismissive of the aforementioned contradictory or eroding evidence).

    You can find more truth and historical-critical accuracy in the review below by Robert M. Price than you can in Wright’s 800+ page gospel tract:

    http://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Christian-Origins-Question-Vol/product-reviews/0800626796/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

    //”And why does Wright think a miracle is necessary? Only a real space-time resurrection, he insists, can account for the birth and spread of resurrection faith. Of course there are many viable explanations, not least Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance reduction, whereby more than one disappointed sect has turned defeat into zeal by means of face-saving denial. Wright suicidally mentions this theory, only to dismiss it, as usual, with no serious attempt at refutation. So totally does his predisposition to orthodox faith blind him that he cannot see how lame a gesture he makes. No argument against his faith can penetrate his will to believe. Every argument against his evangelical orthodoxy seems ipso facto futile simply because he cannot bring himself to take it seriously.”

    “What we have in this book is not a contribution to New Testament scholarship, any more than Creationist “Intelligent Design” screeds are contributions to biological science. Both alike are pseudo-scholarly attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of readers, most of whom will be happy enough for the sedation.”//

    – Daniel

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  3. Hey Daniel, good to see you on the blog again.

    First off, in the opening paragraph, I was trying to express the opinion of pre-critical scholarship on Mark which did view Mark as a bastardized version of Matthew, and so worthy of far less attention. I was taking on a more narrative introduction, sorry if I didn’t make it clear. As I say in the piece, once the historical-critical method and source criticism came about, a new interest in Mark came about and, yes, it was most assuredly established that Matthew built off of Mark, not vice-versa. Sorry for not communicating that well.

    Second, as I say above, “there can be confidence that scholars have been far too quick to apply modernist literary THEORY (not to be confused with legitimately helpful applications of modern literary METHODS, TYPING, and RESEARCH),” I absolutely affirm using modern methods and findings to research ancient literature, I just object to fitting them into the categories of modern writing and rhetorical techniques. That’s all. No one is saying that we don’t use modern methods to further understand writings. To do so would be like a fundamentalist thinking that Genesis taught modern science. That’s reading modern categories onto ancient texts. But if you have that assumption, then you can look at other biblical texts and other contemporary literature and also find other “modern scientific discoveries” hinted at within those texts. The same goes, I feel, for forcing modern literary THEORY (again, not methods) and using the rhetorical methods of modern writers to establish the categories in which to interpret ancient texts. I feel many people have done this in their suvey of Mark and other “contemporary” writings (I hardly think a thousand year span as “contemporary,”, but I digress).

    Next, the Messianic Secret is a theme that is /building up to something/ in the text. The Messiah is a secret UNTIL the Resurrection. There is no sense in which any reading of Mark would come the conclusion that the Messiah is to remain secret FOREVER. Even those that think the ending is original say that the ending serves as a speech-act to motivate others TO TELL THE SECRET. I’ve never found anyone that thinks Mark thinks that this Messianic Secret was forever. I simply think that Mark intended to reveal the secret WITHIN the text, rather leave it to be assumed. That’s not what you’re saying, are you?

    And I have to admit, I’m not sure where your passion for this comes from. Maybe my mis-communication in the first paragraph made you especially frustrated? No matter how this discussion plays out, I don’t know that it has any real bearing on your greater a-theological commitments. Not even the most liberal scholars think that Mark doesn’t still believe in and anticipate a bodily Resurrection (well, maybe Price, but I’ll get to that). And so, Mark’s absence of a Resurrection account is no “apologetic” against Resurrection. It’s a clear theme, prediction, and expectation within the text. And so again, I’m not sure if you feel you have a vested interest in the conclusion of this or not. Do you? Or are you simply passionate and genuinely interested in what you believe is truth and integrity on ANY front no matter how it speaks to your life?

    Concerning Price, it’s funny you write this today, as for my Synoptics Class I just read his long chapter on the Historical Jesus in this wonderful book: http://amzn.to/GGuHVx . He lays out his entire method and even reiterates many of the arguments he put out in that book review.

    But, I also read the responses to his piece by the other contributors in the book, who so comprehensively and wholly dismantle him, I’m surprised he still let his contribution be in the book. It really is quite remarkable and comprehensive. The whole first section of his essay is a huge defense of minority opinions and how they should still receive the same respect as majority views, no matter how much their ideas are disagreed with. One can hear echoes of Ken Hamm in there as well. I can see why you seem to have an affinity to him, by the way (even while oddly trying to distance yourself from his conclusions). His writing style reminds me a lot of yours. But seriously, Daniel, honestly, as hinted earlier, seeing how other scholars saw his work, quoting him in this area as often as you have in our discussion is tantamount to me throwing Ken Hamm at you while–at the same time–trying to distance myself from HIS conclusions.

    Similar to Price’s criticism of Wright, his review was heavy on bloat (and sarcasm, snark, and insult) and light on substance (and entirely too long). He conveniently drops out so many things that. He seems obsessed with the idea that 1 Cor 15 talks about spiritual resurrection, focusing incessantly on the “flesh and blood” thing while ignoring the witnesses that Paul mentions. Wright is simply trying to offer Occam’s Razor style synthesis of facts that seem disparate to modern ears. Similar omissions and silly reductions exist throughout this review (and his lengthy contribution in this book). His similar obsession with other “Rising-God” myths and applying it to Christianity is also so effectively dismantled by the other contributors, both methodologically and evidentiarily, that I would send you there for those arguments.

    So, in short, I encourage you to move away from Price as any source of authority, clarity, or weight in your thinking and defending of your beliefs.

    As for the reason you brought in Price. Wright is not the only scholar out there thinking this. Metzger and others do as well. This does not fall into the normal neat “conservative-liberal” categories. Notice the Evangelical Journal above that holds that the ending is original. If anything, I’d think the conservative commitment to inerrancy would lend itself to insisting that the ending we have now is the original. Second, instead of actually presenting any evidence you simply say, “many scholars disagree, and I think Wright is silly.” The scholarship is genuinely divided on this. As I said in my piece, multiple sources say “the scholarly consensus is ____________”, and each one has a different idea of the “consensus”. There is no clear consensus here.

    Also, Wright is not silly (and one book review by one guy who carries even less weight in the scholarly world is not evidence of this), and he offered the most extensive and in-depth review of the internal evidence in favor of a lost ending than any other source I found (I scanned it so I could read it on my tablet, and so can gladly email you that chapter if you care that much). But, as I say above, the evidence is not only internal. If that is the original ending, it is a grammatical ending that has no parallel in all of ancient literature. What’s more likely, Mark wrote the only such sentence ending a book in the ancient world, or that the last page was lost or never written? (And on a side note, even though this grammatical argument plays into Wright’s opinion, he dismisses it as ultimately unauthoritative and not a big part of how he thinks through this. I say that to demonstrate that he is able to have scholarly objectivity in weighing the evidence.)

    And in the end, the most convincing argument for me isn’t even Wright’s internal evidence, as much as the fact that if this ending was original, in some deeply profound, literary way, why would even the earliest manuscripts have endings tacked on? If the ancient world would have understood this, why did they feel the need to add endings? Obviously, if Mark was doing something intentional with the ending, nobody got it.

    In conclusion, this paper was a mandatory paper for my Synoptic Gospels class in which I was supposed to survey the literature on Mark’s ending and offer my own opinion at the end. All in 3 to 4 pages. This was hardly meant to be an extensive defense, and the assignment’s emphasis was on the survey, not the opinion part. And either way, like I said, this has absolutely no conservative-liberal bearing on much of anything of ultimate importance. Let’s say it is the original ending. That changes nothing for me of any real importance. If anything, that would mean that Mark is that much more of a literary genius.

    What say you, good sir?

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    • Paul,

      Thanks for clarifying your opening statement. Your long comment gives much to respond to.

      I have to ask you, why are you reading scholars like Wright, whose every word drips with bias and who never ventures too far outside their doctrinaire Anglican/Protestant/etc. landscape? There are far, far more reputable scholars in the field: Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, E. P. Sanders, Dale Allison, Hector Avalos, Paula Fredriksen. Why trust them, you ask? Because they follow the evidence wherever it leads without twisting or distorting it to match their denominational commitments. Reading one of these scholars and then reading someone like Wright or C. Blomberg back-to-back is as stark a contrast as one is likely to find. The former group conveys an objective, honest, comprehensive assessment of the available evidence; the latter simply doesn’t.

      Some modern scholars have indeed managed to paint Jesus in some image other than their own. The scholars I listed above are among those who have, and this is why they can be trusted. Their views are not all the same, but they are at least *argued* and *documented* and are not simply the result of a person’s fertile imagination that truly wishes that the Son of God shared his own personal beliefs and prejudices. These are not scholars who march to the tune of gatekeeper, who endeavor to preserve traditional dogma, or who stretch the evidence beyond its bursting point. They take the subject matter seriously.

      //”And I have to admit, I’m not sure where your passion for this comes from.”//

      Irrelevant.

      //”No matter how this discussion plays out, I don’t know that it has any real bearing on your greater a-theological commitments.”//

      Again, irrelevant.

      //”Not even the most liberal scholars think that Mark doesn’t still believe in and anticipate a bodily Resurrection…”//

      Where do you get this stuff? Alternative views include a spiritual (as opposed to a bodily) resurrection, symbolic resurrection, and no resurrection (via a later adornment in the wake of a crucified zealot), which have all been argued for decades. It’s not, in fact, clear what Mark “thinks” regarding this point; otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a diversity of opinion on the matter…What do you think secular scholarship means exactly?

      //”And so again, I’m not sure if you feel you have a vested interest in the conclusion of this or not. Do you? Or are you simply passionate and genuinely interested in what you believe is truth and integrity on ANY front no matter how it speaks to your life?”//

      Again, completely irrelevant. You act as though it’s impossible for a scholar or other interested party to divorce their beliefs from their work. As crazy as it sounds, Paul, many of us form our beliefs *BASED ON* the research, rather than force the research to fit our beliefs.

      (Tolstoy comes to mind: “Man must not check reason by tradition, but contrariwise, must check tradition by reason.”)

      //”But seriously, Daniel, honestly, as hinted earlier, seeing how other scholars saw his work, quoting [Price] in this area as often as you have in our discussion is tantamount to me throwing Ken Hamm at you while–at the same time–trying to distance myself from HIS conclusions.”//

      I’d be interested in reading their rebuttals. Were all of them mainline evangelicals? I’ve seen responses to his work before by that group and they tend to dismiss him out of hand without engaging the arguments he makes. That’s not scholarship. And your disanalogy of Ham and Price leaves much to be desired.

      //”He seems obsessed with the idea that 1 Cor 15 talks about spiritual resurrection, focusing incessantly on the “flesh and blood” thing while ignoring the witnesses that Paul mentions.”//

      The witnesses report nothing different from what Paul himself describes. In I Corinthians, Paul clearly tells us he is not an eyewitness, nor did he receive his accounts directly from eyewitnesses. He simply relays the stories of proto-Christians who also had visions. Visions and hallucinations do not constitute eyewitness testimony. You’d be amazed at what isn’t admissible in a court of law these days…

      //”His similar obsession with other “Rising-God” myths and applying it to Christianity is also so effectively dismantled by the other contributors, both methodologically and evidentiarily, that I would send you there for those arguments.”//

      It’s not an obsession, and the way you snidely characterize it in this way would seem to betray your earnest convictions. There is evidence of dying and rising god mythologies in (and predating) the Greco-Roman world. A reanimating human is not unique to the narrative in question; to claim otherwise is a willful retreat from the evidence. (Perhaps it seems like an obsession of Price, et al. because evangelicals keep pretending the evidence isn’t there.)

      I think we’ve been over this before: it does’t matter if the other mythologies are continuous with the Jesus narrative in every detail. *They’re ALL different.* All religions and mythologies have slight differences. *That’s the point*. That’s why Christianity is not called Judaism and why Tibetan Buddhism is not called Shingon. Christianity was one of several religions which fused its own elements with the broader Hellenism of the time. This is very basic stuff.

      //”Notice the Evangelical Journal above that holds that the ending is original. If anything, I’d think the conservative commitment to inerrancy would lend itself to insisting that the ending we have now is the original.”//

      Yes, this is encouraging. This shows that hyper-evangelical convictions have been worn down over the decades, no longer can they ignore the evidence staring them in the face. This is progress, but inerrancy was never a tenable position to begin with, now was it?

      /”Second, instead of actually presenting any evidence you simply say, “many scholars disagree, and I think Wright is silly.” The scholarship is genuinely divided on this.”//

      See my above comments on the palpable distinction between the two groups of scholarship.

      //”But, as I say above, the evidence is not only internal. If that is the original ending, it is a grammatical ending that has no parallel in all of ancient literature.”//

      Sigh. You clearly haven’t read the scholars who defend the 16:8 ending…

      //”And in the end, the most convincing argument for me isn’t even Wright’s internal evidence, as much as the fact that if this ending was original, in some deeply profound, literary way, why would even the earliest manuscripts have endings tacked on? If the ancient world would have understood this, why did they feel the need to add endings? Obviously, if Mark was doing something intentional with the ending, nobody got it.”//

      Aren’t you in seminary? I don’t understand how someone attending seminary is not familiar with the development of the very texts you’re presumably there to study…There was no one textual tradition which moved cleanly and uncontaminatedly from its time of origin to official canonization. We have dozens of examples of emendations, redactions, etc., and even supporting documentation of exchanges between parties which indicates that the development of the canonical texts grew largely out of party politics and theological agenda. Again, this is basic stuff; any book by Ehrman lays this out plainly. So given this reality, ask your question again: why would scribes tack on non-original endings/ what impetus might they have? Their was proto-orthodoxy at stake.

      I still have yet to hear of a seminary program that rises to the level of a religious or biblical studies program at public institutions. It seems one only attends seminary to double down on their preexisting dogma. That’s the OPPOSITE of critical thinking and runs against the tide of the canons of scholarship.

      P.S. Could you PLEASE enable the ability to edit comments?

      – Daniel

      Like

      • It’s the WordPress backend. There’s no option to enable comment editing.

        And really, you’re misunderstanding me on a lot of points. Sorry if I’m not communicating well.

        I’ll try and make this quick: 1. My point was that Price doesn’t even mention the witnesses thing. I didn’t say there aren’t other opinions out there. 2. I underhand the alternative “resurrection theories”, but nearly every skeptical scholar I’ve read thinks that the Gospels reflect a time AFTER a “spiritual resurrection” tradition got, in a sense, “blown out of proportion. Most things I’ve read don’t claim the Gospels themselves reflect a “spiritual resurrection”, but rather were written after those “crazy and gullible” Christians started believing in some physical version of it. 3. Wow, you’ve got some animosity for Weight. He really was only one of many sources i looked through. Because his was book length and not article length, he gave a fuller treatment. That’s all. He’s not the first, most authoritative, or only person i go to. And yeah, his different with the New Perspective goes against Anglican and Evangelical Orthodoxy and has pissed a LOT of people off. He’ll go with the evidence. 4. I think only one contributor in that book is an evangelical. Would you consider Dunn one? Two or three of them are part of the Jesus seminar. And they all engage and dismantle Price from every side. 5. Yes yes yes, manuscripts have expansions and abbreviations and such, but the alternate endings of Mark are more early and prevalent and most any other later edit of other NT. as I said there seems to be a near-universal recognition that something was wrong with this ending. Not so with other books. 6. Again, genuinely, this isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. people from both sides of the spectrum land on completely different places on this. there’s no consensus. 7. and your passion for this would only be irrelevant if you were some random person I was in a formal debate with. but I consider you a friend, and so I care about what you care about. and so I was just surprised. If you don’t want to talk anymore about it, that’s fine, i was just wondering. and on a side note, my professor completely disagreed with my paper, and is going to send me comments later telling me why he thinks I am wrong. further, this class at this denominational seminary took the perspective that none of the Gospels were written by eye witnesses, and most of the stories reflect traditions probably not rooted in historical fact, but were crafted to serve the purposes of each evangelist. So….. No, my seminary is not just towing some orthodox line. Also, know that my minor is in religious studies from a secular public institution. And yes, it was very helpful.

        okay, I’m sure I missed things, but I’m writing this on my phone and am short on time. This also means edits probably abound. Thanks again.

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        • “Wow, you’ve got some animosity for Weight. He really was only one of many sources i looked through.”

          It has nothing to do with Wright and everything to do with the theological insularity and anti-reality which stains so much of religious rhetoric. Few scholars posssess the intellectual maturity to step outside the tramlines of their beliefs and follow the evidence wherever it leads. The scholars I listed above fit into this category and reading them alongside someone like N. T. Wright is, again, like night and day. (And have you heard Wright’s comments on same-gender marriage? You should be utterly ashamed that there are people like that defending the Christian faith.)

          “as I said there seems to be a near-universal recognition that something was wrong with this ending.”

          I don’t understand where you are getting this from? Did you not cite sources which claim that there is historical precedent for the literary themes used in Mark’s gospel? What do these authors say on the matter? If there are books which argue that the 16:8 ending is not outside of the ordinary given contemporary literature, then on what basis do you make the claim that it is “near-universal”? I’m lost.

          “and your passion for this would only be irrelevant if you were some random person I was in a formal debate with. but I consider you a friend, and so I care about what you care about. and so I was just surprised. If you don’t want to talk anymore about it, that’s fine, i was just wondering.”

          Umm I’m interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake? I care about having beliefs rooted in sound evidence and not unchecked conjecture and wishful thinking. I don’t think this is crazy.

          “further, this class at this denominational seminary took the perspective that none of the Gospels were written by eye witnesses, and most of the stories reflect traditions probably not rooted in historical fact, but were crafted to serve the purposes of each evangelist.”

          Ummm that’s the consensus view. So…that’s what they /should/ be teaching. Of course, many seminaries suppress even this. (Many of my friends have attended that variety.)

          – Daniel

          Like

          • “Yes, this is encouraging. This shows that hyper-evangelical convictions have been worn down over the decades, no longer can they ignore the evidence staring them in the face.”

            “Sigh. You clearly haven’t read the scholars who defend the 16:8 ending…”

            “Aren’t you in seminary? I don’t understand how someone attending seminary is not familiar with the development of the very texts you’re presumably there to study…Again, this is basic stuff”

            “I still have yet to hear of a seminary program that rises to the level of a religious or biblical studies program at public institutions. It seems one only attends seminary to double down on their preexisting dogma. That’s the OPPOSITE of critical thinking and runs against the tide of the canons of scholarship.”

            “It has nothing to do with Wright and everything to do with the theological insularity and anti-reality which stains so much of religious rhetoric.”

            “Ummm that’s the consensus view. So…that’s what they /should/ be teaching. Of course, many seminaries suppress even this.”

            Good lord, Daniel. Seriously? With all genuinely, sincerely due respect, there is a level of angry self-righteousness in these comments that is entirely unwarranted and unhelpful. If this is your new approach (or rather, a more amplified version of the approach you’ve consistently taken) to these discussions, I’d beg you to reconsider.

            To feign some sort of “objective clarity” with which you–with no degree, education, or training in these matters at all (that I know of)–get to judge what “should” be taught is unrealistic. As we’ve talked about ad nauseam, your belief system (and mine, for that mater) is not the simple result of dispassionate, objective appraisal of a pile of facts sitting before us. It’s a matter of INTERPRETATION. This whole ending of Mark thing is actually a good example.

            Once more, there is no conservative/liberal divide on this. Whether you think there was or was not a further ending has NO bearing on Christian faith in ANY way. To say that a “lost ending” view is tantamount to some sort of fundamentalism is as odd as it is wrong, and to say so with such “offense”, authority, and fluster is even more bewildering.

            You want to list all of your own “preferred scholars” (most of whom–surprise–support most of the ideas you think) and paint anyone outside of that merry band as closed-minded individuals suffering from “theological insularity and anti-reality”. (Hyperbole much?)

            You seem to think that there are only two groups of people out there looking at the Bible: fundamentalists like Mohler or Hamm and “real” scholars that see “reality”; and the religious ones of that latter group are simply suffering a severe case of mass cognitive dissonance that the secularists can see so clearly, but sadly, the theists are blind to.

            But here’s my view: the fundamentalists truly are on their own out there because they actually IGNORE facts. The other two groups, though (believing and non-believing scholars) don’t differ on FACTS, but INTERPRETATIONS. And so, how you should determine one’s level of scholarly authority is not necessarily their conclusions as much as the facts and methods they are using to come to those conclusions.

            Back to Mark: someone who thinks an ending was lost is not “anti-reality”. They (including Wright) are granting ALL of the same facts that other scholars are assessing. In other words, they are all looking at the EXACT same information and simply coming to conclusions.

            Your feigned “exasperation” at all those “close-minded” seminaries that “only seem to reinforce dogma” comes across so arrogantly. There are many seminaries doing wonderful work and working off of the same set of facts as “public institutions” (whatever it is you’re specifically referring to), and just because they interpret these facts differently and incorporate them into consistent frameworks and belief systems with no more contradiction than your own does not give you any objective authority to declare what they “should” and “should not” be teaching. There is a huge chasm between a seminary professor teaching that an ending to Mark was lost and someone thinking that Creationism should be taught as some sort of “equal perspective” next to evolution. One is an interpretation of facts, the other is a denial of facts. They are NOT the same.

            I grant most all of the facts of biblical studies that you believe, and yet find them fully in line with the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ. This is my interpretation, based on presuppositions about reality and the world and humanity. Whatever detachment you feel you possess from your own, similar pre-commitments, at least seminaries acknowledge that no pursuit and interpretation of facts is divorced from these prior commitments and so employ them self-consciously rather than self-deludingly under some false pretense of dispassion and objectivity. No interpretation is a mere assembly of facts. I have no particular allegiance to Wright specifically, and most of my experiences with seminaries have indeed been negative (until my current one), but your blanket and over-emotional condemnation of these things is a little ridiculous, self-righteous, and reactive.

            I genuinely expect that my professor will lay out a better case for Mark ending at 16:8 than I laid out here otherwise. When/if that happens, I’m pretty confident I’ll change my mind. And…nothing will change. I will not have changed the facts before me, nor will my view of Mark change in any significant way. I will not have been any more or less intellectually honest with myself before or after that change. No facts will cease to be denied, no insularity will be overcome, and no level of reality will I stop being “anti”. i will simply have been offered a more compelling (uh-oh, there’s that C-word again!) interpretation of the facts.

            So, stop raising your blood pressure whenever there seems to be another human in the world that–oh my god–has a different interpretation of facts than you. If you want, strive to help people see more facts. But to those that simply interpret them differently, your seeming arrogance, self-righteousness, and your “oh my god where do you find this stuff”? or “these are the people you read/associate with?!” exasperation is closed-minded, a little strange, and far more fundamentalistically dogmatic than most things to which you would be responding.

            I love you and these discussions, but please, is there anyway you can cultivate any level of humility, grace, and winsomeness into your discourse? It would go a long way.

            Like

            • Paul,

              When I said above, “I’m interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I care about having beliefs rooted in sound evidence and not unchecked conjecture and wishful thinking. I don’t think this is crazy.”

              This is not exasperation. This is not arrogance. This is not self-righteousness. This is not reactive.

              You asked my why I am interested in discussing these matters and I gave you an answer. I would hope you can agree that much of evangelical scholarship and many seminaries across the country amount to protecting party lines, unchecked conjecture, wishful thinking and pushing the evidence further than it can go. Note that I am *not* putting you in that category or your seminary.

              (I do, certainly, put Wright in that category. His works and lectures are filled with commentary which outright denies or willfully ignores contradictory evidence of his points. He is far from alone. This is why I questioned why you would cite him. I also find his views on homosexuality repelling.)

              Neither was I equating the topic in question to “creationism”. That would be ridiculous, I agree. I was simply raising questions and doubts about the case you made for the topic at hand. That’s all. I promise.

              Lastly, this is the second or third time you have attempted to dismiss my commentary on account of not having a degree in the field.

              This stems from the false notion that someone outside of the field cannot contribute anything of value. Of salience is whether someone understands the scholarship – including its methods, theory and evidence – *not* whether that person has a degree. Either the person is properly representing modern scholarship, or they aren’t. Either the person understands the methods and theory in question, or they don’t. Yours is an argument from authority that is typically used to avoid engagement. **I could be a random commenter and the arguments given still stand**. You seem to be operating under some warped idea that if a good argument is laid out, it’s immediately rendered faulty or worth of dismissal if you find out that person doesn’t have the degree of your choice.

              You asked me to “cultivate a level of humility”. I don’t think I’ve said anything here offensive or confrontational. If you disagree, perhaps we hold to different values of discourse. In return, I would ask that you maybe ease off the usage of absolutist language. You often use language like “near-universal” and “all of ancient literature” to convey a sort of artificial conformity underpinning your view. As you know, it’s never that simple, especially when dealing with events that happened more than 2,000 years ago 😉

              Take care Paul,

              – Daniel

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  4. Great paper. And from the academic side, the focus you are working on is whether or not there is a missing ending. Part of the poststructuralist response to the Markan non-ending may involve a bit less interest in what may have been there and a bit more interest in what we receive. The birth of reader response criticism as a literary method–though not a terribly new approach to the text–involved an incredibly new care for what the text IS rather than what it isn’t or what the author’s intention might have been.

    In a Christian context, I’ve always adored the non-ending ending here precisely because of its discomfort and our need for conclusion and “wrapping it up”. In this way, how the ending plays for us, regardless of how it was heard in its home community and lost to the succeeding generation, has a rich and provocative meaning that is so essential for our moment.

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