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Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Part 2

Perspectives on the Ending of MarkPerspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views

Editor: David Alan Black
Paperback: 145 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman
ISBN-10: 0-805-44762-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-805-44762-0

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Maurice Robinson argues that Mark originally ended with v. 20 (the longer ending). He begins his paper by explaining the various debates about the ending. These debates are a short ending at 16:8, an intermediate ending following 16:8, a long ending at 16:20, and a long ending with a lengthy expansion following 16:14. Dr. Robinson states that these various endings (or lack thereof) are orthodox, were used throughout church history in various settings without debate, and much of what is found in the longer endings is also elsewhere in Scripture.

As for external evidence, Robinson says that if Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and the very few manuscripts that omit or add to the long ending contained just the long ending, there would be no debate today. He shows that Justin Martyr and Irenaeus both quote from the long ending.

Why would the long ending be dropped in some manuscripts? Robinson points to Vaticanus and says that the extra space after 16:8 suggests as one possibility that the scribe might have known of the intermediate and long endings, and not knowing which to use, left the space blank. He also says that the reference to sign gifts in the long ending might cause some scribes to scratch out the part to make Christianity more legitimate during the time of Constantine.

As far as Markan style and vocabulary, Robinson shows that one can choose another set of twelve verses in Mark’s gospel (he points to Burgon’s study of Mark 1:1-12 and 1:9-20) and see that those places can appear to be less Markan than 16:9-20.

Thematically, Robinson shows the last twelve verses of Mark to contain parallels with other portions of Mark. He even has some convincing lists in which Mark 16:9-20 is set beside other passages in Mark and compared quite well (for instance to Mark 6:7-13).

Last, he shows that those events that occur only in these last twelve verses (ie. five sign gifts which are promised to believers), would not be written by one making a summary of post-Resurrection appearances. Instead, one would expect “closer parallels” and insertion of the other gospels’ material if that were the case. Robinson concludes with a list of fifteen reasons to believe the long ending to be original in which he summarizes his arguments.

The next paper, presented by Keith Elliott, is in defense of the short ending with the belief that the last page of Mark’s gospel was lost. Elliott believes that the long ending was concocted later to replace a missing and original ending after v. 8.

Elliott acknowledges that only two early Greek manuscripts that contain Mark end at v. 8. However, those two (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) are the foundation for “most critical editions of the Greek New Testament.”  He believes that these two should be considered some of the finest manuscripts produced. He also points to other versions (Latin MS Bobbiensis, Sahidic Coptic versions, most early Armenian MSS, Sinaitic Syriac, and Georgian and Armenian lectionaries) as lacking the long ending. Elliott shows that Eusebius (and Jerome who repeats him) believed most manuscripts of Mark ended at v. 8.

Internally, Elliott first looks at language. Under this section, he lists out words from 16:9-20 that are not found elsewhere in Mark or are used in unusual ways. One of his main concerns internally is with the last word of v. 8 – γάρ. He says:

I conclude that no author would have chosen to end a piece of writing, sentence, paragraph and even less a book, with a postpositional particle, and so we must decide that, originally, a continuation of v. 8 existed (alongside a possible Easter appearance) until the final page of the original Gospel of Mark was irretrievably lost.  [89]

In a footnote, he says that if v. 8 ended with this γάρ it should be translated something like, “. . . because they were fearful of.” This suggests that there was another part of Mark that continued from here.

Elliott continues to point out other peculiarities in these last twelve verses such as it’s change in content and theology, and the possible addition of the long ending with the Western Gospel Order of Matthew, John, Luke, then Mark, in which scribes might want a post-Resurrection wrap-up to follow the last in their line of gospels.

Briefly, Elliott touches on the possibility that the first three verses of Mark were not original, and that the original beginning is also missing. I will not touch on this here, since it has little to do with the matter at hand in the other papers.

Over the weekend I will attempt to finish up this review as I turn to Dr. Black’s paper, Dr. Bock’s response to all four papers, and my own response and conclusion.



One Response

  1. Hello,
    I invite you to read my own review of this book; it is among the Files at the TC-Alternate Yahoo discussion-group; you can also find it, piece by piece, at the textualcriticism group. Or, just e-mail me, and I will gladly send you a copy, in which some typographical errors in the online version have been corrected.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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