Perspectives on the Ending of Mark

As I prepared for a sermon series through the Gospel of Mark, I wanted a resource to help guide me through the debated last few verses.

Book Overview

Because it is conspicuously absent from more than one early Greek manuscript, the final section of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) that details Christ’s resurrection remains a constant source of debate among serious students of the New Testament.

Perspectives on the Ending of Mark presents in counterpoint form the split opinions about this difficult passage with a goal of determining which is more likely. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black argue for the verses’ authenticity. Keith Elliott (University of Leeds) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) contend that they are not original to Mark’s gospel. Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary) responds to each view and summarizes the state of current research on the entire issue.

Favorite Quotes

  1. If Mark intended to end his Gospel at 16:8, as I will argue, it’s a Gospel that leaves the reader hanging, wanting more (2).
  2. If Mark’s Gospel ends at 16:8, there are no Resurrection appearances by Jesus to his disciples (13).
  3. Further, if the text is already suspicious because of external data, then these linguistic peculiarities are strong evidence of the spurious nature of the LE (longer ending) (31).
  4. The point is that if someone did not embrace Jesus in his suffering, he did not get to see him in his glory (38).
  5. Whether this occurred due to accident (an archetypal lost leaf) or intent (authorial decision to end with 16:8) the result is problematic (51).
  6. The LE can be supported and defended as canonically original in accord with the consensus established from theological, thematic, historical, and transmission considerations (74).
  7. By contrast with these three evangelists, Mark seems rather blunted at both ends (81).
  8. 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).
  9. If I am right, then we are left with the argument that it was a later – probably second century – editor who found this paragraph and, despite its imperfections for such a purpose, used it (in time for Irenaeus to know it as part of Mark’s Gospel) to round off a dissatisfyingly incomplete Gospel – especially if that Gospel was by then being used to complete a fourfold Gospel canon (92).
  10. If these arguments are correct, then we have corroborative evidence that Mark’s Gospel was damaged at both ends (although not necessarily simultaneously nor, initially, in the same manuscript) (98).
  11. Inerrancy is not coterminous with canonicity (100).
  12. The word “canonical” does not imply “original” and it certainly does not involved appeals to divine protectionism, inerrancy, or inspiration (whatever those words are said to mean) (100).
  13. I will argue that Mark originally ended his Gospel narrative (comprised of the actual words of Peter) at 16:8 and then later supplied the last twelve verses himself as a suitable conclusion (104).
  14. The real significance of Mark lies in the fact that it was Peter’s guarantee that Luke was fit to be read beside Matthew in the churches of both Peter and Paul (121).
  15. What is taught in the longer ending for the most part is taught elsewhere in the New Testament (125).
  16. Examples of narrative ending with an open ending in the New Testament include how Israel is handled at the end of Acts (if not Paul’s fate) and the story of the Prodigal Son (135).
  17. So in Mark fear can paralyze or lead into faith.  The choice is with the one who fears.  It is here that Mark ends…So Mark leaves the reader with a choice (136).
  18. Mark was the least utilized of the four Gospels…a primary reason for this is relatively simple – most of Mark is found in Matthew or Luke (138).