This thread presupposes my discussion of the restoration of the disciples in Mark. It is not intended to persuade you of anything, really. It is, rather, simply a summary of my own thinking on the matter, and of why I have come down on the side of regarding it as probable that Mark was not intended to end at 16.8. I do not regard the proposition that Mark was intended to end there as foolish; it is a respectable option; I just regard it as less likely than the alternative.
There is a possibility, on this alternative, that the gospel did actually end at 16.8 even though it was not intended to end there. This possibility would entail the author being unable to finish for some reason, that reason perhaps even being death. I do not think this is what happened, and it is not what I will be arguing for here; the scenario is possible (and the history of world literature is not lacking in unfinished works), but I think I find hints at what was in the lost ending in other early Christian texts.
Also, this post will deal with Mark as a unified text; while I will countenance the possibility of a few interpolations, I will not be treating Mark, for the purposes of this thread, as an accretional text. There are just too many variables in such a case. So, for example, the arguments I make here will probably not work against Bernard Muller's reconstruction, which presumes that the gospel originally ended at 15.39 and that the rest of the text was added as an accretion. Some of my arguments rely on knowing Mark's authorial habits, and if Mark is an accretional text his habits may not be discernible. Now, I actually do think that Mark is an accretional text, but I also think that Mark in the form that we know it has been edited with a somewhat heavy hand; this editing process missed a few tricks, but it is my judgment that the climax of the gospel is unlikely to have been one of them. In other words, I do not think that the editor just forgot to include an ending. So the arguments here will work for my particular brand of Marcan textual accretion, but will not necessarily work for Bernard's, which would require arguments that this post is not meant to provide.
This probably goes without saying, but this post also assumes that the longer ending, the shorter ending, and the Freer logion are spurious additions to the text of Mark. The abrupt ending at 16.8 is, among extant endings in the manuscript record, the most ancient. In fact, the manuscript record is, to my mind, the single strongest argument against my position that an ending has been lost.
These are arguments which are often used against the abrupt ending at 16.8, but which I find to be at most suggestive. They have no independent value to me; however, once the major arguments have been fielded, then I think it proper to consider the minor ones so as to recall that there are some slightly unusual things going on here.
1. The conjunction γάρ.
It is unusual to end a book with γάρ. But it is hardly impossible.
2. The imperfect of φοβέω.
It is unusual to use φοβέω in the imperfect without either an object or an infinitive clause. Mark uses φοβέω in the imperfect at 6.20; 9.32; 11.18, 32, and all of these instances include an object or an infinitive. But Mark 10.32 uses it without an object or an infinitive, in a manner somewhat parallel to what we find in 16.8.
3. Gospel analogies.
No other extant gospel ends with a resurrection but without resurrection appearances. But Mark is allowed to go his own way.
These are the arguments that have actually persuaded me.
1. Anachronistic reader responses.
Robert H. Stein writes at the beginning of his article, The Ending of Mark:
Simply put, I find it suspicious that the idea that Mark 16.8 was the intended ending of the gospel came to dominance only with the rise of postmodernism from the middle of century XX. Indeed, many if not most of the defenses of 16.8 as the original conclusion to Mark strike me as very postmodern or poststructural, with emphases on reader response and allied approaches to the text. As such, I think such interpretations are anachronistic (examples are from Stein's article):
Well, I agree that the story stands in need of rescuing, but I doubt that Mark had in mind that his readers should be the ones to do it.
2. Good news and fear.
How appropriate is it for a book that basically gives itself a title like "the good news of Jesus Christ" (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) to end on a note of fear and confusion? Now, I actually think that Mark may well have suffered damage at the beginning of the gospel as well as at the end, so this argument is actually not valid as it stands on my own view, but the possibility of frontal damage would bring up a weird conundrum for me in this case; essentially, I view the arguments for damage at the beginning to be weaker than arguments for damage at the end, and it would be weird to accept the former but reject the latter. It would be different if this were the only major argument, but it is not. I would have to see similar examples from antiquity in order to be completely comfortable with any of them.
3. A sabotaged ending.
I have seen Mark 16.8 called a "suspended ending" (Lee Magness, for example, in Sense and Absence) and then compared to other examples of this phenomenon, none of which seem to me to match up with what we find in Mark. (If you have one that you think is similar, I would like to see it.) Suspended endings generally amount to the writer letting the reader fill in unnarrated details; one thinks of TV procedurals, for example, in which the entire show is about identifying and catching the criminal, but the trial and conviction are not narrated; the viewer is invited to fill in that blank on his or her own. But that is not what we find in Mark. Instead, we find what I call a sabotaged ending.
The moment has come to discuss Mark 14.28 and 16.7, two obviously interrelated verses which I deliberately left out of my thread about the restoration of the disciples because they merit separate treatment. Posters on this forum have written about these two verses before, and this present discussion presumes knowledge of all of the following:
- Joe has a discussion of Mark 14.28 here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2134&p=47785.
- Bernard has a discussion of both Mark 14.28 and 16.7 on his web page: http://historical-jesus.info/hjes3.html#emptyt (you have to scroll down a bit to the end of the section in gray).
- Andrew discusses the Fayyum fragment here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2429.
- I lay out the Fayyum fragment here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1863.
Second, Matthew 28.7 = Mark 16.7:
And here are synopses of the verses in question:
|Μετὰ δὲ τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με
προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν.
|Ἀλλὰ μετὰ τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με|
προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν.
|And after I have been raised
I shall proceed before you into Galilee.
|But after I have been raised|
I shall proceed before you into Galilee.
|Καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι
εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ
ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν,
προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν·
ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε·
ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν.
εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ
καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι
προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν·
ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε,
καθὼς εἶπεν ὑμῖν.
|And having journeyed quickly
tell his disciples
he has been raised from among the dead,
he shall proceed before you into Galilee;
there you shall see him;
behold, I have told you.
|But go on,|
tell his disciples
and Peter that
he shall proceed before you into Galilee;
there you shall see him,
just as he has told you.
Mark 14.28 and 16.7 jointly promise the disciples a rendezvous with a risen Jesus, but the only messengers entrusted with passing this information on to the disciples themselves, the women at the tomb, say nothing to anyone, for they are afraid. So how are the disciples supposed to meet up with Jesus? This question does not find itself a natural answer already suggested in the course of the narrative; to the contrary, 16.8 has, barring further information, sabotaged 16.7. The extent of this sabotage may be seen in the confusion of modern exegetes, some of whom opine that Mark intended to keep the disciples in the dark, others of whom assume that they reunite with Jesus and are restored. Even exegetes on the same side of the overall issue of the originality of the abrupt ending cannot find agreement; they offer different answers to the question of whether the reader ought to assume that the disciples reunite with Jesus (examples are, again, from Stein's article):
Among those who suppose that Jesus does rehabilitate his disciples there is a further divide of opinion regarding how they actually come to reunite with Jesus, with some supposing that the women's silence was temporary and others imagining that it was permanent, but Jesus met with the disciples anyway, on his own terms, and surprised them. This kind of confusion does not happen when people read the other gospels: any of the other gospels, and I do not think that Mark intended to confuse the reader so badly. If he wished to make it clear (as per 16.7) that the disciples were going to meet Jesus, why make it unclear (as per 16.8) that this was going to happen after all? Conversely, if he wished to make it plain that the disciples were not going to reunite with Jesus, why include the prediction in the first place?
I trust you understand that I find most unconvincing those few attempts to make the young man at the tomb an unreliable predictor of events, though I readily admit that I do not really know what exactly is going on with this fellow. It is Jesus himself promising to "proceed before" the disciples himself in 14.28, and that has to mean something. (This opens up yet another possible outcome for those who suppose that Jesus reunites with his disciples: perhaps the disciples remember this prediction from Jesus himself and go to Galilee without the women's instructions; but the more possibilities there are, the more bizarre it becomes that Mark did not take greater care to tell the reader which one is correct.) It is true that the young man says in 16.7 that Jesus has already told them that they would see him in Galilee, and that is a little bit further than what Jesus literally says in 14.28, but that problem is not as big, in my opinion, as the problems that start to pile up once one begins to suggest that the combination of 14.28 and 16.7 do not imply a reunion with Jesus; and I think that 14.28 can easily be taken as implying a reunion (after all, Jesus says that he will proceed before the disciples into Galilee, thus predicting that they would go there, as well, which is not the same as simply saying that he himself would go to Galilee, full stop). If you have a reconstruction that makes sense along those lines, then I am more than happy to hear it.
Now, there is always the possibility that Mark 14.28 and 16.7 are interpolations. And I am actually very sympathetic to this view. But, just as with my first major argument above, adhering to this option actually creates a new argument for a lost ending in place of the one already laid out here. For we would have to imagine an interpolator who was willing and able to insert these predictions of a meeting with Jesus without actually inserting the meeting itself. (Such a scenario is similar to the view that Mark intended to end his gospel but was unable to do so for some reason.) If it was just a scribe harmonizing Mark to Matthew (which happened a lot over the centuries), then again, that scribe evidently took care to insert these two verses from Matthew, but apparently did not bother to insert Matthew's ending, the most important thing, complete with a resurrection appearance in Galilee! I will agree that this is possible, but I see it as less likely than the alternative: the scribe or interpolator was working with a gospel text of Mark that contained an ending, including a meeting in Galilee, and wanted to foreshadow that meeting and turn it into yet another fulfilled dominical prediction (of which there are many in the gospel of Mark), either on his own or with inspiration from the gospel of Matthew. Just to be clear, I think it is more likely that an interpolator would include the predictions without the event itself than that the author would, but I also consider it even more likely that there was an ending already in place to occasion those verses, interpolations or not, in the first place.
4. Circumstantial evidence.
One of my reasons for suspecting that the ending of Mark has been lost is that I think we can actually reconstruct a bit of it. This is not just a matter of imagining a fitting ending to the gospel; anyone who has read the gospel through a few times could do that. This is a matter of finding in extant Christian literature a resurrection appearance to the disciples which sounds on its own merits like it could be something that Mark might do and then finding other clues within that same appearance story that might link it to Mark in other ways. Find a connection; then find confirmation.
My first exposure to this idea was in chapter 12 of The Four Gospels, by B. H. Streeter, who humbly and rightly called his idea a speculation; yet I think it makes so much sense that it is worth considering in conjunction with the other arguments. Streeter, incidentally, was not the originator of this hypothesis; he was following Harnack and others.
We are looking for an appearance in Galilee that seems fitting for the ending of Mark. Matthew has an appearance in Galilee, but it is rather colorless and short on elements which would align it with Mark:
The appearance on a mountain top could hearken back to the transfiguration scene in Mark 9.2-8, but this venue makes even more sense in Matthew, who not only retains the transfiguration scene at 17.1-8 but also makes a big deal of Jesus teaching on a mountain at 5.1. Even the Matthean temptation pericope has a mountain at 4.8 that Mark 1.12-13 lacks. Mountains seem more Matthean than Marcan, really, though it ought to be admitted that Mark could have featured a mountain appearance and Matthew could have simply added more mountains to his gospel. To me, however, the Matthean resurrection appearance looks like something that an author might compose simply in order to satisfy the most basic conditions of such an appearance; it is nearly as stripped down as the spurious shorter ending of Mark:
I suggest that Matthew, far from copying his sole resurrection appearance from a lost ending of Mark, composed it precisely because his version of Mark ended at 16.8. Matthew 28.16-20 is more similar both to the longer ending of Mark and to the shorter ending of Mark than it is to most of the other resurrection narratives in any gospel.
If Matthew 28.16-20 is not a very good candidate, I suggest that there is another which is far better. Robert M. Price writes in chapter 1 of Deconstructing Jesus:
I regard this as a very perceptive insight, but one which founders on the very obscurity of the methodology: if this was Mark's intention, why does it take a scholar from the age of postmodernism to figure it out? Such private interpretations are unlikely on their face to be true to the original author's intent, and in this case the notion evidently results in the gospel of Mark being the first extant literary example of a self-causing time loop, a feature from a genre which would not be invented for nearly two millennia. However, what does Mark do elsewhere when he wants to make connections? He spells them out on a verbal level, as when he deliberately connects the two feeding miracles at Mark 8.14-21 or echoes the wording of previous pericopae in examples which you yourself, Kunigunde, are very adept at finding. In this case, Mark would be recasting the initial calling of the disciples in a postresurrectional setting, the intent being to restore them to ministry so that they can fulfill the predictions laid out for them in other parts of the gospel. And in John 21.2-14 we happen to find the only other resurrection appearance stated to have happened in Galilee, and it happens to evince the theme of fishing:
This appearance would come full circle so far as Mark is concerned. Jesus originally called his first four disciples (three of whom John names in verse 2) while they were fishing. What better spot to restore them to ministry than where it all began in the first place? This sounds like something that Mark might do.
Furthermore, by way of confirmation, even though John makes this the third appearance to the disciples, many have noticed that the story itself comes off as a first time. While going back to one's former occupation is something one might do in a state of despondency, it makes a bit less sense after one has already seen the Lord and been recommissioned. And that line about the disciples not daring to ask who this person was would make much more sense during a first appearance than during a second or third appearance. It is even possible that the next part of this appearance derives from the lost ending of Mark:
Jesus demands three expressions of love from Peter, and at a fire, one for each of Peter's denials at the fire on the night when Jesus was arrested. That this threefold restoration was to be found at the end of Mark can be no more than a guess (as opposed to a form of confirmation), however, since John, too, has three denials, and very well could have added these three dominical requests. But John does not have a calling of the first disciples from their nets while fishing; that element would make more sense in Mark than it does in John; and of course making this surprise visitation a third resurrection appearance rather than a first causes tension that would not be present in Mark, which would presumably, based on 14.28 and 16.7, not have narrated appearances in Jerusalem before an appearance in Galilee.
Obviously, if one suspects this miracle story as the lost ending of Mark, one cannot help but turn to Luke 5.1-11, as well:
This pericope comes toward the beginning of Jesus' Galilean ministry in this gospel (though Simon has already been introduced without fanfare in 4.38). It is a replacement, essentially, for Mark 1.16-20, the calling of the first disciples. If this miracle really was part of the lost ending of Mark, then Luke has noticed the parallels between the two encounters in Galilee and combined them into one. The obvious reason for removing the miraculous catch from among the resurrection appearances is that Luke has relentlessly kept all such appearances in and around Jerusalem. In Luke 24.6-9 we can see how far he goes to change what he finds in Mark to suit his purposes:
In Mark 16.7, the young man tells the women that Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee; here, however, the two men mention Galilee only as the site of the original passion prediction(s). And the women are not silent here as they are in Mark; they tell. So I believe that Luke knew the original ending of Mark and chose to relocate it to the most logical spot in Jesus' ministry, right at the beginning, at the first calling of the disciples.
A bit of confirmation comes from that line that Simon Peter utters: "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" One has to imagine this outburst as a spontaneous confession brought on by the magnitude of the miracle, which is possible, but it would make so much more sense for it to come after he has denied his Lord three times and is now confronting him for the first time after his resurrection!
Finally, we ought to consider Peter 13.55-14.60:
This looks like it could well be the beginning of the miraculous catch, placed after the resurrection (as in John but not Luke). However, notice that here the women apparently keep their silence, leaving the disciples no hope; they decide to go fishing on their own, so any appearance that Jesus chooses to make is probably going to be a surprise, as we find in John (incongruously, since it is his third appearance to them; in Peter there are apparently no Jerusalem appearances). Another bit of confirmation comes from the naming of Levi of Alphaeus, one of only five disciples given a narrated, personal call in the gospel of Mark. Matthew turns Levi into Matthew; John lacks Levi altogether; and Luke 5.27 retains him, but without the name of Alphaeus as an identifier. It is only Mark 2.14 that names this man as Levi the son of Alphaeus; so this name in Peter sounds like a decidedly Marcan touch. This example lacks the explicit element of confirmation present in the examples of John and Luke, since we simply do not know (due to the fragmentary nature of the text) whether the gospel of Peter mentioned Levi of Alphaeus earlier in the narrative, and we simply do not have the rest of the story itself. (Side note: I idly suspect, but cannot in any way prove, that in the lost Marcan ending Jesus appeared to the same five disciples whom he personally called earlier in the gospel: Simon and Andrew, James and John, and Levi. Simon is confirmed in the gospel of Peter and in Luke; Andrew and Levi are confirmed in the gospel of Peter; and the sons of Zebedee are confirmed in the gospels of Luke and of John. But this is just a guess on my part.)
What impresses me here is that one can suspect the miraculous catch of having something to do with the ending of Mark based solely on both the location and the nature of the miracle itself; but then, once one tracks down two of the extant instances of this miracle, there is in both cases at least one detail that would actually make more sense at the end of Mark than in its current Johannine or Lucan context: the element of surprise in John and Simon Peter's sincere repentance in Luke. And in the other extant instance, in Peter, two elements stand out as at least as cogent in Mark as in their current context: the name Levi of Alphaeus and the fact that Jesus seems likely to appear to his disciples despite the women keeping their silence. It is this kind of feedback that makes me strongly suspect that Mark originally narrated a miraculous catch in Galilee after 16.8.
To summarize some of the problems that a resurrection appearance in Galilee at the end of Mark would help to solve:
- Peter and the rest of the disciples are lambasted in the narrative, yet they seem to come out okay after the resurrection, according to those dominical predictions. Why do these men, who could not last 10 minutes during Jesus' ministry, wind up enduring tribulations even unto martyrdom according to Mark? Because they were granted a second opportunity, a resurrection appearance, and they took it.
- Why is the extant ending of Mark so abrupt, wrapping up with an intransitive imperfect of φοβέω followed by γάρ? Because the ending originally continued past that point.
- Why does Mark seem to promise good news but end on a note of fear? Because he actually did not end on a note of fear; rather, his intended ending has been lost.
- Why is a reunion in Galilee promised on two separate occasions in Mark? Because originally there was such a reunion, and either the author or an interpolator decided to lead up to this reunion with predictions.
- Why is the miraculous catch of fish labelled a third appearance in the gospel of John even though it comes across as a first appearance, and a surprise at that? Because John is here cribbing from the lost ending of Mark, trying to harmonize the Galilean appearances with the Judean appearances, and in Mark it was indeed a first appearance.
- Why does Peter cry out that he is a sinful man upon seeing the miraculous catch of fish in the gospel of Luke? Because Luke is here cribbing from the lost ending of Mark, deeming the miracle worth saving but moving it forward in the gospel so as to ruthlessly eliminate all Galilean appearances, leaving only Judean ones.
- Why does the gospel of Peter preserve the Marcan note of fear on the part of the women and then fail to follow Matthew, Luke, or John in having them relay the news to the disciples before the disciples return to their nets? Because here the gospel of Peter was following the now lost ending of Mark.
In this light, I think the negative portrayal of the disciples in Mark makes perfect sense against those simple predictions of their future martyrological suffering for Christ's sake: Mark assumes that the disciples will be okay, so there is no need to compromise their Christian ministry, but in a story that is about how great Jesus is, the worse the sinner, the better. Puns on Peter's name to the effect that he is the seed cast on stony ground? Indeed. Implications that he is a stumbling stone? Sure, why not? Denials and betrayals and failures at every turn? Bring it on. It all makes Jesus' mercy all the more merciful, as it were.
So that, Kunigunde, is the core of my overall thought process on the (lost) ending of Mark. There is more than could be added to these central points, but my other points are supportive and peripheral. I hope you have found the effort entertaining, at least.
PS: For those of you on this forum who are not named Kunigunde Kreuzerin, I know very well that my conclusions here fall on the conservative side of the scholarly spectrum. But I swear to Jove: if I read one comment comparing them to apologetics or wondering about my ideological commitments, I will (A) wonder where you have been when I suggest alternate times and places for the crucifixion, argue that Romans 1.1b-5a, 1 Corinthians 11.23-28, and 1 Corinthians 15.3-11 are interpolations, and maintain that the Marcionite gospel is not a redaction of canonical Luke; (B) ignore your contributions completely; and (C) remember you as a person who has no idea how to even start to distinguish between personal biases and reasoned arguments. I post here for personal pleasure and for the challenge of trying to figure out what happened two millennia ago, not for the sake of advancing some preconceived ideological position. Posters besides Kunigunde are most welcome to respond, but please: be decent about it. Many thanks in advance.
ETA: Michael BG has posted some musings about the name Simon Peter (as opposed to just plain Simon or Peter) in Luke 5.8, and the use of this name now strikes me as a possible indicator of Marcan origin. Mark uses Simon's full name, in the form "Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter," only once in the extant gospel, at Mark 3.16. This is precisely at the commissioning of the twelve disciples as a special group. It would make perfect sense if, during the (lost) resurrection appearance, Mark were to use this full name again, as part of Peter's recommissioning. This may be yet another bit of confirmation for the idea that both the miraculous catch of fish and Peter's exclamation in Luke 5.8 derive from the lost Marcan ending. (In the body of the gospel the calling and the commissioning of Peter are two different occasions; but in the lost ending, presumably, they would be the same thing: a single restoration of Peter after his three denials.)