The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

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Ben C. Smith
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The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:15 am

Hi, Kunigunde. Better late than never, right?

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.

Minor arguments.

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.

Major arguments.

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:

In the first part of the 20th century, the predominant view was that the original ending had been lost, but in the latter part of the century this was replaced by the view that 16:8 was Mark’s intended ending, and numerous attempts were made to explain how 16:8 serves as a fitting ending for the Gospel.

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):

“The readers are asked to complete the story, not only by imaging the fulfillment of the promise of appearances, as 14:28 and 16:7 should probably be interpreted, but also by imaging the fulfillment of the dramatic and vivid promises that the Son of Man would return (13:24–27; 14:62).” — Adela Yarbro Collins, “The Empty Tomb in the Gospel according to Mark,” in Hermes and Athena: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology, page 123.

The ending is a “‘highly sophisticated’ narrative trap” whose “narrative breakdown demands the actual reader’s involvement in rescuing the story, which is its ultimate rhetorical effect.” — J. David Hester, “Dramatic Inconclusion: Irony and the Narrative Rhetoric of the Ending of Mark,” JSNT 57, pages 62-63.

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:
  1. Joe has a discussion of Mark 14.28 here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2134&p=47785.
  2. 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).
  3. Andrew discusses the Fayyum fragment here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2429.
  4. I lay out the Fayyum fragment here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1863.
It might be a good idea to set forth these Marcan verses themselves, along with their Matthean parallels (Luke lacks both, though 24.6b seems to have transformed Mark 16.7 into something quite different). I have included the main textual variants, but excluded those variants which are of spelling only:

Matthew 26.32: μετὰ δὲ τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν.
~ No major textual variants.

Mark 14.28: ἀλλὰ μετὰ τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν.
~ W adds ἐκ νεκρῶν after ἐγερθῆναί με.
~ The Fayyum fragment omits this entire verse.

Second, Matthew 28.7 = Mark 16.7:

Matthew 28.7: Καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἰδοὺ προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε· ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν.
~ D lacks ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν and ἰδοὺ.

Mark 16.7: Ἀλλὰ ὑπάγετε εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν· ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε, καθὼς εἶπεν ὑμῖν.
~ D has ὑπάγεται for ὑπάγετε, and both D and W add καὶ after this word.
~ Both D and W add ἰδοὺ after καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι.
~ Both D and W have προάγω instead of προάγει.
~ D has ἐκεῖ με instead of ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν.
~ A, D, and W have ὄψεσθαι instead of ὄψεσθε.
~ D has εἴρηκα instead of εἶπεν.

And here are synopses of the verses in question:

[/tr]
Matthew 26.32
Mark 14.28
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.


[/tr]
Matthew 28.7
Mark 16.7
Καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι
εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ
ὅτι
ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν,
καὶ ἰδοὺ,
προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν·
ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε·
ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν.
Ἀλλὰ ὑπάγετε
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
that
he has been raised from among the dead,
and behold,
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):

Yea: “From these words [16.7] the reader understands that at the time of the young man’s speech Jesus is already on his way to Galilee where he expects to encounter Peter and the other disciples.” — Norman R. Petersen, “When Is the End Not the End? Literary Reflections on the Ending of Mark’s Narrative,” Int 34, page 153.

Nay: “Mark is assiduously involved in a vendetta against the disciples. He is intent on totally discrediting them. . . . As the coup de grace, Mark closes his Gospel without rehabilitating the disciples.” — Theodore J. Weeden, Mark: Traditions in Conflict, pages 50-51.

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't 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:

28.16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

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:

16.21 And all that had been commanded them they promptly announced to those around Peter. And after these things J{esu}s himself appeared to them, and from the east as far as the west he sent out through them the sacred and incorruptible proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.

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:

Darrell J. Doughty [in class lectures] suggests that Marks gospel, which has so many mysterious features, would make a lot more sense if we read it as having a circular structure—if it started with the resurrection! That's why the book seems to end so abruptly at Mark 16:8, with the women fleeing from the tomb after a young man tells them Jesus will rejoin his disciples in Galilee. Mark wants the reader to look next at the only place there is left to look: the beginning. There we find the episode of Jesus' calling the disciples at the lakeside and the mysteriously immediate response: The disciples drop what they are doing and follow him. Doughty noticed how much sense this scene makes if we assume the disciples know him already. Think of how similar the scene is both to Luke's version in Luke 5:1-11 and to that in John 21:1-11, where it is explicitly a resurrection story! This is the reunion Mark's young man was talking about (Mark 16:7)! So once the Risen Jesus regains his disciples at the Sea of Galilee, the post-resurrection teachings begin. They continue throughout the Gospel of Mark.

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:

21.2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter says to them, “I am going fishing.” They say to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus says to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved says to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. 9 So when they got out on the land, they see a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus says to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus says to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus comes and takes the bread and gives it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

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:

21.15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He says to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He says to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He says to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He says to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He says to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He says to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus says to him, “Tend My sheep.

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:

5.1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

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:

24.6 "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” 8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

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:

55 And having gone off, they found the sepulcher opened. And having come forward, they bent down there and saw there a certain young man seated in the middle of the sepulcher, comely and clothed with a splendid robe, who said to them: 56 'Why have you come? Whom do you seek? Not that one who was crucified? He is risen and gone away. But if you do not believe, bend down and see the place where he lay, because he is not here. For he is risen and gone away to there whence he was sent.' 57 Then the women fled frightened. 14.58 Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. 59 But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. 60 But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord ....

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
When I read some posts about Mark on this forum, I get the impression that the poster almost thinks that the gospel is really about the disciples, especially Peter. I get the impression sometimes that the poster thinks Mark is using Jesus to say something about the disciples: specifically, Mark is using Jesus to condemn or mitigate Peter's mission and position in the early church. But that is not my sense at all. On this point I agree with Robert Gundry that Mark is an "apology for the Cross" (page 1 of his commentary). Mark is all about Jesus, using the disciples both as a foil for the savior and as characters with whom the readers can relate. Basically, if you have ever doubted that Jesus is the son of God or the Christ because he died such a shameful death, well, you are in good company; even Peter and the other disciples doubted. But they came around, because Jesus gave them a second chance, and so can you, because Jesus will be merciful to you, too. This style of preaching is still very common amongst evangelical Christians. Sure, there are some pastors who will obsess over the individual ministries and fates of each of the twelve apostles, but many, many of them really do not care about the apostles themselves; they use the apostles exactly as I am suggesting Mark used them, as relatable characters to help better understand what Jesus was (supposedly) all about. I think Matthew did the same thing: he makes Peter eminently relatable when he describes him walking on water: Peter starts out well, but then doubts and begins to sink (following the same pattern established in the parable of the sower for the seed falling on rocky soil); and Jesus is right there to save him, demonstrating that the incident is not really about Peter so much as it is about Jesus. This focus on Jesus rather than on the disciples is why, I believe, Mark can so blithely relate legends about the fates of the disciples (sufferings and martyrdoms) without negating their influence or sincerity: Mark has the luxury of simply assuming that his readers respect those earlier luminaries, and all of his real energy on their behalf goes into making them fail during the ministry precisely so as to highlight the saving power of Christ.

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. :)

Ben.

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.)
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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by JoeWallack » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:56 am

JW:
Just to be clear Ben, I consider you a Skeptic. Years ago I did think you held a few Apologist type positions.

Regarding possible Emendations to GMark that have no quality supporting evidence, based on The Difficult Reading Principle I think it exponentially more likely that original GMark had explicit permanent condemnation of Peter than explicit permanent restoration. This is in fact the best reason to think that the original ending of GMark was exorcised. Jesus went to Galilee before Peter returned and when Peter saw Jesus there he still did not believe he was resurrected.


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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:00 am

JoeWallack wrote:Just to be clear Ben, I consider you a Skeptic. Years ago I did think you held a few Apologist type positions.
Believe it or not, you were not (one of) the poster(s) I had in mind in my postscript. And I still hold a few positions also favored by apologists; but that is because apologists are not always wrong. :)
Regarding possible Emendations to GMark that have no quality supporting evidence, based on The Difficult Reading Principle I think it exponentially more likely that original GMark had explicit permanent condemnation of Peter than explicit permanent restoration. This is in fact the best reason to think that the original ending of GMark was exorcised. Jesus went to Galilee before Peter returned and when Peter saw Jesus there he still did not believe he was resurrected.
That is a respectable position: a respectable position that I do not hold. :)
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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:09 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
JoeWallack wrote:Regarding possible Emendations to GMark that have no quality supporting evidence, based on The Difficult Reading Principle I think it exponentially more likely that original GMark had explicit permanent condemnation of Peter than explicit permanent restoration. This is in fact the best reason to think that the original ending of GMark was exorcised. Jesus went to Galilee before Peter returned and when Peter saw Jesus there he still did not believe he was resurrected.
That is a respectable position: a respectable position that I do not hold. :)
But actually, it has been a while since I explicitly considered that option, so I am going to play it through my mind a few times and see if anything has changed with more recent insights.
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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by iskander » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:21 am

JoeWallack wrote:JW:
Just to be clear Ben, I consider you a Skeptic. Years ago I did think you held a few Apologist type positions.

Regarding possible Emendations to GMark that have no quality supporting evidence, based on The Difficult Reading Principle I think it exponentially more likely that original GMark had explicit permanent condemnation of Peter than explicit permanent restoration. This is in fact the best reason to think that the original ending of GMark was exorcised. Jesus went to Galilee before Peter returned and when Peter saw Jesus there he still did not believe he was resurrected.


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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:27 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:Hi, Kunigunde. Better late than never, right?
:) and here is a second diamond for me.

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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Ulan » Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:48 am

Thanks for laying this out in a concise manner. This is certainly a plausible scenario.

I never considered the not-telling of the women a problem, similar to how you solved it. The disciples were at home in Galilee. Where else would they go, even without further instructions? Pay rent in Jerusalem to continue wallowing in misery?

The only thing I'd like to add is that the kind of "reader response" some scholars proposed and which I considered a viable alternative is a bit different: If gMark was never considered to be a text that was supposed to be circulated without someone accompanying and actively using it to proselytize, it would make sense in a public performance/private or close circle split context. Of course, this still means that an ending of a kind would have existed, just that it may never have been written down, which then was one of the reasons that prompted the rewriting by Luke/Matthew.

gJohn always struck me as a commentary on gMark, so it makes to some extent sense to see (a version of) gMark's possible ending there. This still only works if gJohn is indeed a composite text, but I think that is a given anyway. I really have to read up on gJohn literature to see how the text can be best subdivided and whether a subdivision yields viable texts by themselves.

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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Steven Avery » Sat Apr 29, 2017 4:11 am

Ben C. Smith wrote: 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. .... 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. .... In Luke 24.6-9 we can see how far he goes to change what he finds in Mark to suit his purposes: ... 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. ... 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.
A much simpler scenario. Luke was published first, writing to Theophilus the high priest, when he was "most excellent", which dates the Gospel to c. 40-41 AD. Mark's authentic and original ending is as we have in the 99.9% of Greek, Latin and Syriac manuscripts and has the earliest attestation (e.g. Irenaeus). The apparent gap in Mark is seen in the Lukan Gospel, and the Gospels are knit together into one unit by the Holy Spirit.

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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by andrewcriddle » Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:16 am

Hi Ben

IIUC you are proposing a scenario in which:
a/ Mark originally had an ending similar to John 21.
b/ Luke and the final redactor of John knew a version of Mark with this ending.
c/ This ending had already been lost in the version of Mark known to Matthew.
Am I right ?

(If I am right I'll probably try and comment on Monday about strengths and weaknesses of this scenario but I want to be sure I'm not misunderstanding you.)

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Re: The ending of Mark (for Kunigunde).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:51 am

andrewcriddle wrote:Hi Ben

IIUC you are proposing a scenario in which:
a/ Mark originally had an ending similar to John 21.
b/ Luke and the final redactor of John knew a version of Mark with this ending.
c/ This ending had already been lost in the version of Mark known to Matthew.
Am I right ?

(If I am right I'll probably try and comment on Monday about strengths and weaknesses of this scenario but I want to be sure I'm not misunderstanding you.)
Yes, that is correct. Add in, however, that Peter also knew such an ending.

Alternatively, none of those texts knew the ending of Mark itself, but knew another (lost) text which included the tradition upon which Mark's ending was based.

I have run through quite a few possible stemmata in my mind about this, and I am aware of some weaknesses; but I do not think they are decisive. I will be interested to hear what you have to say.

ETA: Wanted to add, briefly, that it seems possible to me that the gospel of Mark was never seen as a ready-to-go literary work in its own right; it was always seen as a series of notes. I follow Carlson's reading of Clement of Alexandria (as cited in Eusebius, History of the Church 6.14.5-7) on this. The other gospels intended to rewrite and actually supplant it, and very nearly succeeded, forcing a scenario in which all of our extant manuscripts of Mark hail back to only a scant handful of copies (possibly even just one), and those few copies belonged to the stemma of the one which had suffered the damage. I also suspect that this narrowing of the ancestry of Mark may have occurred at least partly because those most likely to appreciate Mark on its own merits (rather than simply as fodder for more developed gospels) would be adoptionists and separationists (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.7), and I think that both of those kinds of groups tended to get swallowed up pretty early by full-blown gnostics and the proto-orthodox, with the possible exception of some Ebionites, who, however, happened to use a gospel which they attributed to Matthew, not Mark.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Sat Apr 29, 2017 6:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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