Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

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Stefan Kristensen
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Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:40 am

I just had an idea concerning the woman at the tomb and the reason they don't convey the message they're told. Firstly, my theory is based on the premise that it's a literary device, something put in there by Mark for some specific reason. I've always wondered why interpreters and preachers and biblical historians often talk about this scene as if it involved an historical problem or some kind of mystery, i.e. if the women "didn't say anything to anyone", then how could the Word get out and Christianity begin? But that is not a very close reading of the text at all.

Because the message that the women fail to convey, Jesus has of course already conveyed himself way before his crucifixion, as we know, when he says in 14:28: "After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee" (14:28). So the disciples have already been told the very message, that the angel in the tomb asks the women to tell them.

Indeed, the reader is reminded of this very fact by the angel himself, when he says to the women:
But go and tell to his disciples and to Peter: 'He will go before you to Galilee, you are going to see him there, like he told you'.


So there is no historical problem or narratological problem in that the women fail to convey the message, because the message they fail to convey is not a message as such, but merely a confirmation of a message they have already been given. So with the silence of the women it is up to the disciples to remember that Jesus had told them and to have faith that it is true, that Jesus has indeed risen like he said. And that is what I suggest Mark means with this ending and the silence of the women. That the disicples, after all, in the end, succeed.

The term used, "go before", προαγω, implies that they will subsequently follow. Which is of course an all-important concept in gMark. So the question Mark raises with the silence of the women is: Will the disiples "follow", now that they have realised what the gospel message is, i.e. a message that also concerns suffering, a suffering messiah? So if they still choose to go to Galilee despite the fact that their messiah has just been killed, then yes, they are true 'followers'. They now recognize the gospel as a message of suffering, and they still "follow". Is this what the silence of the women is all about?

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:37 am

Is this what the silence of the women is all about?
That the women collapse is straightforward realism: they are exhausted and probably in clinical shock. That's why Mark put the detail there: that's what would happen to real people in the characters' situation. John does a lot more with the idea, first by focusing on one person (Mary Magdalene) and by a more detailed clinical portrayal (her fixation on the idea that the body had been moved and her "drowning woman's grip" when she recognizes Jesus are shock signs).

The narrative problem with Mark 16:8 is that the performance ends there, when there was a natural stopping point in the immediately preceding line. The problem is not "historical," obviously the disciples did something to get the church going. They're from Galilee, Peter has a house there, so if they just go home, everything should fall into place.

Even the first half of 16:8, the women's loss of motor control, is playable as a realistic curtain. The only problem is "They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid." And that isn't a problem unless the performance ends there. Even with the emphatic "double negative," there's no commitment that the women will keep the much-ballyhooed "messianic secret" better and longer than anybody else has. Shock and exhaustion, by their nature, pass.

So, cui bono? A boy's club that legislates that women are unfit for leadership is how Mark reaches us.

IMO, misogyny is what imposing this ending Mark is "all about." "If it was up to women," Mark is made to say on Almighty God's behalf, "there'd have been no church for men to run." You don't need a pen to make that the take-home message of Mark, you just cut away his ending, and leave the part you agree with.

The boy's club faked entire epistles of Paul in part to keep women out of management. Where's the mystery that some of Mark seems to be missing, while the supposed frailty of women comes through loud and clear?

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Martin Klatt » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:42 am

Let me first make clear that nearly all my contributions to any topic on this board will be in light of my hypothesis that GMark is a so called Menippean satire play from head to tail, but I will try deploying my elaborations in all seriousness, just that you know.

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:40 am

So there is no historical problem or narratological problem in that the women fail to convey the message, because the message they fail to convey is not a message as such, but merely a confirmation of a message they have already been given. So with the silence of the women it is up to the disciples to remember that Jesus had told them and to have faith that it is true, that Jesus has indeed risen like he said. And that is what I suggest Mark means with this ending and the silence of the women. That the disicples, after all, in the end, succeed.
I almost completely agree with that. Your last sentence is a stumbling-block. You cannot know if they succeed, because it is the end and the other gospels have not been written yet, they are irrelevant to this one. It is just fiction and as such the end must be the end, the rest can only be in the imagination of the reader. The suspense is brilliantly created. We know the disciples were forewarned, but we also know they are perfectly capable of misunderstanding or forgetting about it(the whole story is full of that), so your conclusion is not only a bit hasty and unsupported from within but also biased by outside influences not incorporated in the story itself. My personal intuition would bet on the disciples being totally scattered, like sheep without the sheep herd and that is that. But that is not the point. Jesus lives(he actually never died during crucifixion) and finally relieved from the disturbing urges of the Holy Spirit at the cross, he can go back home and live his old Nazarene life again, if the disciples ever team up with him is totally irrelevant because the story ends here.

The End.

NB The separate mention of Peter suggests that line should be read as giving hím instructions to lead the disciples to Galilee to see Jesus.

NB2 Mark is not a Christian. If he had a denomination he would probably call himself a Cynic. The literary style of Menippean satire was invented by/named after the Cynic Menippus of Gadara.

NB3 GMark was originally performed as a play. A giveaway on that is the period of darkness at the cross, just imagine stagehands doing some alterations for the grand finale at the cross not to be seen by the audience. Neat.
Last edited by Martin Klatt on Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:41 am, edited 12 times in total.
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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:13 am

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:37 am
Is this what the silence of the women is all about?
That the women collapse is straightforward realism: they are exhausted and probably in clinical shock. That's why Mark put the detail there: that's what would happen to real people in the characters' situation. John does a lot more with the idea, first by focusing on one person (Mary Magdalene) and by a more detailed clinical portrayal (her fixation on the idea that the body had been moved and her "drowning woman's grip" when she recognizes Jesus are shock signs).

The narrative problem with Mark 16:8 is that the performance ends there, when there was a natural stopping point in the immediately preceding line. The problem is not "historical," obviously the disciples did something to get the church going. They're from Galilee, Peter has a house there, so if they just go home, everything should fall into place.

Even the first half of 16:8, the women's loss of motor control, is playable as a realistic curtain. The only problem is "They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid." And that isn't a problem unless the performance ends there. Even with the emphatic "double negative," there's no commitment that the women will keep the much-ballyhooed "messianic secret" better and longer than anybody else has. Shock and exhaustion, by their nature, pass.

So, cui bono? A boy's club that legislates that women are unfit for leadership is how Mark reaches us.

IMO, misogyny is what imposing this ending Mark is "all about." "If it was up to women," Mark is made to say on Almighty God's behalf, "there'd have been no church for men to run." You don't need a pen to make that the take-home message of Mark, you just cut away his ending, and leave the part you agree with.

The boy's club faked entire epistles of Paul in part to keep women out of management. Where's the mystery that some of Mark seems to be missing, while the supposed frailty of women comes through loud and clear?
I think that Mark uses "straightforward realism" in his narrative, but the reaction of the women is also a common trope in the Bible when people are confronted with angels. And in Mark's narrative there is the theme of fear vs. faith. "Faith" can overcome "fear", which is an important priniciple when battling Satan with all the trials and temptations. So I'd like to regard it more as a literary device than as

And I understand gMark more traditionally, not as a play, but as a literary work, meant by the author to be understood and treated in the same way the Christian communities treated "the Scriptures". And I don't see it as misogynistic as such, but I do think that the women are the ones used in this scene by Mark, because it is easier to invent 'historical' women than 'historical' men, and that is what Mark did, I think, invent this 'historical' scene. If it were men, Mark would have to account for their identity, their fathers, etc. That could be part of the explanation. Women were uncomplicated as witnesses for the empty tomb. But perhaps there already was a tradition concerning women as witnesses of the tomb.

But you are right in pointing out a possible weakness in my theory concerning the narrative: The natural thing for the discples to do in any event were to go home, which is of course Galilee. However, not all the disciples are fra Galilee. So we may expect Peter to go to Galilee, but it has to be an organized effort, if "the disciples and Peter" are all to go to Galilee.

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:15 am

Martin Klatt wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:42 am
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:40 am

So there is no historical problem or narratological problem in that the women fail to convey the message, because the message they fail to convey is not a message as such, but merely a confirmation of a message they have already been given. So with the silence of the women it is up to the disciples to remember that Jesus had told them and to have faith that it is true, that Jesus has indeed risen like he said. And that is what I suggest Mark means with this ending and the silence of the women. That the disicples, after all, in the end, succeed.
I almost completely agree with that. The last sentence is the problem. You cannot know if they succeed, because it is the end and the other gospels have not been written yet, they are irrelevant to this one. It is just fiction and as such the end must be the end, the rest can only be in the imagination of the reader. The suspense is perfectly created. We know the disciples were forewarned, but we also know they are perfectly capable of misunderstanding or forgetting about it(the whole story is full of that), so your conclusion is not only a bit hasty and unsupported from within but also biased by outside influences not incorporated in the story itself. My personal intuition would bet on the disciples being totally scattered, like sheep without the sheep herd and that is that. But that is not the point. Jesus lives(he probably never died) and released from the disturbing urges of the Holy Spirit, he can go back home and live happily ever after.

The End.
Yes, the other gospel narratives hadn't been written yet, but that certainly doesn't mean that the disciples meeting up with Jesus in Galilee wasn't already part of the grander narrative of the Christian communities. E.g. 1 Cor 15,1ff, which has Peter as the very first, which might be implied in "the disciples and Peter".

Mark's narrative is just a smaller part of a much larger narrative, beginning with the creation of the world, and ending with judgement day. Mark is clearly very aware of this.

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:25 am

I might add, that I also suggest that Mark generally intends the itenerant Jesus to be symbolic of the missionary Church all the way through. His healing and teaching and preaching activities are a symbol of the Church (at Mark's time). And as such, the correlation of language that we find between the ending, Mark 16, and the beginning in Mark 1:35-38, is quite possibly carefully intended.

Mark 1:35-38 is the beginning of Jesus' mission in Galilee, outside of the town in which he started with the unclean spirit in the synagogue, and I like to regard it as symbolic, i.e. allegorical, of the beginning of the Church, i.e. what happens subsequent to Jesus' resurrection, which is the taking over of the mission by the apostles, spreading the message themselves beginning with Galilee. Or perhaps Mark uses the area of Galilee in 1:38-39 to allegorically symbolize the entire world where the gospel will be preached by the Church after his resurrection.

So, let's try to analyze the verses one by one allegorically. Verse 1:35:
And when he had risen [i.e. rising from his sleep] very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Jesus is "rising" here from 'sleep' on sunday morning and this, then, symbolizes allegorically the event of his resurrection on sunday morning according to Mark 16, And him "going out" after he has 'risen' and "departing to a desolate place" is symbolic of his leaving the tomb and going to that place in Galilee, to which the disciples are to follow him after his resurrection.



And verse 1:36-37:
And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you."

Mark has the angel at the tomb speak about "his disciples and Peter" (Mark 16:7) who are to follow Jesus to Galilee and meet him there. A peculiar detail (Peter is no longer a disciple?), but this phrase possibly has an echo in 1:36 with "Simon and those who were with him" (at this point in time Peter was 'Simon'). Because as Jesus has risen from bed and left to a desolate place they are now "seeking him", and so now we have entered a part of the post-resurrection narrative which is outside of Mark's story frame.

What happens after the women leaves the tomb in silence? Do the disciples go to Galilee? Do they meet up with Jesus? What happens next? If this allegorical reading is correct, then here, at the very beginning of the narrative, we get the answer to the ending: "They pursued him, and they found him". As such, this is the missing ending of gMark. In allegorical form. This symbolizes the resurrection appearance, the meeting with the resurrected. Corresponding to the scene in Matt 28:16-20, where the disciples get the mission commandment. And mission is exactly what will happen next, after Jesus has "risen" on sunday morning and "come out", "because that is why I came out".



Verse 1:38:
”And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

So, this is the mission commandment in gMark, corresponding to Matt 28. On the surface level of the narrative, it is Jesus that needs to preach, but allegorically this symbolizes the Church's activity, the apostles, after the resurrection meeting. Because Jesus is throughout the narrative symbolic of the Church in all its capacities, including as a missionary entity (he is not merely the 'example' to follow, to imitate). But the Church also symbolizes Jesus, or rather, is the bodily representation of the risen Jesus. So the activity of the Church could be regarded as an extension of Jesus' activities, and so in this verse, Mark 1:38, Jesus "came out" of the tomb in order to preach, in order to hand over the mission to the Church. In this perspective, the point of the resurrection is that God's saving message can now reach the whole world through Jesus, in that Jesus in spiritual form can now be present and minister through the body of the Church.



Verse 1:39
And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

This is allegorically the mission throughout the world, the "gospel preached to all the nations" (Mark 13:10).


In my understanding of the nature of the text of Mark's gospel, such an analysis is plausible. Mark's storytelling is at once meant as historical and allegorical, imo. The historical events surrounding Jesus' earthly ministry, according to Mark, were special kinds of events which carried a deeper meaning, that only some could/can perceive. I think Mark had made up his mind to convey his entire message this way, or rather, God's message (the Jesus Christ gospel). He takes really care to hide his entire message (or God's message, as Mark sees it) in literary codes and symbols and allogerical episodes. I think the parables of the main character are themselves meant to an allegorical image of the fact that the gospel message from God has come in hidden form (according to Mark).

The reason Mark doens't include the meeting with the resurrected in his narrative, but ends it with the silence of the women, can hardly be because he didn't know how the story would end. Obviously he did. So if he intended Mark 16:8 as the ending of his narrative, then that is a literary device. And there is no reason he couldn't have included the 'ending', i.e. the disciple's meeting with the risen Jesus, elsewhere.

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:23 am

I’ll also add the suggestion, that when Mark says “the disciples and Peter”, it means that Peter’s education is over. “Disciple” means “learner”, student. But why is Peter no longer a student, the apprentice has become the master?

My suggestion is, that Peter as the only has already met up with the risen Jesus, reflecting the tradition from 1 Cor 15?

Of course, this is not part of the “allegory” in 1:35-39.

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:08 am

Stefan

Great thread.
I think that Mark uses "straightforward realism" in his narrative, but the reaction of the women is also a common trope in the Bible when people are confronted with angels.
All the more reason to include their collapse, but there's no problem that the author notes that the women were, for a time, unable to carry on. The problem is stopping there, creating the unrealistic impression that the women were permanently disabled by fear, which in the men was a temporary impediment to spreading the news.

That is, once the boys caught their breath after running away and Peter dried his tears.
So I'd like to regard it more as a literary device than as
The end of that thought got cut off, than as what?
And I understand gMark more traditionally, not as a play, but as a literary work,
"Play?" We're pretty sure that typical narrative writing (until relatively recently) was composed to be read aloud, and often before some audience (although people also read aloud to themselves, or had a servant read to them alone). There's also a good case that Mark was written to be experienced as a single event, from beginning to end, and that much justifies the word I chose, performance.

A live performance with two or more performers can be called a play, without special pleading. The issue in this thread doesn't depend on the number of performers, so I'll just stay with performance.
meant by the author to be understood and treated in the same way the Christian communities treated "the Scriptures"
If you don't mind, and it's not strictly on-topic, but do you have any evidence that Mark was a Christian at the time of composition? I know it's a popular assumption, but I wonder if there's any evidence for it.

Of course I get it that the work was a big hit with Christians, and influential upon later, indisputably Christian works like the other canonical Gospels.
And I don't see it as misogynistic as such, but I do think that the women are the ones used in this scene by Mark, because it is easier to invent 'historical' women than 'historical' men,
Mark isn't the misogynist. Whoever cut his gospel to end with the women's permanent disability because of transient and well-earned exhaustion is the misogynist, IMO.

As to ease, Mark placed John the Baptist's disciples at his tomb (after he was arrested and they weren't). It'd be an easy parallel to have Jesus' boys regroup at his tomb.

As it is, the women are feminae ex machina: they simply suddenly appear, watching the crucifixion from afar (with a backstory). The boys are already historical, mentioned by Paul, and established characters, too. Mark exerted himself to introduce the women, he didn't take the easy way.
However, not all the disciples are fra Galilee. So we may expect Peter to go to Galilee, but it has to be an organized effort, if "the disciples and Peter" are all to go to Galilee.
Peter, James, John and Andrew are all from Galilee and depicted as having family and business connections there. There was never any indication that the mission to Jerusalem was to be a permanent relocation (and in John it was a seasonal thing). PJJ&A are the first four and also the "final four" who ask Jesus an intelligent question (when?) and get what passes as his answer. Who else is needed on site, actually, to get the ball rolling?

Judas probably isn't invited; the other seven may or may not have Galilean contacts. John thinks some of them do; his chapter 21 has eight or nine of the boys working together on the sea of Tiberias, which I'm told is another name for the sea of Galilee. Regardless, I'm sure everybody has everybody else's Facebook; they'll get in touch (Peter: You'll never guess who I just ran into! You must come visit ASAP.)

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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:51 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:40 am
I just had an idea concerning the woman at the tomb and the reason they don't convey the message they're told. Firstly, my theory is based on the premise that it's a literary device, something put in there by Mark for some specific reason. I've always wondered why interpreters and preachers and biblical historians often talk about this scene as if it involved an historical problem or some kind of mystery, i.e. if the women "didn't say anything to anyone", then how could the Word get out and Christianity begin? But that is not a very close reading of the text at all.
I agree with this assessment. Jesus can appear to the disciples regardless of whether the women report back to them or not, just as he apparently does in the gospel of Peter. Any such reunion back in Galilee will naturally come as something of a surprise to the disciples, just as it seems to be in John 21.

My own judgment is that the ending of Mark has probably been lost or removed (or, to combine the two ideas, lost and deliberately not replaced, possibly because something in it reeked too much of something which the church later found offensive, like docetism; but that much is just speculation on my part). My problem with the gospel ending at 16.8 is not that Jesus cannot appear to his disciples anyway, but rather that this conscious authorial choice of where to end the text casts unnecessary doubt on other implications in the gospel, including those rightly drawn from 14.28 and 16.7. For me, 16.8 is not what it is usually called, a suspended ending, but rather a sabotaged ending. The attempts I have seen to try and justify Mark's decision to end the work at 16.8 come off as suspiciously postmodern to me; rather, I hold with the vast majority of exegetes who read the text before the rise of postmodernism and suspect that 16.8 was not the originally intended ending.

If it may be of interest, I have a discussion of the Marcan ending (one intended for Kunigunde) here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3092. Also related, my discussion of the restoration of the disciples in Mark: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3049. Joe has discussed the possibility that 14.28 is an interpolation: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2134. And I have a layout of the Fayyum fragment on this forum, as well: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1863.
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Re: Mark 16 and the silence of the women: The disciples redeemed?

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:54 pm

Martin Klatt wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:42 am
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:40 am

So there is no historical problem or narratological problem in that the women fail to convey the message, because the message they fail to convey is not a message as such, but merely a confirmation of a message they have already been given. So with the silence of the women it is up to the disciples to remember that Jesus had told them and to have faith that it is true, that Jesus has indeed risen like he said. And that is what I suggest Mark means with this ending and the silence of the women. That the disicples, after all, in the end, succeed.
I almost completely agree with that. The last sentence is the problem. You cannot know if they succeed, because it is the end and the other gospels have not been written yet, they are irrelevant to this one. It is just fiction and as such the end must be the end, the rest can only be in the imagination of the reader. The suspense is brilliantly created. We know the disciples were forewarned, but we also know they are perfectly capable of misunderstanding or forgetting about it(the whole story is full of that), so your conclusion is not only a bit hasty and unsupported from within but also biased by outside influences not incorporated in the story itself. My personal intuition would bet on the disciples being totally scattered, like sheep without the sheep herd and that is that. But that is not the point. Jesus lives(he probably never died) and released from the disturbing urges of the Holy Spirit, he can go back home and live his old life happily ever after, if the disciples ever team up with him again is irrelevant because the story ends here.
My own impression is that Mark 16:1-8 is a text that should be read with ease but most interpreters ask and want to answer eager questions which ultimately have little to do with the story.

Does the text prove the resurrection?
How could the word get out and Christianity begin?
Are the disciples rehabilitated?
Is there a lost ending?
… and so on

Is Mark 16:1-8 not essentially a story about the last remaining Galilean followers of Jesus? Is the essential content of the story not the illlustration that these women, although they were devoted followers of Jesus, did not understand the essentials, because

- they were Sabbath observers
- they did not expect a resurrection
- they did not receive the message with sympathy
- they did not pass on the Good News

Does not this story about the women reflect in some sense what Mark had already said about the Galilean male disciples?

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