Mark’s Closing Verses

This week we discovered some fun stuff about the Gospel of Mark, which is the first gospel written around 60-70 CE.

There are some things we have talked about before:  Mark makes no mention of Joseph by name. And Mark has no virgin birth story. 

But then things get interesting.

  • Mark has no appearances of Jesus after the women discover the empty tomb. Upon arriving at the tomb on the third day, they find the stone at the entrance of the tomb removed and a young man (not an angel) tells them:

 “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing (Mark 16:6-8)

And there the gospel simply ends! Or that was how it originally ended. Here’s what James Tabor and other Biblical historians have discovered:  The last 11 verses of Mark (Mark 16:9-19) were likely pencilled in centuries later. 

  • Why did they do that? Well, the other three gospels all contained accounts of Jesus appearances after the resurrection. And over the years, the appearances had become an integral part of the Christian theology. So church leaders decided to made some additions to Mark. Pretty much all the Christian Bibles in use today contain those … how should we say it … enhancements.
  • How do the scholars know this? First, this ending is not found in the earliestGreek copies of Mark. None of the third century manuscripts contain these last verses.  And in the latter Greek versions that begin to contain these verses, the language and style of the Greek is clearly not from the same author as the original Mark. 

Here is the ending of Mark as we generally see it. The high-lighted words are lifted directly from Matthew, Luke, and John:

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

This is so bizarre. 

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