Monday, August 4, 2008

End of Mark?

This question wasn't submitted by anyone, but because we just finished the Remarkable Jesus message series at Gracepoint Berkeley, I thought that I should open up a thread just in case someone had a question. As Pastor William covered during the message, the earlier copies of the Gospel of Mark is missing the last few verses - so we decided to cover only up to chapter 16 verse 8, since that's what we know for sure as being written by John Mark.

Question: Isn't it strange that Mark seems to be missing the resurrection account? Doesn't that mean that the resurrection account might have been made up at a later time?

Pastor William gave a good explanation of this in his message this past Sunday, so you can review your notes and post an answer here. There's also some more background (regarding dating) that we could give in support of what Pastor William said - what would that be? All you Gracepoint SET people - you should be able to briefly answer this question in 3 sentences. If not, then it's time to review your notes!


Daniel Kim said...

Okay, I guess Gracepoint SET was 2 weeks ago...

Here's something to think about: Pastor Will said that by the time Mark was written, the resurrection account was a well-known thing among Christians and readers who would be reading Mark. How can he make that claim? What evidence would you give to support that claim?

cgilling said...

Here's my shot at a response:

Pastor Will mentioned that the reason why there was not much to the resurrection account of Mark because there was a practice in that time to leave out events that were common knowledge. The act of ending the story abruptly, which is quite jarring to us, is like saying, "And as you know, the rest is history." And when we see it like this, it doesn't appear so strange that the rest of the events that followed the resurrection were left out, that is if indeed they were well known.

So that brings us to the next issue of how we know that it was common knowledge that Jesus had indeed risen from grave and that he had come among the disciples and taught them, when this the earliest of the gospel left it out. For this evidence we turn to the epistles. Here we see much evidence that it was common knowledge that Jesus had risen from the dead. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 talks about the disciples and the more than 500 people, most of whom were still living at the time of writing, that had seen the risen Christ. There were ample number of people and time for this story to circulate to all whom would be reading the Gospel of Mark. According to Norman Geisler the generally accepted date for 1 Corinthians is around 55 AD, less than 25 years after the events of the resurrection. Even if this letter was written after the Gospel of Mark, it gives reason to believe that the events of the resurrection were indeed common knowledge (at least in the church community) because of the large number of eyewitnesses at hand. Paul was so convinced of the veracity of the resurrection that he went on to say later in the same chapter that if Christ had not been raised from the dead then Christians are to be pitied above all because that on which their belief hinges is nothing but falsehood. It is very hard to believe that Paul would make this statement knowing it to be false having just told people that there were many eyewitnesses who could back him up, when indeed there were none. Beyond the evidence brought forward by this one chapter there are references to the resurrection littered throughout remaining epistles that only give further weight to these claims. The most reasonable conclusion that I come to is that if nothing else the events of the resurrection were common knowledge and were used as a pillar of support for Christianity within 25 years of the actual events and that not a whole lot of things for something so seemingly legendary as the resurrection to take hold.

Daniel Kim said...

Chris is right - the epistles were likely written earlier than the Gospels. Regarding the dating of the Gospel of Mark, it has a range, but the average of accepted date is in the late 50's or 60's. Compared to that, we have Galatians being written around 48-53 A.D., and 1 Thessalonians (the one that Gracepoint Berkeley is doing our DT's on this week) being written in 51-52 A.D., and 1 Cor being written in 54-55 A.D.

1 Thessalonians 4, as you know have a clear understanding of the resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly, in 1 Cor 15, where Apostle Paul talks about the resurrection of Christ, he recites the oral creedal formula "THAT Christ died .. THAT he was buried, THAT he was raised on the third day... THAT he appeared.." - and he says that he "received" this from others (v.3). In other words, the knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus precedes even the writing of 1 Corinthians, and scholars guess that this creedal saying were passed onto Paul by the other apostles in Jerusalem, whom Paul visited in 35 A.D. It is telling that Ludemann (a non-Christian liberal scholar) places the creedal passage of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 only 2-3 years after Jesus' death. There are other creedal passages like this, which predate the writing of the epistle itself (e.g., Phil 2:6-11; 2 Tim 2:11-13). So Chris is right - when we look at the epistles, there are plenty of evidence that resurrection story was common knowledge. What we mean by "common knowledge", though, isn't that everyone believed it. It was common knowledge that Christians believed it and proclaimed it.. But that's all that's needed to give justification for why Mark would finish the gospel in a cliff-hanger - because everyone knew what Christians claimed what happened next.

Now, regarding why Mark leaves out the end:
There are 2 theories.
One theory is that the end was lost in some threads of copying, but survived in other copying threads. (by "copying threads", I mean document ancestry... the lineage of copying of documents from one copy to another, since they didn't have hard drives). It is said that if a part of a scroll gets worn out and destroyed, it's usually the end or the beginning sections. (because the way that the scrolls were rolled up), so that's one possible explanation.

The other explanation takes it as a fact that the original Mark did not contain the latter parts of chapter 16.. and this is what the Archeological Study Bible says:
"Despite its abruptness, Mark 16:8 is arguably an appropriate ending for the Gospel, since one of its motifs is the fear caused by God's powerful work in and through Jesus (see, e.g., 5:15,33;9:6). The women's fear suggests that God had performed one more climactic, powerful work, confirming the testimony of the empty tomb and the angelic announcement that Jesus had indeed arisen from the dead, just as he had promised (8:31; 9:9,31; 10:34)."

The above theory can alternatively be thought of as the "cliff-hanger" theory. The idea is that it is typical of the Gospel of Mark to leave a story off at a cliff-hanger.. Not that he is hiding what happened next, since it's obvious what happened, but it seems that Mark likes to leave his readers hanging with a question, thus inviting the reader to respond personally and draw their personal conclusions. (cf. 4:41; 8:21; 9:12-13.. <-- these are just ones that I saw skimming, there's probably more). And if this style analysis of Mark is correct, then it makes sense stylistically why Mark would end his book with a rhetorical cliff-hanger.

Please post any further questions or thoughts.

Mark B said...

I find the answer to this question quite satisfactory, but I'm curious as to why vv. 9-20 of Mark would be allowed in the bible if most biblical scholars don't think it's authentic. There are other places in the bible where verses are excised out and footnoted instead with the qualification that most ancient manuscripts do not include them.

Daniel Kim said...

They are not sure if they are completely inauthentic... So there're some opinions that says we need to keep that portion in there.

But according to my Biblical apologetics professor, a big part of why that portion is not "footnoted out" is partially because of momentum. (the shock of just suddenly taking that portion out that would be felt by the general audience that doesn't understand the scholarship)
So there is a pretty significant footnote (so that it's hard to miss), and people have left it in there.
Well, that's what my professor said anyway.. Not sure how much merit that his opinion has. I haven't looked into the arguments that support the idea that the end of Mark was included with the original.