[Please note that the Alt codes for the Greek are not available for all letters and most words have been left out. If you're interested, contact us for a pdf, which does include the original Greek. --ed.]
Last Week's Questions
Correction: Last week, in the Prologue portion, I stated that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were two separate events. That wasn’t quite accurate. The two events were always back—to—back events, the lamb being consumed on the Passover and the following seven days with unleavened bread. However, by the time of Jesus and the writing of Mark’s account, the two feasts were becoming synonymous—Passover wasn’t just one night but a whole week.
The Rev. Benjamin Lee Lentz
This week requires a longer than usual in Introduction.
As I mentioned last week, I had decided to deal with several sections of Mark that were outside the scope of Raymond Brown’s four act play approach to the Passion. As you know already, I never quite got to the Epilogue and Post—Epilogue material.
There has always been much scholarly debate concerning Mark’s gospel account. Although it seems indisputable that verses 16:9—20 are a 2nd. Century appendix to the gospel, there is difficulty with ending the gospel at 16:8.
The principal issues with the material 16:9—20 are: a) the Greek doesn’t appear to be Markan as it contains the style of Greek in the 2nd Century; b) the best known Greek manuscripts of Mark’s gospel end at verse 16:8; c) the great 4th Century scholars, Eusebius and Jerome, testify that the verses were wanting in all the best Greek manuscripts, and that they are quoted only once in the whole of Christian literature down to 325 C.E., and, d) clearly Mark’s synoptic friends thought Mark ended there because they stopped copying him at that point.
Despite the fact that the material we have after 16:8 is not original, there are issues with the gospel ending at verse 8: a) we don’t see it in English, but in Greek, ending a sentence with the word gar would have been quite extraordinary; b) Mark is the only one introducing his account as a gospel (Good News), and yet this ending would seem anticlimactic for good news; c) it leaves unresolved the issue of Peter’s denials (14:66—72).
It should be noted, however, that despite the belief that the longer ending is non-Markan, and was omitted in the Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (4th Century) manuscripts, it is considered by some biblical scholars to be an authentic relic of first Christian generation—2nd Century. The Codex Alexandrinus (5th. Century) does include the longer ending.
There are also some biblical translations (e.g. Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version, Common English Bible and probably more that I don’t know about) that follow some ancient manuscripts which add after 16:8 two more verse but omitting the common longer ending. They read: “The women quickly told Peter and his friends what had happened. Later, Jesus sent the disciples to the east and to the west with his sacred and everlasting message of how people can be saved forever.” (16:9—10).
Most likely, Mark originally had an ending beyond verse 16:8 but it was lost to history. With ancient manuscripts, that happens all too frequently.
Read Mark 16:1-8, 9-20
The Empty Tomb
This section begins with the women who saw where Jesus was buried returning to the tomb with spices that they had purchased sometime after sunset of Saturday. They return at daylight on Sunday with these spices.
It is interesting that Mark takes time to repeat the identification of who the women are (15:47 then immediately 16:1). That would be like me saying: “We need to remember that the original manuscripts did not have chapter and verse marking. We need to remember that the original manuscripts did not have chapter and verse marking.“
It is also interesting to note that the reason for the women to return to the tomb would be for the purpose of anointing the body. Although it was customary for family and close friends to visit a grave for three days following burial, it would have been extremely unusual to anoint a body a day and two nights after burial.
Despite the fact that these two “interesting” points might be awkward, the important thing to acknowledge is that the women knew they were at the correct tomb and gives purpose for being present at an empty tomb. The anointing aspect once again would lead Mark’s readership to the term, as newly defined, of Messiah—the anointed one.
Upon finding the stone rolled back and the tomb empty, except for the young man dressed in white (Mark’s readership would understand as an angel), the women are amazed. Knowing their purpose for being there (seeking Jesus)’ body), the angel tells them not to be amazed—the word is unique to Mark. It is a rare Greek word used only by Mark in the Christian scriptures, meaning to be ‘over-awed’ or ‘agitated when faced with the numinous’.
Although he then tells them to go and tell the disciples and Peter that they will find Jesus in Galilee, presumably where Jesus will reconstitute his community to further continue the eschatological battle, the women are still afraid. They tell no one.
Perhaps this is the end of Mark. If so, Mark is resisting the notion that resurrection appearances are necessary for proof of the statement that “he has risen.” Perhaps for Mark, an empty tomb is all that is necessary to believe.
If the ‘empty tomb’ and a declaration from a messenger from God (angel) is sufficient for faith, perhaps this is an acceptable ending to Mark’s declaration that Jesus is truly the Messiah that Judaism was awaiting.
Even if we add the “short ending” reported in some manuscripts “The women quickly told Peter and his friends what had happened. Later, Jesus sent the disciples to the east and to the west with his sacred and everlasting message of how people can be saved forever.” (16:9—10), the ‘empty tomb’ and divine declaration can still be seen as sufficient proof of the resurrection.
Brief Summary of Appearances
Although it doesn’t contribute anything to the central theme of Mark’s Eschatological Messiah, the Revised Standard Version includes 16:9—20, so we’ll examine it.
The first appearance of the risen Jesus (16:9—11) begins with a restatement of what has occurred in 16:2. The appearance is to Mary of Magdala, awkwardly reintroducing her despite having just been mentioned in 15:47 and in 16:1. She goes to the Eleven (once upon a time, the Twelve) and reports that Jesus has risen. They do not believe her. As to why they don’t believe her, that is left to our imagination. The story just quickly moves on.
“After this 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.” (16:12—13). These verses raise several questions. “In another form” may mean than how he appeared to Mary of Magdala, or perhaps is reminiscent of Luke (the two men on the road to Emmaus—Luke 24:13—35), where they do not recognize him until the meal. Again, it is as if the author assumes the story is so well known (by the Church?), he does not feel compelled to explain.
However, “two of them” begs the question of who is “them” and who are “the rest”? Are they two of the Eleven?
The Greek seems to indicate that they are two of the remaining eleven Apostles. So nine of the eleven do not believe the other two of the eleven. If so, yet another issue arises.
The strange thing is that a fact is established by ’two or three eye-witness’. Whoever the rest are, they should have believed these two men. Perhaps the disciples could be excused for not believing Mary, one female witness, but there is no excuse for not believing these two, especially if they are a part of the group.
Let me introduce at this juncture what appears to be an attempt to explain why the Apostles would not believe: the Freer Logion. You probably won’t find this in any of your versions of the Bible (it’s believed to be an addition from the 5thCentury and clearly not Markan).
The Freer Logion, so called for the person who owned this 5th Century manuscript, adds after (or perhaps in place of) verse 14: And they replied saying, This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who by means of evil spirits prevents the true power of God from being apprehended; therefore reveal thy righteousness now. They were speaking to Christ, and Christ said to them in reply: The limit of the years of the authority of Satan has expired, but other terrible things are coming, even for sinners on whose behalf I was delivered over to death, that they might turn to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness, which is in heaven.
What can be said about this addition explaining the Apostles’ disbelief?
It appears that there will always be people who need to have a plausible explanation for everything. There will always be people who can not allow the Apostles (or any saint), just to have their moments that expose their human frailty.
Setting aside the Freer Logion addition, we are told that Jesus upbraids or reproaches the Eleven for their unbelief and obstinacy. He then commissions them to preach to the whole world.
The signs that will confirm that those preaching as true disciples are interesting. Mostly they can be found elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures (Acts, 1 Corinthians, James) but carry the atmosphere of the early 2nd Century (100—140 C.E.).
The one sign not mentioned anywhere else in the scriptures is that of impunity to poison. An anecdote recorded by Papias (an early Church Father—circa 130 C.E.), stated that Justus Barsabbas (who is mentioned in Acts 1:23—one of the disciples not chosen to replace Judas) once drank a noxious liquid and was not harmed by it. This anecdote thus raises the possibility of being read back into this longer ending by a 2nd Century author.
Concerning the signs found primarily in late 1st or early to mid-2nd Century Christian scripture, let me make a few comments.
New tongues in 16:17 should not be confused with glossolalia (speaking in tongues). To speak in new tongues (xenolalia) is to speak in languages a person has never learned—that is, a new language to the speaker (see Acts 2:1—4).
Serpents: only once is this sign attested to and found in the Christians scriptures. That is in Acts 28:1—6, where Paul on the island of Malta “gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.“
Then in the final verses (16:19-20) the editor adds an Ascension event. Perhaps this is to affirm a prophesy by King David: “The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’” (Psalm 110:1)
Perhaps an abrupt ending to this Bible Study, but appropriate for Mark. I will still take questions on this segment