Earlier in 2006, Nicholas Denyer published a short article entitled "Mark 16:8 and Plato, Protagoras 328d." in Tyndale Bulletin 57 (2006), 149-150 (previously mentioned and discussed here here)
What we have of the Gospel of Mark comes to an abrupt halt at 16:8 with the words KAI OUDENI OUDEN EIPAN EFOBOUNTO GAR (‘And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid’). Such a cliff-hanger was felt intolerable by some ancients, who composed and transmitted to us various passages that bring the Gospel to a more satisfying close. Plato, Protagoras 328d provides further confirmation that EFOBOUNTO GAR (‘for they were afraid’) is an astonishingly abrupt end. But it also provides proof that so astonishingly abrupt an end could well be deliberate.
The relevant section of Plato's Protagoras (in Jowett's English translation anyway):
- Such is my Apologue, Socrates, and such is the argument by which I endeavour to show that virtue may be taught, and that this is the opinion of the Athenians. And I have also attempted to show that you are not to wonder at good fathers having bad sons, or at good sons having bad fathers, of which the sons of Polycleitus afford an example, who are the companions of our friends here, Paralus and Xanthippus, but are nothing in comparison with their father; and this is true of the sons of many other artists. As yet I ought not to say the same of Paralus and Xanthippus themselves, for they are young and there is still hope of them (ed: ETI GAR EN AUTOIS EISIN ELPIDES, NEOI GAR).
- Protagoras ended, and in my ear So charming left his voice, that I the while Thought him still speaking; still stood fixed to hear.
- At length, when the truth dawned upon me, that he had really finished, not without difficulty I began to collect myself, and looking at Hippocrates, I said to him: O son of Apollodorus, how deeply grateful I am to you for having brought me hither; I would not have missed the speech of Protagoras for a great deal. For I used to imagine that no human care could make men good; but I know better now. Yet I have still one very small difficulty which I am sure that Protagoras will easily explain, as he has already explained so much. If a man were to go and consult Pericles or any of our great speakers about these matters, he might perhaps hear as fine a discourse; but then when one has a question to ask of any of them, like books, they can neither answer nor ask; and if any one challenges the least particular of their speech, they go ringing on in a long harangue, like brazen pots, which when they are struck continue to sound unless some one puts his hand upon them; whereas our friend Protagoras can not only make a good speech, as he has already shown, but when he is asked a question he can answer briefly; and when he asks he will wait and hear the answer; and this is a very rare gift.
James E. Snapp, Jr. writes:
The material in Denyer's article shows that Protagoras 328c and Protagoras 328d do not support the idea that Mark intentionally ended his Gospel-account with "gar."
Protogoras 328c constitutes the ending of a speech; it is not the end of a book. The conclusion of the speech is essentially a comment made by the speaker to anticipate an objection to the speaker's main idea. Plato's text goes on (in Protagoras 328d) to present Socrates' reaction to the speech which Protagoras just delivered: Socrates continues to stare at Protagoras, expecting him to say more. But Socrates' expectation is not necessarily due to the presence of "gar," and it is easy to picture Socrates responding to the speech in exactly the same way if Protagoras' final statement had been expressed in other words.
Denyer posits that Protagoras 328d "provides proof that so astonishingly abrupt an end could well be deliberate." However, it is one thing to deliberately end a topical speech with the equivalent of, "Some may say that those boys are incorrigible; they are young, however;" it is another thing entirely to deliberately end a narrative with "gar" the way it is used in Mark 16:8. Protagoras' closing comment wrapped up a loose end. The abrupt ending of Mark creates a loose end.