Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Article on the Ending of Mark

In the current issue of the Tyndale Bulletin Nicholas Denyer (Trinity College, Cambridge), has a brief and important article on 'Mark 16:8 and Plato, Protagoras 328d'.
Denyer has found not only a speech which ends with a two word sentence ending in gar, but also comments on the reaction of hearers to that ending. As the abstract notes: "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."


  1. Denyer has not suddenly found Plato’s Protagoras 328c! James Edwards noted this use of efobounto gar in his commentary on Mark (Pillar series), and Edwards was citing Lincoln’s 1989 article in JBL. (And I mentioned Edwards’ note in my "The Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20" essay.) Whatever is new here must therefore concern hearers’ reactions.

    For two reasons, the Tyndale Bulletin’s summary -- by Denyer? -- at is not helpful to its readers when it says that "various passages" were composed and transmitted by some ancients to end Mark’s account. First, two endings -- the Short Ending, and the Long Ending -- cannot seriously be called "various passages." Second, how does the writer knows that the Long Ending was composed after (the rest of) Mark’s Gospel-account rather than before? I would like to see his explanation of why any writer would intentionally compose a short account about Christ’s appearances in Jerusalem to finish Mark’s Gospel despite the fact that the text of 16:7, literally right under the nose of the posited writer, calls for appearances in Galilee. If he had read Luke 24 and John 21, he would not only be aware that the appearances to Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road, and the upbraiding-appearance to the disciples are located in Jerusalem and not Galilee, but he would also have a really nice Galilean appearance to borrow from. The points that (a) the author of the Long Ending was apparently not aware of this, and (b) he did not use John 21, indicate that the LE was written before Luke’s Gospel was disseminated (suggesting a first-century, not a second-century date), and that the LE was not initially composed for the purpose of finishing the Gospel of Mark.

    Inasmuch as the summary in Tyndale Bulletin tends to misinform readers, I take this opportunity to advise readers to read my lengthy (over 100 pages) essay on Mark 16:9-20; it corrects quite a few pieces of misinformation. I will be happy to send it to anyone as an e-mail attachment.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. RE: James Edwards

    Wow! A NT scholar from Washington State has just been mentioned. My nephew studied under him at Whitworth. There was actually a NT scholar in Seattle a while back but he left for Florida ...

  3. Dear Jim,

    Thanks for the comments. You are right to surmise that "Whatever is new here must therefore concern hearers’ reactions." This text not only is one of several (discussed also briefly by Denyer) in which texts or discourses end in GAR, it also (uniquely?) records the reactions of the hearers to such an ending - and this reaction does not seem to be known/recognised in the literature on the ending of Mark. Hence the publication (which I should say is a fairly brief note simply pointing NT scholars to take a bit more notice of the whole context of this text).

    As to the supposedly misleading nature of the abstract on the web-site I think we may be wiser to read the article before complaining about the abstract. Nevertheless, since I posted the link, and as you may know, I am an editor of the Tyndale Bulletin (who was quite likely involved in editing articles on NT subjects even though I could hide behind the collective responsibility of the editorial board), I would like to address the two points you raised here:

    1. As to the precise meaning of 'various' in this context, I simply point out that the OED specifically supports 'more than one' for 'various' in this sort of context ["9. In weakened sense, as an enumerative term: Different, divers, several, many, more than one."]. And of course, the situation is more complicated than simply two endings.

    2. I admit that it is difficult to summarise the textual situation of the ending of Mark in two short sentences, but the author does here simply reflect the collected wisdom of most contemporary editors and ETs. It is not actually the point of the article to discuss the general question, which I know that Jim has long disagreed with.

    So I disagree that the summary is not helpful and even misleading to readers.

  4. Jim,

    Did you really mean to say that 'the LE was not initially composed for the purpose of finishing the Gospel of Mark'? I would have thought that everyone would have agreed with this (even Amphoux who sees it as a conclusion to the 4-Gospel Canon in Western order must surely see is as 'finishing the Gospel of Mark').

  5. Dr. Head,

    Two compositions are not various compositions, even though later scribes combined and/or expanded them. It is that simple. Thus a description of two endings as 'various' is misleading. I don't see how anyone could argue otherwise. And the wide use of an inaccurate description doesn't make it accurate.

    PH: "Did you really mean to say that 'the LE was not initially composed for the purpose of finishing the Gospel of Mark'?"

    Yes. Hort realized this too (see his Intro. Notes, p. 51). Hort placed the attachment of the LE to a post-publication stage; I place it at a pre-publication stage. But Hort and I concur that it was "found" rather than composed on the spot to finish the book.

  6. It is amazing to read supposed Christians speak about the Scriptures who have NO FAITH that it is God's Word, and that this whole rotten procedure denies the inspiration and Preservation of God's Holy Word. Mark 16:9-20 IS God's Word, it is in the VAST MAJORITY of mss, and is missing from the most corrupt mss, the Alexandrian ones, which are worthless perversions anyway. How about you boys get right with God, get regenerated and love His Word and teach it?