Saturday, April 14, 2007

The last 12 verses of Mark conference

Blog accounts of the SEBTS conference entitled 'The Last Twelve Verses of Mark: Original or Not?' are appearing. For instance, The Assembling of the Church deals with it in a series of posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. A similarly extensive account is found at The Pursuit, though I can't find how do to permalinks to individual posts there. [per e-mail notification from Dave Black]


  1. The conference seemed well attended, with both sessions drawing crowds of perhaps over 100. While undoubtedly, many were local pastors and students, a good number of mature scholars were present. I got the impression that there was little theological diversity in the audience and in the panel, excepting Prof. Elliott.

    The Friday evening session was particularly grueling, beginning at 6:00 (actually 10 or 15 minutes late), and running until about 9:30, without a break.

    I wouldn't be the person to analyze or review the discussion. But here are a few disjointed thoughts....

  2. The assignment given to the panelists seemed to have been for them to give their best case for their position. Consequently, there was unavoidable duplication.

    In retrospect, I wonder if the sessions would have been more profitable if the panelists had been given specific aspects of the question, and to argue their perspectives from within the assigned parameter.

    For example, one panelists might have been given the task of unfolding the patristic evidence, or the versional evidence, or stylistic analysis. As the discussion turned out, the tendency seemed to be toward general overview which might have benefitted from prolonged analysis.

    This tendency toward generalities had the effect of producing the impression of ambivalence on key issues. For example, some left the conference thinking that the evidence from stylistic considerations could be argued either way. I wonder if this would have been the result if a single panelist had been assigned this particular issue, with the opportunity for rejoinder.

    I felt more discussion was needed particularly on patristic evidence. Can we really say with confidence that Justin knew the long ending as the conclusion to Mark's Gospel, as was asserted? If we accept the conclusion of some patristic scholars, we can't be sure of any of Justin's gospel quotations, let alone the few words purported to be from the long ending which may or may not have been a part of Mark's gospel as Justin knew it.

    We were teased with the assertion that half of the mss of the Armimian versions lacked the long ending, and that this was of particular import since the base of the Arminian version was proto-Byzantine, begging for further comment which went unanswered. And we certainly did not hear any discussion of the 10th century ms which asserted that Ariston added the long ending (as suggested by larrybkj on this blog June 2, 2006).

    I was intrigued by assertions and denials that the long ending could indeed have fit into the blank space of Vaticanus. Dr. Elliott provided a student's attempt to do so, but I wonder if much more could have been said.

    I pined for more discussion of the intended effect of the short ending, but left unsure of the rhetorical value of the open-ended ending.

    Again, we were treated with assertions and denials of the viability of a gar ending, leaving some people with the impression the argument could go either way.

    By mentioning these items, I certainly don't mean to disparage the value of the conference. It was characterized by many great moments, and every minute was filled with good stuff. I only mean to suggest that assigned topics might have been more beneficial in advancing our quest to resolve the issue.

  3. There were several very interesting moments in the conference. One such moment was Prof. Elliott's discussion as to how the original Marcan ending might have gone missing.

    In light of the tenacious tradition of Jesus' appearance first to Peter, he pointed out that we don't actually have the story of a resurrection appearance to Peter (I suppose we're not taking John 21 into consideration). Thus, we were invited to speculate that perhaps the original Marcan ending contained such an account.

    But why would a scribe have suppressed such an ending? We entertained the possibilities of various rivalries between Peter and Paul and John as being motives.

    Or perhaps the ending involved an appearance to Mary Magdalene, and--without appealing to the outlandish conspiracy theories of Dan Brown--perhaps there was reason enough for a scribe to suppress this ending.

    I don't think Prof. Elliott advocated any of these views, but only raised them as unprovable possibilities to answer why the original ending went missing.

  4. Another interesting moment was Dr. Black's discussion of the formation of the gospels, with the apostles, in committee as it were, setting parameters for various stages of Mark's composition. Somewhere in the mix was something of an argument for Pauline authorship of Hebrews.

  5. I've also posted a lengthy digest of the conference (14 pgs. in a pdf). You can find the link at the top of my main page:

    Rod Decker

  6. Thanks to Jim and Rod for these reports.

  7. Rod Decker's summary and analysis is very good.