Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Philip Jenkins on the Ending of Mark

I’ve been reading Philip Jenkins’ Hidden Gospels:  How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford University Press, 2001) and enjoying it’s excellent critique of current interest in Gnostic, non-canonical gospels and their reinterpretation of the historical Jesus and early Christianity.

Along the way Jenkins offers these comments on the modern scholarly view that Mark’s Gospel originally ended at Mark 16:8.  Though Jenkins does not affirm Mark 16:9-20 as the original ending and gives credence to the notion that the original ending was lost (not to mention his acceptance of the Markan priority theory), he nonetheless rightly points out the problems with acceptance of ending Mark’s Gospels at 16:8, so much in vogue with some postmoderns and even embraced by some evangelical scholars, like Dan Wallace, and pastors, like John MacArthur.  Here’s the excerpt:

…though the idea is now commonly accepted, the notion that Mark originally intended his story to end with the women fleeing is just untenable.  In literary terms, a carefully crafted work like Mark could not have ended on such a note, however, appealing the idea seems to postmodern readers.  Also, this interpretation would mean that the whole text ends with a Greek grammatical form called an enclitic which is inappropriate for the ending of a paragraph, never mind a whole book.  In English it would be roughly equivalent to ending a book in mid-sentence:  we may be happy to do such a thing today, but the idea would have been unthinkable for most previous generations.  Mark surely did not mean to end his book in this curtailed way, although this was the form in which the text became available to Matthew and Luke.  We have no way of knowing what happened in the interim; the author may have been unable to complete the work, or perhaps the original ending was lost in a time of persecution of neglect.  But whatever the reason, it is remarkable to see how many scholars accept that the impossibly abrupt ending represents the author’s intent.  Some apparently do so from an ideological motivation, namely, to show that the Resurrection is a late accretion to proto-Christian thought (p. 80).

Here also are some related items on Mark’s ending:  Word Magazine on MacArthur’s sermon on Mark’s ending; two messages by me on Mark’s ending (part one; part two; part three).

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