Friday, April 17, 2015
Word Magazine # 35: Can we preach the Ending of Mark?
Image: The curious ending of Mark at 16:8 in Codex Vaticanus where, uncharacteristically, the column that follows is left blank, as if the scribe planned to continue the narrative.
I just posted Word Magazine # 35: Can we preach the Ending of Mark? to sermonaudio.com. In this episode I review an April 2, 2015 Baptist Press article by David Roach titled, "How to preach the Gospel of Mark's 'long ending.'" Baptist Press is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. The article appeared just before Easter to given guidance to pastors about choosing to preach on the resurrection narrative in Mark 16:9-20.
The writer lists the typical objections to the traditional ending of Mark:
1. "Some of the earliest manuscripts" do not include it.
Response: In reality only two extant Greek manuscripts definitely omit the traditional ending: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
2. Some Church Fathers do not quote it and one (Eusebius) writes against it.
Response: The evidence from the Church Fathers is sketchy at best. The citation in Eusebius may well be traced to Origen. On the other side, Irenaeus clearly quotes from and approves the traditional ending of Mark.
Dean Burgon's description of the Church Fathers: "giants in Interpretation, but very children in the Science of Textual Criticism" (Last Twelve Verses of Mark, p. 127).
3. The style of Mark 16:9-20 is markedly different than the style found in the rest of Mark.
Response: Such differences are often in the eye of the beholder. There is good reason to say that the style of Mark 16:9-20 is Markan (i.e., original to Mark's Gospel).
The article proceed to survey five Southern Baptist Pastors from across the nation to get their views on (1) whether or not Mark 16:9-20 is the original ending to Mark and, therefore, Scripture and (2) whether preachers should take it as a text. Of the five surveyed none affirmed that Mark 16:9-20 was the original ending of Mark, though a few thought it should be considered Scripture. Two of the five said they would not preach from the passage but would end their exposition at Mark 16:8. The other three said that though not original, the text was still in the Bible and so they would preach it while giving some explanation of the textual difficulties.
I note that this survey reveals just how deeply the influence of modern historical criticism (and text criticism in particular) has pervaded modern evangelical Christianity.