Friday, November 11, 2016

Word Magazine # 62: Sermon Review: Ending of Mark.PartThree: Internal Evidence

WM # 62 continues my review of the 2012 sermon by Pastor Carey Hardy on the ending of Mark.  WM # 60 dealt with preliminary issues, WM # 61 with external arguments.  With this episode we turn to Hardy’s internal arguments against the authenticity of the Longer Ending (LE) of Mark 16:9-20.  He has a three pronged attack:  vocabulary, style, and content.

I.  Vocabulary Arguments:

Hardy begins by noting there are 15 words in the LE that do not occur elsewhere in Mark.


1.  This number is deceiving, because some words are necessarily unique due to the narrative context.  Examples:  “the eleven” (v. 15); “snakes” (v. 18); and “deadly poison” (v. 18).

2.  Also, some of the supposedly unique words in the LE appear in a related form elsewhere in the Gospel.  Examples:

The verb “to go” [poreuomai] appears three times in the LE (vv. 10, 12, 15) and nowhere else in Mark.  However, it appears in a compounded form multiple times in Mark.  The verb “to go out” [ekporeuomai] appears eleven times and the “to go into” [eisporeuomai] appears eight times.

Likewise, the verb “to accompany” [parakaloutho] appears only in Mark 16:17, but the related verb “to follow” [akoloutho] appears sixteen times in the rest of Mark.

3.  Any analysis of vocabulary in the LE must compare the passage to others in Mark of similar size.

Lunn does this in his book The Original Ending of Mark (see pp. 120-127).

If one does this he finds other passages in Mark with similar rates of unique words.  So, Lunn finds:

Prologue (Mark 2:1-11):  17 words
The parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-11):  19 words
Apocalyptic Discourse (Mark 13:14-23):  15 words
Anointing at Bethany (Mark 14:1-9):  20 words

With regard to the verb “to go” [poreuomai]:  Again, it may only appear in its uncompounded from in the LE but it is used in compounded forms multiple times in Mark.  Furthermore, when we compare the other Gospels and Acts we find a similar pattern.

II.  Style Arguments:

These include:

1.  Challenges related to the connection/transition between 16:8-9.

Why does an abrupt masculine pronoun appear in v. 9 after the appearance of the women in v. 8?


I note Lunn’s discussion of “participant reference” in Mark and point out that this construction is actually consistent with Markan style (see Lunn pp. 174-180).

2.  Description of Mary Magdalene in 16:9.

Why do we have a further description of Mary in 16:9 when she has already appeared in Mark, including in 16:1?


I note Lunn’s discussion (pp. 140-141).  Lunn cites possible parallels between vv. 1-8 and vv. 9-20, which would include a parallel reference to Mary in vv. 1, 9. He also suggests that such “delayed descriptions” are actually typical of Biblical narrative.

3.  The use of the conjuction kai:


 Same arguments regarding vocabulary apply.

4.  Some claim the LE has a “prosaic style” versus the “graphic style” of the rest of Mark.


This judgment in subjective.

III.  Content Arguments:

1.   There no fulfillment of the references to Jesus’ appearances to his disciples in Galilee in the LE (see Mark 14:28; 16:7).


I note we might assume Mark implicitly understood that his readers would understand that one of the resurrection appearances in the LE was set in Galilee.

Lunn appeals to the possibility of “telescoping” (see pp. 319-325), but I am less inclined to adopt this due to the challenges it brings to upholding the historical reliability and infallibility of Scripture.

Again, we moderns cannot always grasp the literary method of ancient authors.  I also draw a comparison to Acts where it is said Paul will stand before Caesar (see Acts 25:10-12; 27:24) but the book ends without ever narrating this in detail.

Finally, those who hold that Mark ends at 16:8 likewise have no explanation for the Galilee predictions and, what is worse, assume a narrative with NO resurrection appearances.

2.  The LE as a summary of the endings of various other Gospels.


This view accepts the modern historical-critical view of a lack of essential unity in the Christian tradition.

It fails to explain why the LE does not, in fact, provide detailed literary or content parallels to the other Gospels if it is merely a spurious scribal creation.

It does not consider the possibility that Luke might have borrowed from Mark 16:12-23 in order to construct the Emmaus Road narrative in Luke 24.

The LE makes use of general Greek terms (v. 20) not limited to other NT authors (like Paul).

3. The supposed harshness of Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples in 16:14.


But, it this rebuke any worse than that given to Peter in Mark 8:33?

Does not Matthew 28:17 also say that some disciples doubted?

Is not the language here (“unbelief” and “hardness of heart”) distinctly Markan?

4.  The sign references in 16:17-18, especially snake handling and drinking poison, are out of place for Mark.


This is addressed to the apostles (see vv. 14 “the eleven” and v. 15 “And he said unto them [the eleven]”) and is actually a key passage in support of the cessationist view, which limits such signs to the apostles and the apostolic age.

The laying of hands on the sick was done by Jesus (see Mark 5:23; 6:5; 8:23, 25) and naturally done by the apostles and their associates (like Paul in Acts 28 and possibly Ananias in Acts 9).

The reference to serpents and poison is not a “bizarre promise” but a pledge of providential protection.

Lamar Williamson in his commentary on Mark:  “Taken seriously, however, these verses promise that those who give themselves to costly, self-denying announcement of the gospel in the world today will find their faithfulness confirmed in tangible ways” (as cited in Lunn, p. 355, n. 57).

IV.  Conclusions:

The argument against the LE based on internal evidence is not convincing.

Seven problems with those who reject the LE based on “Internal Evidence”:

1.   Their arguments are often subjective.

2. Their arguments are often circular, based on their presupposition that the LE is not authentic.

3.  They often fail to compare the LE to passages of similar size in Mark.

4.  They often fail to compare the LE to similar patterns in the other Gospels.

5.  They are reliant on a small sample writing size.

6.  They do not consider the possibility of authorial variation in writing style.

7.  They do not consider the possibility of the LE’s use of Christian sources and common traditions to account for variation.


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