Saturday, January 07, 2017

Word Magazine # 67: Tabletalk and Mark's Ending

I recorded and posted WM # 67 Tabletalk and Mark's Ending.   Below are my notes:

Someone recently mentioned to me that Tabletalk magazine, a publication of R. C. Sproul’s Ligonier ministries, had included in its devotional series comments on the ending of Mark.  This person sent me pics of two devotions (below with the sender’s markings and notes).  I am assuming this is from the December 2016 issue.  The devotions do not list an author so I assume they are written by someone on the editorial staff, maybe even written or approved by Sproul himself.

The first devotion (for Friday December 9) is on Mark 16:8 and titled “Fearful Women” (p. 41).

It rightly begins, “Christianity stands or falls on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.” It proceeds to note the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection for the gospel and how that this doctrine is perennially under attack and, thus, in need of defense.  It notes the fact that in each Gospel that women were “the very first witnesses to the empty tomb.”

Finally, the devotion promises that the question of Mark’s ending will be addressed later “in more detail.” Then, it states:  “Today, we note that the oldest manuscripts of Mark end with 16:8 and the women being fearful and silent.”  From what we know of the external evidence, is this statement somewhat misleading?  The devotion closes with questions to consider “if Mark 16:8 is indeed the last verse Mark wrote.”  I do appreciate the tentative nature of that approach.

The second devotion (for Monday December 12) in on Mark 16:9-11 and titled “The Preservation of Scripture” (p. 43).

It begins noting that we moderns “take for granted technologies that allow us to make precise copies of original documents.” For the first 1,500 year of Christianity, up to the time of the invention of the printing press, the Bible was transmitted by hand copies.

It then defines “the science of textual criticism” as “the means by which we discover the original text.” It then turns to the ending of Mark, noting “most scholars believe Mark 16:9-20 was not written by the same Mark who wrote the rest of the gospel that bears his name.  Some argue that the section was written by the same author, but there are strong reasons to believe it was not.” With regards to the “most scholars” versus “some” might I suggest that perhaps modern scholars, like ancient manuscripts, should sometimes be  “weighed” rather than “counted”!

Most striking is the final paragraph:

Nevertheless, given that there is an ancient tradition that this section is part of Mark’s gospel, and because Mark 16:9-20 includes information from Matthew and Luke that we know for certain is original to those books, we believe it is wise to include this section in our study of Mark’s gospel. To understand the work of Christ, we must consider not only the empty tomb but also our Lord’s post-resurrection appearances to His disciples. These details, which are critical to proclaiming the gospel are preserved for us, for God will not allow any part of His revelation to disappear (Matthew 24:35).

I appreciate this cautious approach and especially that the conclusion comes upon consideration of the doctrine of preservation.  Unlike some modern evangelicals who suggest the radical move of rejecting Mark 16:9-20 as spurious and uninspired (see my reviews of MacArthur, Hardy, Purswell, Kruger, Delhousaye) Tabletalk follows the more cautious line of Metzger.  IMHO, this is commendable.



Rick Wirkkala said...

It appears that Dr. Sproul and Ligonier are a bit more sensitive and prudent than others; I have always appreciated most of Dr. Sproul's teaching. This week I listened to Dr. Michael Haykin on Patrick of Ireland's confession. The disputed passage was quoted, and this would have been the early 400's!

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Yes, as noted in the WM I was encouraged that they are including commment on the traditional text in the devotional series. I notice, however, that in the comments on vv. 9-11 not much exposition or reflection was given to the content (Mary Magdalene, etc.). I'll be interested to see how the devotion handles the rest of the text, including the infamous comments on snakes and poison in v. 18.