Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Jots & Tittles 22: Is Mark 16:12-13 another account of the road to Emmaus?


This episode was stirred by my reading and review of Jakob Van Bruggen’s discussion of Mark 16:12-13 in his book Christ on Earth: The Gospel Narratives as History (Dutch original, 1987; English translation, Baker Books, 1998).

JVB on Mark 16:12-13:

JVB argues against the assumption that Mark 16:12-13 is another account of Christ’s appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. See Christ on Earth, pp. 284-286.

He sees two contrasts between the narratives:

First, the destination:

In Mark 16:12 the two disciples are going eis agron (AV: “into the country”).

In Luke 24:13 two disciples (Cleopas and unnamed disciple) are going eis kōmēn (AV: “to a village”).

Second, the return to Jerusalem:

In Luke the two disciples are told that Christ has already appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34). JVB sees Mark 16:12-13 as describing an earlier appearance.

In Mark 16:13 the focus is on the unbelief of the disciples. There is no direct mention of this in Luke 24:33-35.

JTR response:

First, regarding the destination:

The phrases “into the country” (Mark) and “to a village” (Luke) are not necessarily so different. Luke stresses that the distances from Jerusalem to Emmaus was “three-score furlongs” (Greek: 60 stadia, with a stadia being c. 1/8 of the Roman mile). The NKJV gives the distance as “seven miles.” The travel from Jerusalem to Emmaus would have taken the travelers into the “country.”

Second, regarding the return to Jerusalem:

Mark’s description of unbelief does not necessarily contradict an appearance to the disciples after Christ’s appearance to Peter. Compare Matthew 28:17, “but some doubted.” It makes sense for Mark to give emphasis to unbelief, since this is a theme in his Gospel and in his resurrection narrative.

Arguments in favor of harmonizing Mark 16:12-13 and Luke 24:13-35:

First, both describe Christ’s appearance to two disciples in a remote location, before these two go to the Eleven.

Second, Mark’s mention of Jesus appearing to the two en hetera morphē (AV: “in another form”; i.e., in this resurrection body) likely parallels Luke’s mention that the two did not immediately recognize the risen Jesus (cf. Luke 24:16, “their eyes were holden”).

Conclusions if JVB is correct and the two are not the same event:

First, this would show the value of Mark 16:9-20 as offering an independent resurrection appearance narrative. Contra modern critics it would show that the traditional ending is NOT a “pastiche” of accounts drawn from the other Gospels.

Second, it would mean that each of the four canonical Gospels has a unique resurrection appearance narrative:

Matthew: Appearance at a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16 ff.).

Mark: Early appearance to two disciples (Mark 16:12-13).

Luke: Appearance on the Emmaus Road to Cleopas and another disciples (Luke 24:13-35).

John: Appearance to seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21)

Overall assessment:

In the end, I am not convinced by JVB’s suggestion. Mark 16:12-13 and Luke 24:13-35 describe the same event and Mark abbreviates the longer account as found in Luke.


1 comment:

Phil Brown said...

Thanks for the analysis. It was helpful. I think you are correct. Sometimes interpreters overthink things. I've been there before. Scholars probably do this the most, seeking something new to publish. I see this with a lot of the references to interpreting the text according to an "Ancient Near Eastern" context or a "Second Temple Context." While the setting of these books are just that, and understanding these books would be helped through knowledge of the eras and the culture of the day, I think interpreters overthink things by trying to overturn traditional thinking regarding many of the Old and New Testament texts. I won't reject new things out of hand, but I am always a little suspicious of "new" things.