Monthly Archives: October 2013

Assessment of Mark’s Message

Now that we’ve had our discussion of the textual significance of Mark, where he came from, his intentions, his literary contribution to, and pivotal role in the Christian tradition, let’s spend a bit of time assessing what Mark’s message actually was. What does the text tell us about what Jesus’ posthumous followers believed, or were being told to believe?

Even a casual reading of Mark will impress the reader with its tales of miracles, miraculous healings, and exorcisms of demons. And even the casual reader will be aware of the parables, the need for faith, and something called the Kingdom of God. As for a non-casual reading, the same things leap out, but it was difficult for me to find something beyond an episodic series of events that did not necessarily tie together effectively. In particular, I had serious problems discerning what Jesus, or Mark meant by ‘the Kingdom of God’.

Now this is a topic fraught with implications, and one carrying a lot of baggage. As a kid in Catholic school, we were taught that Jesus did not intend a kingdom of this world, that he was always talking about a heavenly, or other-worldly, or after-life kingdom.  The idea was that Jesus’ intention and purpose was not to liberate the bodies of the Jews as was the doctrinal standard of the concept, but to liberate all humankind’s souls to the redemption of the heavenly reward to be reaped after death. Great idea, great basis for a morality and a religion, but I found this particularly lacking as an overall theme in the gospel. Nowhere does Jesus sit down and tell his followers, or his disciples, or anyone exactly what the kingdom of God means how it will be realized, and how, exactly, it will ‘come about’.

From my still-limited knowledge of the QHJ, I have the sense that some of them, at least, still have a similar idea about the Kingdom of God. One of the dominant themes (or maybe it’s just because I’ve read more Ehrman than others in the QHJ project) of Jesus’ earthly ministry was his preaching of coming apocalypse. The Kingdom of God would come about after a period of tribulation, that the evildoers would be swept away, and the Kingdom of God would be established. Or something. Now, some of this may be more acutely defined or definitively stated in the other three gospels, but I also find this interpretation to be sorely lacking in evidence, at least in Mark. Yes, there is the ‘apocalypse of Chapter 13, but I don’t think that really describes a future state.  In fact, I don’t think  apocalyptic thought was really forward-looking at all, except in a very general way. It was more about the current state, the problems encountered–the Babylonian Exile, the rule of the Seleucids, Rome–with a promise that everything will be alright at the end. More than that, I do not think that this “prediction” really dates back to Jesus. Just as Daniel, written under the Seleucids, was set in the time of the Babylonian Empire, this “prediction” was actually describing what had happened during the Jewish War.

Now, there is a school of thought that the healings, and especially the exorcisms, were the signs of the coming of, or arrival of the kingdom. My attitude towards this was initially skeptical, but a little more textual diagramming has shown me that this skepticism may be unwarranted. What I noticed was that, starting in Chapter 1, we get a series of episodes in which Jesus performs some sort of wonder–a healing or an exorcism–and then we have a statement of how the old order of Judaism has been shaken. After the first exorcism, we have Jesus in the synagogue of Caphernaum, where those hearing are amazed at the new teaching. This is followed by another round of healings/exorcisms. Then Chapter 2 follows a similar pattern, in which Jesus tells the parables of the new cloth and the old wineskins, then ends with him proclaiming himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Chapter 3 starts with more healings, and ends with him proclaiming that those who do the will of God are his mother and brothers and sisters, rather than his earthly family. Chapter 4 has the parables of the kingdom, the sower and the mustard seed, and ends with Jesus calming the storm. This pattern is not ironclad, but similar sequences occur, at least till Chapter 11 when Jeus enters Jerusalem–with much less fanfare than is usually ascribed.

The climax comes in Chapters 9 & 10. In Chapter 9 we got the Transfiguration, and the revelation that Jesus is the Christ. In Chapter 9 we are told that others who don’t follow Jesus can expel demons in Jesus’ name. Then at the end we get the first mention of The Life; which is not explained. We are told it’s better to enter The Life one-handed or one-eyed than to be cast into the fire. We are also told the first time that the first shall be last, and that we must receive children. Chapter 10 begins with Jesus again altering the Law by not allowing divorce. Then we are told that, not only must receive children, we must be like them to enter the Kingdom of God. Then we encounter the rich young man who wants to know how he can inherit Eternal Life. This is another brand-new concept, like the ideas of The Life and Gehenna seen in Chapter 9. The young man is told how he must sell everything, and that the rich will have trouble entering the Kingdom of God; this is also brand-new. Then Jesus reinforces the idea that the first must be last, the greatest must be the servant of all. Finally, the chapter closes with healing a blind man. This is the last healing that occurs in the gospel.

The upshot is that, until we reach Chapters 9 & 10, we don’t have a particularly clear idea of what the Kingdom of God will be like, other than that it will not be like current circumstances in some ways. Before this, the idea of the Kingdom of God is hazy, at best. There were early hints that sinners would be welcomed, For example, there is the point in Chapter 2 when Jesus eats with sinners and tax collectors, and he says that it’s the sick who need a physician, but the Lost Sheep doesn’t come about until Luke. The whole idea of sinners and repentance is very minimal; that of faith is very important. But faith in what?  We are to have faith, apparently faith that Jesus would be able to help you. In order to be healed, or exorcised, one had to believe Jesus could do it. But there is no real, explicit connection between faith and the kingdom, as far as I can tell. Perhaps the implication is that faith will help bring about the kingdom, but that’s what it is: an implication.  And note one thing: the young man is not told to have faith, so the connection remains implicit.

Then, in Chapter 10, we come across the goal/reward of eternal life. This is what the rich young man wants. Later, we are told that it will be very difficult for the rich (like the young man) to enter the kingdom. If A=B. and B=C. then A=C. Since the young man wants eternal life, and since it will be difficult for him to enter the Kingdom of God, presumably Eternal Life (A) is the same thing as the Kingdom of God (C. B=the desire of the rich for A and C. Or something like that. It’s an analogy, not a syllogism, much as I might wish otherwise.) Is this the crux of Jesus’ message about the kingdom? Has Mark been building towards this climax? Has he been teasing us with hints of the kingdom, but holding off with the explanation until Chapters 9 & 10? Was this all a literary coup?

I think so, at least to some extent. But what I really see (because this is my thesis and I’m blind to everything else?) are the collected tales of a wonder-worker, who may have had a message about the Kingdom of God. Maybe the kingdom was to be a sort of a universal siblinghood (perhaps to coin a phrase). In this kingdom, the sinners and tax collectors would be welcomed, and the rich would have trouble getting in.  This sounds like it could be revolutionary utopianism; or it could be the message, as Burton Mack suggests, of a Cynic Sage like Diogenes, a sort of an early hippie movement.

But what I really think is that Chapter 10 represents the final weld between what those who followed Jesus the Wonder-Worker believed, and what those who followed Jesus the Christ believed. The Wonder-Worker taught a sort of common humanity, while the followers of the Christ taught eternal life. In Chapter 10, Mark makes the final weld that equates the two. There is a certain amount of sleight-of-hand involved, but the result is there as we switch from one to the other, and make them interchangeable terms.

As an aside, and as pure speculation, I’m going to toss out that the followers of the Wonder-Worker may have represented those followers of Jesus who came from John the Baptist. Maybe Jesus superseded John by taking over the message of repentance, and gaining additional attention for his message as a Wonder-Worker. Miracles are great PR, and the early Church knew that very, very well.

I was going to discuss more about how this all came about, the necessary historical developments, what happened between Jesus and Paul, between Paul and Mark, and between Jesus and Mark, but I think that is better served for a later point, after reading Matthew. The changes that Matthew makes will illuminate the process of development more effectively. I need to address Jesus as the Messiah, what that meant, how that came about, but the compare and contrast with Paul and with Matthew should help. I will also address Aslan’s ideas, to some extent. I’m not terribly impressed by his book, but he does say some worthwhile things. One thing that really grated on me was the complete, utter, and total lack of footnotes. Yikes! I would have failed any essay I submitted that did not have footnotes. Ten a page was a bare minimum.

In the end, the message of Mark is one of eternal life. Some of the surrounding details are hazy, or haven’t been nailed down, but that;s what the base message is. In this way Mark pointed the way for the evangelists and epistle writers who followed him. They would then elaborate on the fusion Mark created, which thereby set up the parameters for the Jesus as we think of him today.

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Mark Summary in toto, Part 2

(to continue….)

As a result, I believe that Mark’s great contribution to Christianity was that he attempted to weld these two separate traditions into a single narrative that encompassed both interpretations of Jesus’ life and death, and the implications of both. He was largely successful in this attempt. I say ‘largely’ because there are definite ‘seams’ in the work, where it’s pretty apparent that different—and even contradictory—views are woven together with varying levels of success. 

That there were different interpretations of Jesus should not be controversial. Paul tells us as much when he complains bitterly about how the Galatians have been seduced by ‘another gospel’. And the early patristic thinkers spent a lot of time combatting what they came to see as heresies: non-orthodox views of Jesus. Railing against heretical interpretations of Jesus was a major source of employment for Clement and others. So we have direct, primary evidence of different interpretations of Jesus, beginning a generation after Jesus’ death and continuing, pretty much uninterrupted, until the present day. Therefore the idea that Mark came across at least two traditions should not surprise us in the least.

So what do these different traditions tell us? In the first half, with Jesus the Wonder-Worker, we are dealing with an historical figure that was not considered divine in the sense that Christians have conceived of Jesus as being since the time of Matthew’s gospel. We noted a number of times where the author was very ambivalent, or ambiguous about whether he thought of Jesus as a hyper-human, or non-human individual. 

Here it would be worth making a confession: it wasn’t until I was trying to write this summary that it truly dawned on me that, in the Jewish tradition, the Messiah was not divine. Rather, he was a standard-issue, garden-variety human who was marked out, or chosen by God to fulfill God’s purpose. As such, even when Jesus became the Messiah, as he clearly was by Chapter 11, that is not necessarily to say that the author of Mark believed that Jesus was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, as Christians have described him since the Second or Third Century CE. There is no story in Mark about Jesus’s divine birth. This changed by the time we reach Matthew. There, Jesus was divine from conception, having been conceived by the sacred breath (Holy Spirit), which is clearly meant to signify that he was God’s own son. Jesus’ divinity was reinforced by Luke and underlined by John. At the beginning, Mark was not sure; Matthew had no doubts, and all the subsequent tradition followed Matthew. Mostly.

In my readings I have come across a text called the Didache. It was probably written sometime around the early Second Century. As such, it may pre-date some of the works that became canonical, such as John, or Revelation. I had never read this until I ran across a reference to it by Geza Vermes in an article in Biblical Archaeological Review. Vermes was one of the original translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls; he is an important figure in recent Biblical scholarship (who, unfortunately, died recently). As Vermes put it, the Didache, like much of Mark, also presents a portrait of Jesus that shows him as something less than fully divine. It does not doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, or the Saviour, but it is not at all clear that the author believed Jesus to be divine, an actual part of the Godhead. The point is that this document gives us something of the continuation of the tradition of the first half of the gospel, even though that non-divine status is hedged by Christ-belief. In fact, I think it will be worthwhile to translate and comment on this text; my plan is to do this after 1 Corinthians and Matthew.

What this all means is that Mark is a pivotal work in the development of the Jesus myth. Based on what is in Mark, it seems to me that Jesus began this narrative as a human being, became the Christ, and then (maybe) even attained divine status. Now, there is a tendency to see what one expects to see, or is prepared to see, or trained to see. I was trained in Classics, so my inclination is to see things in terms of the Graeco-Roman world-view. When I look at Jesus, and see/hear the claims that he is the son of God, what I see is something that fits in easily with prevalent Hellenistic beliefs. Alexander the Great claimed to be the son of (a) god; heroes like Achilles had been said to be of divine parentage for centuries. The Pharaohs had been incarnate gods (at least during some phases of Egyptian history. The Diadochoi, the successors of Alexander who divided up the latter’s empire were viewed as divine, at least by some. Julius Caesar became a god on his death; Octavian—better known as Augustus—claimed to see an eagle fly up to heaven from the pyre of his uncle/adoptive father, symbolizing the apotheosis of the dead Caesar. In short, as Jaroslav Pelikan put it, “the sky hung low in the ancient world. Traffic was heavy on the highway between earth and heaven”. From what I gather, the traffic was much lighter on the Jewish version of this highway. As such, praying to “Our Father” was more of a departure from Jewish custom than it was for a pagan, perhaps especially for a Roman. The chief of the Roman gods was Jupiter; the etymology of this word is ‘diu-pater’; “god the father” would not be a bad translation of these words.

I have suggested that Jesus’ relation to John the Baptist was not as clear-cut as people think. There have been numerous suggestions in Jesus histories that later Christians played down Jesus’ role as a disciple of John. In my opinion, this is backwards. John’s role becomes more prominent with each passing evangelist, culminating with John the Evangelist, who says much more about the Baptist than Mark did. The implication is that later Christians wanted to stress the connection to the Baptist, even to the point of overstating it. I have suggested that the purpose of this was to give Christianity a pedigree; by attaching Jesus to John, Christians (and by the time this over-emphasis was occurring, ‘Christians’ is probably an appropriate designation) could lay claim to the heritage of Moses and Abraham, giving a new religion a very deep pedigree. Doing this was very important, because the Greeks and Romans respected tradition, and didn’t think highly of innovation; as a result, Christians wanted to emphasize their pedigree.

Now, Jesus of course was a Jew. He had been raised in the Jewish culture and religious practice of his time and place. In the first half of Mark, Jesus is primarily—perhaps even solely—concerned with imparting his message to Jews. Gentiles are no more than a setting, such as when Jesus goes to the land of the Gerasenes, or when he exorcises a demon from the daughter of the Syro-Phonecian woman. Then, starting in Chapter 13, we start to hear Jesus telling his disciples to preach to everyone, Gentiles included. This, as I said at the time, reflects the changing demographics of the followers of Jesus; from being primarily Jews during Jesus’ life and in the first few decades after his death, Gentiles had become much more prominent. Of course, we cannot ever know when the tipping point was reached and Gentiles outnumbered Jews, but I would consider an argument for somewhere around 70 CE. IOW, that the tipping point came after the destruction of the Temple, and shortly before Mark wrote his gospel. But there is one other thing to consider.
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Mark tells us that the Baptist was very popular. Josephus gives John more press than he gives to Jesus. Given these, it’s not absurd to suppose that John was as popular, if not more popular, than Jesus during the former’s lifetime. But yet, John faded away, becoming something like a footnote to the Jesus story, while the lesser figure became the foundation stone of one of the world’s Great Religions (as Toynbee called them). Here, I think, we need to look at the pagan part of the Jesus story for some hints as to why this came about. In the final analysis, the Baptist was wholly Jewish, as were the Essenes (as far as we know). Jesus—at least the version we have—OTOH, had at least a toehold, if not an entire foot, in the world of pagan thought as we have seen. As I mentioned above, I believe the prayer to “Our Father” represents more of a pagan, rather than a Jewish point of view.

Or, not to overstate this, it represents a more recent trend in the ongoing evolution of what has become modern Judaism. It is too easy to forget that Judaism as it is practiced today, is nuanced and hardly monolithic. Christianity is certainly a mixed bag, so that the same should be true about Judaism should not be controversial. XXXX, in his book XXXX, referred to the “Judahisms” that were practiced in Jesus’ day, and even if this description is not completely spot-on, I don’t think it strays too far from accuracy. We need to understand that Greek culture had been pervasive in Galilee and Judea for 300 years by the time Jesus lived. The conflicts between the purist Jews as opposed to the collaborating Jews is at the root of the story of the Maccabees, and it plays a very prominent role in Josephus. Herod and his kin were collaborators, and they evoked the ire of the purists as Josephus (himself a collaborator) tells us repeatedly. This is the story of the death of the Baptist. The point of pointing this out is that it’s probably delusional to believe that Hellenistic thought did not have some influence on some Jews. Perhaps one of these Jews was Jesus.

Having read Paul and now Mark, I believe that the process of the NT is clear. I have encountered many comments bemoaning the ‘unsatisfactory’ nature of Mark’s gospel. Why is it unsatisfactory? Because it’s now Matthew’s, or Luke’s, or John’s gospel. Those are fully developed narratives that include the divinity of Jesus as a baseline premise, as a datum, a given. We do not get that with Mark. Why not? Because Mark was presenting the traditions as he found them, not as they would become a generation or so after he wrote.

Mark came across two different traditions: the stories of the Wonder-Worker, and the belief in the Christ. This is a hugely significant and largely ignored proposition. I won’t be so bold as to say that no one has thought of this before, but I will say that this is not, as far as I can tell, part of the discussion about the historical Jesus. Mark is ambiguous, or ambivalent about Jesus because, when Mark wrote, the traditions he encountered were ambivalent and ambiguous. Matthew, I believe, took care of this by adding whatever he felt was necessary to make sure that the reader understood that Jesus was not only the Christ, but that, in the new telling, the Christ was divine from birth. Luke elaborated this theme even further and made Jesus divine before birth. John finished the job with the words “in the beginning was the Word”; with this statement, Jesus was divine before all time. He was co-eternal with the Father. That is, the NT is essentially a process of development. Paul believed that Jesus was the Christ, but that does not entail that Paul thought Jesus was divine from birth. Jesus became something more than human after the Resurrection, but he was neither divine, nor the Christ, until after the Resurrection. In Mark, Jesus seems to become divine during his ministry, perhaps at his baptism, perhaps not until the Transfiguration. For Matthew and Luke, Jesus was divine by way of being conceived by the sacred breath; John makes Jesus eternal. Seen in this light, Paul’s idea of Jesus is almost closer to the apotheosis of Julius Caesar than to the Jesus presented by Matthew, and certainly closer to Caesar than the Jesus presented by John. It took another generation or two before all of this worked itself through into something like a consistent story.

Let’s say that again: in Paul’s scheme of things, Jesus’ resurrection more closely resembles the apotheosis of Julius Caesar, who became Divus Julius at death, than he resembles the eternal God the Son of John. Greek and Roman gods and heroes, those who attained apotheosis upon death, often appeared to the faithful (again, see R L Fox, Pagans & Christians), just as Jesus appeared to Paul. To the best of my knowledge, there is really nothing that resembles this in Jewish literature; at least, not in classic Jewish literature, but I am not aware of anything similar in any of the apocryphal texts of the last centuries BCE. The only possible exception is the apparition of Samuel, who is conjured by the Witch of Endor; but even then, the apparition was conjured through unwholesome magic, and there is serious scholarly debate on whether this was actually Samuel, or if it was some sort of demon. So if Paul didn’t get this idea from his Jewish heritage, where did he get it? From the pagan milieu that surrounded him?

This “summary” is wholly inadequate to the size of the task that I have set myself. But then, this is a blog, and not a Ph.D. thesis. I do not want even to pretend, or hint that I’ve provided an adequate treatment of the topic. And I have certainly not provided anything even vaguely resembling a coherent—let alone convincing—argument for my position. Even the former is currently beyond what I can provide. So, for the moment, my modest objective is to put the idea out there. As I have said, I’m making this up as I go along, so this is a thesis-in-progress. Hope you stick around for the ride as we head back to Paul, to see if 1 Corinthians can shed any light on this.

Summary, Mark in toto, Part 1

We’ve read the entire gospel, including the epilogue that contains a Resurrection story that was not part of the original, and apparently written by someone familiar with Luke’s version of the Resurrection story. Or, Luke and the author of Mark 16 had access to the same source. I should have thought of that earlier. It pays to remember that there is almost always another possible explanation to the one that may seem obvious.

As the gospel gets started with Jesus beginning to preach after the arrest of John the Dunker, what we get is a series of stories of, well, Jesus preaching. Jesus travels about Galilee and environs, crossing and re-crossing the Sea of Galilee, even venturing into the territory of Tyre and Sidon. On these wanderings, he heals all who are brought to him, exorcises hordes of demons, and preaches the good news by telling parables about the coming new order. All who hear him are amazed, and he is enormously popular, having to skulk about in the wilderness because he’s unable to enter towns due to the crowds he draws. One consistent message is that the healings and the exorcisms he performs are done by virtue of the faith of the person requesting. When Jesus returns to his (unnamed) home town, he can do little because they don’t have faith in him, largely because they knew him when. In contrast, the bleeding woman’s faith is so great that she is healed despite the fact that Jesus was completely unaware (not exactly omniscience) of what was happening until he felt the power going out of him. During this stretch of narrative, which seems to run through Chapter 7 and into Chapter 8, there is a level of uncertainty about who Jesus actually is. A demon tells us that he is “the holy one of God”, but that doesn’t really tell us much.

In the commentary, I made observations about the ambivalence of Mark regarding Jesus’ divinity at several points in the narrative. As the gospel moved on, however, it seemed that this ambivalence dissipated, and all doubt about Jesus’ divine status was removed when we reached the Transfiguration story in Chapter 9. There, Jesus was all-but assumed into Heaven as Moses and Elijah appeared with him in a blaze of dazzling light. Then, in Chapter 11, when Jesus makes his entry into Jerusalem that is commemorated on Palm Sunday, the pervading sense seemed to be that Jesus was the heir of David, the Messiah, the Christ. Reading all of this piecemeal, section by section, some of the flow and context was lost; reading it start to finish, I had the distinct impression we were reading about two separate and distinct representations of Jesus. This led to the question of whether this distinction was present in the text, or whether it was something that occurred to me based on a flawed reading of the text.

So I did some crude textual analysis.

One of the techniques of textual analysis is to count up the number of times a given word crops up in a particular work. Counts like this are then used to spot thematic trends or changes in authorship; for example, odd words occurring once may be a clue that the word in question is a gloss that became incorporated into the text. This is especially true for a word that has evolved in meaning. Of course James Strong has done that for both the Hebrew Scriptures (f.k.a. “the Old Testament”) and the New Testament. Strong’s Words is an invaluable tool both for analysis, and sometimes for helping to figure out what a particular word might mean in a given context. I have cited such analyses a number of times; it was particular helpful when reading 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. Mark’s vocabulary, in contrast, is less controversial, or perhaps less tortured. (Bear in mind that this is coming from a Classics person; such persons often have a snobbish disdain of NT Greek. That the disdain is rarely—if ever—justifiable is beside the point.)

I took a slightly different approach. Jeffrey Burton Russell, in his magnificent series of books on The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles introduced me to the idea of the historical concept. It’s more than just the use of a given word; it’s also all the various ways that a word can be expressed. Take, for example, “the Christ”. Counting up the times this word occurs is helpful, but I believe it’s incomplete. Recall that in 1:24, the unclean spirit that Jesus has expelled informs us that Jesus is ‘the holy one of God’. I think we are fully justified in taking this as a synonym, or a proxy for “the Christ”. Yet, if we only counted instances of the exact word, we’d miss this example in 1:24, and our count—and so our analysis—would be incomplete.

In doing this conceptual analysis, I noticed something that I found striking. The concepts that occur in Chapters 1-7, roughly the first half of the work, are different from the concepts that occur in Chapters 8-15. More, the difference between 1-7 is more pointed than what occurs in 11-15. A number of concepts that show up in the first half sort of drift off in Chapters 8-10, and a lot of the concepts of 11-15 are first seen in this middle section of 8-10. Even further, there is a qualitative, or typological distinction between the types of concepts that occur in 1-7 vs. those that occur in 8-15.

In the first half, we encounter almost all of the healing stories (12 of 14); most of the exorcisms of demons (9 of 13); the comparisons to the current practice of religion (14/19); miracle stories, when the laws of nature are suspended, such as when Jesus calmed the storm (5/7); 14 of the 15 parables Jesus told; two-thirds of the references to a ‘new order’ or a ‘new teaching’ of some sort (4/6); all of the references to sinners, sinning, and repenting (8/8); references to the wilderness (7/8); and most of the references to ‘good news’ or preaching (15/19). In addition, use of the word ‘saved’ in these chapters always refers to mortal life and never everlasting life; and all references to someone being raised from the dead refer to Jesus raising someone else—such as the daughter of Jairus—rather than Jesus referring to his own coming resurrection. Finally, we get 8 of the 13 references to persons being healed by their faith; in the case of the bleeding woman, whether Jesus willed it or not. Three more occur in the ‘transitional’ section of Chapters 8-10.

In short, these are the stories that would have been told about the wonder-worker that was (probably) mentioned by Josephus. I believe the part about the ‘Wonder-Worker is genuine; most of the rest was most likely added by later Christians. Had the whole passage been invented by later Christians, I doubt they would have referred to Jesus as a “Wonder-Worker”, which had undertones of “charlatan” even back then. The modern American colloquialism would probably be something like “snake-oil salesman”.

In contrast, starting with Chapter 8, the concepts we get are different. While the concept of the Christ occurs only three times in 1-7 (and the occurrence in 1:1 is quite likely a later addition), the concept occurs 8 times in the last half; most of the references to the kingdom (10/14) occur in the second half, and three of the four that occur in the first half are contained in the parables of Chapter 4. In 8-15, ‘saved’ now comes to mean eternal, rather than physical life. When the topic of rising/being raised from the dead crops up, it is Jesus talking about his own resurrection rather than the resurrection of another. In Chapters 8-11 the theme of the ‘suffering servant’ is introduced, with Jesus referring to himself and his coming suffering at the hands of others. Even the title ‘son of man’ is used primarily in the second half, nine times, vs. just twice in the first half of the gospel. Jesus introduces the theme of humility in Chapter 9; the theme of the elect in Chapter 13; the theme of “the life” occurs six times in Chapters 8-10, and nowhere else. Finally, the idea of Jesus returning in glory is not mentioned until Chapter 8.

In short, the second half of the gospel seems to be more about the Christ than Jesus the man who was a wonder-worker. The implication of this is that the second half is more closely related thematically to Paul than the first half of the gospel. Paul does not talk about miracles, or wisdom sayings, or parables, or Jesus’ family outside of James. Jesus’ mother Mary is never mentioned by Paul, let alone Mary of Magdala. Paul does mention—but not much else—the Twelve. Paul is almost (but not quite) wholly devoid of anything relating to Jesus’ life. The major exception is in 1 Corinthians, when Paul discusses what we call The Last Supper.

Paul had lived and written and died before Mark wrote this work. We have Paul’s own words attesting what he believed about Jesus. However, much—about half to be precise—of what Mark wrote is not in—or even implied by—what we find in Paul. Given this, and the bifurcation that we find in Mark’s gospel, I believe we are justified to infer that there were at least two separate traditions that Mark tapped into when he sat down to write. Based on what is in the text, it would seem that the traditions can be roughly broken into two types: Jesus the Wonder-Worker, and Jesus the Christ.

(By ‘tradition’ I refer to an account of Jesus which may have included stories about his life, his teachings, or any other aspect of Jesus. This may consist of a set of stories, or a narrative, or a set of sayings like the hypothetical “Q”. These stories/narratives/sayings may have been written, or, which may be more likely, related orally, perhaps as part of being inducted into the mystery of the Jesus followers.)

As a result, I believe that Mark’s great contribution to Christianity was that he attempted to weld these two separate traditions into a single narrative that encompassed both interpretations of Jesus’ life and death, and the implications of both. He was largely successful in this attempt. I say ‘largely’ because there are definite ‘seams’ in the work, where it’s pretty apparent that different—and even contradictory—views are woven together with varying levels of success.

(to be continued….)

Mark Chapter 16 Conclusion

This will take us to the end of the chapter, and the end of the gospel! This will have taken (future perfect!) something less than a year to get through. Don’t know if that’s good, bad, or indifferent, but there it is.

12 Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα δυσὶν ἐξ αὐτῶν περιπατοῦσιν ἐφανερώθη ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ πορευομένοις εἰς ἀγρόν:

After those things he (Jesus) appeared to two of them (the disciples; the Eleven?) walking about in another form in the fields (countryside).

How significant is it that we have not yet had Jesus’ name mentioned in this last section, the one after the young man tells the women to go to Galilee? Is this additional evidence that this is a gloss? And incidentally, my hard copy bible is the Revised English Bible; I was using it for quick reference and I noticed that Verse 8 of this chapter is substantially different there than it is in any of the KJV, the NIV, the NASB, or the ESV.

But if we start with Verse 9 and continue with this one, perhaps what we have is something more than just a gloss. I think we may have a full-blown textual addition. More, I would suggest that this textual addition was added by someone who was familiar with at least Luke’s gospel, and likely Matthew’s as well. This would likely put it well into the 2nd Century CE (i.e., after 100 CE). This sounds like a condensed version of the story of Jesus walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Of course, one could possibly argue that this was the original, and that Luke elaborated this into the story of the Road to Emmaus. However, this feels more like the attempt to summarize, and to explain why the two disciples hadn’t recognized Jesus.

And note that Jesus was “in another form”. Is this why the two disciples–here and in the road to Emmaus version–did not recognize Jesus? I looked for a reference to a description of a ‘resurrection body’ that I’m sure I read in Paul but can’t find. It would, possibly, explain this, because this does raise all sorts of metaphysical questions.

Stuff like this is fascinating; it’s seemingly a one-off, and that is exactly the problem. It is an indication, I think, of just how…casual the writers of the text were. This, I don’t think, was pre-considered when it was written. I think it was tossed off the top of the writer’s head, and it was stuff like this that caused no end of problems when the early church was trying to systematize all of the disparate threads into a coherent, consistent set of theological principles. Stuff like this explains why this was not easy, if it was even possible.

12 Post haec autem duobus ex eis ambulantibus ostensus est in alia effigie euntibus in villam;

13 κἀκεῖνοι ἀπελθόντες ἀπήγγειλαν τοῖς λοιποῖς: οὐδὲ ἐκείνοις ἐπίστευσαν.

And these (the two disciples) coming up announced to the rest; (but) they didn’t believe.

Someone else didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. Wow, what a bunch of skeptics. But once again, it’s sort of like the straight man in a comedy routine. Those hearing the story get to set up the payoff.

13 et illi euntes nuntiaverunt ceteris, nec illis crediderunt.

14 Υστερον [δὲ] ἀνακειμένοις αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἕνδεκα ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ὠνείδισεν τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν καὶ σκληροκαρδίαν ὅτι τοῖς θεασαμένοις αὐτὸν ἐγηγερμένον οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν.

Later to the reclining (eating a formal meal) Eleven he appeared, and he reproached their disbelief and hardened hearts that those having seen him having risen they did not believe.

This “marginal gloss” as I described it shows no signs of abating.  Maybe I need to rethink that a little. What this sounds more like is a full-blown insertion. More than that, it is an attempt to bring this account into closer agreement with at least Luke’s version of the resurrection story. The editor seems to have felt a very strong need to fill in the blank spots, at least in summary fashion.

14 Novissime recumbentibus illis Undecim apparuit, et exprobravit incredulitatem illorum et duritiam cordis, quia his, qui viderant eum resuscitatum, non crediderant.

15 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἅπαντα κηρύξατε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει.

And he said to them, “Going out into the whole world preach the good news to every thing having been created.”

Here is another instance in which the focus is taken from Jesus being a Jew preaching to other Jews; now it becomes a matter of preaching to everyone. There was very, very little in the first 8 or 9 chapters about the Gentiles being included in the message, or the intent of the good news. In the latter half of the gospel, however, the Gentiles come to great prominence. This thematic change is one thing leading me to believe that there are at least two–or possibly three–major sections of the gospel, different or variant traditions that Mark wove into his single tapestry.

15 Et dixit eis: “ Euntes in mundum universum praedicate evangelium omni creaturae.

16 ὁ πιστεύσας καὶ βαπτισθεὶς σωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ἀπιστήσας κατακριθήσεται.

“The one believing and having been baptized will be saved, but the non-believer will be judged adversely.”

This is, I believe, the first time we get a direct connection between baptism and being saved. As such, it’s a very significant moment in Christian history. Or, it would have been if this had actually dated to Mark rather than to a significantly later revision. If you look at the usages of the word ‘baptism’ in Mark, aside from the references to the death of the Baptist, and Jesus’ use of the word when asking the Sons of Zebedee if they can be baptized as Jesus will be, the word is nonexistent between here and Chapter 1.

16 Qui crediderit et baptizatus fuerit, salvus erit; qui vero non crediderit, condemnabitur.

17 σημεῖα δὲ τοῖς πιστεύσασιν ταῦτα παρακολουθήσει: ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δαιμόνια ἐκβαλοῦσιν, γλώσσαις λαλήσουσινκαιναῖς,

“(There will be) signs to the believers, they shall follow them. In my name they will cast out, they will speak in tongues.

Remember back in Chapter 8, when the Pharisees wanted a sign, and Jesus got peeved with them? Well, now it seems he’s not so opposed to them after all. This has echoes of 1 Corinthians, with the latter text’s list of the various gifts that believers have: prophesy, tongues, & c. The difference, I suppose, is that the Pharisees were looking for something to convince them; these followers– whom it’s probably correct to call ‘Christians’–already believe, so the sign is more of a confirmation after the fact rather than an attempt to convert them before the fact.

But why these two gifts? Why not prophesy and healing? Tongues, again, seems to be a reference to Luke/Acts, and the Pentecost episode. And Paul certainly mentioned this as a gift, or a talent. But why casting out demons? There seems to be something particularly…Christian about this. Particularly, or even peculiarly. As mentioned, this was not a big thing for the Graeco-Roman world. It did not play a large part in the pagan religious experience. and I don’t think it was a big thing for Jews. So why did Jesus cast out a demon more often than some people change socks? I think this is a very important question.

In one of the QHJ books I read (apologies; cannot remember which), the author suggests that this was meant to be taken as evidence of the coming end, that this was a sign of the coming kingdom, that it was wrapped up with the whole eschatological strand, or intent, of Jesus’ teaching. But,  if the whole “coming apocalypse” of Chapter 13 wasn’t written until, well, sometime after 70, when the war had already come and gone, is this a legitimate thesis? Probably not. Given the prominence and the emphasis placed on casting out demons throughout the early part of the gospel, I don’t think that the demon stuff was added later.  So I think that the demon issue was important to Jesus, and his earlier followers. I’m not sure why, since it doesn’t seem like this was important in the overall thought of the times, but it seems like it was important.

As for the eschatology thing, I am going to have to revisit this in my summary of Mark, or in the Paul/Mark comparison I’m planning to write. It has just occurred to me that we have seen that the idea of Jesus’ return was already something Paul expected. The truly odd thing is that the Parousia just does not seem to square with the early part of Mark’s gospel that portrays Jesus as a wonder-worker. So, we have a bit of a conundrum here.

17 Signa autem eos, qui crediderint, haec sequentur: in nomine meo daemonia eicient, linguis loquentur novis,

18 [καὶ ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν] ὄφεις ἀροῦσιν, κἂν θανάσιμόν τι πίωσιν οὐ μὴ αὐτοὺς βλάψῃ, ἐπὶ ἀρρώστους χεῖρας ἐπιθήσουσιν καὶ καλῶς ἕξουσιν.

“[ And in their hands ] they will handle snakes, and if they drink something deadly (i.e., poisonous) it will not harm them, upon those  being sick putting their hands upon them and they will have benefit (= ‘be cured’).”

First of all, the text starts getting really dicey here; there are several places where we have different manuscript traditions.

Second, driving out demons and speaking in tongues are not the only signs. Oops. Should have read the whole thing before running off at the mouth. But the snake handling thing is really interesting. And odd. And there have been times and places where revivalist-types have actually handled snakes as part of the revivalist experience.  Then there’s the whole thing with drinking poison. I wonder how many people have died taking this literally.

Now these two activities are not exactly mainstream Christian beliefs or practices. I recall being puzzled when I first heard about snake handling, and I had no clue where the people practicing this got the idea to do this. Part of the reason these practices have been marginalized, I suspect, is because the text here is understood to be fairly marginal in its authenticity. IOW, most serious scholars and mainstream Christians realize that this chapter should not be ascribed to Mark. So snake handling and drinking poison is generally relegated to the fringes; it’s faith-healer stuff.

As for the laying-on of hands as a means of healing, this fulfills the first rule of the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm. I’m not sure if this has any bearing on beliefs like Christian Scientists, or other groups that believe in healing through prayer alone.

18 serpentes tollent, et, si mortiferum quid biberint, non eos nocebit, super aegrotos manus imponent, et bene habebunt ”.

19 Ὁ μὲν οὖν κύριος Ἰησοῦς μετὰ τὸ λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς ἀνελήμφθη εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ.

The lord Jesus, with these sayings to them was taken up to the sky and he is seated at the right (hand) of God.

Again, seems to reflect knowledge of Luke/Acts.

19 Et Dominus quidem Iesus, postquam locutus est eis, assumptus est in caelum et sedit a dextris Dei.

20 ἐκεῖνοι δὲ ἐξελθόντες ἐκήρυξαν πανταχοῦ, τοῦ κυρίου συνεργοῦντος καὶ τὸν λόγον βεβαιοῦντος διὰ τῶν ἐπακολουθούντων σημείων.]]

They, OTOH (= δὲ ) going out preached everywhere. With the Lord working with (them) and the word confirmed through the following signs.

20 Illi autem profecti praedicaverunt ubique, Domino cooperante et sermonem confirmante, sequentibus signis.

This ends most versions of Mark. The NASB, and the Greek bible that I use have the following verse as well.

21 Πάντα δὲ τὰ παρηγγελμένα τοῖς περὶ τὸν Πέτρον συντόμως ἐξήγγειλαν. Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ ἀνατολῆς καὶ ἄχρι δύσεως ἐξαπέστειλεν δι’ αὐτῶν τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἄφθαρτον κήρυγμα τῆς αἰωνίου σωτηρίας. ἀμήν.

And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

OK. this chapter, especially this section, to me, seems like it was added by someone who was summarizing stuff he read in Luke. The text is disjointed, it feels cobbled together without much skill, as if it simply incorporated the marginal glosses of several copyists. Perhaps these were ‘smoothed out’ to some extent, but not all that effectively.

Adding to this is the thematic dissonance. Where does some of this stuff come from? Baptism and being saved were not linked in the main body of the gospel, and yet it shows up here in this chapter.  Given that there seems to be a confusion of themes, overall I think we can be safe in assuming the general consensus is correct, and this was added on at a later date.

I feel like I should have something profound to say now that I’ve concluded, but I’ll save that for the general summary to Mark in toto.

Mark Chapter 16:1-11

Here is the final chapter of the gospel, which contains the resurrection story.

1 Καὶ διαγενομένου τοῦ σαββάτου Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ [τοῦ]Ἰακώβου καὶ Σαλώμη ἠγόρασαν ἀρώματα ἵνα ἐλθοῦσαι ἀλείψωσιν αὐτόν.

And having gone through the Sabbath, Mary the Magdelenian and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices in order to go (to the tomb) to anoint him.

Several points. The fact that this is nailed down to the day after the Sabbath–Sunday, per the common calendar of the West–so early and so deeply in the tradition makes this quite credible, IMO. It’s exactly the sort of thing that gets embedded into a story and sticks there because it caused just enough inconvenience to make it memorable. It’s like the day you have to get to an important appointment, you can’t find your car keys. Yes, this could be one of those details that accrued, but why?

Second, I’m still half-convinced that the mother of James and Salome was also the mother of Jesus.

Third, I rendered it as “Magdelenian” to get across that this is a designation of her town of origin, and not a surname, whether in the modern or the Roman sense of the term.

Finally, this is petty, but did they buy the spices that morning? That’s one way of reading the text. It’s a minor point, but a point nevertheless. The significance, I think, is that it indicates that the story had not quite been nailed down; the details were starting to attach to the story, but they all hadn’t been smoothed into a consistent narrative.

1 Et cum transisset sabbatum, Maria Magdalene et Maria Iacobi et Salome emerunt aromata, ut venientes ungerent eum.

2 καὶ λίαν πρωῒ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων ἔρχονται ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλίου.

And as soon as it was morning the day after the Sabbath they went to the tomb the sun having come up.

2 Et valde mane, prima sabbatorum, veniunt ad monumentum, orto iam sole.

3 καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἑαυτάς, Τίς ἀποκυλίσει ἡμῖν τὸν λίθον ἐκ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου;

And they said to each other, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”

3 Et dicebant ad invicem: “ Quis revolvet nobis lapidem ab ostio monumenti? ”.

4 καὶ ἀναβλέψασαι θεωροῦσιν ὅτι ἀποκεκύλισται ὁ λίθος, ἦν γὰρ μέγας σφόδρα.

And looking up they saw that the stone had been rolled away, for it was very large.

It seems like there should be something to say about the actions to this point, but, aside from the obvious that this is stage-directed. Does this carry any sense of credibility? Was it truly intended to carry any? Or was the point simply to get the story across? And what chance is there that any of this even vaguely resembles the actual happenings?

4 Et respicientes vident revolutum lapidem; erat quippe magnus valde.

5 καὶ εἰσελθοῦσαι εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον εἶδον νεανίσκον καθήμενον ἐν τοῖς δεξιοῖς περιβεβλημένον στολὴν λευκήν, καὶ ἐξεθαμβήθησαν.

And they went into the tomb they saw a young man seated on the right, wrapped around in white linen, and they were startled into terror.

Now this is really interesting. I’ll explain after the next verse.

5 Et introeuntes in monumentum viderunt iuvenem sedentem in dextris, coopertum stola candida, et obstupuerunt.

6 ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐταῖς, Μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε: Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον: ἠγέρθη, οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε: ἴδε ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔθηκαν αὐτόν.

And he said to them, “Do not be afraid. You seek Jesus the Nazarene, the one crucified. Get up. He is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.”

I’m reasonably sure that it was Bart Ehrman who came up with what I think is an ingenious explanation of this verse. The religious authorities were afraid that Jesus’ tomb might become some sort of rallying point for Jesus’ followers. To prevent this, it was the Jewish authorities who moved the body. The detail about the young man in white, he thinks, indicates one of the temple officials who wore garments that were whitened pabove and beyond what was normal. And this then explains the bit about Galilee that we get in the next verse….

ἀλλὰ ὑπάγετε εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι Προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν  Γαλιλαίαν: ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε, καθὼς εἶπεν ὑμῖν.

“But get up, tell his disciples and also Peter that “He has gone ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him, accordingly as he told you.”

OK, did I miss it? When did Jesus say anything about going ahead to Galilee? Answer, I don’t believe he did. This is the second part of Ehrman’s theory: that the religious authorities had their representative planted in the tomb to tell Jesus’ followers to leave Jerusalem and to go to Galilee where they would be Herod’s problem and not theirs.

I think this theory is ingenious. Whether it’s right or not is another story. Again, it depends pretty much on whether we believe the overall story of Mark that the religious authorities were responsible for Jesus’ execution. If this is true, then it’t not unreasonable to believe that they wanted to get rid of Jesus’ followers because there were so many of them, and they were apt to cause problems. If, as I’ve said, I don’t believe this cover story, then it really doesn’t follow that the religious authorities would have taken the initiative to concoct this scheme. So what, then?

At some level the story of the empty tomb has to be addressed in the historical analysis. Whether it was actually empty or not, this is the story that was propagated, and, as we saw in Paul, believed. Indeed, the Resurrection is the sine qua non of Christianity. Without this, Jesus is just another…whatever, however you conceive him to be, a wonder-worker, a revolutionary zealot, a wise man. He was, in short, a man. So we have to address the belief, if we don’t have to address the likelihood of the event. We have to ask if the tomb was empty. Then we have to ask why it was empty. While a miraculous resurrection is outside the usual course of historical events, and while it’s not possible that it could have occurred in the order of a ‘natural’ course of action, a miracle is always possible–by definition. But, regardless of what did happen, people believed in the phenomenon of the empty tomb, and we have to ask why that belief came about.

Of course, the simplest explanation for the belief is that Jesus did rise from the dead. FIne. But, as historians, we cannot leave it at that. To do so is to leave the realm of historical research and enter the realm of theology, or religious belief, or whatever you want to call it. So are there other possible–plausible–reasons why the tomb might have been empty?

Ehrman’s thesis is actually very attractive, because it solves a lot of problems in a way that is well within the realm of possibility. However, I don’t believe it’s likely since I don’t believe that the religious authorities had any reason to go to the effort. IMO, Jesus wasn’t that popular, he didn’t have a large following that they needed to fear, there was no reason for them to move the body, and to then plant an operative to throw the followers off-track by sending them on a wild goose chase to Galilee.

Another distinct possibility is that they had the wrong tomb. The events of the day of the crucifixion were, no doubt, stressful and confusing. The women were not from Jerusalem; it’s not hard to believe that they got confused, turned around, or that they just got it wrong because they didn’t see exactly where Jesus was placed. They went to a tomb, it was empty, but it wasn’t where Jesus had been laid. That was why the stone was rolled away; it had never been rolled in front of the entrance. A very simple mistake.

So there are plausible explanations, but I think we’re missing something. Mark did not originally include a resurrection story. Why not? That is, or seems, puzzling. But then we notice that Paul doesn’t have a resurrection story, either. IMO, I think the implication here is that the  story of the resurrection did not become…necessary until sometime in the 70s, after Mark wrote. (is necessary the right word? It’s one possible word, or conception, but it’s not the only one.)  As for why this was true, I think the reasons for this lie someplace in Paul’s writings; I need to address this, but I don’t know that this is the place. I plan to summarize Mark in toto when I finish Chapter 16, and then I plan to do a Mark vs Paul, compare and contrast sort of thing after that. The thing is, Paul’s writings that predate Mark are really the only appropriate NT writings to consider. What happened after Mark cannot concern us here. It’s inadmissible evidence for what Mark wrote, and why.

 7 Sed ite, dicite discipulis eius et Petro: “Praecedit vos in Galilaeam. Ibi eum videbitis, sicut dixit vobis” ”.

8 καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις: καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν, ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

And going out, they fled from the tomb, for they had trauma and ecstasy; and they said nothing to no one, for they were afraid.

One of the priests I heard speak on this reading on Easter made a wonderful point. He was very taken with this because he found it so believable. They were terrified, so they didn’t say anything to anyone. How human, how normal a reaction! And I agree. And it’s just this sort of very-human reaction to an extraordinary event that gives the NT, the Bible so much of its power. The authors were people with very keen insight into the human condition; they were very adept at bringing the message home and giving it a very human face, one in which almost anyone could recognize someone they know, if not themselves.

So again, we have a plausible story; does that mean it’s true? Not necessarily. We have to keep in mind that the Resurrection story was not created until at least a full generation had passed since Jesus’ death. That puts us into the 60s, after Paul; it may not have been created until into the 70s. As such, it’s really hard to argue, IMO, that there was any amount of factual accuracy in the story. Given the evidence of Paul, it’s not out of the question that it was made up of whole cloth, from scratch. Now, it’s possible that there were traditions of a Resurrection story local to Jerusalem and Galilee that Paul did not know about; however, given the changes made between Mark and Matthew, I’m not sure it’s easy to argue such a position. Not impossible, but difficult.

8 Et exeuntes fugerunt de monumento; invaserat enim eas tremor et pavor, et nemini quidquam dixerunt, timebant enim.

9 Ἀναστὰς δὲ πρω ῒπρώτῃ σαββάτου ἐφάνη πρῶτον Μαρίᾳ τῇ Μαγδαληνῇ, παρ’ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει ἑπτὰ δαιμόνια.

(Jesus) having risen early in the morning, the first (day) after the Sabbath, he appeared to Mary of Magdala, from whom he cast out seven demons.

This is really interesting.  IMO, this is probably a gloss that got incorporated into the text. Think about it: we get the tale to the point of the previous verse, when the women ran away and told no one, and suddenly we’re back at the beginning, first light on the day after the Sabbath. And we skip over the trip to the tomb, and go right to the apparition to Mary of Magdala. In any linear sense, this makes no sense. If you think about it, though, and think of a copyist writing this a century later, he notices that we aren’t told that Jesus has actually been seen. So he makes a note to ‘correct’ the text. A century after that (and we’re still not up to the time of Constantine) a later copyist isn’t sure about where the margin begins and he (no doubt a ‘he’) just keeps going, adding this into the body of the text.

Another possibility is that the second copyist was the one who added the bit about the seven demons. This is another new bit of information. What is interesting is that it appears in Luke, but not in Matthew. What this suggests to me is that it had become part of the tradition about Mary M, in much the same way that she later became a prostitute, and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet.  But that it skipped Matthew may indicate that this was a much later addition to the tradition. And note that it’s not said of her the first time she’s mentioned, either at the end of the last chapter or here in Chapter 16. So maybe the second copyist decided to ‘clarify’ things by making sure we knew this about her, or because he wanted to affirm to himself that he knew this about her from reading Luke. 

The point is, we cannot be very certain about when anything in this chapter was composed, or added.

9 Surgens autem mane, prima sabbati, apparuit primo Mariae Magdalenae, de qua eiecerat septem daemonia.

10 ἐκείνη πορευθεῖσα ἀπήγγειλεν τοῖς μετ’ αὐτοῦ γενομένοις πενθοῦσικαὶ κλαίουσιν:

Then going out she announced this to those who were being with her, being sad and crying,

10 Illa vadens nuntiavit his, qui cum eo fuerant, lugentibus et flentibus;

11 κἀκεῖνοι ἀκούσαντες ὅτι ζῇ καὶ ἐθεάθη ὑπ’ αὐτῆς ἠπίστησαν.

And then hearing that he lived and that he had been seen by her they did not believe.

Another very credible touch, because it’s totally a human reaction not to believe outrageous news. 

11 et illi audientes quia viveret et visus esset ab ea, non crediderunt.