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.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on October 10, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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