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Necessary for pattern of suffering and glory, death and resurrection
Last Supper – prophecy about drinking the cup anew in the kingdom (14:25)
Prophecy in 14:28 “After I have been raised, I will go before you into Galilee” – repeated in 16:7
Reflects content of the eu)agge&lion (gospel) in the early church
Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, 10
Paul’s letters – 1 Corinthians 15:1-6
Peter – 1 Peter 1:3-5 – resurrection of Jesus provides “living hope”
The definition of the ‘Gospel of Jesus Messiah’ is the key purpose of Mark’s narrative (1:1)
Links between Messiah and Resurrection in Judaism
Some Jews believed in physical resurrection (Pharisees – Acts 23:6) and some did not (Saduccees – Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8)
Second Temple Jewish literature – Psalms of Solomon 14:10 “the pious of the Lord shall inherit life in gladness”; 2 Maccabees 7:9 “The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”
The link between Messianism and resurrection in Judaism prior to Jesus is very uncertain.
Many current Markan scholars, the majority, consider 16:8 as the conclusion to the entire Gospel narrative. Given this situation, we will first consider Mark 16:1-8 and then review the data relative to 16:9-20.
16:1-8 tells the story of the empty tomb. Jesus himself does not appear, rather there is a mysterious messenger, presumably angelic, that gives further instructions to the women.
Mark emphasized the reality of Jesus’ death and burial. As well, he notes that these women saw the place where Joseph buried Jesus. There was no doubt in their minds that Jesus had died. 15:42-47 tell how the basic burial rituals were completed, but hastily because Sabbath came.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome purchase additional aromatic materials to complete the hasty burial of Jesus’ body conducted late Friday afternoon. Sunday morning is the earliest they can find the time, after sabbath is concluded.
This is the third mention of Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James (cf. 15:40, 47; 16:1). A fourth occurs in 16:9.
Mark, as he often does, gives several synonymous, repeated time indicators (vs. 2) (one type of so-called “Markan Duality”). There is no hint that the women expect anything like resurrection. Does this suggest their failure as disciples?
The women realize a problem – how will they gain access to the tomb given that a huge stone covers the entrance? (cf. 15:46). This was an object of discussion as they are traveling to the tomb.
Even though they have no solution, one occurs as soon as they approach (vs. 4). They discover the stone, the large stone, already rolled away (perfect passive).
Their immediate concern would be either that someone else was there already working to complete the burial, or perhaps that someone was disturbing the burial. Without pause they enter the tomb. What confronts them is quite unexpected.
Mark describes “a young man sitting at the right side, clothed in a white garment”. Who is he? His clothing, his words to the women (do not be afraid), suggest a spiritual being, probably an angel.
Perhaps as Mark begins his narrative with a divine messenger – John the Baptist – introducing the incarnate messiah, so he ends his narrative with another divine messenger – introducing the resurrected messiah.
The reaction of the women is one of astonishment and distress (vs. 5. Cf. 14:33 Jesus in Gethsemane).
The man’s message is clear:
He knows who was buried there and whom they seek – Jesus of Nazareth. Their seeking is mildly scolded perhaps (Edwards).
He announces Jesus’ resurrection and absence. His corpse is gone. Mark writes “he has been raised” – past passive tense.
He gives a command to tell “his disciples and Peter” that he will meet them in Galilee.
They will see Jesus there in Galilee. This fulfills another promise that Jesus made to them (vs. 6-7).
Jesus is identified as “the one crucified”. This is often Paul’s term to define Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:1)
The messenger’s use of the title “Jesus of Nazareth” links the one previously buried with the one now risen. He is one and the same – the Jesus they knew from personal experience.
Vs. 7 fulfills the prophecy Jesus gave in 14:28. “To go before” means to lead the way (cf. 10:32). Jesus’ resurrection fulfills the many prophecies he has given in the Markan narrative.
The response of the women is not unusual in the Markan narrative. There are no less than seven negative indicators of their response in vs. 8. Fear marks their movements. We have no idea whether they said anything to anyone at anytime. What a way to end a narrative! We have seen similar responses to divine activity by others in Mark’s story.
Sinaiticus, Vaticanus (with an empty page following 16:8), 304. Four manuscripts have both a longer and a shorter ending, indicating some confusion about the ending.
Some manuscripts in the translation tradition
Some 4 th century Church fathers knew a shorter text (Jerome and Eusebius: Questions and Solutions Concerning the Passion and Resurrection of the Saviour say that most manuscripts they knew omitted 9-20). However there is some evidence that the second century Justin and Irenaeus knew the longer ending and quote from it. The Diatessaron, a second century Syriac synopsis of the four Gospels knows this longer ending.
Most others have 16:9-20, with some minor variations
So the textual evidence for omission while important is meagre. The blank page in Vaticanus is particularly telling, indicating that the copyist knew something should be there, but found his original wanting at this point.
The Second Century evidence in the church fathers is important.
Farmer in his evaluation says the textual evidence is moot.
There are some words used in 16:9-20 that do not occur in the rest of Mark’s narrative. However, the occurrence of most of these can be attributed to the new events being described – resurrection appearances and new commission, along with description of post-resurrection ministry. One example used is the verb poreu&omai – to walk, journey, go – found 3x in the longer ending but not elsewhere in Mark in its simplex form.
There are some grammatical structures that are unusual – use of the demonstrative ( e)kei=noj = that one) as a pronoun, for example. There may be a parallel at 4:20 and 7:20. However, is this sufficient basis for reaching a conclusion that this material is non-Markan? How much freedom and creativity does a writer have?
It can be shown that some differences in vocabulary and grammar do occur in vs. 9-20. There are also some verses that use expressions linked very closely with the text of Mark (9,11, 13, 15, 20). Explaining why this is the case is another question.
14-15 appearance of Jesus to the eleven – note the escalation in numbers.
Language of appearance – some similarities ( fanero&w; fai&nw 16:9 (cf. Luke 9:8 “Elijah appeared”)) between Mark and John (21:1,14). Mark also says that people “saw” ( qea&omai ) Jesus (16:11,14). Note also the prophecy in 16:7 – “there you will see ( [email_address] ) him”.
16-20 re-commission and results.
Key element through all of this is the stubborn unbelief of the eleven, characterized as ‘hard-heartedness’ (vs. 14, where Jesus rebukes the eleven).
Jesus as Lord sends His Spirit to assist His disciples in fulfilling their commission. The miracles that are indicated reflect situations in Acts, but not those found in Matthew. If Luke-Acts is a single work in two volumes, then Mark’s mention of such events in connection with a Gospel, should not be deemed abnormal, since he writing after these events have occurred.
Many consider it awkward. Jesus is assumed to be subject in vs. 9, although he has not appeared as a subject in the preceding narrative (vv.1-8). However, this might be mitigated on one significant account. Vs. 9 begins with a verbal participle meaning “having risen” ( a)nasta&saj (used by Mark in the four resurrection prophecies Jesus provides in the Gospel) and Jesus is the only person described as “having been raised” (vs. 6 h)ge&rqh , a different verb, but rather synonymous (cf. Mark 12:23-25; 9:27; 5:41-42 where similar variation occurs)). Who else could the writer be referring to by such an expression except Jesus and this perhaps obviates the need to expressly mention Jesus as the new subject in vs. 9. Mark frequently in his narrative does not repeat the name ‘Jesus’ when starting a new story segment.
The reference to Mary Magdalene in vs. 9 is interesting. The writer tells us Jesus cast out seven demons from her. The three prior mentions of Mary in 15-16 gave no hint about this. Why does the writer now mention it? How consistently does he use epithets? Is this pertinent to the nature of her witness and its content in relation to the resurrection? Maybe the author intends it as an explanation why Jesus chose to appear to her first.
Some consider the abrupt ending quite in keeping with Mark’s general purpose and narrative intent. The note of fear by the women linked with the promise that Jesus would meet his disciples in Galilee suggests a future beyond the story. They assume that people would know the outcome and so this abrupt ending would point to the critical challenge of discipleship.
But what does a 16:8 conclusion leave unresolved in the story? Is the modern appeal of 16:8 as an ending due to anachronistic literary values – an ending twenty-first century people appreciate, but not one normally found in first century literature?
Use of literary dualism in 16:9-20 replicates many of the examples found in the Markan narrative.
Some regard the triple repetition pattern as “the most recognizable pattern of repetition in Mark.” In the last three chapters of Mark we find the follow patterns of three:
Three times of prayer in Gethsemane
Peter denies affiliation with Jesus three times
Pilate asks the crowd three questions
Three different groups taunt Jesus as he hangs on the cross
Three appearances of the women at the grave
Three appearances of the resurrected Christ
If we do accept 9-20 as original, then
The disciples’ unbelief is resolved
The success of Jesus’ mission is confirmed
The Resurrection of Jesus has human witnesses
The prophecies of Gospel proclamation begin to be fulfilled
Commission and Empowerment for ministry (13:9-11) is assured
The textual, stylistic and theological evidence is perhaps more evenly balanced than many scholars suggest. We need to remember that Mark is writing after the events and knows how it did turn out, being himself involved in the Jesus mission.
The argument from narrative structure can cut both ways.
Some suggest these verses are a collage of materials taken from Matthew, Luke and John and used then to form an approved ending to Mark. However, who would do this? Why? When? How did it become accepted as original? It must have happened at least by the beginning of the second century (c. 125ff) if Irenaeus and Justin used it and it was incorporated into the Diatessaron.
Why ending with resurrection appearances is significant:
The church’s gospel presentation ended with the resurrection accounts – essential to the Gospel.
The apostles are “witnesses of the resurrection” (Acts 1:22; 2:32).
Apologetic component – refute claims that the disciples stole Jesus’ body and faked the resurrection.
Resolves the unresolved elements in the narrative.
Even if the material in 16:9-20 is not original to Mark, there is enough evidence in Mark 16:1-8 to indicated that Jesus rose from the dead.