|I’m one of those strange people who get absolutely jazzed about literary minutiae in the Bible. I realize that plants me squarely in the “nerd” category, but I’m old enough now not to care. |
For example, the ending of the Gospel of Mark fascinates me. Perhaps you know that the oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end at verse 8 of chapter 16. The verses following in some editions of the New Testament were actually added later.
The best evidence we have is that Mark’s narrative ends with three women coming to the tomb, finding it empty, a “young man” in a white robe tells them Jesus has been raised from the dead, and they flee from the tomb “for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” Actually, in Greek the last sentence is incomplete. A literal translation would be, “To no one anything they said; afraid they were for…”
But that leaves a host of unanswered questions. Why are there no post-resurrection appearances of Jesus like there are in the other Gospels? Why are there no post-Easter sayings of Jesus like “Go and make disciples” in Matthew and “Feed my sheep” in John? Tom Long says it’s as if Mark was dragged from his writing desk in mid-sentence.
|There are those who say Mark wrote the verses you find in some translations but they were lost in the oldest manuscripts. Others say Mark wrote more but those words have been lost forever. I seriously doubt both explanations. |
John Dominic Crossan says Mark ends this way because it mirrors the experience of the early church. All they had was the testimony of a few witnesses who testified to Christ’s resurrection, but they had no first-hand connection with the event. Crossan’s suggestion makes sense to me from a textual and cultural standpoint, but not on an existential level. There has to be more to the early church’s reaction, and our reaction, to the resurrection than “terror and amazement.”
I like to think that Mark ended his Gospel this way because he knew the resurrection story was incomplete. Just knowing the story isn’t enough. The question becomes, “What now?” Where do we go from here? What are we to do with this incredible gift? What does it mean to be a people formed and fashioned by the resurrection? Those are questions we must ask ourselves at Easter, and every other day of the year.
Does Easter make a difference in the way you live, and make choices, and give your loyalty? If not, then Jesus may as well be decomposing in the tomb. If Jesus is alive…
Well… To be continued…