SpiritStirrer

sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

What Next? – Gospels in 90

“The women went out quickly; and when they were outside the tomb, they ran away trembling and astonished. Along their way, they didn’t stop to say anything to anyone because they were too afraid.”

Mark 16:8 (The Voice NT)

The Gospel according to Mark has three endings: verses, 8, 20, 21 (or later part of 20 depending on translation). All of these possibilities are vying for attention, each of them making a significant difference in the way the story is heard.

I join the group of biblical scholars that believe that verse 8 is the “original” ending to this amazing gospel. It makes sense that this gospel would end as it opened up, fast, to the point, open-ended. It almost seems like the writer wants us to place ourselves in the narrative and come to our own conclusions based upon our own experience with the risen Christ.

As we continue to think about our life together and our way forward we might feel the same kind of whiplash that this gospel closes with . . . we might have many questions, it all might seem “fuzzy,” and we might still be wondering what is coming next.

The most repeated phrase asked of me is: “Tell us what’s next? What is the plan? What are the next steps?”

I can honestly say that I do not know. I stand with you, like the women who came to see Jesus, experiencing the risen Lord. We are wondering together what all of this might mean to us and to our community of believers. There are no clear answers, but there is the reality of what the risen Lord has done, is doing, and will do through us. There is also an awareness that at times the way of discipleship is scary, uncertain, and difficult.

Early Christian communities encountered the abrupt ending and added their own take on what happened next. These were amazing tales of the invincible nature of true discipleship. Today we stand at verse 8 and I want us to ask ourselves, who are we going to be as followers of Jesus in light of our encounter with an empty tomb? What will our discipleship look like? What does that discipleship mean for our life as a congregation?

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3 Comments

  1. Juan and friends,
    The footnotes in most Bible translations do not do justice to the early, broad, and abundance support given to Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture in the early church. I encourage you to not to be taken in by modern-day interpreters who have attempted to squint an intentional ending into existence at 16:8. It does not make sense that Mark would strongly foreshadow (in 14:28 and 16:6-7) a meeting in Galilee and then not record it; nor does it make sense that Mark would deliberately state that the women were silent, knowing all the while that they actually proceeded to report to the disciples (as Matthew states). Consider the testimony of church writers from the 100’s; consider the support from over 99% of the Greek copies of Mark, and from the Vulgate and the Peshitta and more.

    Yours in Christ,
    James Snapp, Jr.

    • James, I appreciate your concern over the way we interpret Mark 9:9-20. I do not think that there is any attempt to “squint” an intentional ending at 16:8 but instead it makes the most sense to me, not just due to its support in the oldest manuscripts but also because it “fits” the theme, syntax, and flow, of the rest of the gospel. I think the ending on 16:8 makes for a powerful proclamation to its first audience and to us today.

      I am thankful for continued biblical scholarship and for these conversations among people who disagree. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Peace, Juan+

  2. Juan,

    (You meant “16:9-20,” just as I meant “abundant.”)

    I hope you’re aware that Mark 16:9-20 has a lot more going for it than just the support of 99% of the manuscripts of Mark. Justin Martyr alluded to Mark 16:20 c. 160, Mark 16:19 was cited by Irenaeus around 184, and Tatian included the entire passage in his Diatessaron around 172; that’s evidence of what their manuscripts of Mark contained, over a century before the two copies in which Mark 16 ends at verse 8 were produced. Don’t be taken in by commentators’ vague and imprecise evidence-descriptions; if you read anything that says something to the effect of “Clement of Alexandria and Origen show know knowledge of the existence of these verses,” you’re being fed false impressions.

    Bruce Metzger, Robert Stein, N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington III, James Edwards, R. T. France, and Clayton Croy have all concluded that Mark 16:8’s ending is not the intended ending of Mark’s Gospel. That’s not decisive, of course, but I hope you read their analyses carefully, and also consider, regarding the commentators who have proposed the relatively novel theory that Mark 16:8 is an intentional ending, how they disagree with one another about what Mark’s motive was. It looks to me like if they had a text of Mark that suddenly ended at the end of 15:39 or 15:57 or 16:5 or 16:7, they could make the same sort of case that Mark meant to stop /there/.

    If you would like to contact me at james (dot) snapp (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll be glad to send some free resources about this particular subject.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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