The Gospel of Mark: A Lutheran Gospel (Part 7 of 8)

Paul’s Cross Theology, the funneling nature of the dramatic narrative towards Jerusalem/Crucifixion, the conflict of Mark escalating toward the cross and the climatic confession of the Roman Centurion at the crucifixion all point to the centrality of the cross.  However, how does the ending of Mark impact the centrality of the cross? Do the recorded events after the cross shift the reader’s eyes towards the resurrection? One could argue that the dramatic narrative, conflict and the term Son of God all exalt the cross, “but” once the cross is recognized, the next move would be to catapult from the crucifixion to the resurrection.  Is this the case?
           Before we can answer the previous questions, we need to examine the textual variances of Mark 16:9-20, the longer ending of Mark.  While there are several different options to understanding the ending of Mark,[1] I am taking the stance in this paper that Mark’s Gospel ends on purpose at verse 8.  The evidence for not including verses 9-20 can be supported from Bruce Metzger’s book titled, “The Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.”  He states,   
“The last 12 verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts[2], from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913).  Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark know to them.  The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16:8.  Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and I other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document.”[3]
            One of the complaints of ending the Gospel of Mark on verse 8 has always been that no ancient writer would have had the sophistication to intentionally do this.  However, we see that this is not true from the following statement. 
“Homer’s Illiad and Virgil’s Aeneid have ‘suspended endings’ as well, not to mention also probably John, Matthew’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.  Various Greek plays also employ this literary device.  What is more, the ending of the Aeneid has also been interpreted as not only open-ended, but as an ending that is actually harsh and disturbing.  So Mark would not have been alone.”[4]
Further class notes from David’s Lewis in regards to Mark’s suspended ending state,
“Sometimes such an ending may come so suddenly and unexpectedly as to appear a very surprising, shocking, or even harsh way to end the story—what some people might then think of as a ‘bad ending.’  But such an ending is not necessarily bad as it is rhetorical: It is purposefully meant to make the audience think and ponder over why the ending comes like this.  In fact, such endings are often considered to be very good.”[5]
            My point in quoting the previous material and showing evidence to disregard the longer ending of Mark is that I believe Mark intentionally ends his dramatic narrative right at verse 8.  By doing so, Mark doesn’t allow the flow of the Gospel to dramatically shift away from the cross.  Obviously with the art of “story” one builds the story up to the climax and then gently comes away from the climax so as to leave the audience with the main theme.  However, if the story progresses too far away from the climax a new story may emerge and ultimately dismiss the main high point of the story.  Thus, with the Gospel of Mark, it is not unreasonable to conclude that verse 8 is the end of his Gospel due to the fact that Mark is not highlighting the resurrection as the climax but rather the cross.

[1] Four options in viewing Mark’s ending:
1) Intentionally stop’s at verse 8 
2) Ending after verse 8 has been lost
3) Shorter ending of Mark preferred
4) Longer ending of Mark preferred
[2] In other words, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus stop at Mark 16:8
[3] Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament (United Bible Society, 1975), 122-123.
[4] David Lewis, DM-933 Class Notes: The Gospel Of Mark For Preaching And Teaching (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis), January of 2012
[5] Ibid.


James Snapp Jr said…
Hi Matt.

Metzger's textual commentary contains several errors and misrepresentations of the evidence pertaining to Mark 16:9-20. It is not a trustworthy resource regarding this passage. Please, I advise you not to draw any conclusions about Mark 16:9-20 until you have tested Metzger's claims, and considered alternative approaches.

If you e-mail me at james (dot) snapp (at) I will be glad to share some research about Mark 16:9-20.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.
James Snapp Jr said…
Update (a year and a month later):

A critique of Metzger's comments/analysis/propaganda is online at .

Mark's intention was to preserve, in writing, Peter's recollections about Jesus, including the recollections of His post-resurrection appearance to the disciples.

The Iliad is not a valid parallel-example of an open ending.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.