The Obvious Theological Biases driving Gospel of Mark!

Exposing the concerted motives behind the two endings of the gospel 

Question Mark


The Gospel of Mark is purportedly the oldest gospel now present in the New Testament. On one hand where it enjoys the antiquity, on other hand, it intrigues Bible students too! In this paper we are concerned with one such perplexing issue related with the gospel and a fundamental Christian doctrine.

Gospel of Mark, unlike any other gospel, has two endings to it – as weird as it sounds – in one version it ends at Chapter 16, Verse 8, however, in another version it continues thereafter to end at verse 20. Various Bibles now in print often provide both the endings with sufficient notifications on the issue. For instance, The Good News Edition marginalizes/brackets verses 9 through 20 which we would be referring to as extraneous-verses throughout this paper.

Christians generally explain the matter as manuscript differences. However, is the issue so straight forward? When we tried to look into the matter a little closely, it turned out to be that it was not merely an issue of manuscripts! There were ponderous, controversial doctrinal issues hovering around the two narratives. Thus, in this paper we would address the objectives behind otherwise innocent looking two endings of Mark’s gospel(s) (1.).


The two endings


In this section we would briefly paraphrase the two endings which we have in gospel of Mark today.


Longer/Extraneous ending (Mark 16:9-20)

In this version, Jesus (peace be upon him) appears to his disciples after his alleged resurrection from death and commands them various things:


After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying; and when they heard her say that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe her. After this, Jesus appeared in a different manner to two of them while they were on their way to the country. They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. (Mark 16: 9-13)


For various passionate Christians this ending of the gospel is very sensational since in this account, upon (alleged) resurrection, Jesus (peace be upon him) appears and informs his disciples that they would be able to achieve extraordinary feats:


“Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive.

Believers will be given the power to perform miracles: they will drive out demons in my name; they will speak in strange tongues; if they pick up snakes or drink any poison, they will not be harmed; they will place their hands on sick people, and these will get well.” (Mark 16: 14, 17-18)


[Friendly Appeal: We strongly request our “believing” friends at ‘answering-islam’ not to try handling vipers or drink the venom of rattlers.]


After addressing the disciples thereafter, Jesus (peace be upon him) is portrayed to have been lifted to the heaven:


After the Lord Jesus had talked with them, he was taken up to heaven and sat at the right side of God. The disciples went and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and proved that their preaching was true by the miracles that were performed. (Mark 16: 19-20)

Here the longer version ends. So this longer version, in general terms, is more or less similar to the other gospel accounts except the sensational blessings for the believers. So far so good!


Shorter ending (Mark 16:1-8)

In the shorter version of the gospel however, Jesus’ (peace be upon him) female disciples, who also served him as his masseuse on occasions, from Galilee and Bethany hurries to the tomb on early Sunday morning to massage Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged corpse once again.


However, upon visiting the tomb, abnormally, they find a man already present inside it; although the tomb was sealed by a massive stone!


This mysterious man informs them that Jesus (peace be upon him) is no more in the tomb since he has been raised. He also commanded them to inform to other apostles especially Peter that, as planned, Jesus (peace be upon him) has been raised from the tomb:


Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. (SEE 16:3) So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe—and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ “(Mark 16: 2-7)


However, the biblical “disciples” of Jesus (peace be upon him) acted contradictorily to run away from the tomb; moreover, they did not inform to any other apostle that Jesus (peace be upon him) has been raised!


So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)

Just at this point, the shorter version of Mark’s gospel ends!

At this junction of the paper, we could feel that something fishy was transpiring in the pages of the so-called “Injeel”. Before we dig further into the issue, it is relatively important to know about the authenticity of the two narratives.

Authenticity of the two endings


According to biblical scholarship, the first or shorter narration of the gospel is foundonly in oldest and best Markan manuscripts:



…the last twelve verses of Mark, in which Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection, telling them to preach the gospel to all the nations and indicating that those who believe in him will speak in strange tongues, handle snakes, and drink poison without feeling its effects. But this amazing and startling ending is not found in the oldest and best manuscripts of Mark.Instead, these manuscripts end at Mark 16:8, where the women at Jesus’ tomb are told that he has been raised, are instructed to inform Peter, but then flee the tomb and say nothing to anyone, “for they were afraid.” And that is the end of the story. (Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, p. 78)


We will talk about the authenticity of the longer, extraneous-version soon but at this instant let us assume that the so-called Holy “Ghost” did inspire the writer (whoever s/he was) with the extraneous-verses. With that said, let us do some inquiry into the two differing endings.


Notice that the “best” and the “oldest” manuscript did not had the extra-verses (9 through 20). On the foregoing, we propose the following queries:


1)      Why the extra “verses” were not present in the “oldest” and “best” manuscript?

2)      Does the presence of extraneous-verses in later manuscripts imply that they were “inspired” to younger writer(s)?

3)      Subsequently, we ask: why were the extraneous-verses not inspired to earlier author(s)?


The truth of the matter is that the appended extraneous-verses are inauthentic and forged in the name of Mark. Biblical authority is almost unanimous about it. The introduction to gospel of Mark has the following to say:


The two endings of the Gospel, which are enclosed in brackets, are generally regarded as written by someone other than the author of Mark. (The Gospel according to Mark, Introduction, Good News Edition, p. 44)


Consequently, if the extraneous-verses were inauthentic then why were they forged in the first place? Why were they inserted into “God’s words”? Like any other forging, these counterfeit “verses” served basically two fundamental Paulineobjectives:

 Objective 1: To confirm that Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed resurrected.

Objective 2: To further corroborate that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised.

The two objectives look very similar on the face of it, however, the there are subtle but very important difference between them; we would explore them in the passages to follow to finally see how important it was for the Pauline Christianity to achieve these objectives and how menacing it could have been for Pauline Christianity if the extraneous-verses were absent.

Objective 1: To confirm that Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed resurrected


Remember that in the shorter version of Mark it was the mysterious man in the tomb apprising the ladies that Jesus (peace be upon him) has risen. In other words the ladies were not firsthand, eye witnesses of the resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him).


The unknown identity of the informing man in the tomb; lack of firsthand eyewitness account for resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) – these were enough ground to reduce the veracity of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection which in turn had negative repercussions on his (alleged) death and would have in turn undermined the (alleged) crucifixion as well!


Therefore, to fill the obvious gaps, Bible redactors conveniently added the extraneous-verses and attributed them to God. So now we have the longer version in which Jesus (peace be upon him) is being witnessed by several of his disciples after his resurrection – problem was immediately solved!


However, the redactors supposedly working under the influence of Holy “Ghost” did an utterly gauche job when they out of need appended extraneous-verses. Initial Mark – the shorter version – ended with ladies not witnessing resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) in the tomb. In fact the preternatural men inside the tomb exhorted them that resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) would be witnessed on-road to Galilee:



So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe—and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.‘ “(Mark 16: 5-7)


However, contradictorily, (appended) verse 9 stated that the ladies did witness Jesus (peace be upon him) on Sunday – his resurrection day:


After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. (Mark 16:9)


The presumably “resurrected” Jesus (peace be upon him) did not meet Mary Magdalene on Galilee highway but at very close proximity of the tomb, in fact, at the entrance of the tomb itself.


Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her. She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher.”) (John 20:11-16)


On the foregoing, it can be conclusively asserted that the appended “verse(s)” do not fit snugly to the flow of the chapter (Mark 16) and therefore it incurs sufficient proofs on its human production. No surprise, gospel manuscript authority D.C. Parker notes as follows:


It has been pointed out that verse 9 sits very uneasily with verses 1-8. There is no resumption of the theme of fear and silence in verse 8, and Mary Magdalene is introduced afresh in verse 9, as though she were not already on stage.” (D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997), p.138)]


The very fact that verse 9 sits “very uneasily”with verses 1-8 alludes that it has been extrapolated. This extrapolation also paved path for the gospels to be written in future; as such none of the younger gospels committed the mistake of not providing eyewitnesses accounts of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection! (Don’t we learn from our past mistakes?)

But one important query still lingers that why were the Bible redactors and compilers (corrupters?) so keen on adding the extraneous-verses of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) post resurrection personal interaction with his disciples? Why was it not enough when verses 1 through 8 informed that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised?  The answer of this query takes us to the next analysis of next objective.


Objective 2: To further corroborate that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised

As already mentioned, verses 1 through 8 did inform under God’s “inspiration” that Jesus (peace be upon him) had been (allegedly) resurrected yet there was need forfurther corroboration to resurrection phenomenon. This was so because thebelieving disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) were in no mood to believe the resurrection news of Jesus (peace be upon him) from their own colleagues,vicariously:


He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’ “Then the women remembered his words, returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.But the apostles thought that what the women said was NONSENSE, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:6-12)


They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. (Luke 16:13)


The disbelief of the disciples led Jesus (peace be upon him) to scold them:


Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. He said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.  (Mark 16: 14-15)


And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him.” Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said!Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets. (Luke 24:21-27)

“Apostle” Thomas, the “My-Lord-My-God” fellow, put an even stringent condition to believe in the resurrection. He would not have believed unless he would put his fingers through Jesus’ (peace be upon him) wounds!


One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 24-25)


We need to wait here for a moment to think why were the “loyal” disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) had so much difficulty in accepting his resurrection (?).


Notice that there is one similarity in Luke’s account of disbelieving disciples and in John’s account of disbelieving Thomas. In both the narratives the audience was bereaved of firsthand experience. In Lukan narrative it was the ladies who gavesecondhand information about resurrection to the other disciples and in John’s account, it was the other disciples giving vicarious information to Thomas!

On the foregoing, it can be deduced that disciples tangibly wanted to see and experience Jesus (peace be upon him) to believe in his resurrection. D.C. Parker asserts the same:


“…that the disciples did not believe (neither source has such a reference), and that when Jesus does appear, he rebukes ‘their unbelief and hardness of heart’. It is only when they see and speak with Jesus that they believe.(D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997),p.140)


However, this exact condition of firsthand experience was missing in Mark’s shorter version! None of the disciples, including the ladies at the site (tomb), had firsthand experience; which in turn implies that they hitherto had no belief in resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him)!


In order words, had Mark’s gospel ended at verse 8 it would have established beyond doubts that none of the disciples ever believed in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him); which in turn would have casted sufficient doubt on the death of Jesus (peace be upon him); which in turn would have rendered crucifixion and Christianity to be dubious!


Nevertheless, since Paul’s epistles, which predated Mark’s gospel, had already set “orthodox doctrine” that without resurrection there was Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:14), this left the “custodians” of the so-called “Injeel” to append Mark’s “incomplete” and doctrinally menacing shorter account with verses tailor made to fit in succinctly with Paul’s theology. Now, as expected, disciples were portrayed to have had firsthand experience of the “risen” Jesus (peace be upon him)!

All this fast and loose was done to render credit to the alleged crucifixion (and resurrection) which, otherwise, even first of all gospels and Christians doubts!

In fact Parker takes a step forward to expose the truth that the additions were made in the gospel to tailor it according to particular (Pauline) agenda:

“This aside, the full contents of verses 9—20 provide a programme which, when interpreted in a certain way, is extremely congenial to a particular kind of conservative Christianity. Conversely, those who argue that these verses are spurious might be charged by their opponents with a hidden ‘liberalising’ motive.


The Long Ending is best read as a cento or pastiche of material gathered from the other Gospels and from other sources, slanted towards a particular interpretation. This may be demonstrated by going through it verse by verse. Verses 15-16: In Matthew 28.19 the disciples are commanded ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ The same pair of verbs, ‘preach’/’baptise5, is found here. The main idea here (beliefs-baptism—salvation) may be seen as a development of what is found in the New Testament (see Acts 16.31 and 33; 1 Peter 3·2ΐ)”. (D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997),pp.103-131, p.140)


Not merely did Parker assert that the extraneous-verses have strong doctrinal biases but he even recognizes the sources which fathered theses “verses”. He points out that other gospels and epistles laid the framework for the extraneous-verses. This in itself raises several questions on the textual integrity of the New Testament.


The later/younger gospels had narratives for firsthand experience of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection quite in line with Pauline theology. Thus it was not too difficult to mould the odd one out – gospel of Mark – so that its “Long ending is best read as a cento or pastiche of material gathered from other Gospels and from other sources, slanted towards a particular interpretation”.


In the wake of the above sleight maneuverings, well known author Kenneth Cragg claims the following:

“There is condensation and editing, there is choice production and witness.The Gospels have come through the mind of the church behind the authors. They represent experience and history.” (Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, p. 277)

Respectful resource Encyclopedia Brittanica has a similar note to chime:

“Yet, as a matter of FACTEVERY BOOK of the New Testament, with the exception of the four great Epistles o St. Paul is at present more or less the subject of controversy and interpolations (inserted verses) are asserted even in these.” (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 12th Edition, Vol. 3, p.643)


Also remember that Paul’s various epistles primarily stressing on the (alleged) resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) and consequent salvation thereby were already available and in circulation among various Christian churches all around the area yet Mark did not include confirmed firsthand resurrection phenomenon in his “gospel”. This concerns whether Mark believed in the resurrection of Christ (peace be upon him); whether resurrection incident was a mass phenomenon; whether resurrection was indispensible part of Christianity, if so, Mark would have never missed to mention it especially given the unbelieving attitude of the “believers” and direct guidance from “divine” Holy “Ghost”. On this note, Bible Professor Dr. A. Meyer (2.) makes a rather justified assertion:


“If by ‘Christianity’  we understand faith in Jesus Christ as the heavenly son of God, who did not belong to Earthly humanity, but who lived in the divine likeness and glory, who came down  from heaven to earth, who entered humanity and took upon himself a human form through a virgin, that he might make propitiation for men’s sins by his own blood on the cross, who was them awakened  from death and raised to God as the Lord of his own people, who believe in him, who hears their prayers, guards and leads them, who shall come again to judge the world, who will cast down all the foes of God, and will bring his people with him unto the house of heavenly light so that they may become like his glorified body – if this is Christianity, the[n] such a Christianity was founded by Paul and not by Jesus.” (Meyer, Jesus or Paul, p. 122)


Finally, and very importantly, as if stating distinctly on the subject in hand – the (alleged) resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) – the group of scholars at the “Jesus Seminar” claim that death, resurrection and vicarious atonement are mythical roles attributed falsely to historical Jesus (peace be upon him):


“Biblical scholars and theologians alike have learned to distinguish the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. It has been a painful lesson for both the church and scholarship. The distinction between the two figures is the difference between a historical person who lived in a particular time and place and a figure who has been assigned a mythical role, in which he descends from heaven to rescue mankind and, of course, eventually return there.” (Jesus Seminar, Robert W. Funk and Roy W. Hoover (translators and eds.), The Five Gospels (1993), pp.533-537)



According to the methodology of the best and earliest Christians – the “apostles” themselves –  they were not supposed to believe in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) unless they themselves had a firsthand witness of it.


Now, as per best and earliest version of the oldest of all gospels – the gospel of Mark – not a single disciple ever had firsthand witness of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) purported resurrection phenomenon. This expressly implied that none of the earliest Christians ever believed in the (alleged) resurrection.


However, such a Jesus (peace be upon him) tradition emanating from oldest gospel itself contradicted Pauline theology which predated it and dominated Christianity. Therefore, a concerted effort was required to add an appendix to “God’s inspiration” itself. (Of course, this fast and loose had its own gauche limitations.) And this is exactly we wanted to prove that although gospel of Mark is not specifically an “inspiration” identified by Qur’an yet even it was not spared of tampering. Menmodified it to suit their sectarian belief (3.).


Indeed God spoke the truth in this regard:


Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:”This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.(Qur’an 2:79, Yusuf Ali’s Quran Translation)


If such is the state of affairs with the gospel(s) then, as a non – Christian, we feel it is extremely dangerous to venture our souls and eternal salvation in the so-called “Injeel” purported by missionaries.   


  • All biblical text taken from Good News Edition.


 (1.) Mark has not just authored the “canonical” gospel. There have been other gospels around like the “Secret Gospel of Mark” which is also authoritatively attributed to him by scholars.

 (2.) He is Professor of Theology at Zurich University

(3.) What we now know as “orthodox” Christianity was not the only form of Christianity in the incipient days of the churches. Many Christian groups did not endorse Paul or his coined doctrines. Whereas some rejected him as a corruptor of religion of Jewish patriarchs while others hardly believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) let alone the salvation, if any, it entailed.


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  • “…the context of a vibrant oral tradition that was both the author’s
    and the readers’ primary mode of contact with stories about Jesus.
    There can be no doubt that, even if the written Gospel of Mark ended
    at 16:8, the story known to the author and his readers did not.”
    Assumes facts not in evidence.
    February 16, 2011 3:42 PM
    James F. McGrath said…
    We know that traditions about Jesus having appeared existed prior to
    the writing of Mark, and the Gospel of Makr itself predicts that Jesus
    will be seen. So perhaps you can explain why you think there is good
    reason to doubt what I wrote to be the case?
    February 16, 2011 4:00 PM
    C.J. O’Brien said…
    Okay. Elsewhere in the essay you say:
    “given the primarily oral cultural context of early Christianity, it
    is appropriate to reflect on the significance of the fact that Mark
    was presumably telling a story which his readers already knew”
    And that is a presumption that you’re calling a fact. It’s a fact not
    in evidence. I’m not saying that I know it’s not true, I’m saying that
    you don’t know if it’s true or not either.
    As for my reasons for suspecting that what you wrote should not
    presumptively be considered the case without justification, sure.
    There are several.
    By “primarily oral cultural context,” I take you to mean simply that
    most 1st Century Greco-Roman persons were illiterate. True as that is,
    it doesn’t give us warrant to invent oral sources underlying a
    specific literary production. JD Crossan in one or the other of his
    “big books” (HJ and Birth, I can’t recall which one offhand) has an
    extensive discussion in which he treats the issue of orality and
    literacy from the perspective of comparative anthropology, and comes
    to the conclusion that the gospel tradition is a literary tradition.
    Embedded as they may be in oral cultures at large, literary traditions
    can still be a thing apart. In some cases, oral traditions may “grow
    up” into literary ones, but purely literary traditions can also
    develop in parallel with oral ones without common origins. The need to
    posit traditions that might plausibly date to the putative time of
    Jesus is not sufficient warrant to say that they existed.
    Another set of reasons relates to the internal evidence of Mark itself
    and the uses of that material by later authors. First of all, I note a
    great need on the part of many scholars of Mark to posit “pre-Markan
    traditions” be they oral or literary. Raymond Brown helpfully includes
    in an appendix to Death of the Messiah a table of some thirty
    different commentators’ suggestions of the sources underlying the
    Markan PN. No single passage is unanimously considered even to reflect
    Mark’s use of a source, and the various scholars’ characterization of
    the nature of the (presumed) sources vary dramatically. This indicates
    to me the possibility of an Emperor’s New Clothes scenario, where the
    experts, unconstrained by any facts, are nevertheless free to fill the
    void with ancient literary or oral lines of transmission born entirely
    of their imaginations. Everyone agrees: the emperor wears clothes
    (Mark used sources), but nobody can agree on the color of his tie (or
    is it a cravat?).
    [to be continued]
    February 16, 2011 6:42 PM
    C.J. O’Brien said…
    In addition, if you read Mark as as a unitary and original composition
    that is primarily a symbolic narrative and not an effort at writing
    history or biography, it is certainly possible to put forward a non-
    problematic role for the enigmatic ending. I’m going on over long so
    I’ll hold that point for follow-up discussion should any ensue.
    Finally, another reason for doubting the existence of “a vibrant oral
    tradition” underlying Mark is how constrained the authors of Matthew
    and Luke were in utilizing the material. If these oral traditions were
    so “vibrant,” why does it appear as if they were silenced by the
    spread of Mark? Oral transmission is distinguished from literary
    transmission particularly by the degree of freedom the oral performer
    has to choose and very the exact wording of a passage while still
    conveying the outline of the narrative faithfully. If this sort of
    performance underlaid Mark’s literary rendition, then why do we see
    Luke and Matthew reproducing Markan wording and order even where they
    are clearly at pains to alter the narrative away from themes in Mark
    that the authors weren’t interested in, that is, why didn’t those
    authors also avail themselves of the vibrance rather than make the
    very typically literary alterations we can see them making at many
    points in their naraatives. What happened to these oral traditions
    between the composition of Mark and the composition of Matthew and
    Luke, and why are not the authors of those texts adapting from it on
    matters that Mark treats rather than from passages in Mark that they
    clearly find unacceptable as given in their written source?
    February 16, 2011 6:43 PM
    James F. McGrath said…
    By “Okay” are you conceding my point? Or did you decide to ignore it?
    In your last question: who ever told you that they aren’t doing that
    in places?
    February 16, 2011 6:49 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    James, What do you think happened to the tradition in 1 Cor about
    Jesus’ “appearances?” The Gospel authors don’t seem to have employed
    that list of appearances in the fashion in which it was originally
    promulgated. Did the traditions or stories get mixed up by the time
    the Gospels were composed? Did the traditions fall out of favor?
    In 1 Cor. Jesus appears to one (Cephas/Peter in one case and James in
    another) and THEN appears to “the Twelve” (and there’s an appearance
    to “over 500 brethren” struck right in between those parallel tales–
    is it possible that the stories of a lone appearance to Cephas and
    then the rest, and to James and then the rest, are merely mythical
    doublets of one another?) The story in John involving Thomas seems a
    complete reversal of that sort of early tale, Jesus appearing to all
    BUT one person, and then a special visit once again so as to include
    that person. A neat reversal of the tales in 1 Cor.
    So how flexible were “appearance” stories? They also seem to multiply
    by the time Luke and John were composed if you read their post-
    resurrection tales. And over time they multiplied around Jerusalem and
    her environs as well rather than having the raised Jesus “going before
    them to Galilee” and being seen there as in the earlier Gospels of
    Mark and Matthew.
    Neither does Paul mention an empty tomb, nor Jesus appearing to women,
    let alone the raising of many raised saints, nor the raising of
    How gullible were believers to imagine all such stories were inspired
    by God?
    Why do you think that none of the lists of people to whom Jesus
    allegedly “appeared” in 1 Cor include even a hint of where, when, or
    how Jesus “appeared,” nor any words spoken by the raised Jesus?
    Neither do any of the “over 500 brethren” appear to have left behind a
    record of what they saw, or where, or when this happened. Acts doesn’t
    even mention Peter preaching to more than 120 brethren in Jerusalem,
    and that was after Jesus’ allegedly non-ghostly body had risen into
    the sky never to be come like that again till the day of final
    judgment. So exactly what the “over 500 brethren” saw is anyone’s
    guess. Perhaps just a bright light they all “thought” was Jesus?
    That’s the story in some versions of Paul’s conversion and he says
    Jesus “appeared” to him too. Even today there’s stories of “bight
    lights” being assumed to be various religious figures.
    February 16, 2011 7:04 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    And why does the resurrected Jesus in 1 Cor. and in the Gospels, ONLY
    appear to “brethren?” Really? Only to brethren? Yup. And Matthew adds
    “but some doubted.” Whatever the nature of the “and some doubted”
    verse, it’s kind of funny that the God of the inspired Bible left it
    in there at the end of the foremost copied Gospel in the early Church.
    Of course Mark was at least as early as Matthew, and didn’t even leave
    room for doubt, or a post-resurrection message, just women fleeing in
    fear from a tomb, telling no one anything. These are the stories meant
    to lead the world to faith. Maybe a superstitious world. Not mine.
    Luke amazingly has the resurrected Jesus eat fish, prove he’s not a
    spirit and then he “led” the apostles out of Jerusalem to Bethany. I
    guess it was a relatively quiet little walk out of Jerusalem to
    Bethany (I don’t imagine Jesus was floating like a ghost ahead of
    them) because after they got to Bethany no crowds are mentioned, only
    “they” saw him leave from a mount, not crowds of cheering people
    including non-brethren. Just the apostles. Again, this is the story
    that convinced the world? A superstitious world I’d say.
    And what do you think of the author of John’s teaching that everyone
    ought to have as much faith as Thomas but without actually having the
    opportunity to see Jesus as Thomas did? Actually he put it, “it is
    more blessed” if you believe without seeing. But what follows from
    that? Will people be just a little less blessed if they don’t believe
    at all, or will they be damned as John 3 states, “He who does not
    believe is damned already.” So, we’re left with, “believe without
    seeing, or, be damned.” Those are our choices according to John’s
    inspired document. Thank you Lord for all those loving options. What
    more proof does anyone need before converting to Christianity? Not
    much. Apparently even Chick Tracts have converted millions in our day
    and age. So I imagine the Gospels could easily have been huger than
    such tracts, at least in their day and age.
    February 16, 2011 7:05 PM
    C.J. O’Brien said…
    Nobody told me. I can read, I can see that they’re not doing it
    because of how they preserve the wording of Mark even where they
    deviate significantly in intent, both narrative and ideological. A
    “vibrant oral tradition” was apparently not available to them
    specifically in passages where it was to Mark, ex hypothesi, or they
    have curiously chosen to eschew its use precisely where another strand
    of this putative tradition would have been most useful.
    Anyway, forget it. Clearly I’m just wasting your time, if you brush
    off a thousand words as “ignoring” your feeble point.
    February 16, 2011 7:19 PM
    James F. McGrath said…
    I didn’t brush off your comments. I pointed out that I asked you to
    explain your objection to my statement that Mark’s readers and author
    knew a story that went beyond the point where our earliest manuscripts
    end. Christianity already existed. Stories about Jesus appearing to
    people were already in circulation. Mark leads his readers to expect
    them. You didn’t seem to me to address these points.
    If you look carefully at a Greek Synopsis of the Gospels you will find
    both that there is enough verbatim agreement in places to put literary
    dependence beyond ruinable doubt, but enough disagreement in wording
    in places to indicate that the author is not simply copying from a
    source and changing a word here or there.
    February 16, 2011 7:26 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    James, In your piece on the Ending of Mark you wrote. . .
    “. . . plausible is the suggestion that John 21 alone reflects
    knowledge of the continuation of the story in Mark’s Gospel.”
    Actually I don’t see the Markan connection to John 21 so much as a
    Lukan one. John 21 has many verbal parallels with both the Galilean
    fishing tale involving Jesus at the beginning of Luke and also with
    the post-resurrection story at the end of Luke. Reuben J. Swanson
    noted the many verbal parallels in his book, The Horizontal Line
    Synopsis of the Gospels. It’s worth checking out. Quite an interesting
    work it is also, and one I’m sure you’ve run into, though you might
    know his Greek Horizontal Line Synopsis not the English version.
    February 16, 2011 7:29 PM
    James F. McGrath said…
    Ed, my best guess is that the earliest tradition reflected a religious
    experience by Peter which he then shared with others, at least some of
    whom may have had experiences of their own. This presumably happened
    after they fled to Galilee. The varied settings of appearances in
    Gospels may reflect the fact that our earliest example of such a
    tradition included no specific geographical setting – but perhaps
    precisely because there was no authoritative tradition concerning
    that, Gospel authors felt free to try to have Jesus appear to people
    as early as possible, to as many people as possible, and in other ways
    make the testimony seem more solid.
    Despite what apologists will often say, the evidence is rather
    confused, even about as basic matters as whether the person the
    apostles saw looked like Jesus or not! And while we may have good
    reason to accept that religious experiences did in fact contribute to
    the origin of Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection, the nature of
    those experiences is something that we can do little more an speculate
    February 16, 2011 7:33 PM
    James F. McGrath said…
    We were typing at the me time, apparently. The Lukan story may be a
    displaced tradition, which Luke had no other place for, since he not
    only doesn’t have the disciples go to Galilee to see Jesus there, but
    actually forbids them from doing so!
    February 16, 2011 7:37 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    Also in your article on the Ending of Mark you wrote:
    “Another possible factor [why Mark’s original ending] might [have gone
    missing might] be the desire to have Jesus be seen ‘on the third day,’
    and not some time later in Galilee.”
    I’d like to add that both Paul and Mark agree that Jesus would “rise”
    after the third day, but neither of them say a word about Jesus being
    “seen” on the third day. It looks like stories about Jesus rising on
    the third day came earliest of all, presumably something the early
    followers of Jesus “found” in the “the Scriptures,” not that such
    passages actually say anything about a resurrection. But the passages
    became popular. And only later was the “rising” on the third day
    combined with the idea of Jesus also being “seen” on the third day.
    To sum up, Paul and Mark only say Jesus would “rise” on the third day.
    Then in Matthew we have a brief appearance of Jesus to some women on
    the third day. So he is not only rising on the third day but also for
    the first time in either Paul or the Gospels also being “seen” on the
    third day.
    The stories of Jesus both rising and being seen on the third day are
    increased substantially in Luke and John which don’t have the apostles
    wander far, but remain in Jerusalem after his resurrection, where he
    is also seen on the third day.
    Thus the legend may have grown in such a fashion as outlined above.
    February 16, 2011 7:57 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    James, Are you saying that The Lukan post-resurrection story of the
    walk with the raised Jesus from Jerusalem to Bethany may be a
    displaced tradition? Can you explain your idea a bit more than just
    saying “displaced tradition?”
    Also, I wonder if there’s a better word that could be used, a word
    other than “tradition” for such tales? “Tradition” sounds too
    traditional, almost like something eons old, and solidly believed.
    Like “traditional” religious denominations. If any of these storied
    were holy “traditions” then there probably wouldn’t be four Gospels
    each written in different ways, and with some the greatest differences
    between all four Gospels visible in their post-resurrection stories
    about Jesus.
    February 16, 2011 8:06 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    James, you wrote in an endnote of your article:
    “The scribe who copied Codex Vaticanus left a lengthy space at the end
    of Mark, one presumes so that the missing ending could be inserted if
    it were to be found.”
    A “lengthy” space? Look at the space for yourself. Click on the link
    below to view the exact page of Codex Vaticanus. You couldn’t fit much
    of an ending in there, let alone a “lengthy” one:
    February 16, 2011 8:15 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    You can also check out the endings of all the Gospels and see how much
    room is still left on the page over at the Codex Sinaiticus project:
    I just did. There’s nothing remarkable about the amount of blank
    column space left after Mark 16:8 in Codex Sinaiticus, not compared
    with the space left after the ending verses of Matthew, Luke and John.
    And Codex Sinaiticus is even older than Codex Vaticanus.
    So I’d say the “lengthy space” argument has seen its day. Literally. I
    just looked at the endings and compared them myself. Amazing what a
    digital age we live in.
    February 16, 2011 8:27 PM
    Edward T. Babinski said…
    I think the point about Mark’s Ending is that if he knew much more by
    didn’t write it down, why not? You gave some reasons above, but it
    seems like those reasons you hypothesized are the very ones that led
    to different post-resurrection stories arising that centered round
    Jerusalem such as those in the later Gospels of Luke and John.
    None of your reasons make the “traditions” of Luke and John sound like
    there’s much to them, but rather like they are stories/legends/urban
    myths that arose later than Paul and Mark.
    I would add that the ending of Mark isn’t the only brief ending, since
    the other Gospel that most resembles Mark is Matthew and his ending is
    quite short compared with the endings of Luke and John. In fact
    Matthew only has the raised Jesus say about 70 words, and those words
    just echo the church’s mission, to reach the Gentiles. It’s like the
    raised Jesus in Matthew is just spewing a small snippet of Church
    doctrine. Hermeneutical ventriloquism.
    Amazingly, no one can seem to remember, nor remember to record, nor
    God preserve for us the speeches of the resurrected Jesus. Not Paul
    nor Mark. Matthew, just a few sentences of Church doctrine put into
    Jesus’ mouth. Luke and John claim Jesus said and did many more things,
    delivering a lecture on “the Christ in all the Scriptures” on the road
    to Emmaus, and eating and talking with the disciples. Acts adds that
    Jesus was eating and talking with them for several weeks. John says
    all the stories about what Jesus did could fill the world. Hyperbole,
    yes, but many additional stories about Jesus did arise after the
    Gospel of John, including no doubt stories found IN the Gospel of John
    and never mentioned in any of the earlier Gospels.
    So the legend grew.
    Let’s say for kicks that Mark original did have an ending with an
    appearance on the shores of Galilee to some disciples, just like the
    story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in Mark began, in Galilee,
    fishing. Big zip. And then Jesus rose from the dead and hung a sign on
    his tomb, “Gone fishin’ with ma boys.” And was never seen or heard
    from except for some brethren who couldn’t even remember much of what
    the raised Jesus said, though Luke and John claimed it was lots.
    Conversation 33 A.D.
    A: Have you heard the news?
    B: No.
    A: The devil has been hoodwinked, sin and death defeated! The world
    has been redeemed!
    B: You don’t say?
    February 16, 2011 8:53 PM
    James F. McGrath said…
    Ed, I was repeating Croy’s argument, as I think the endnote indicates.
    It is indeed great that we can check things like that so easily now –
    a couple of years ago, when I first wrote the conference paper that
    evolved into the article, I don’t think Sinaiticus was online yet. But
    I ought to have checked it before keeping that footnote in. Thanks for
    catching this!
    As for my comment about a possible displaced tradition in Luke, I
    meant that the earlier story of an encounter by the Sea of Galilee
    might be a displaced post-Easter story, essentially Luke’s version of
    the story found in John 21. The fact that they are situated
    differently in different Gospels need not mean that they didn’t evolve
    from the same story, in whichever direction seems more plausible.
    February 16, 2011 9:59 PM
    mikew1584 said…
    When I first heard about the theory that John 21 was the original
    ending of Mark I just about crapped my pants, It fit like a glove,
    even the last words of Jesus, “Follow Me” what a perfect ending. My
    biggest problem was the issue of why the ending would detach from Mark
    in favor of the ambiguous ending. I wondered if John 21 may have been
    another later addition to Mark, dropped for the same reason the other
    ending of Mark was, it wasn’t found in most editions.
    It seems that if it were the original ending it wasn’t there for
    Matthew but may have been for Luke, who slides its details to the
    first meeting of Jesus and the disciples (but as some have pointed
    out, Peter’s exclamation about being a sinful man fits well if this
    were something that he said after denying Christ). I also note that
    Jesus eats fish to prove he is not a ghost in Luke, a concern for both
    Luke and John, just as he eats fish in John 21.
    Is it possible that Jesus does something not in keeping with the
    theology of later Christians? In John I note that it doesn’t specify
    that Jesus ate the fish with the disciples. Could it have been more
    explicit originally that Jesus didn’t eat because he was a spirit? It
    is speculative, but I wonder why the tale would be dropped and no
    replacement inserted.
    Concerning Paul and this account, I am of the opinion that he may have
    heard an altogether different account. A private revelation to Peter,
    then a group vision, or multiple individual revelations, then some
    sort of mass vision, like the vision at Fatima. The boat vision may
    have been Peter’s personal account edited to have the whole gang, or
    the appearance to the twelve. or it could be a creative recasting to
    create a more picturesque scene than a number of different episodes,
    just as Luke dramatizes Paul’s vision.
    What do you think?
    February 16, 2011 10:01 PM
    Evan said…
    I would like to clarify something for myself. Is it being suggested
    here that there is a historical core to the post-resurrection
    narratives? If so, why? If not, why not?
    February 16, 2011 11:57 PM
    mikew1584 said…
    I do, I don’t know about every one else. By core, I mean nothing else
    than some people thought they saw the risen Christ. I figured most
    mythicit were cool with that. Paul claimed he saw Jesus, why not
    others? People claim to see dead people all the time.
    February 17, 2011 12:16 AM
    Evan said…
    I’m not familiar with any of the resurrection narratives that describe
    someone “thinking they saw the risen Christ.” So, what would the
    historical core of these narratives be? If you believe there is a
    historical core that people had visions, that’s not what’s in the
    Gospels. It means the post-resurrection accounts are literary fiction.
    If you accept that, what differentiates the post-resurrection stories
    stylistically from the pre-resurrection stories?
    February 17, 2011 1:57 AM
    mikew1584 said…
    When people make a claim to witness something they are thinking they
    witnessed something, but they may not have. A person can think they
    saw the loch ness monster but what they really saw is a dead tree.
    The resurrection narratives of the gospels claim Jesus had the complex
    interactions with the apostles and frequently is described as a
    corporeal being. I doubt this is the case. But Paul, writing earlier,
    only describes a vision, and he thinks his experience is like that of
    other apostles.
    It is likely that the gospels have added in the corporeal aspects of
    these stories to the significance of Jesus resurrection. Visions can
    be in your head, ghost are just unfortunate shades. So how is Jesus a
    truly special case of resurrection? If Christians are to be physically
    resurrected, should not Jesus as well? I think these attitudes
    influenced a physical resurrection from the visionary one that Paul
    So the core is people see or claim to see visions, the elaborations
    are added later, but of course are not described as elaborations, that
    would under cut their purpose, to deceive. To say must take the
    gospels account on face value is like saying you don’t know about any
    ancient books on mythical gods and cosmogony’s, only real ones. We
    need not believe Constantine’s victory at Milvan bridge never occurred
    because there is tale in it of a cross in the sky, and a telling of
    that battle with no cross, is not that battle. So I don’t accept the
    post resurrection accounts are fiction. The people involved reported
    they saw Christ, that much is true. As for pre resurrection stories
    the same degree of focus is present, we can now he was crucified, but
    the circumstance of that case is outside our knowledge, we only
    intelligently speculate. We can know he was thought to be a miracle
    worker, he tau gt certain themes etc.
    February 17, 2011 2:48 AM
    JoeWallack said…
    It’s difficult to figure out what your main point is here in the
    article other than you really don’t like how “Mark’s” Gospel ended. We
    have the familiar situation that the evidence indicates a situation
    which is the opposite from what you argue. There is no evidence that
    there was a Gospel narrative before “Mark”. All the post-resurrection
    narratives are after “Mark”. You are simply an illustration of the
    same External force to create one for “Mark” that the subsequent
    Gospellers are witness to. “Mark” has a primary theme of disciple
    failure and significant elements of Greek Tragedy so the tragic ending
    fits perfectly. Read “Mark” on its own without the baggage allah cart
    of the others. I just want to go all Billy Jack on you.
    So many problems, so little time after 16:8:
    “In all extant manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark, these words echo the
    earlier statement in 14:28 where Jesus tells Peter that after he has
    risen from the dead, he will go before them into Galilee. This verse,
    admittedly, sits somewhat awkwardly in the present context, and in the
    Fayyum Fragment these words are omitted.8 Nevertheless, the Fayyum
    Fragment appears to have a composite character and cannot be used as a
    basis for regarding Mark 14:28 as a later interpolation into the
    Gospel (although the words may be a Markan addition to the tradition
    he inherited).9”
    1) The Fayyum Fragment (FF) looks distinctly Markan here with the
    unique cock crows twice.
    2) FF gives every significant piece of information here from “Mark”.
    3) FF is close enough to Canon “Mark” here to look like a Gospel. Even
    if it is just a summary it still is evidence.
    4) Is there a reason why you failed to mention that it is the earliest
    “This verse, admittedly, sits somewhat awkwardly in the present
    Is there a limit as to how awkward it could be before you doubted
    originality? Would you like to see my related awkward list?
    While you did note that “Luke” went in a different direction (so to
    speak) you also fail to note that “Matthew” and “The Gospel of Peter”
    do not have the reference to Jesus’ Galilee prediction at their
    endings. Reason? This puts pressure on “Mark’s” supposed reference at
    the end. If “Mark” 14:28 lacked the prediction than 16:7 probably did
    Your whole exercise seems backwards to me. Failure of the disciples at
    16:8 is the logical conclusion to “Mark”. Subsequent external pressure
    would than MINIMIZE the editing of “Mark” to try and realize the same
    goal you have, hope for a post-resurrection story. The subtle start
    would be a Jesus’ prediction that the Disciples would reunion with
    Jesus back in Galilee unwittingly. Note the intransitive offending
    Really, thinking that “Mark” is primarily an evangelical tool trying
    to persuade that Jesus was really resurrected based on the witness of
    the historical disciples when the text explicitly shows disciple
    failure and silence on the subject and no post resurrection reunion?
    February 17, 2011 10:00 AM
    Evan said…
    Mike, I’m sorry, I’m confused. It seems you think that someone writing
    a story about someone eating fish to prove they are not a vision is a
    history of a vision. It also seems that you think a story about having
    someone put their fingers in their bloody wounds to prove they are not
    a vision is a history of a vision.
    Suppose someone close to an author has died. S/he has a dream where s/
    he sees them and talks to them. S/he then writes a book where s/he
    claims this actually happened. S/he knows it was actually a dream, but
    s/he writes the book as if it were real.
    Did s/he write a history, a biography or fiction?
    February 17, 2011 10:30 AM
    James F. McGrath said…
    Joe Wallack, I looked up “Billy Jack” but even turning “allah cart”
    into “a la carte” I still had trouble following what you were saying.
    The question of whether the Fayyum Fragment is our earliest copy of
    that part of Mark depends on whether it represents a copy of that part
    of Mark, or an earlier work that may have served as its source, or
    another Gospel that was a composite drawn from the Synoptics. I don’t
    think that the little that we have gives us enough to go on to answer
    that question definitively, but since it shares features of Gospels
    other than Mark, it seemed to me best not to treat it as a fragment of
    Mark per se.
    February 17, 2011 11:29 AM
    JoeWallack said…
    “The question of whether the Fayyum Fragment is our earliest copy of
    that part of Mark depends on whether it represents a copy of that part
    of Mark, or an earlier work that may have served as its source, or
    another Gospel that was a composite drawn from the Synoptics. I don’t
    think that the little that we have gives us enough to go on to answer
    that question definitively, but since it shares features of Gospels
    other than Mark, it seemed to me best not to treat it as a fragment of
    Mark per se.”
    I can forgive you for being too young. Do a search on Youtube for
    “Billy Jack” and “I just go berserk”. (My intent is funny and not
    Christian Bible scholarship generally ignores the Fayyum Fragment (FF)
    as textual evidence. Even the usually steady WW invokes it for 14:27
    but than exorcises it for 14:28! I fear that you are just following
    them here and have not considered FF for yourself.
    By an act of Providence my youngest brother Benjamin, whom I have high
    hopes for, has layed it out here:
    Anyone who is so inclined can see that it parallels well with “Mark”
    and hardly at all with “Luke”. Note that “Mark” and “Matthew” both now
    have “Galilee” here so FF suggests that in FF’s time they did not.
    My other main complaint which you did not address is I see an
    imbalance in your willingness to try and find support for your version
    of “Mark’s” ending in verses of “John” and “Luke” where there is no
    direct textual evidence of copying from “Mark” and lack of interest in
    “Matthew” and “Gospel of Peter” omission of “Galilee” at the end where
    there is direct evidence that they copied from “Mark” at that point.

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