Gospel of Mark’s ending — I give up

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by Neil Godfrey

It hurts, but having caught up with old news about Mark posted by David Ross (which I should have followed up long before now since it was referenced by Michael Turton in his commentary on Mark), I have to consider (again) revising my view about the ending of Mark. I think it’s time I gave up the question and left it on the shelf as “awaiting more evidence” before a definitive conclusion can ever be reached.

I recently expressed my view that the 16:8 ending of Mark is balanced neatly with the beginning of the gospel by common and inverted motifs. But the same argument of motif inversion and balance applies equally well if the original ending included a story currently found in both John 21 and Luke 5.

In both we have:

  • the disciples casting nets into the sea
  • in Mark a net is being mended, in the Luke/John pericope the net is being broken, or in danger of it
  • as an ending of Mark the problem of the disciples not apparently knowing Jesus had been resurrected in the John pericope is resolved
  • in both there is a calling beside the sea

Not that I am arguing that this was the original ending of Mark. Still many unresolved questions. But will have to be less confident about my view of Mark as based on the OT template of failure of Israel, and more. Now that hurts a bit. Wish I had more time to investigate this, but maybe it’s better I don’t — maybe one could die mad trying to resolve some questions.

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Neil Godfrey

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5 thoughts on “Gospel of Mark’s ending — I give up”

  1. I should clarify generally that I am not “convinced” this was the original ending. (I am speaking generally, and not suggesting that you guys, Ben and Luke, read me wrong.) There are still many questions and issues that leave the question open. But my reliance on the internal literary balance as a strong indicator of 16:8 as the original ending cannot be as determinative as I had hoped. The John 21 type ending at least leaves open the possibility that its pre-redacted core could have been part of an original ending without disturbing the book-end motifs.

    If it was part of an original ending, we have more questions to ask about why it would have become detatched in the first place.

    If this was a ‘happy ending’ in the original, then we are left with a strange treatment of the women — men succeed and are proven the more reliable witnesses while the women prove their stereotypical status of being hopeless witnesses?

    Was it the earliest effort to construct a pro-petrine and happy ending to the gospel? Perhaps it appeared too soon to be immediately embraced by “all” and was left hanging as an unattached ending until a John redactor found it a home?

    So I still do favour the 16:8 original ending. But not with the same level of confidence (let’s say a drop from 90% to 75%, from an A to a B level, enough of a slide to ignite a global financial crisis) that will allow me to construct other hypotheses that depend on this.

  2. Makes sense. It’s just so convoluted (not you). Ascertaining probabilities on little baby issues like these so far removed from whomever made whatever decision to do whatever for whatever reason… Way too subjective. I don’t understand why they’d lop off a John 21 ending rather than just expanding upon it. But who the hell knows.


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