How Luke Reworked Mark’s Ending

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by Neil Godfrey

This post looks at the evidence for Luke having reworked Mark’s ending. (The Gospel of Mark appears to have originally ended with verse 8 with the women fleeing from the tomb in fear.) The next post will identify the evidence for Luke having simultaneously used and changed Matthew’s ending. One step at a time.



What about the famous Emmaus Road encounter in Luke? Recall how Jesus appeared, unrecognized, alongside two disciples on the road, was invited in but disappeared before their eyes as soon as he broke bread.

That brings us to that highlighted section in Mark 16:7 … Jesus is promised to go before his disciples on the way back to Galilee . . . .

Michael Goulder ingeniously suggested that Luke found justification for this story in part through a creative interpretation of the angelic word in Mk 16.7 : ‘Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’ (NRSV). On Goulder’s reading, Luke takes the prediction έκεϊ αύτου όψεσθε to anticipate a reunion not in Galilee but on the road toward Galilee, along which Jesus was advancing before them (προάγει). In Lk. 24.22, Cleopas and his companion describe the women who followed Jesus from Galilee as of their company (γυναίκες τινες έξ ήμών), hence Emmaus was not the home of the two disciples but the end of the first leg of their journey home to Galilee. The Marcan angel’s directing this prediction of reunion with the risen Jesus ‘to his disciples and to Peter’ supplied Luke with justification for narrating the visit to two disciples in Emmaus as having taken place simultaneously with or earlier than the appearance to Simon (Lk. 24.33- 34). Luke will have been familiar with the latter appearance from the tradition attested in 1 Cor. 15.5, and he will have assumed it occurred in Jerusalem, as he understands Peter’s early post-resurrection ministry as being centered there (Acts 1.3-6.7; 8.1, 14-25; 9.26-11.18; 12.1-17; 15.1-29; cf. Gal. 1.17-18; 2.1-10).

(Peterson, 150f – my highlighting)

Why/how could Luke justify such a forced reading?

Let’s have a closer look at Goulder’s ingenious suggestion:

These indications are not a lot to go on, but they may be a hint of the working of Luke’s mind. Luke knows that Peter was the first of the apostles to see the Lord (1 Cor. 15.5), and he believed that the first appearances happened soon, while the apostles were in Jerusalem (24.48). Here in Mark is the unquestionable angelic assurance that the disciples and Peter would see Jesus following his resurrection; and it is really inevitable that Luke should equate the Petrine appearance (ήγέρθη.. .ώφθη, 24.34), with the angelic prophecy (ήγέρθη.. .όψεσθε, Mk 16.6f.). But what then is to be made of ‘he goes before you to Galilee: there you shall see him’? The words allow of two understandings.

One—and much the more natural, and no doubt the one intended by Mark—is that the disciples and Peter would see him in Galilee. Unfortunately this goes against Luke’s conviction that the first appearances were on Easter Day, and in the environs of Jerusalem.

So he may have preferred to opt for a second interpretation: ‘he is going before you to (προάγει ύμάς είς) Galilee’—there they would see him, on the road to Galilee.

But this would of course raise further questions. ‘The disciples’ are mentioned before Peter in Mk 16.7. But Peter was the first of the apostles to see the Lord. Was there then an appearance to other, non-apostolic disciples at the same time as the Petrine appearance, or before? The presence of the three non-Lucan expressions from Mk 16.6f., and the possibility of such a reading of the text by Luke, make it attractive to think that Mark is once more the foundation-stone of his pericope.

In this way we should have access to the fundamental tradition which gave Luke the bare outline of the story.

  • Mark’s ‘the disciples and Peter’ have become Luke’s ‘And lo, two of them’ and ‘Simon’— the ‘them’ being τοΐς λοιποΐς of v. 9.
  • Mark’s ‘he is going before you to(wards) Galilee’ becomes ‘they were travelling to a village called Emmaus, sixty stades from Jerusalem’. Although there is some doubt of where Emmaus was . . . , it is most likely that Luke thought of the place as the first night’s stop from Jerusalem to the north. There is no sign that Cleopas and his friend lived there, and the impression we have is that they are Galileans like the rest of the party. They speak of the women as έξ ήμών (ν. 22), and the women had followed Jesus from Galilee (8.3; 23.49, 55); and if only the apostles were there for the Last Supper (22.14), an experience of one of the Galilean feedings seems to be implied by ‘he was known to them in the breaking of bread’ (v. 35).
  • Mark said προάγει: Luke says έγγίσας συνεπορεύετο αύτοΐς—he is on the Galilee road ahead of the apostles and the women.
  • Mark said they would see him there: Luke that their eyes were held from recognizing him.
  • Mark said that the angel told the women, ‘He is not here; behold the place where they laid him’, and that they were seized with εκστασις. Luke says, ‘Certain women of us amazed (έξέστησαν) us, having been early at the tomb, and not finding his body, they came saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive’. The wording . . . is a Lucan version of the Marcan substance: only έξέστησαν, act., is unique in Luke-Acts, and may be influenced by Mark’s εκστασις.

(Goulder, 780f, my formatting and highlighting)

Goulder, Michael Douglas. 1989. Luke: A New Paradigm Vol. 2. Sheffield: JSOT Press.

Peterson, Jeffrey. 2015. “Matthew’s Ending and the Genesis of Acts: The Farrer Hypothesis and the  Birth of Christian History.” In Marcan Priority Without Q: Explorations in the Farrer Hypothesis, edited by John C. Poirier and Jeffrey Peterson, 140–59. Library of New Testament Studies 455. London: Bloomsbury.

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Neil Godfrey

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3 thoughts on “How Luke Reworked Mark’s Ending”

  1. This post is very reassuring that my theory on the formation of the gospels is on the rights lines and that the idea of a Q or other gap gospel is unnecessary. But I guess this is not the correct place to explain it as it needs annotations.

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