The question of authorship of verses 9 through 20 of the last chapter of Mark cannot be decided on the basis of textual evidence, since they are omitted by some good manuscripts and included by other good ones. Rather it must be determined, if possible, on the basis of style: if these last twelve verses are in Mark’s style, then the view that they were written by Mark is preferable; if they are in a different style, then the view that they were written by someone else is preferable.
Textual critics usually object to Mark’s authorship of these verses on the basis of supposed differences of style between them and the rest of the Gospel of Mark. However, an in depth study of the stylistic features in question reveals that almost all of them can be found elsewhere in Mark. For convenience of discussion, these features may be categorized under four headings: juncture, vocabulary, phraseology, and miscellaneous.
Five objections have been raised concerning the juncture of verses 8 and 9. It is claimed that the connection between these verses is awkward because: (1) the subject of verse 8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject of verse 9; (2) the other women of verse 1-8 are forgotten in verses 9-20; (3) in verse 9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before; (4) while the use of anastas de (“Now rising”) and the position of proton (“first”) are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8; and (5) the use of the conjunction gar (“for”) at the end of verse 8 is very abrupt.
With regard to juncture, it may be noted that the transition between verses 8 and 9 does seem awkward. An exact parallel containing all the features of this juncture cannot be found elsewhere in Mark; however, the various features may be found in different transitions between sections in Mark. In fact, the first two features are found together several times. There are at least five other verses in Mark which meet the following conditions: (1) the verse must begin a new section; (2) Jesus must be the presumed subject (referred to only as “he”); (3) the previous verse must not refer to Jesus; (4) the previous verse must have a subject other than Jesus; and (5) the subject of the previous verse must not be mentioned in the new section. Mark 2:13; 6:45; 7:31; 8:1; and 14:3 all meet these conditions. Thus the first two objections listed are not valid. Although this section does begin with these stylistic features, they are also found together five times elsewhere in Mark.
The third objection listed is that Mary Magdalene is identified in verse 9 as “from whom he had cast seven demons” even though she has been mentioned as recently as verse 1. However, it should be noted that this is not, strictly speaking, an identifying phrase; it is rather a type of flashback that gives additional information about Mary Magdalene. This same type of flashback is found at least four times elsewhere in Mark. In Mark 3:16 we find that Simon was surnamed Peter by Jesus, although Simon had been mentioned several times previously. We know this is a flashback because John 1:42 tells us it happened when Simon Peter first met Jesus. In Mark 3:17 we find that James and John were surnamed Boanerges, which means sons of thunder, although they too had been previously mentioned. In Mark 6:16 we find that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, even though Herod had been previously mentioned only two verses before. And in Mark 7:26 we find the additional information that the woman who was the subject of the previous verse was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by race. Thus we see that the stylistic feature of giving additional information in a type of flashback about someone previously mentioned is not foreign to Mark. Therefore, the third objection is not valid either.
The fourth objection to the juncture between this last section of Mark and the previous one is that the use of anastas de (“Now rising”) and the position of proton (“first”) in verse 9 are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8, even though they would be appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative. It is only necessary to point out that verse 9 is not a continuation of the section found in verse 1-8; it is the start of a new one. The resurrection of Christ is established by two great facts: the empty tomb and His appearances. Without the appearances of Christ, the empty tomb testifies only to a missing body. Without the empty tomb, the appearances are only those of a ghost or spirit. But together they prove the validity of the resurrection. Even so, the section of verses 1-8 relates the discovery of the empty tomb; the last section starting in verse 9 relates the appearances of the risen Christ. Mark does not mix the two proofs. Thus the words in question are appropriate to verse 9, because it starts a new section. The fourth objection is not valid either.
Perhaps the most serious objection with regard to juncture is that verse 8 ends with the conjunction gar (“for”), which is a very abrupt ending. The final clause of verse 8 (“for they were afraid”) has only two words in Greek. Since the word gar cannot stand at the beginning of a sentence in Greek, it is found at the end of the sentence, which is a feature not found elsewhere in Mark. Some have suggested that there was more to the sentence but this has been lost. But even though there are no other two word clauses containing gar in Mark, there are three word clauses (Mark 1:16; 11:18) and four word clauses (Mark 1:38; 3:21; 5:42; 9:49; 14:70; 15:14; 16:4) that contain gar. Thus Mark did know how to use gar in short sentences.
Actually, as stated before, the transition between verses 8 and 9 does seem awkward. This is primarily due to the use of a participle as a sort of resume of what has already been stated in the previous section. Although the resurrection had been mentioned in verse 6, it is mentioned again with a participle (“rising”) to begin the section on Christ’s appearances. This is a rare feature, being found elsewhere in this Gospel only in Mark 14:66. This verse, which begins the section relating how Peter denied Jesus three times, begins with a participle (“being”) placing Peter in the courtyard, a fact which had already been mentioned in verse 54. It may be noted in passing that the servants who were slapping Jesus in verse 65 are now forgotten (a feature which parallels the second objection once again). Thus even this rare feature is found elsewhere in Mark. Although all the stylistic features of this section are not found together elsewhere in Mark, they are found elsewhere in Mark and thus this juncture is Markan in style.
Three objections to the Markan authorship of these last twelve verses are raised on the grounds of vocabulary. They are: (1) sixteen words used in this section are not used elsewhere in the Gospel of Mark; (2) three of these words are used more than once in this section; and (3) this section does not contain some of Mark’s favorite words: eutheos or euthus (both meaning “immediately”) and palin (“again”).
The main objection to the Markan authorship of these verses based on vocabulary is that sixteen words used in this section are not used elsewhere in the Gospel of Mark. The sixteen words are: poreuomai (“go,” three times, vv. 10, 12, 15), pentheo (“mourn,” v. 10), theaomai (“see,” twice, vv. 11, 14), apisteo (“not believe, disbelieve,” twice, vv. 11, 16), heteros (“another, different,” v. 12), morphe (“form,” v. 12), husteron (“afterward,” v. 14), endeka (“eleven,” v. 14), parakoloutheo (“follow, accompany,” v. 17), ophis (“serpent, snake,” v. 18), thanasimos (“deadly,” v. 18), blapto (“hurt, harm,” v. 18), analambano (“receive up, take up,” v. 19), sunergeo (“work with,” v. 20), bebaioo (“confirm,” v. 20), and epakoloutheo (“follow, attend,” v. 10).
In all fairness, however, it should be pointed out that eight of these sixteen do have their word root used elsewhere in Mark. Poreuomai may not be used before this section, but its compounds are used 25 times elsewhere (eisporeuomai8 times; ekporeuomai11 times; paraporeuomai4 times; prosporeuomai once; sumporeuomaionce); in fact poreuomai itself is a variant reading in Mark 9:30. It is certainly no surprise to find this word used three times in this section. Apisteo is not found elsewhere in Mark, but its noun form apistia (“unbelief”) is found not only in this section (v. 14), but twice elsewhere (6:6; 9:24). Morphe is not found elsewhere in the four Gospels, but metamorphoo (“transfigure, transform”) is found in Mark 9:2. Parakoloutheo and epakoloutheo are found only here in Mark, but akoloutheo is used 19 times in Mark and sunakoloutheo twice. Thanasimos occurs only here in the New Testament, but thanatos (“death”) is found six times in Mark and thanatoo (“put to death”) twice. Analambano is found only here in the Gospels, but lambano is used 21 times in Mark. And although sunergeo occurs only here in the Gospels, ergazomai is found once and ergon twice in Mark.
In addition, it should be pointed out that three of these sixteen words are found only in the post-resurrection accounts in the story of Jesus’ life (i.e., in the Gospels plus Acts 1). They are apisteo (“disbelieve”), endeka (“eleven”), and analambano (“take up”). It is therefore not unusual to find these words only here in Mark because of the subject matter.
But in spite of the fact that the presence of several of these words is explainable, it still remains that there are sixteen words which are used only in these twelve verses in Mark. Nothing can be inferred about the genuineness of this section of Mark from the presence of any one of these words; rather, it is the large number of them which calls the style of the passage into question. However, looking at the twelve verses of Mark 15:40-16:4, one finds not just sixteen such words, but twenty to twenty-two, depending on textual variants. This shows that the author knew quite well how to use in a brief passage many new words which he had not previously used. The words used in Mark 15:40-16:4 but not used elsewhere are Salome (“Salome,” twice, vv. 40, 1), sunanabaino (“come up with,” v. 41), epei (“because, since,” v. 42), paraskeue (“preparation,” v. 42), prosabbaton (“the day before the sabbath,” v. 42), Arimathaia (“Arimathea,” v. 43), euschemon (“honorable, respected, prominent,” v. 43), prosdechomai (“wait for, look for,” v. 43), thnesko (“die, be dead,” v. 44), palai (“any while, some time,” v. 44; some Greek manuscripts have a different readingede, “already”reflected in the RSV and NASV text, but both the Nestle and UBS Greek texts have palai), doreomai (“give, grant,” v. 45), eneileo (“wrap, wind,” v. 46), possibly katatithemi (“lay,” v. 46; several Greek manuscripts have the simple verb form tithemithe 25th edition of the Nestle Greek text has katatithemi while the 26th edition joins the UBS Greek text in reading tithemi), latomeo (“hew,” v. 46), petra (“rock,” v. 46), proskulio (“roll,” v. 46), diaginomai (“be past, be over,” v. 1), aroma (“spices,” v.1), apokulio (“roll away,” v. 3), anakulio (“roll away, roll back,” v. 4), and sphodra (“very, exceeding, extremely,” v. 4).
Thirteen of these sixteen words found only here in Mark are used only once. But this is not as unusual as might be thought. In the 661 undisputed verses in Mark, there are 555 words that are used only once (WUOO) in this book; however; the distribution of words used only once is not uniform in Mark. For example, the first twelve verses of chapter 1 contain 16 words used only once in Mark, and the first twelve verses of chapter 14 contain 20, even though both of these chapters have ratios that are less than 1 such word per verse.
The distribution of words used only once in Mark across the chapters can be seen in the following chart, which was compiled from the statistics for infrequently used words found in Kubo’s Reader’s Lexicon.
Chapter Number of Number of Hapax Ratio Words Used Only Once Verses Legomena WUOO/Verses 1 39 45 6 .86 2 16 28 3 .57 3 13 35 1 .37 4 42 41 2 1.02 5 25 43 4 .58 6 46 56 3 .82 7 41 36 * 6 1.14 8 23 38 2 .61 9 43 48 * 10 .90 10 40 52 5 .77 11 14 32 * 2 .44 12 46 44 5 1.05 13 40 37 3 1.08 14 70 72 5 .97 15 53 46 * 5 1.15 16:1-8 4 8 0 .50 Subtotals 555 661 62 .84 16:9-20 13 12 1 1.08 Totals 568 673 63 .84* Verses are missing from chapters 7, 9, 11, and 15 due to textual variants.
For chapters, the ratio of words used only once to verses varies between a low of .37 in chapter 3 and a high of 1.15 in chapter 15. The ratio of 1.08 for the long ending of Mark is well within this range, being exceeded by chapters 7, 13, and 15.
The analysis can be further clarified by using the sections found in the UBS Greek New Testament rather than chapters. There are four such sections in the long ending of Mark and ninty sections in the undisputed part of Mark. These sections contain between zero and thirty words each that are used only once in Mark, the longer sections on the average containing more such words. For sections, the ratio of words used only once to verses varies between a low of .00 for six sections (1:14-15; 3:31-35; 8:27-30; 13:1-2; 14:1-2; and 14:51-52) and a high of 2.40 in the section found in 15:16-20. The highest ratio of 2.00 for a section (verses 19-20) in the long ending of Mark is well within this range, being exceeded by sections in chapters 12 (verses 38-40 with 2.33), 14 (verses 3-9 with 2.29), and 15 (verses 16-20 with 2.4 and verses 42-47 with 2.33).
The four sections in the long ending of Mark range from two to five verses in length. Following is a summary table of the results of the analysis, grouped by section size, comparing the long ending to the rest of Mark.
Number of Number of Number of Total Ratio Sections Words Used Only Once Verses Hapax WUOO/Verses per Section per Section Legomena Long Ending 4 Range: 1-6; Ave. 3.25 2-5 1 .33-2.00 Ave. 1.08 Rest of Mark 37 Range: 0-12; Ave. 3.32 2-5 16 .00-2.40 (chapters 1-16) Ave. .88 (chapters 12-16) Ave. 1.10 29 Range: 1-16; Ave. 6.38 6-9 15 .13-2.29 Ave. .90 17 Range: 1-15; Ave. 8.24 10-13 15 .09-1.30 Ave. .74 7 Range: 8-30; Ave. 15.29 15-23 16 .53-1.36 Ave. .84
When the four sections of the long ending are compared with other sections in Mark that are two to five verses long, it is seen that they fall within the ranges of the undisputed sections of Mark. The average mean of words used only once per section of 3.25 compares favorably with the average in the rest of the book of 3.32 for similar sized sections. The average ratio of 1.08 words used only once/verses of the long ending is greater than the average of .88 for the whole book but comparable to the average of 1.10 for the last five chapters. This latter figure means that, for twelve verses composed of sections this size in the last five chapters of Mark (around the climax), the number of words to be expected that are used only once would be thirteen, which is exactly what is found!
By way of contrast, the shorter ending of Mark, although only about 2 verses long, contains 9 words not used in Mark, giving a ratio of 4.5, over 4 times that of the long ending and almost twice that of 15:16-20, which has the highest ratio of any section in Mark!
A second objection to the Markan authorship of these verses is that three of the sixteen words in question (poreuomai, theaomai, and apisteo) are used more than once. But an examination reveals that this is also characteristic of Mark’s style. An analysis of words that are used more than once within a twelve verse span of text and only within that span in Mark reveals that there are 77 such words in the undisputed verses of Mark plus 5 proper nouns. If the selection is limited to a six verse span (the largest span actually used in 16:9-20), the number of words drops to 58 plus 3 names. The following chart shows the distribution:
Twelve Verse Spread Six Verse Spread Times Used words names words names 2 times 53 2 42 1 3 times 14 2 11 1 4 times 4 1 4 1 5 times 5 - - - 6 times 1 - 1 -
The long ending of Mark has a unique-words-used-more-than- once to verse ratio of .25. For chapters this ratio varies from 0 for chapter 10 (with no such words) to .25 for chapter 2 (7 such words in 28 verses). For sections it varies from 0 to 1. The most notable section is 2:18-22 with a ratio of 1 (5 such words in 5 verses: nesteuo “fast” [6 times], numphios “bridegroom” [3 times], palaios “old” [3 times], neos “new” [twice], and askos “wineskin” [4 times]). This five-verse section also contains at least 7 words that are used only once in Mark, including 2 hapax legomena. Other examples of such words throughout Mark include the following: sporos (“seed,” Mark 4:26, 27), sunthlibo (“throng, press,” Mark 5:24, 31), telones (“tax-collector, publican,” Mark 8:9, 20), and huperetes (“servant, officer, guard, attendant,” Mark 14:54, 65). Thus, this objection is not valid.
A third objection is that this section does not contain some of Mark’s favorite words: eutheos or euthus (both meaning “immediately”) and palin (“again”). This is to overlook the fact that not only do the last twelve verses of Mark not contain these words, the last fifty-three verses do not contain them. Looking at Mark as a whole, there are 650 sets of twelve consecutive verses, not considering the last twelve verses. Out of these, 373 sets do not contain euthus or eutheos; that is, more than 57% do not have them. Also, 399 sets do not contain palin; that is, more than 61% do not have this word. And finally, it may be noted that 229 sets do not contain euthus, eutheos, or palin; that is, more than 35% do not contain any of these words. It is hardly an objection to say that the last twelve verses are in the same category with more than one-third of the sets of twelve consecutive verses in the rest of the book.
Having examined the three objections based on vocabulary and found that all three are actually stylistic features found elsewhere in Mark, it is not inappropriate to point out some evidence from vocabulary in favor of the Markan authorship of these verses. There are several words in these last twelve verses which may be classified as Markan in some special sense. Defining this category as words which are used elsewhere in Mark as much or more than they are used in any of the other three Gospels, there are nine words in this section which can qualify. They are proi (“early,” v. 9; also found 5 times elsewhere in Mark, 3 times in Matthew, and twice in John), apistia (“unbelief,” v. 14; also found in Mark 6:6; 9:24 and in Matthew 13:58), sklerokardia (“hardness of heart,” v. 14; also found in Mark 10:5 and in Matthew 19:8), kerusso (“preach,” twice, vv. 15, 20; also found 12 times elsewhere in Mark, 9 times in Matthew, and 9 times in Luke), euaggelion (“gospel,” v. 15; also found 7 times elsewhere in Mark, and 4 times in Matthew), ktisis (“creature, creation,” v. 15; also found in Mark 10:6 and 13:19, but in none of the other Gospels), arrostos (“sick,” v. 18; also found in Mark 6:5, 13 and in Matthew 14:14), kalos (“well, recover,” v. 18; also found 5 times elsewhere in Mark, twice in Matthew, and 4 times in Luke), and pantachou (“everywhere,” v. 20; also found in Mark 1:28 and Luke 9:6). The presence of these words lends credence to the idea that Mark wrote this section.
The phraseology of these last twelve verses is claimed to be non-Markan because: (1) eight phrases used in this section are not used elsewhere in Mark; (2) similar but different phrases are used elsewhere in Mark; and (3) the phrase oi met’ autou genomenoi (“those having been with him”) is used to designate the disciples only here.
The eight phrases which are used in this section but not elsewhere in Mark are prote sabbatou (“first [day] of the week,” v. 9), ekballo apo or ekballo para (“cast out from,” v. 9), oi met’ autou genomenoi (“those having been with him,” v. 10), etheathe hup’ (“was seen by,” v. 11), meta tauta (“after these things,” v. 12), pasa ktisis (“all creation, every creature,” v. 15), kalos echein (“to have well, to get well, to recover,” v. 18), men oun (“on the one hand therefore,” v. 19). Once again, it is not so much the presence of any particular phrase as it is the large number of phrases which is the stylistic feature in question. However, in the twelve verses of Mark 15:42-16:6 there are nine phrases used which are not found elsewhere in this Gospel. They are: ede opsias genomenes (“now evening having come,” v. 42), ginosko apo (“know from,” v. 45), proskulio epi (“roll on,” v. 46), he thura tou mnemeiou (“the door of the tomb,” twice, vv. 46, 3), lian proi . . . erchomai (“come very early,” v. 2), mia ton sabbaton (“[day] one of the week,” v. 2), en tois dexiois (“on the right,” v. 5), stolen leuken (“white robe,” v. 5), me ekthambeisthe (“Be not affrighted, Do not be amazed,” v. 6). Thus Mark did know how to use a large number of new phrases in a particular section.
But a second objection regards the use of prote sabbatou (“first of the week”) in verse 9 for Sunday. In verse 2 Mark used mia ton sabbaton (“one of the week”) to designate the same day. Some have argued that prote sabbatou is not in Mark’s style, but since mia ton sabbaton is only found once itself in the Gospel of Mark, it can hardly be said to constitute Mark’s style in this regard. A more serious question is whether Mark would shift to a similar but different form to designate the same thing. Once again we can find this stylistic feature elsewhere in Mark. For example, in Mark 2:23, 24 the sabbath is referred to in the plural form in Greek (ta sabbata) while three verses later in verses 27-28 Mark switches to the singular form (to sabbaton). Both forms have a singular meaning. Again, in Mark 5:2 the word that Mark uses for “tomb” is mnemeion while in verses 3 and 5 he switches to the similar word mnema. The same variation is found in Mark 15:56-16:8.
It may also be noted that prote sabbatou would sound better to a Roman than mia ton sabbaton and that Mark is usually stated to be the Gospel for the Romans. The use of the cardinal (mia “one”) for the ordinal (prote“first”) is a known Aramaic characteristic that is used in the Talmud. On the other hand, Latin (like English) prefers the ordinal in such a phrase. In English, we prefer “first day of the week” to “day one of the week”; in the same way, a Latin speaker would prefer prima sabbati (“first of the week”) to una sabbati (“one of the week”). This is shown by the Latin translation of Matthew 28:1 which literally would have been unam sabbatorum or una sabbati, but which in fact is the better sounding prima sabbati. Thus it is not surprising to find the corresponding Greek phrase prote sabbatou in the Gospel of Mark which is supposedly primarily for the Romans.
The third objection is that the phrase oi met’ autou genomenoi (“those having been with him”) is used nowhere but verse 10 to designate the disciples. A similar objection sometimes made is that thanasimos (“deadly,” v. 18) is used only here to designate the disciples, but thanasimos is not referring to the disciples but to something that may be drunk. However, oi met’ autou genomenoi is here referring to the disciples. But the past flavor given to the phrase by the use of the aorist participle genomenoi (“having been”) would hardly have been appropriate previous to the crucifixion. Thus one would not expect to find this phrase referring to the disciples except in the last chapter. And the shorter expression oi met’ autou (“those with him”) is found three times elsewhere in Mark (1:36; 2:25; and 5:40).
In addition, there are at least four other phrases which are found in this section and also elsewhere in Mark. They are eis agron (“into the country,” v. 12; also found in Mark 5:14; 6:36, 56; 13:16), kerusso to euaggelion (“preach the gospel,” v. 15; also found in Mark 1:14; 13:10; 14:9), en to onomati mou (“in my name,” v. 17; also found in Mark 9:38), and epi . . . cheiras epitithemi (“lay hands on,” v. 18; also found in Mark 8:25). This is additional evidence that this last section is in Mark’s style.
Several miscellaneous objections have also been raised to Mark’s authorship. (1) It is claimed that Mark’s usual style is to expand the accounts of incidents in Christ’s life as compared with the other Gospels while this section condenses the accounts. (2) It is noted that Mark has a fondness for the word kai (“and”) which is lacking in this section. (3) It is claimed that ekeinos (“that one”) and the contraction kakeinos (“and that one”) are used in a weakened sense of simply “he,” “she,” or “they” in this section as opposed to the rest of the Gospel. (4) It is noted that Jesus is referred to as “the Lord” or “the Lord Jesus” only in this section of Mark. (5) And it is noted that the only appearances recorded in this ending of Mark are also recorded in the other Gospels, implying that the writer relied on the other Gospels for his information.
Regarding the first objection, it is often true that Mark has more material on an incident in Christ’s life than the other Gospels (compare Mark 5:21-43 with the parallel accounts in Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:40-56). However, in this section we find only one verse describing Christ’s appearance to two on the road, while Luke gives that incident twenty-three verses (Luke 24:13-35). But Mark also knows how to pass over quickly important events in Christ’s life. Passing over Jesus’ birth completely, Mark gives only seven verses to John the Baptist’s preaching, three verses to Jesus’ baptism, and two verses to His temptation! Thus condensation can also be a stylistic feature of Mark.
Probably the most serious objection against Mark’s authorship of these verses relates to the strange distribution of conjunctions in this last section as compared with the rest of Mark. It is often stated that Mark had a fondness for the conjunction kai (“and”) which is not shown in these verses. Other conjunctions are used and verse 10 is even without a conjunction to begin it. While kai is used at least once in every verse in some sections, here it is used only nine times, and only three of these are used to join clauses. There are also three contractions with kai in this section: once kai contracts with an (“if”) to form kan and twice kai contracts with ekeinos (“that one”) to form kakeinos. These are all used to begin new clauses. But the scant usage of kai in this section is paralleled in the twelve verse sections of Mark 7:15-26 (only eight uses of kai, six joining clauses) and 13:26-37 (only nine uses of kai, four joining clauses). All of the other conjunctions in this section are used elsewhere in Mark. Regarding the lack of a conjunction to begin verse 10, it should be noted that the first four verses of the Gospel do not contain a single coordinating conjunction (there is one subordinating conjunction in verse 2). Thus Mark knew how to use the stylistic features of a few uses of kai and no beginning conjunction.
Still another objection is that ekeinos (“that one”) and the contraction kakeinos (“and that one”) are used in a weakened sense of simply “he,” “she,” or “they” (this is called an “absolute” use of the pronoun). While it is true that ekeinos is not used elsewhere in Mark in the absolute sense, the contracted form kakeinosis used absolutely in Mark 12:4, 5 (the only two other places in Mark where it is used).
A fourth objection is that Jesus is referred to as “the Lord” or “the Lord Jesus” only in this section of Mark. There is a textual question as to whether verse 19 should read “the Lord” or “the Lord Jesus.” Both the Nestle and UBS Greek texts include “Jesus” in brackets in the text. The objection, however, is the same regardless of which reading is accepted. Both show a heightened respect for Christ after His resurrection. But the term “Lord” is also used in reference to Christ in Mark 1:3; 2:28; 7:28; 11:3; and 12:36-37. In some of these passages the term “Lord” does not have the full significance that it does here, but Luke, who uses the term “Lord” extensively to refer to Christ, also uses the heightened term “the Lord Jesus” only in Luke 24:3, after His resurrection.
The last objection to be discussed is that the only appearances recorded in the long ending of Mark are also recorded in the other Gospels, implying that the writer relied on the other Gospels for his information. While the observation is correct, the implication that is drawn from it is not. It only needs to be noted that this section contains new information about the appearances not revealed elsewhere. For example, this section alone tells us that the disciples were “mourning and weeping” (v. 10), that Christ appeared to the two on the road in a “different form” (v. 12), and that one of the signs to follow the disciples would be the drinking of deadly things without harmful results (v.18). Thus this objection is also invalid.
In conclusion, we see that all the objections to Mark’s authorship of this section based on style fall into one of two classes: (1) either the stylistic feature in question is found elsewhere in Mark, or (2) there is a reasonable explanation for its presence. By far the largest number of objections fall in the first category. This indicates that it is not correct to state that this long ending is not in Mark’s style.
It is possible that someone might object that it is not that these stylistic features are not found elsewhere in Mark, but that they are rare in Mark, being used infrequently by him. Thus it is the cumulative factor of using so many rare stylistic features in one place that makes this section non-Markan. This objection is well-taken and must be given consideration.
With the recent discovery of the concept of peak, however, this frequent use of rare features in an important part of the story is exactly what should be expected. Peak is a area of grammatical turbulence. Little used features become prominent in peak sections and often used features are abandoned. Background devices become foregrounded and vice versa. In languages around the world, peak has been shown to occur in sections of climax and denouement, and sometimes inciting incident, in narratives told by good storytellers. If the crucifixion is the climax, the resurrection is the denouement. One would expect this to be a peak area in which the use of expected stylistic features is abandoned in favor of less frequently used ones. This is exactly what is found in the increased use of words used only once in Mark in the last five chapters. Rather than revealing that Mark is not the author of these last twelve verses, this different cumulative style may show that he was a good storyteller.
Copyright © 1976, 1996 Bruce Terry. All rights reserved.
Originally this article was published in abbreviated form in the Firm Foundation, 14 September 1993, under the title “Another Look at the Ending of Mark.” This version (from http://bible.ovu.edu/terry/articles/mkendsty.htm where it was last updated on 27 March 2003) is used by special permission.
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