Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics


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The shortest, the earliest, and possibly the most enigmatic of all the canonical gospels is Mark's. Tradition attributes it to John Mark, a companion of Paul and an associate of the other disciples (cf. Acts 12: 12, 25; 15: 37, 39), and connected Mark with Peter. Some have also suggested Mark is the unnamed young man who flees naked when Jesus is arrested—a story only found here (14: 51–2). According to Papias: ‘Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order of the things said or done by the Lord.’106 The apocalyptic discourse of Jesus (Mark 13; cf. Matt. 24) on the destruction of Jerusalem is often used as a means of dating the gospels, suggesting that it was written either just before or after the fall of Jerusalem, during the first Roman war (66–70 ce). Tradition assigns Mark to Rome, where he is thought to have recorded Peter's memories of Jesus, but the writer of Mark also seems to know the Galilee area and to be familiar with the agriculture of Syria-Palestine. Such tenuous details are not hard evidence, however, and the origins of Mark, like those of all the other gospels, are unknown. Mark is the most popular gospel for modern readers, not least because it is less ideologically organized than the others, and has the most enigmatic ending. According to the best manuscripts Mark's gospel ends at 16: 8: ‘And they [that is, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome] went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.’ These last words, ‘for they were afraid’, have always puzzled commentators. Can this be a serious ending to the story of the resurrection? Were the first fruits of the Resurrection of Jesus the silencing of women? (Cf. 1 Cor. 14: 33–4; 1 Tim. 2: 11–12.) Some prefer to see in this abrupt and disturbing end a fit conclusion for a gospel which has so focused on the inadequacies of the disciples as to leave the future open to doubt as much as to possibility. Given these disciples, it is small wonder that the terrified women fled from the empty tomb, and in great fear said nothing to nobody. The secondary, later ending which now concludes Mark (16: 9–20), full of weird and wonderful things, is in striking contrast to the fear and silence of the women. From here comes the warrant for those sects that go in for snake-handling. The history of Christian charismatic sects would be a great deal poorer but for this secondary addition which prevents the fear and silence of the women being the last word on the resurrection in Mark.

Chapter.  1137 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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