Mark wrap-up (2)

As mentioned yesterday, our Bible study group has “completed” its study of Mark.  Below are some more highlights from the highlights.

Words, Themes, Motifs

  • Gospel (euangellion) . . . related terms are “godspel,” good story, evangelist, angel
  • Immersion (baptizo) (a reminder that “baptize” means “immerse” … the micro and macro pictures of baptism in Mark cohere impressively with the unfortunately uncommon view that says baptism is part of coming to Jesus)
  • Solitary Place (eremo) (in some English Bibles, look for “desert” or “lonely place”
  • Immediately (euthus) (one of the most recognizable motifs of the gospel–so many happenings are prefaced with this word, and it doesn’t always make sense in English)
  • Follow (opiso)
  • Kingdom (basileian)
  • Way (hodis) (also “road” and “roadside”)
  • Identity of Jesus
    • Teacher
    • Worker, doer
    • Spiritual authority
      • a significant notion–particularly to a Jew
      • Gk. exousia/Heb. smichah … note the difference between the teaching of Jesus and that of the teachers of the law … on this matter, pursue the teachings of Ray van der Laan, who has brought us to tears when speaking of the unique smichah given to Jesus directly from God
      • Holy One of God vs. demons (part of the revelation of the identity of God’s son was His mastery over natural forces, including demons)
      • Messiah, king (only later in Mark)
  • Discipleship/following–a key to interpreting Mark
    • 1:17—the “call”
    • The expression “the way” (road, roadside)—central in structure . . . note the times that the disciples are said to be following Jesus “on the way,” and note especially when Jesus is said to be “on the way to Jerusalem”
    • Obtuseness of disciples
    • Contrast among various groups’ responses to, and views of, Jesus … this is a central feature of the narrative in first half or two-thirds of the text, specifically
  • Death/Passion (and the “messianic secret”–more on death in the final installment)
  • Apocalyptic eschatology (text-criticism has suggested that ch. 13 may be a later addition)

Some unique features & inclusions (some of these strongly suggest an eyewitness’s involvement)

  • Very little OT quoting
  • Only 2 miracles, 1 parable (quite distinct from, e.g., Luke)
  • Names (e.g., 1:29, 3:6, 13:3)
  • Treatment of Sabbath (e.g., 2:27, etc.) and other issues related to (rabbinic) interpretation of Jewish law
  • Two consecutive stories of healing of women
  • Literary cycles (cf. to chiasms/sandwich structures, e.g.,
    • 6:30–44 – Feeding of the five thousand
    • 6:45–56 – Crossing of the lake
    • 7:1–13 – Dispute with the Pharisees
    • 7:14–23 – Discourse about food defilement

I suppose I should mention the ending.  Chapter 16 has at least three possible endings.  Most Bibles, in including the long ending that goes through verse 20, make an explicit notation, along these lines:  “the oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not include these verses.”  A couple of things are clear to me, and a couple are not. First, I find the ending relatively inconsequential; in other words, I care a lot more about the overall picture than the disputed ending.  Second, it is somewhat clear to me (a NON-text scholar who likes to be conversant with scholarly textual work) that the longer ending is not part of the original document.

Now, on the “less than clear” side–it seems plausible to me that Mark or some other believer/scribe added verses 9-20 at some later time.  (The other, shorter ending would be OK w/me, too, but seems less likely–and I’m basing this mostly on intuition.)  Alternately, I could easily accept that this longer ending is “bogus” (though not false in any sense) and that the original document was truly intended to end with the fear and apparent doubt of the disciples in v.8.  That would jibe with one literary theme of the gospel–that those who on the surface would appear to be in the inner circle really aren’t getting it.

Next/last in series …  goals and life applications of the study


2 thoughts on “Mark wrap-up (2)

  1. James Snapp, Jr. 06/19/2010 / 12:04 pm

    Greetings, Brian.

    There is a lot of misinformation circulating about Mark 16:9-20, and the NIV’s heading note that “The oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not include these verses” must be regarded as misleading at best. The oldest extant manuscript of Mark (Papyrus 45) doesn’t have any text from chapter 16 at all, because the MS has been so extensively damaged. So we don’t know if it, when intact, contained 16:9-20 or not.

    Over 1,500 Greek manuscripts of Mark exist. Only two stop the text at the end of 16:8 and place the closing title there. They are Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Sinaiticus, two very important copies from the 300’s. Both of those manuscripts have highly unusual characteristics at the end of Mark, though; I invite you to read about them in my online presentation at

    The NIV’s heading-note doesn’t tell you that it’s referring to just two Greek MSS; the NIV doesn’t tell you that one of those MSS doesn’t have the pages that were made by the main copyist at this point; the NIV doesn’t tell you that in the other MS there is blank space left after 16:8 as if the copyist knew 16:9-20 and wished to reserve space where it could be included. And, perhaps most significantly, the NIV doesn’t tell you that the earliest MSS in this case are not our earliest evidence. Material from Mark 16:9-20 was used in the 100’s by Justin Martyr, by Tatian, and by Irenaeus.

    Please visit the online presentation on this subject for a fuller explanation. You may be surprised by the strength of the evidence for the full inclusion of 16:9-20 as part of the Gospel of Mark.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.


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