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The Last Twelve Verses of Mark ConferenceSession 3 – Keith Elliott

Posted by on Apr 13, 2007 in scripture | 2 comments

Keith Elliott is the third presenter for the conference “The Last Twelve Verses of Mark: Original or Not?” Dr. Elliot is a professor of New Testament Textual Criticism at the University of Leeds.

Elliott does not think that Mark intended to end his Gospel at 16:8, but he things that Mark’s original ending was lost. He says that “Mark” is the author of 1:4 through 16:8.

Elliot also passes around a hand-out with an outline. These notes will follow his outline.
Introductory Remarks

Just as modern authors begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion, the gospel writers did the same thing. The other gospels include both introductions and conclusions. Mark has an introduction, but not a conclusion. The textual situation looks very unstable.

The beginnings and endings of codices and scrolls were likely to be damaged. (Compare the endings of Revelation and Romans.) Sinaiticus lost the beginning of the Old Testament. Vaticanus lost the ending of the New Testament. Non-biblical texts also suffered loss.

Only 2 ancient and one medieval Greek manuscripts end the Gospel of Mark at 16:8. The reason most modern versions end at vs. 8 is the emphasis given to two witnesses: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. These are special witnesses. The Markan gaps are also important. The gaps do not tell the entire story though. At times, the end of Mark seems to be stretched out (larger letters) in order to cover more space. It looks like the calculations as to how much room was needed for the text was wrong, so the scribe had to stretch the text. All of these point to peculiarities at the end of Mark.

1. External witnesses in favour of Mark ending at 16:8
Quick review from the previous presenters: patristic evidence, early manuscripts, ancient versions.

2. Internal evidence against Markan authorship of 16:9-20
There is a significant difference between the long ending of Mark with the remainder of Mark. (Elliott remarked that he began studying this some time ago, writing an article in 1971 – a date much closer to the date of composition of Mark’s gospel.)

Language and Style
Elliott’s hand-out includes a long list of stylistic features of the longer ending of Mark which are not found in the remainder of Mark. Much of this has been covered / explained by other presenters depending on their positions.

No author would have ended a sentence, paragraph, or book with a postpositional article (gar).

In each instance of the Greek verb “fear” in Mark there is a direct object. There is no direct object in 16:8. Instead, the direct object is found on the page that was lost.

Theology and Contents
Vs. 9-20 do not seem to continue from vs. 1-8. Instead they seem to be a summary of Matthew and Luke. Mary seems to be introduced for the first time in 16:9, though she has already been mentioned.

3. Eusebian canon and numbers
Eusebius does not include the longer ending of Mark in his canon numbers. In some manuscripts, some have attempted to extend Eusebian canon number system to include the longer ending of Mark.

B. Investigations into theories claiming that Mark included the Longer Ending in his Gospel
Perhaps Mark borrowed the longer ending from an existing source, much like Luke stated that he used sources, and like the authors of the epistles used hymns. This would explain the difference in language, style, and perhaps theology. It is strange for an author to use an existing source. The longer ending is “an inferior piece of writing”. There is no evidence that he has taken over any other comparable portions, though he may have used sources. Still, like Matthew and Luke, his stylistic fingerprints are found in those portions, unlike the longer ending. It was probably a 2nd century editor who found and used the paragraph in time for Eusebius to recognize it. It would be important to complete the gospel (if a portion was lost) when the canon was being completed.

The Western Order of the Gospels
Matthew – John – Luke – MarkThis perhaps puts the writings of two apostles before the writings of two friends of apostles. This would make it important to “complete” Mark because this ending of Mark would also end the Gospels. Once added, the ending was kept even when Mark was placed in a different order.

C. Did Mark intend his Gospel to end at 16:8?
Two books by Morna Hooker: “Beginnings: Keys that Open the Gospels” and “Endings: Invitation to Discipleship”. She tries to prove that 16:8 is a proper ending.

If Mark intended to end his Gospel with gar, this was lost by his contemporaries and later readers, otherwise they would not have been dissatisfied enough to add to the gospel.

Would Mark assume that his readers would know the resurrection story so well that he did not have to tell it? Elliott doubts this. In all other stories, Mark completes his stories. Why not complete this most important of narratives?

D. The shortening of the original form of Mark’s Gospel
How did we lose the original? Deliberate or accidental?

i) Deliberate suppression of an ending composed by Mark but now lost
Elliott admits that he is getting very speculative here. Could it be that the original ending was deliberate removed because it included an appearance to Peter? There seems to be a desire to not show a personal appearance to Peter, unless Peter is also with others. Paul records a personal appearance to Peter in 1 Cor. 15:5. But, we do not have a gospel record of this particular encounter. Some may have wanted to remove as much evidence to Peter’s primacy as possible. Is this the reason that the original ending of Mark was removed deliberately?

ii) Accidental omission of 16:9-20
Perhaps the original ending was accidentally lost.

E. The opening of Mark’s Gospel
Elliott refers to an earlier article where he concludes that Mark 1:1-3 are a later addition to Mark. Again, this information is from Elliott’s handout and can be found in his article “Mark 1:1-3 – a Later Addition to the Gospel?”, NTS 46 (2000), 584-8. He lists several stylistic, linguistic, and grammatical reasons for seeing 1:1-3 as not written by the same author that wrote 1:4 and following. “There is a very high density of unMarkan words and usages in 1-3, an even higher density than in the longer ending of Mark.”

F. The freestanding existence of 16:9-20. James Kelhoffer.
So, where did Mark 16:9-20 come from? Kelhoffer argued that it was added in the mid 2nd century to the truncated Mark – that is, a version of Mark that had lost its original ending. He recommends a book that he edited called “The Apocryphal New Testament” which lists several such fragments that were floating around. Perhaps this is the source of the longer ending of Mark. These last 12 verses can be compared to some pieced added to the Old Testament writings (Ruth, Psalms). Similarly, some Old Testament writings seem to have lost their endings (Jonah, Ezra).

G. Canonical mark. Concluding remarks.
What about authority and canonicity? The patristic fathers recommended Christians read certain books and not others (i.e., Matthew or Mark instead of Gospel of Peter). However, they did not specify which version of Mark that Christians should read.

Neither doctrines of preservation or inerrancy help us in determining text critical problems.

(Alan: Elliott’s presentation was again engaging and entertaining… perhaps aided by his accent. What is it about British accents that make the scholars appear more… umm… scholarly? Elliott’s speculation as to a “lost” ending of Mark is ending. It does explain many things. But, then there are other explanations as well.)


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  1. 4-14-2007

    It seems they all spit out “facts” about who believed or did what. Are all of these undisputed or would the speakers disagree?

  2. 4-14-2007


    Speaking of Scottish/British accents, you might like a recent post at TomintheBox News Network entitled, “Pastor’s Scottish Accent Discovered to be Fake.” See that at