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The Last Twelve Verses of Mark ConferenceSession 5 – Darrell Bock

Posted by on Apr 14, 2007 in scripture | 4 comments

Darrell Bock is the fifth presenter for the conference “The Last Twelve Verses of Mark: Original or Not?” He is scheduled to present a response to the other presenters. Dr. Bock is a professor of New Testament Studies and professor of Spiritual Development and Culture at Dallas Theological Seminary. He publishes a blog at ““.

All agree that both readings of the ending of Mark are old. The have been contested from a very early point. What is taught in the longer ending for the most part is taught elsewhere. What we all want to deal with is hard evidence – facts must control theory and not vice-versa.

We are all connecting the dots differently. (Alan: I wonder if he reads my blog…) Many times how we connect the dots is dependent upon our presuppositions. Most presenters admitted that their view of the ending of Mark has changed over time. This happens as their thinking and their presuppositions changed. Our presuppositions are not fixed; they are all under some degree of pressure based upon what we have been exposed to.

Evidence is actually a mixture of facts and interpretation, or dots and the lines that connect the dots.

Dr. Bock’s View
Mark 16:8 is the ending of his Gospel on the basis of internal and external evidence. His next likely option is that the ending is missing. Third, he would take the longer ending as original.

Synoptic problem: Bock holds to Markan priority. He believes there is something like Q out there, whether or not that is a single document – presence of written and oral traditions are important to the early church.

Synoptic evidence in this case is a little peculiar. Mark usually gives more detail, but the ending is less detailed.

It is helpful – whether we agree or disagree – to examine how someone else connects the dots differently that the way we connect the dots. We must aware of a brittle fundamentalism, such that if we set this up in a certain way, and if it breaks, then the whole thing shatters.

External Evidence
This is a key element, and we are not just counting manuscripts. The external evidence that is really important is not only Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. The fact that we have them gave everyone pause. But, if we only had those two manuscripts, we would not be here. But, the versions and the fathers corroborate that we have a problem. This is a different kind of problem that most text critical problems. Most text critical problems deal with words and phrases, but here we are dealing with an entire section – a mass of material. In this particular case, we must take Eusebius and Jerome serious, because they were serious about the manuscript evidence. For 1800 years we have had a discussion of what the ending of Mark is. These two readings were in competition from a very early period. You’ve heard various solutions to that today. As to the gaps, we do not know why the gaps are there. There are many explanations, but we really don’t know why the gaps are there.

You have to be able to explain either 1) how we went from the longer ending to no ending and the other intermediate endings or 2) how we went from no ending to the other endings.

Internal Evidence
If I had a perfectly satisfying ending, why would I produce a document that ended at verse 8. To Dr. Robinson’s credit, he presented an explanation. If you hold to the longer ending as original, then you must be able to explain why we have documents with no ending, and why these documents persist.

At this point, Dr. Bock spends much time refuting Dr. Robinson’s internal evidence in favor of the longer ending of Mark.

Mark was probably written in roll form than in codex form. We don’t know if it was rolled up properly or not.

Mark is the least popularly used gospel in the early church. Explanation: Virtually all of Mark is in the other gospels.

The most difficult question for those who hold to Markan priority is the patristic evidence. We must deal with the patristic evidence.

Concerning Dr. Black’s view that Matthew was written early to the Jerusalem church: The early Christians considered themselves Jews. They continued in the synagogue. They did not leave the synagogue until they were forced out. What actual evidence do we have of Paul or Peter actually using Matthew? What actual evidence do we have of Peter commissioning Luke’s gospel? The evidence of the fathers in this area is very difficult to deal with. When a patristic father writes, it is very difficult to pick out which gospel they are citing, or if they are citing a gospel.

Concerning Dr. Elliott’s view that there is a problem with the priority of Peter or Mary as witness to the resurrection: A cultural answer is better than a textual problem. Mary was actually the first one to see Jesus, but in a formal list it would be better to show Peter as the first.

How did we get a Mark that ends with gar without a resurrection account? Though uncommon, there are books that end in gar. Prophecy and fulfillment almost always happen in the gospels. Mark is doing something that is subtle but is not postmodern. If you have been given the promise of God and the prediction of God concerning the resurrection, then that is all you need.

Other famous “non-endings”: parable of the prodigal son, the ending of Acts.

If the longer ending of Mark is unoriginal, it still may be canonical.

Dr. Bock does not care for the solution of David Parker at all. Parker suggests that what happened with the ending of Mark is that we had radical theological interpretations that came to be stifled by later ecclesial interpretations. “This is hogwash.” You can’t wedge in alternative Christianities here.

This is a difficult problem because it is a difficult problem.

(Dr. Bock is also a very engaging presenter. Bock said, “If this were crystal clear, we would not have to be here. We could be at the lake contemplating general revelation instead of discussing special revelation.” Dr. Bock’s “prolegomenon” was great, and worth the conference. Unfortunately, I think Dr. Bock spent too much time refuting the longer ending than responding to all of the presenters. I wonder why he had nothing negative to say about Dr. Wallace’s position – a position to which he holds.)


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  1. 4-15-2007

    Mark is the least popularly used gospel in the early church.

    This is an interesting statement. Alan, do you remember if Bock gave or referred to evidence for his assertion, apart from his explanation that “virtually all of Mark is in the other gospels”?

    If the longer ending of Mark is unoriginal, it still may be canonical.

    I’m not sure what this means…
    What is meant by canonical here?


  2. 4-15-2007


    Welcome to my blog and thanks for the comments.

    I believe that Bock made the statement about Mark being least popular from the patristic evidence. I believe he said that Mark is not quoted as often as the other gospels.

    As to originality and canonicity, I believe that Bock suggested (with Elliott) that the ending might not have originated with Mark, but that it was accepted by the early church, as was thus canonical.


  3. 4-15-2007

    A few random observations about Dr. Bock’s remarks:

    (1) I’m not confident in Dr. Bock’s grasp of the facts.

    Exhibit A: he said we don’t know why the gap in Vaticanus is there. While we don’t know this to the degree that we know that fire is hotter than ice, imho Dr. Bock was consciously avoiding the path that the evidence would lead him if he engaged the evidence (something he did not do; he just stated his views).

    Did it seem to anyone else that Dr. Bock suggested that since there is no umlaut at 16:8, MERELY A PROLONGED BLANK SPACE THAT INCLUDES AN ENTIRE BLANK COLUMN, it would be hasty to conclude that the copyist was thinking of the Long Ending when he left this blank space?

    Exhibit B: Dr. Bock stated pretty clearly that he did not think that Jerome was merely copying Eusebius. His statement would have appeared much less plausible to conference-attenders, I think, if he had attempted to engage the evidence at this point instead of just state his view.

    (2) Dr. Bock said that the Long Ending and the ending at 16:8 are both old. True. But Justin’s use of 16:20 — with the consideration that Justin typically used a Gospels-harmony something like the Diatessaron — is a lot older than Eusebius. It’s not as if the earliest evidence of use of the Long Ending , and the earliest mention of the Abrupt Ending, are equally old.

    (3) Um … why was Dr. Bock here? He didn’t defend (except in the panel-discussion) a position. And he didn’t serve as a moderator. If he had just said, “I agree with Dan Wallace, and those who disagree with us do so because they have different presuppositions and methodologies, and we’ll probably never agree,” wouldn’t that have just about summed up most of his presentation?


    To Simon: in the panel-discussion, Bock distinctly said something to the effect that if he were pressed hard on the question of canonicity, he would favor the ending at 16:8.

    But I think that earlier, in his main presentation, he /did/ say something like what you wrote. (Or at least chimed in on something that Elliott said, to the same effect). Which I take to mean that Dr. Bock has not firmly made up his mind as far as the canonicity of the LE is concerned, but is currently not in favor of it. (By “canonical” he means, basically, a text recognized as Scripture, as an authoritative text, by the church.)

  4. 4-15-2007


    You asked, “Why was Dr. Bock here?” It was my understanding that Dr. Bock was supposed to respond to all of the presenters. Unfortunately, I think Dr. Bock responded to all of the presenters except Dr. Wallace. I wish Dr. Bock had at least pointed out the weaknesses of Dr. Wallace’s position – which was his own position. Instead, Dr. Bock spent much time critiquing Dr. Robinson’s view, briefly discussed Dr. Elliott’s position and Dr. Black’s position, but did not touch Dr. Wallace’s position (unless I missed this). To me, Dr. Bock came across a second presentation of the position that Mark originally ended his gospel at 16:8.