April 5, 2015 Mark's Gospel is not broken.
Tuesday of Holy Week, 2015
Mark’s gospel is broken. At least that is what many people think.
Certainly, there have been several attempts to “fix” it. If you look in your Bible you will find a shorter ending and a longer ending. It has been suggested that since Mark was written on a papyrus scroll that perhaps the ending of Mark’s Gospel got broken off through use and lost.
Mark simply cannot end the way it does.
What is the problem?
In the oldest of manuscripts the final sentence is, “So the women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, they were afraid for.” There is no meeting the resurrected Jesus, no telling the disciples what they had seen, and no resurrection appearances by Jesus.
Furthermore, even the sentence itself is incomplete. “They were afraid for…”
Clearly the phrase needs to be completed. It is like someone starts to take a step and the foot is left hanging in the air. It never hits the ground. There is something within us that craves completion. The melody of a song comes to a final resolution. Stories have an ending, even if it is, “And they lived happily ever after.” But Mark ends unresolved.
Current scholarship suggests that there is no lost ending and that both the longer and shorter endings were clearly the work of later authors trying to complete what is left incomplete. Those later authors took material from the other Gospels and added it on.
If, therefore, this is the true ending, you know that this cannot be the whole story and so you go back, re-reading Mark to see if you can puzzle out the ending. You read Jesus words in new light:
• “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31
• “And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’” Mark 14, 27, 28
Mark is a greater genius than we realize. After all, is this not our experience? We go looking for Jesus and find a mystery instead. We are forced to look for clues that reveal the presence of the Risen Jesus. And, we are invited to overcome our fear and tell what we have experienced.