Saturday, April 14, 2007

Last Twelve Verses in Mark Conference : The Fat Lady Sang.

I just got out of the conference and I suppose I should write some initial thoughts. If you'd like a blow-by-blow account of the meeting, Alan Knox was kind enough to blog through the entire session.

All of the speakers did a fantastic job. It was interesting to find that even though one may not agree with vss 9-20 being original, there's a myriad of other theories to which one can adhere. For instance, Dr. Black and Dr. Robinson both agreed that the long ending (L.E.) is the original, but for different reasons. Dr. Robinson's appeal was primarily to internal evidence, showing how Markan 9-20 really is, giving a brief account of manuscript evidence, etc. However, Dr. Black, contrary to Robinson, holds to Matthaen priority and nearly all of his argument rests on patristic evidence. Dr. Black holds to the idea that there was initially a version of Mark, penned by Mark under the guidance of Peter, that did not include 9-20. After Peter's death, Mark added 9-20 as an homage to Peter. Thus, there were copies of Mark's gospel circulating that ended at verse 8.

Dr. Keith Elliot was brilliant. Is it just me or is there something about British theologians being the kindest people alive?! I chatted with him a bit last night after he spoke (he was the 3rd and final speaker Friday night, which was pretty amazing considering his "body time" was about 2am) and he treated me like a friend. Dr. Elliot made the case that 9-20 is not original, but that Mark did not originally end at 16:8 either. He believes that the ending was lost. He discussed the various scribes in Sinaiticus and how "D"s writing actually gets bigger (or is more spaced out) towards the end, as if he were aiming to fill up space that had originally been left for...more verses, perhaps? Wallace had dismissed the gap in Vaticanus as being something that happens in Vaticanus anyway, but Elliot had a quick response that the other three gaps (after Nehemiah, Daniel, and Tobit) are all Old Testament. Also, after Nehemiah in Vaticanus comes the Psalter, which is written in 2 columns and not 3, so it makes sense for there to be a gap. The gap after Daniel was explained easily, as it is the end of the OT in Vaticanus.

Dr. Bock and Dr. Wallace both agreed that 16:8 was the original ending. Wallace did a great job explaining the cumulative weight of evidence against 9-20 being original. He made some interesting points, noting that Smith's "Secret Mark" is actually more Markan than 9-20.

Dr. Bock had the task of wrapping everything up today. He was the last speaker and his job was basically to see where we are currently. He talked a lot about presuppositions and interpretations. He noted that all the scholars agreed on most of the facts (patristic witnesses, manuscript evidence, etc), but their interpretations were different due to the "models" in which they operated.

Some thoughts of my own:
Not enough evidence was brought forth to show that books end in a post-positive γαρ. With my little Greek knowledge, this seems somewhat awkward. Wallace mentioned that there are ancient writings that have open-ended conclusions, but didn't mention any. Bock mentioned that in the Gospels there are some "open-ended" conclusions. The end of Acts, for example. What happens to Paul? What happens to the Jews?

I didn't think sufficient evidence had been brought forth to show why anyone would omit 9-20. Either Black's or Elliot's theory seems to work better here.

It's interesting that scholars can look at 9-20 and there's a debate over how Markan or not it is. Everyone had pretty convincing arguments, Dr. Robinson's being the most in depth (concerning the vocabulary, style, etc). I suppose the only thing left for me to do is see what I think about it on my own. Sheesh. This is what conferences are for... to answer questions, not create them!

Overall, the conference was really great. Dr. Bock's lecture in the end had some good advice: don't subscribe to a brittle fundamentalism. Understand that we all have the facts (dots) and your interpretations may differ from others (how you connect those dots). I like this kind of thinking (when it's appropriate). As Dr. Bock said, if we take out 9-20, we lose nothing. Almost everything (aside from poison and snakes, which I admit is a bit unattractive and seems to be uncharacteristic of Jesus' words...but what do I know?) is included elsewhere in the New Testament.


Alan Knox said...


It was great to meet you at the conference. I hope we have a chance to talk more soon. I also enjoyed the conference and hope to post a review and reflection article soon.


Patrick George McCullough said...

Great synopsis, Josh. Thanks for sharing about the conference.

James Snapp, Jr. said...

Greetings Josh.

I handed out some copies (on disc) of my essay on Mark 16:9-20 at the conference. If you didn't get a copy, and would like one, let me know and I can e-mail it to you.

Some thoughts about a couple of things you wrote:

"He [Dr. Elliott] discussed the various scribes in Vaticanus and how "D"s writing actually gets bigger towards the end, as if he were aiming to fill up space that had originally been left for...more verses, perhaps?"

That's not what Dr. Elliott meant. He was referring to the scribes of Sinaiticus, not Vaticanus. And the handwriting in Sinaiticus near the end of Mark doesn't really get larger; it becomes drastically overspaced so as to take up more room. For details about this, see the part of my online presentation at that focuses on Sinaiticus.


"Wallace had dismissed the gap as being something that happens in Vaticanus anyway, but Elliot had a quick response ..."

And not only are Dr. Elliott's explanations correct, but the remaining blank space, on which he did not comment, at the end of Tobit, is just a place where one scribe's handwriting ends, and after the blank space another scribe's handwriting begins. Which implies that that blank space is simply leftover space, accidentally occurring when a copyist completed his assigned portion of text. (Meanwhile, at the end of Mark, the same scribe's handwriting appears before and after the blank space.)

So zero out of four of the comparisons made by Dr. Wallace to the other blank spaced in Vaticanus survive examination. All of them are due to factors which are not in play at the end of Mark.


"I didn't think sufficient evidence had been brought forth to show why anyone would omit 9-20."

Well, again, I welcome you to read my essay! I mention something like seven or eight ways to lose the ending which have been proposed in the past, as well as my own solution (which can be succinctly summed up: accidental loss or deliberate excision by a scribe who regarded the Long Ending as a separate liturgical composition).

Josh McManaway said...


Welcome to the blog! Thanks so much for your post.