Recently we surveyed a small fraction of the external evidence supporting what is called the “longer ending” of Mark, our current Mark 16:9-20, which is viewed by many Bible scholars as a late addition that should not be in the canon. In the book I recommend on this topic, Nicholas P. Lunn’s The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014), Lunn focuses not on the compelling external evidence but on detailed analysis of the internal evidence. He begins by pointing out the serious flaws in the arguments used to reject the longer ending. For example, many scholars point to the large number of new words used there that are not found in the rest of Mark. But Lunn shows that the number of new words in the longer ending is actually quite consistent with the number of new words found in many passages of similar length in Mark, and that the ratio of new words in a short work like Mark is a very poor tool for assessing authorship.
Lunn’s significant, detailed, and lengthy analysis of the internal evidence involves many technical issues that require a good knowledge of biblical Greek. I am unable to assess the accuracy of many of these points, but much can still be appreciated and understood by laymen and by those who have explored authorship in terms of statistical analyses like word prints and other measures. While Lunn is not a statistician and could certainly refine the statistical tools he applies, the analyses he conducts generally strike me as reasonable in principle and often quite compelling. What really impresses meis how extensive and multidimensional the arguments are. Some of the subtle points he makes suggest lines of analysis that might bear fruit in exploring the Book of Mormon, through we lack the benefit of the text in the original language of the authors.
As one of several approaches, Lunn examines each of the major words in the disputed ending as well as the grammatical patterns employed and compares them to Mark and other texts, and provides evidence pointing to Markan origins in many cases. For example, except for a related instance in Luke that is said to be dependent on Mark, the only occurrences of the form “cast out / demons / in the name of” are found in the longer ending of Mark and earlier in the main body of Mark, consistent with common authorship (Lunn, 187-
Analysis of Jesus’ statement, “they shall lay hands on the sick,” shows that the collocation of “lay hands upon” and a sick person occurs five times in Mark, including the longer ending, but just once in Matthew and twice in Luke. In Matthew and Luke, the healed person is represented with a pronoun, while Mark alone uses a noun to refer to the infirm/infirmity (6:5, 8;25, and 16:18 in the longer ending).
More than this, in 6:5 those upon whom Jesus lays his hands are described as ἀρρώστοις (“sick”), an adjective that we have previously noted to be more frequent in Mark than the other Synoptics. What is significant here is that this is very same word as that appearing in the collocation of 16:18. So, with that specific object in view, this three-part collocation is only found in Mark 6:5 and 16:18. In the whole of NT literature the grouping “lay/hands/on the sick” is seen to be an exclusively Markan collocation. (Lunn, 189.)
This kind of thing crops up over and over in the analysis, and to me creates another compelling case for common authorship. Of course, other scholars argue that the use of Markan words, phrases, and grammatical patterns is evidence of deliberate imitation. Lunn properly objects to that argument as wanting to have it both ways: unique words or grammatical patterns are said to be evidence of a second author, and common words and style are also evidence of a second author just trying hard to imitate Mark. But it is in the abundance of subtle consistency that the “just imitating Mark” argument becomes implausible, for many of the details favoring Markan authorship require scholarship, analysis, and attention to detail that just doesn’t make sense for a plagiarizer, much as most of the plagiarism charges against the Book of Mormon don’t make sense if one wishes to offer a coherent theory of how the Book of Mormon was concocted.
Here are some summaries from several of the chapters dealing with internal evidence to give you a flavor for the work:
Summary for Chapter Five, “Linguistic Evidence (2)”
In this chapter we have studied a selection of different linguistic features present in Mark 16:9 –20 . From this we have observed the following significant facts:
• The analysis of the various parts of speech, regarding their range of frequency in individual sections, their hierarchy, and their deviation from the Markan average, results in the inclusion of the longer ending within the parameters exhibited by the rest of Mark. The same cannot be said of the undoubtedly spurious shorter ending and Freer Logion.
• The implicit manner of participant reference used with respect to Jesus at the beginning of the distinct units within the longer ending (16:9, 12, 14) matches that commonly found in the same episode-initial position in the preceding part of Mark.
• The majority of the two-or three-part collocations found in the longer ending have their exact or closest parallels elsewhere in Mark.
• The rare temporal phrase μετὰ τὸ + infinitive (16:19), attested only five times elsewhere in the Gospels, has its only exact Gospel parallels earlier in Mark.
• The particular form of juxtaposed genitive absolute phrases (16:20) has three matching constructions in Mark, which is more than appear in all the other Gospels.
• For the verb ἀκούειν followed by a complement clause in the present tense (16:11) the majority of its Synoptic parallels occur in Mark.
• The partitive phrase with preposition and pronoun (16:11) conforms to the pattern seen elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel.
• The form of the conjoined noun phrases with possessive pronoun (16:14) corresponds precisely to the preferred configuration for such constructions in Mark.
The commonality of these very specific and very varied features with known Markan usage carries considerable weight. This contrasts with the weakness of the usual linguistic arguments against the genuineness of the longer ending discussed and refuted in the previous chapter. Here then we have noted positive linguistic indicators which collectively form another important element of our case for Markan authorship.
We note in conclusion that the findings of this chapter effectively refute Kelhoffer’s thesis that the supposed later author of the longer ending actually sought to deliberately imitate Mark. Kelhoffer’s arguments are based largely upon surface features of the language, in which, it is posited, the hypothetical writer only partially imitated the earlier Evangelist, leaving the basic non-Markan nature of his work detectable to the scholar. This, however, raises an insurmountable objection. Assuming the correctness of this thesis, if even regarding the more obvious features he only managed to imitate some and not others, how do we explain the fact that he went to even greater efforts to conform to Markan usage in less evident features of the language, such as those dealt with above? The greater subtlety of such linguistic components as discussed in this chapter is proven from the fact that no scholar, either in antiquity or in recent times, has remarked upon these within the context of the present debate. Almost certainly our hypothetical writer would have been completely ignorant of such things. Furthermore, assuming he/she was so linguistically informed, to have taken the trouble to have included these elements would have been pointless, since their significance would have remained almost entirely unappreciated by those who read or heard his work. Consequently, to claim imitation with respect to such details is quite groundless.
To bring our consideration of language-related matters to a close we may state that the findings of this chapter, plus the conclusions of the previous, contrary to popular scholarly opinion, enable us to firmly set Mark 16:9–20 linguistically within the Markan domain. (Lunn, 200-1)
Summary for Chapter Six, “Literary Evidence”
This chapter has looked to literary factors for the resolution of the question concerning the authenticity of the longer ending. Through the examination of a range of diverse rhetorical techniques commonly utilized by the biblical writers it has been demonstrated that these disputed verses show no signs of being a late appendage, but rather form an integral and indeed essential part of the author’s original composition. Several strands of literary evidence, both structural and intratextual, give confirmation to the church’s traditional acceptance of this portion of the Gospel. We here, by way of conclusion, summarize the findings of this chapter. Our investigation has demonstrated that
(a) the longer ending, by the reoccurrence of particular themes, words, and phrases, establishes an inclusio with the opening passages of the Gospel (1:1–20).
(b) the longer ending conforms to a specific form of episodic structure (ABCX) that is exclusively Markan.
(c) the longer ending relates to the immediately preceding verses (16:1–8) by way of a formal parallelism with distinct verbal and thematic correspondences.
(d) the unified narrative of chapter 16 , in displaying a resurrection-unbelief-preaching sequence, aligns closely with the material closing the first major section of the Gospel (5:21–6:13), with which it also correlates at a macrostructural level.
(e) the unified narrative of chapter 16 relates intratextually to material of 5:21–6:13 through multiple verbal linkages.
(f) the resurrection-unbelief-preaching accounts of 5:21–6:13 function as narrative anticipations or foreshadowings of the events recorded in 16:1–20.
Had our findings merely consisted of one or two possible literary features, these might have been dismissed as coincidental. The literary evidence, however, is plainly manifold and in most instances quite objective. Such testimony cannot so readily be dismissed, especially when to it we add the corroboration of the thematic evidence, the topic that next falls to our examination. (Lunn, 240)
In Chapter 7, “Thematic Evidence,” Lunn explores the extensive foreshadowing in Mark that points to multiple elements in the longer ending that are needed to complete prophecy or complete themes raised by Mark earlier. Lunn finds that a relatively unique aspect of Mark is the way he lays out forthcoming themes (foreshadowing) “with distinct verbal links in the narrative fulfillments” (Lunn, 246). With that in mind, Lunn explains that the multiple predictions of the resurrection of Christ, Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34, are not completed by the empty tomb alone if Mark ends at 16:8, but require the declaration that Christ has arisen. “Having risen…” in 16:9, the first verse of the disputed longer ending, does precisely that with a “resounding” echo of Christ’s words (Lunn, 246-7).
I was especially intrigued by the subtle exodus themes that unite Mark, according to Lunn (Lunn, 248-263). Lunn shows numerous references to Exodus in the language of Mark, suggesting that Mark has framed the mission of Christ as a New Exodus. Christ seeks to bring Israel across the waters of baptism into a spiritual Promised Land, and in so doing, rather than casting out Gentile nations, Christ’s work is to cast out Satan and his demons.
As one of many examples, Lunn explains how the transfiguration in Mark 9 points to Moses at Mount Sinai, something which a variety of scholars have previously observed (Lunn, 256-7). Both take place in a mountain, Moses and Jesus both take three persons with them (Exodus 24:1,9; Mark 9:2). A cloud overshadows the mountain in both cases. A voice is heard from the cloud. There are references to tabernacles in both (Exodus 25:9; Mark 9:5). The appearance of both principle characters is transformed. The injunction to “Hear him” in Mark 9:7 also has overtones from Moses, with similar words used to describe a Moses-like prophet in Deut. 18:15 (Lunn, 257), as other scholars have also noted.
Among other details, the miracles of feeding point to manna in the wilderness and the last supper points to the Passover feast. Christ’s words, “This is the blood of the covenant” (Mark 14:24) have been observed by many commentators to reflect Exodus 24:1-8, where God establishes His covenant through Moses. As Moses throws blood upon the altar, he says “Behold, the blood of the covenant.”
The longer ending, not surprisingly, has multiple exodus allusions that are consistent with Mark’s overarching implementation of exodus themes. The appearance of Christ to the eleven uses the term “appeared” in a way the recalls the divine commission of Moses. Exodus 3:2 reports that “the angel of the Lord appeared to him,” but we soon learn it is Jehovah that is appearing to Moses and giving him his commission, just as Christ does for the eleven.
The call of Moses in Exodus 3 and 4 involves miraculous signs, possibly reflected by the reference to signs in Mark 16:17. The signs are related to the belief of the people in both cases.
Lunn also sees a parallel in the snakes mentioned in the longer ending: “they shall take up serpents” (Mark 16:18). Taking up a serpent with his hand is exactly what Moses does after his rod is turned into a snake by the Lord (Exodus 4:2-3). It’s a fascinating parallel that I hadn’t noticed before. Also in this episode, “hands” play an important role in both accounts.
Mark’s use of “hardening” of hearts also has affinity to the Exodus account in the Old Testament, both from the Egyptian’s response to his message and miracles, and in the waning faith of the House of Israel.
Moses is also commanded to “go” and carry out his work of deliverance from slavery (Exodus 3:10), just as the Apostles are commanded to “go” and preach the Gospel among all nations.
With this perspective, it seems that much in the longer ending resonates subtly with the exodus theme that permeates Mark, consistent with common authorship and thematic intent.
In many cases, what we learn from Lunn has ramifications for Book of Mormon studies. For example, what happens when we look at 3 Nephi through the lens of the Exodus account? Does it show similar themes in the appearance of the Messiah to Book of Mormon peoples? Is there a new Exodus present in that book? And does Lunn’s analysis of the theme of transfiguration offer any help in appreciating 3 Nephi and its transfiguration/translation scenes? These are topics I plan to take up in my next post.