Archive for October, 2012

Review of “Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views”

October 22, 2012

Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views
©2008 by David Alan Black
Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers
145 pages

I am preaching through the gospel of Mark. From the outset, I knew I had to decide how I was going to approach the last 12 verses. In the past, the question of when does Mark’s Gospel end would not have been a problem. Preaching from the King James to people reading the King James doesn’t necessitate an explanation. Other than that part about handling snakes I mean. And drinking poison (Mark 16:18). Besides, I could just camp on Mark 16:15 and be done with it. That was then. This is now. I preach from the NASB. My folks carry a variety of translations. The NIV makes a clear distinction separating vs. 8 from vss. 9-20. Most of the others simply use brackets with a footnote. In preparation I read this book edited by David Alan Black, who also served as one of the contributors.

Let’s start with the issue at hand. “Since the two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20” (as per the NIV) are the last 12 verses of the gospel of Mark authentic? Does Mark end his gospel at verse 8, as all the modern translations seem to suggest or did he end at verse 20, the so-called long ending (LE), as the majority of manuscripts do? I assumed it was an either or question, who knew there were four possible views! The book did a very good job of differentiating between them.

2 views that say Yes, the long ending is the right ending

Maurice Robinson is Senior Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of The New Testament in the Original Greek. He argues that Mark 16:9-20 is original. His is the traditional view that there is not enough evidence to the contrary to doubt the authenticity of the LE. You would think that his presentation would be the most easy to defend, given that his is the position with the most history behind it. Yet, he muddies the water by weaving his points around some century old poem. His defense made some very strong points, but ultimately left me unconvinced. (I’m not saying I am unconvinced the LE is authentic, just that he didn’t convince me.)

David Alan Black is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Learn to Read New Testament Greek and New Testament Textual Criticism. By the way, all these chapters were originally from a conference held at the aforementioned seminary. Black takes the view that the LE was written by Mark, but at a later date. “I am absolutely convinced that the Longer Ending is original based on the external evidence, and that it deserves the canonical status it has enjoyed throughout church history” (p. 103). He believes that the reason for the omissions in some of the manuscripts is because Mark’s original writing was composed as a record of Peter’s teachings (which validated the existing gospels of Matthew and Luke). After Peter’s martyrdom “(a)s an act of piety to the memory of Peter, Mark then decided to publish an edition of the text that would include the necessary sequel to the passion and death of the Master” (p. 120). Black argues a very interesting, but highly speculative theory to arrive at this conclusion.

2 views that say No, the long ending is not the right ending

Daniel B. Wallace argues for Mark 16:8 as being the conclusion to the Second Gospel. Wallace is Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. The question “(w)hich is more likely- that scribes would intentionally omit vv. 9-20 or that they would add these verses?” (p. 10) forms the basis for his examination of the external evidence. As do the others, he also deals with the witness of the church fathers. “The patristic testimony thus reveals a very interesting trend: from the earliest discussion on the authenticity of this passage, the fathers indicate that most of the copies of Mark ended at 16:8” (p. 24). As far as internal evidence, Wallace argues that Mark may have intentionally ended with the women being afraid because of the place fear (or amazement) played in the second gospel.

For me, J. Keith Elliott’s position was the most problematic (or should I say disturbing?).
Elliott is Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism at the University of Leeds. He is the author of Manuscripts and the Text of the New Testament. He believes that the original ending was lost. Mark didn’t mean to end at verse 8, but we don’t have the ending. That idea doesn’t cause him any consternation, but inerrancy certainly does. “The textual problems at the end of Mark and indeed the fluid text in much of the New Testament as a whole make talk of inerrancy, as narrowly defined by some, indefensible” (p. 99). “The sooner that the language of inerrancy is dropped in the context of textual criticism the better it will be for scholarship” (p. 101).

Another Dallas Seminary professor, Darrell L. Bock provides a concluding response to the four essays. He is upfront that he believes that Mark ended his gospel at verse 8. “Mark’s ending matches the circumstances of his readers: the Resurrection is proclaimed and the only remaining issue is what will the one who hears about the Resurrection do with a risen Jesus. Mark’s ending assumes that the women did emerge from their silence and fear to believe and proclaim” (p. 140). He acknowledges all of the authors look at the external and internal evidence and come to vastly different conclusions. “The problem of Mark’s ending is complex. All the elements of textual criticism are in play: external evidence, internal evidence, the views of the versions and father, and what Mark himself was trying to do” (p. 140).

I wouldn’t recommend this book to my average church member. But as a pastor (and not a scholar), I did find it helpful as I prepare my final sermon on Mark’s gospel.

Review of “Embracing Obscurity”

October 1, 2012

I received an advanced reader copy of this book. The book’s marketer found me through my book review blog. I was sent a copy before it was made available to the public. I am proud that as a reviewer I received this book before anyone else.

The above statement makes me exactly the type of person who needs to read this book. It is about overcoming our pride problem. We all have one and this book will help you see that and hopefully overcome it by “Embracing Obscurity.”

The author confronts us with the reality that we are “just 1 in 7 billion.” By embracing obscurity the author means being content with being relatively unknown so that Christ can be made more known. Our time on earth will come and go but eternity is forever and it is for eternity we should live.

The key to obscurity’s embrace is finding our significance in Christ. When we find our significance in Christ “we are freed from our vanity and can instead fulfill God’s purposes for us” (p. 66). “To get to the place where we can truly embrace our obscurity, we’ll have to sacrifice our dreams of worldly success and instead take on this humble disposition…the disposition of Christ” (p. 85).

The author provides a very helpful contrast between Christ’s disposition of humility versus Satan’s disposition of pride (pp. 50-51). Modeling Jesus Christ is only way to embrace obscurity.

He warns of falling for “The Joseph Principle.” This is the dangerous misconception that
“If I am suffering in obscurity today, God must be preparing me for something greater, better, or more prominent later in life” (p. 116). “We comfort ourselves with this kind of self-talk because it’s far more soothing than the thought of suffering for the sole purpose of God’s glory or –heaven forbid- having to embrace obscurity indefinitely” (p. 118). We are prone to interpret the “all things for good” in Romans 8:28 to mean worldly success. “What if your good is soley to make His name great?” (p. 119).

Be forewarned, embracing obscurity will make you look crazy in the eyes of the world. “If our lifestyle doesn’t even raise the eyebrows of the world, what does that say about our devotion to the gospel?” (p. 129). For Christians to die to self, to put others first, to serve in obscurity is very mysterious to the rest of humanity.
“So how about us? Are we living mysteriously? Are our lives marked by service, sacrifice, love for others, abandonment of self, dependency on God, or genuine passion to see the lost saved? Or are we more preoccupied with the things of the world? A cool car or job? A retirement account? A higher education or some humanitarian work? Maybe even some noble things done but for the wrong reasons? Do any decisions in our lives seem mysterious to those around us? Without mystery we have to wonder whether we have embraced the ways of the Father or imitated the world” (p. 134).

This is a thought-provoking book. It caused me some severe introspection. As Christ followers, it asks us to consider if every opportunity for advancement should be undertaken, even those where there are no scriptures violated. I “humbly” give it my recommendation.

This book was provided by the publisher for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.