What is it about?

It is widely agreed that Mark ended at 16.8 and that 16.9-20 contain at least three later additions to bring it closer to the endings of the later gospels. But 16.8 is difficult. Did the women disobey the angel's command and remain silent? Is Mark as negative about them as he is about the male disciples? I suggest an earlier version lacked v.7 (which looks like a Markan insertion, along with 14.28) and that Mark substituted it for v.8 but that someone soon replaced the discarded but still familiar v.8, creating the problems critics see in 16.6-8.

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Why is it important?

This speculative hypothesis justifies the Roman Catholic lectionary instruction to read on 16.1-7 and ignore v.8.


As a New Testament exegete and theologian I try to be guided by what I think was the author's intention even when this has to be a guess based on a reading of the whole writing and its likely original context. Mark aimed to communicate the gospel and directs his readers in v.7 to go back to the beginnings of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, meet the Risen Lord there, and continue his work. V.8 spoils that and leaves readers of the gospel baffled - not (I suggest) Mark's aim - contrary to some scholars' ingenious proposals.

Robert Morgan
University of Oxford

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This page is a summary of: Difficult texts: Mark 16.8, Theology, October 2017, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0040571x17719658.
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