Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paul's Testimony and Mark's Ending

In response to a review of a book on Kevin Bussey's blog, here, I thought I should address some of the concerns added by one known as AskAnAtheist, who has a very enjoyable and reasonable contrasting perspective. The first that I addressed was Paul's use (or lack thereof) of his personal experience with Christ on the Damascus road in his epistles. AAA claimed that Paul didn't really believe this experience was real but used it as an "in" to gain access to the church that would otherwise resist his teachings. If he really believed it, he would have mentioned it more often.

The second issue was one that I enjoyed talking to Charlie about this very morning--the ending of Mark's Gospel. A3 claimed the long ending is not original--a claim I agree with. The why is a question that I address. I have not seen his response on Kevin's site yet, but he's welcome to post it here as well. Edits to my post on Kevin's site appear in [ ].

Here is my response.


Just like our political spectrum [with a] Left/Liberal-------Right/Traditional

that spectrum exists in the theological/historical realm as well

I'm teaching an introduction to World Religions class at a community college and just informed the class of that. The text we're using (not my choice) is very much on the theo left end while I let them know I'm closer to the r/t end.

With that said, each side can find someone to bolster their own ideas. I'm just more uncomfortable with the foundational assumptions that are made on the left (ex.--anti-supernatural bias)

As to your ideas about Paul and his testimony. I'm not surprised he didn't mention it in most of his letters. That's the kind of testimony usually reserved for a face to face [meeting]. He only mentioned it in Acts 22 b/c of the riot he was the center of--a face to face if you will. He mentions his "abnormal birth" in 1 Cor. 15 as if his readers already know the account. He refers to the events immediately following his conversion in Damascus in 2 Cor. 11:32-33 with those who question his apostleship. He referred to it again in Galatians 1:13-24. I feel like I'm leaving one out but I think you get the point. Specific challenges get a specific response but he doesn't have to rehash the same things over and over again. People knew who he was and his story--even he thinks it's silly when he starts touting his credentials [I'm out of my mind for talking like this, Paul says]. At least he didn't go 3rd person!!!

As to the ending in Mark, I agree with you that what appears in most Bibles is not the original ending. It's out of character, uses different words and is just a different style. Mine notes that (NIV Study Bible). I'm more and more convinced that the "they were afraid" ending was the original ending, for a specific reason. It's a perfect cliffhanger ending.

I always hated Season Finales of shows b/c they always did something to make you wait and anticipate next season. Star Trek--NG's Borg ending drove me nuts b/c I knew I would have to wait a couple months to see the resolve.

I'm of the mind that Mark was written especially to a Greek audience that wanted to hear a faster and exciting story, which is why it uses so many words like "immediately" and stories of power, while including the mystery and "[Messianic] secret" that the [demons know], the audience gets to hear but the characters don't know . This also explains why it's shorter. So the reader would have created a great tension in his audience who wants to know the resolve, how it ends, do they figure it out, etc.

When it ends there, with the cliffhanger ending, it is the perfect opening for an eyewitness to stand up and tell them exactly what they saw and heard--tell them the resolve, tell them that they did figure it out. Considering that Mark is generally understood to be the companion of Peter, it would be a perfect intro for Peter to then stand up and speak and reveal the Resurrection.

If that is true, then I surmise that someone later was uncomfortable with the ending and tagged a resolve on the end.

Your thoughts on this?

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