Recently Pastor Mike Winger concluded his online study of the book of Mark on his YouTube channel. After it concluded, he addressed the long ending of Mark. For the uninitiated, it is the majority scholarly opinion that the book of Mark originally ended at chapter 16 and verse 8. The additional passages following are believed to have been added in by a later scribe. Pasto Winger spent over 100 hours researching the topic to address the following questions about the long ending of Mark.
- Is it original to the book of Mark?
- If not, is the long ending written by the same author as Mark but at a later date?
- If neither of the first 2, does it belong in the Bible?
The point of this article is not to debate the authenticity of these passages. Moreover, I agree with Pastor Wingers findings on points 1 and 2. He concluded that verses 9-20 are not original to the Book of Mark. He further concluded that they were not written by the same author as the preceding verses and chapters. However, he wants them to remain in the Bible because he “doesn’t want to miss out on a single piece of what might be Scripture.”
For obvious reasons, I found this conclusion to be odd. Why do 100 hours of research that concludes that this isn’t original or from the same author if leaving it in is even an option? Isn’t this like NFL referees spending 10 minutes reviewing a play only to conclude that they got the call wrong, only to decide the original call should stand just in case it was right?
Every Friday Mike Winger does a segment called 20 questions. I decided to ask him the following question last week.
If the longer ending of Mark isn’t original, nor written by Mark, how is keeping it in the Bible not diluting the Word of God and cheapening the meaning of “Scripture”?
Mike Winger deflects away from my question.
I found Mike’s answer to be a bit surprising. Instead of answering my question, he deflected by theorizing that I’m opposed to multiple authors of one book of Scripture. I want to make it clear that this isn’t the case. I readily concur with him that Psalms and Deuteronomy are both examples of Scriptures with multiple authors. In fact, I’m probably closer to the Documentary Hypothesis than I am to single Mosaic authorship. I decided to respond by pointing out the differences between the long ending of Mark, and what for the sake of this article we will call the long ending of Deuteronomy.
Pastor Winger is 100% correct that it is implausible that Moses wrote about his own death and burial. Orthodox Rabbis assert that these passages were in fact written by Joshua. However, that is pure speculation. What is important here is that we answer the following question about the long ending of Deuteronomy. Is it consistent with where Moses left off, and where Joshua picks up in the next book?
As we see here, Deuteronomy 34:4 tells us that Moses will die without entering the promised land. Moreover, Joshua 1:1 confirms that Moses was dead before the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Thus, we should expect the remaining verses of Deuteronomy to reflect this scenario. As we see in 34:5, this is precisely what happens. Therefore we see consistency despite the apparent change in authors.
Is the long ending of Mark consistent with the short ending?
In verse 8 of the final chapter of Mark, we read that the women didn’t tell anyone about the empty tomb out of fear. However, verse 10 (part of the longer ending added by a scribe) informs us that Mary Magdelene went and told the disciples. This is inconsistent with what Mark said in his original ending. However, at this point we need to apply a little logic. Since Mark is telling us that they witnessed the empty tomb, they must have at some point told someone about their visit. I will return to this point later, but for now suffice it to say that this is an internal inconsistency.
Now we notice something much different here. While in Deuteronomy the long ending is consistent across the board with both the short ending and the surrounding author’s narrative, here the long ending is inconsistent with both. Matthew 28:8 tells us that the women departed “quickly” to tell the disciples, despite their fear. Luke 24:9 tells us that they told the story while “returning from the tomb.” And John tells us that Mary Magdelene announced her findings to the disciples.
Now at this point we need to understand why these stories are different. Notice, to be clear here, I say “different” as opposed to “contradictory.” First, we must understand what it means to see the risen Jesus. Let’s look at a couple of different accounts.
What does it mean to see the risen Jesus?
The Epistles of Paul were written before the Gospels, but here we see that the tradition of seeing a risen Jesus predates the Gospels. That said, we find another inconsistency here. Notice, Paul says “then to the twelve?” However, looking at Luke 24:9 we’re told that the women “told all these things to the eleven.” Why the different number? Because Judas betrayed Jesus before his crucifixion, and Matthias replaces him after the ascension. Thus, in the space between the resurrection and the ascension there were only 11. However, Paul clearly says he appeared to the twelve. How can this be? Because Paul also counts his post ascension encounter with Jesus amongst the witnesses to the resurrection. But what did these accounts look like?
Here we see a big difference between Paul’s encounter and those of the eleven. Moreover, we see the escalating nature of the encounters. Paul sees a light and hears a voice. This could simply be a vision or a ghost. However, Matthew says they “took hold of his feet.” This is much less ghostly. In Luke, Jesus is eating a piece of fish. Can a ghost do that? By the time John writes, Jesus is showing his wounds and offering them for physical examination.
Herein lies the problem. Paul says that Jesus appears to the twelve. This would require at least one of the witnesses to be a post ascension witness of a likely non physical appearance. Moreover, he equates all of the appearances with his own encounter with a disembodied voice.
Do we have reason to believe that Paul didn’t believe in a physical, bodily resurrection?
In Paul’s account of the resurrection, what goes into the ground is not what comes out of the ground. Hence, there is no need for and no reference to an empty tomb. In fact, there are two bodies. One physical, and one spiritual. However, one doesn’t need to be a skeptic to see the potential challenges that will be raised here. What Paul is describing here is an encounter with a ghost to any skeptic, not a resurrection. How would one respond to such an attack? Well, it seems clear to me.
Mark, the first Gospel to be written, adds the detail of an empty tomb. Why are we just now hearing about this? Because the women didn’t tell anyone at the time for the disciples to investigate. This is consistent, but raises the next skeptical question. How do we know that the women didn’t go to the wrong tomb, or perhaps the body was stolen? Matthew writes next. He puts guards at the tomb, seen by the women, to confirm their presence at the correct tomb. In Luke, the next entry, Jesus himself addresses the skepticism of the disciples. You think I’m a ghost? Do ghosts get hungry? So he eats a piece of fish. When John, the final canonical Gospel author writes, we’ve progressed to post-mortem analysis of the resurrected body.
Jerusalem, we have a problem.
It’s only once these works are cobbled together by later believers that the problem emerges. Mark is consistent with Paul. Matthew, Mark, and John are different but not contradictory to Paul. However Matthew, Luke, and John cannot be reconciled with Mark’s account as is. Hence, the longer ending that changes Luke’s statement about the women not telling anyone. This is still inconsistent, but not entirely contradictory as it was previously.
While all of this information is interesting, I’m sure none of it will phase Pastor Mike Winger. Hence, it was not the intention of my original question to address any of these points. As a Noahide, I don’t believe the New Testament to be the word of Hashem. However, for the sake of this discussion I was conceding the point. To illustrate my question, allow me to use an analogy.
4 Gospel Authors walk into a bar…
I enjoy drinking Scotch from time to time. Johnny Walker Red is a decent Scotch, and can be acquired for around $5 a shot. Johnny Walker Black is a much better blend, but will set you back around $10. However, the Blue Label is the best Johnny Walker has to offer. A shot of that will set you back around $30.
Now imagine you’re sitting at a bar and you order a double shot of Johnny Walker Blue to the tune of $60. The bartender pours your shot, and then walks over to the bottle of Johnny Walker Red and tops of the bottle of Blue that she just poured from. Are you going to be willing to pay $60 for another double of this diluted concoction of Johnny Walker Purple?
But Steve, you’re a Noahide, and hence naturally critical of the Gospels. Fair enough. Interestingly, we have another 12 verse section of Scripture that isn’t original to the Gospel of John. Dr. Stephen Boyce is a Christian who addressed the story of the pericope adulterer and came to the following conclusion about it’s place in the Bible.
Do I agree with Dr. Boyce that the Gospel of John is the Word of God? No, I do not. However, when I walk into his church and he pours me a shot of the word, I know that he hasn’t watered down what he believes to be the word of God with the uninspired words of Luke. I’m not sure what his position on the long ending of Mark is, but it’s hard for me to imagine that if he concludes that it’s not original that he would serve it up to me as the divinely inspired word of God.
I don’t expect Pastor Mike Winger to agree with me that Mark was simply inventing an empty tomb to get around the ghost questions from skeptics, and the story grew from there. However, I do expect Pastor Winger to agree with me that when we call something the word of God, we owe it to Hashem to protect that writing from outside corruption. If we allow inserted texts to remain based on church tradition and the outside chance that they might be inspired, we are doing a disservice to what it means to call something the word of God. It is my opinion that this is what is happening here with Pastor Mike Winger.