Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Proper of the Day: Saturday of Easter Week

The Seventh Day of the Octave of Easter brings us to almost the end of the story of Peter and James and also the so-called "Longer ending" of the Gospel of Mark. The authorities try to censor Peter and James, who promptly said, "Well, too bad, because we have to keep speaking about what we have seen and heard." And this coming from uneducated Peter, fisherman, who before meeting Jesus might have only met his own rabbi at his own local synagague. What transformations God can perform in people!

The Gospel of Mark definitively ends only at 16:8. There are still 12 verses listed in most Bibles, but the New Revised Standard Version lists all of them as doubtful, in that the earliest manuscripts of Mark did not have them. In a way, it shouldn't be too surprising that editors and scribes would be uncomfortable with leaving Mark at verse 8: "So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." No witnessing of anything by anyone; simply sheer terror.

Here's the footnote the NRSV includes at verse 8: "Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful."

Mark is considered by most scholars to be the earliest-written of the Gospel accounts. It's interesting to read Mark and the other Resurrection accounts. They are very different in various ways. If Mark indeed is the earliest, perhaps he simply didn't have some of the other stories that Matthew, Luke, and John did. Perhaps an editor borrowed liberally from other sources to "flesh out" the Gospel, feeling that it couldn't possibly by complete otherwise. If that happened, I wish he hadn't; verse 16:18 has been a trouble spot for those who take the entire Scripture literally. Here's a nice overview of what has been discovered about the Shorter and the Longer Endings of Mark.

More music from The Messiah for this day:

We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of your Son; and we pray that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!



Grandmère Mimi said...

I like that the conductor seems to be smiling at the conclusion of the video, seemingly pleased with what the musicians have done.

The additional verses of Mark seem out of place even to an amateur like me. They just don't fit with what precedes them.

RFSJ said...

Grandmere Mimi,

I hadn't noticed what you did about Robert Shaw until you mentioned it, but you're quite right. I understand we was an excellent choral conductor for both singers and instrumentalists.

And with respect, I don't think anyone who approaches Scripture reverently is an amateur. At best, we are all amateurs!

I do sometimes wonder, however, what folks who grew up with other transaltions think of the NRSV when they get to the end of Mark. I had the RSV growing up, which doesn't mention anything about a shorter or longer ending, but it wasn't until I came back to the Church and bough my first NRSV Study Bible (Harper Collins, which is still my favorite) that I discovered this scholarship.

Happy Easter!


Grandmère Mimi said...

Happy Easter to you, Bob. It's still the Easter season, isn't it?

Thanks for the good word. I do approach the Bible with great reverence. I didn't learn about the end of Mark's Gospel being an add-on until my thirties or forties, when I was still in the Roman Catholic Church. We used the New American Bible, but there, too, the fact that the final words were added made perfect sense to me, once it was called to my attention.

RFSJ said...

Hmmm, my copy of the NAB is still packed away. I'll have to read the footnotes for Mark 16 when I get there.

By and large, the RCC has been pretty good about putting good scholarship in its Bibles. I went to a RC high school (Toledo St. Francis de Sales) and was first introduced to a study Bible there - they made up by a study NAB (St. Joseph's edition, as I recall) for our religion classes. I was pretty impressed, coming from a Lutheran background with nect to no decent Biblical education up to that point. In fact, it was in OT class that I was introduced to critical scholarship (the topic was the Ten Plagues) that made me realize I could, as you do, take the Bible reverently and seriously without taking it literally. That was one of the defining moments in my faith journey. Thanks be to God for Fr. Lukas, O.S.F.S.!