The oldest manuscripts do show this abrupt ending . The chapter's remaining material that appears today derives from other later sources, calling into doubt the text's authenticity. The abrupt ending may have been designed with readeras in mind familiar with the traditions of Jesus' post resurrection appearances. The longer ending may have been unknown from patristic times and added during the second century to fill out Jesus' post resurrection traditions. Had the material been lost or the book been stopped in its completion by intervention of the authorities.
- The directions the narrative would have taken re: the post resurrection appearances. The later meeting in Galilee with the disciples: had that the intention of focusing on further suffering of the community and not the happy return home of Jesus? Post resurrection appearances might have detracted from the message of the necessity of further earthly suffering for the community.
- The church had not yet experienced power and riches and the abrupt ending may have implied the symbolic nature of Jesus' going ahead in martyrdom, and that the same awaited his true followers maintaining their faith to the end. The abrupt announcement that Jesus has arisen is only the start of their new covenant with God . "And greater works than these shall ye do because I go to the Father."
The oldest manuscripts of Mark end with verse 8 of chapter 16. This is a
very abrupt ending; in fact in Greek it ends almost ungrammatically on a
conjunction. The rest of the chapter that typically appears today contains
language and symbolism which strongly suggest that they were taken from other,
later sources; thus, validity of the rest of Mark is the subject of much
speculation and debate.
Was it Mark’s intention to end the gospel in this
manner? It’s not unreasonable to suppose this as possible. Mark’s audience may
have already been familiar with various traditions of Jesus’ post-resurrection
appearances, so there wouldn’t necessarily have been any great need for Mark to
go into detail. An abrupt ending may have been perceived as more dramatic and
ending on a conjunction, while odd, isn’t totally ungrammatical.
to being absent on the earliest available manuscripts, the longer ending of Mark
also appears to have been unknown in patristic times. This suggests that it was
likely added during the second century in order to flesh out Jesus’
post-resurrection traditions. There are any number of reasons for the scribes to
think that a longer ending was appropriate: perhaps that material had since been
lost, or perhaps Mark had been prevented by authorities from completing his
The fact that Matthew and Luke expanded on Mark’s material to create
longer endings testifies to an early feeling that something more was needed in
the story — that the clumsy ending of Mark wasn’t adequate to the task at hand.
Many scholars even today tend to agree with this and argue that perhaps Mark did
intend to have more before his story finished. Why we don’t have such an ending,
though, is anyone’s guess.
What direction the narrative would have taken
seems clear. Verse 7 states that Jesus was to meet his disciples in Galilee and
it’s inconceivable that Mark wouldn’t have regarded that meeting as having
occurred. Mark always depicts Jesus as a reliable prophet whose statements about
the future consistently come to pass. Mark must have been aware of something,
some tradition, but if he had anything to say on the mater we don’t have it.
Then again, perhaps Mark’s audience was expected to fill in the end of the
story themselves — specifically, with themselves. Jesus is supposed to “go
ahead” of the disciples to Galilee, but Jesus’ mission was to be one of
suffering and death, not a return to a happy life back home. Jesus may have
risen, but suffering and persecution remained realities for Mark’s community and
post-resurrection appearances would have detracted from this.
If the words
were meant symbolically, perhaps the disciples were to understand that Jesus has
“gone ahead” of them in terms of having been martyred and that they would soon
follow, assuming that are able to remain faithful to his message. Mark’s
audience may have been expected to think of themselves as “disciples” as well,
followers of Jesus who have been persecuted for their beliefs and who are
expected to maintain faith even in the face of torture and death.
Christian church for Mark was not one that yet enjoyed power, glory, or riches.
It was still characterized by oppression and suffering, both at the individual
level and institutionally. Jesus predicted to his disciples that his death
implied their own later on, a reality being experienced by Christians in Mark’s
day. There is then some sense behind ending the gospel not on a note of hope and
glory, but fear and silence.
Thus, Mark may have regarded his gospel as
simply the beginning of the story. His narrative may end abruptly with the
announcement that Jesus is risen, but for the Christian community this is only
the start of their new covenant with God. Mark’s readers may have been expected
to complete the gospel themselves by taking up the cross as Jesus did and
suffering for his sake, just as Mark described him suffering for them.