Mark 16:8 is a fitting ending to the Gospel.’ Critically discuss this statement.
 
Introduction
 
The Gospel of Mark tells us many interesting things about the ministry of Jesus Christ including his death and his empty tomb with a view to helping us discover him as the saviour from sin and way to eternal life and the Son of God.
 
The Gospel stops with the story of Jesus’ death by crucifixion and men in white announcing to women who visited his tomb that he had risen from the dead. It ends with Mark 16:8, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (NIV).

 

Many ideas about why Mark ended at 16:8 are as good as each other. 

 

Alfred Loisy thought that Mark ended with saying nobody told about the empty tomb for his gospel was the first to even mention it.  Could it be that Mark just stopped for he was afraid of going too far with fabrication?

If you can assume that the ending was lost or assume that it was removed for it debunked the resurrection or contradicted what the other gospels were saying then you can.  Considering that religions typically do edit out stuff to make their case look stronger you could say the disappearance must have been about hiding something.  If the gospel had something like, "The women never spoke about it not even until this day.  The disciples asked them about the tomb and they said they knew nothing. Then  Peter and John went to the tomb and found nobody there but when they left the tomb two men in white came to them and said, Jesus is risen and you must go to Galilee to see him.  The apostles went to Galilee and there they saw Jesus who sent them out into the world to preach the good news until he comes again" is it any wonder it would have been cut out?

 

If Mark was making up the story he could have invented the visit of the women to the tomb and their silence as an "explanation" for why nobody had heard of this empty tomb before.  Or was his purpose to have angels in white or men in white to announce the resurrection?  Was that all the earliest believers had: alleged men or angels from God saying Jesus rose? 

 

When Mark says the women told nobody we don’t know if he means they never told so we cannot consider his story evidence for the resurrection.  Nor can we consider the women to be witnesses.  Those who say women were never witnesses in those days should take that line.  So there is no reason to think Mark presents any indication that Jesus really rose.  In a secular account or miraculous account we cannot treat the absence of evidence for something as evidence that it happened.  This is even more true in an account of the miraculous. Credulity means believing in magic or miracles when there are gaps in the evidence that may mean a natural explanation is enough.
 

Problem of the Ending

It seems odd that a gospel would end with simply saying the women were afraid seemingly in mid-sentence. Also, it gives us a gospel without resurrection appearances of Jesus being recorded.
 
It is easily suspected that the end has been lost. As Mark is considered to be scripture, it seems odd if God would let that happen.
 
Peter G Bolt (Bolt, P. G. The Cross from a Distance (IVP, 2004) p. 146) states that there is “little doubt” that Mark ended at 16:8. Most scholars agree (Strobel, L. The Case for Easter (Zondervan, 2003) p. 75).
 
I think the endings are unnecessary and suspect. Some conclude that Mark 16:8 is where Mark intended to finish the gospel because the endings are suspect. But that does not follow.
 
Rather than discuss the authenticity of the longer ending for Mark and the shorter ending any further then let us ask if Mark could have ended at 16:8.
 
Does Grammar Refute Mark 16:8 being the End?
 
Verse 8 ends in the original Greek with a word meaning “for” or "because". The word is gar.  Gar is a more fluid word than many realise.  It can be translated "after all", "in fact" or "surely" which is how according to Why Priests? A Failed Tradition by Garry Wills (Viking, 2013) it appears in the letter to the Hebrews.  "In its various contexts, gar can thus be translated as 'in fact', 'indeed', 'naturally' 'obviously'..."

 

Then our verse becomes "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, they were afraid after all."

 

The word gar can be used to end a sentence. There are examples of this happening in ancient Greek literature – Protagoras’ speech for example. However, as JP Holding reminds us, Kelly Iverson of Dallas Seminary who has studied the issue gives us instances of sentences ending like that 6. But works that end that way have not been found. It could be answered that Mark is the first example of a work that does. Holding, J.P. JP Holding Did Mark's Gospel end at 16:8? http://tektonics.org/lp/markend.html
 
I don't think that is likely.
 
The real reason some want to rationalise the fact that the gospel was incomplete is it refutes the notion that God is author as well as Mark. Would God write a book he does not finish?
 
Does Mark provide other examples of “abruptness”?
 
It may be thought that Mark’s Gospel can be shown to prepare us for a sudden end. For example, the gospel begins virtually with Jesus’ baptism late on in his life. His earlier life is not mentioned. The gospel uses “jolts” to put its message across and for dramatic effect and to force us to go to the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promises to give in a baptism of spirit and fire, for the rest of the story.
 
But that was merely Mark's style. After the abrupt bits there was text. It defies logic to argue that this abruptness explains the sudden ending.
 
“The form of the Gospel of Mark is fast-paced and often abrupt” (Carter, J. W. A Perspective on the Distinctiveness of Mark's Gospel
www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/CarterJ07.html
.)
 
On one occasion Jesus was told his mother and brothers wanted to speak to him (Mark 3:34). He said it was those who obeyed the word of God who were his mother and brothers and sisters. Mark makes no effort to explain this or to say how Jesus explained it. He just leaves us in a state of shock to figure it out for ourselves.
 
Mark asserted at the start of the gospel that Jesus was the Son of God. Rather than give us the evidence and then conclude that Jesus was the Son of God he does the reverse. This incredible confidence is a device he uses to indicate that Jesus’ disciples had better evidence than any gospel could ever convey. That is a typical trick used by charlatans, "Oh we know something you don't."
 
Some then reason, "Mark uses sudden endings to make us ask ourselves questions. He ends his gospel suddenly to confront us with the biggest question of all which is, “Do I sense the risen Jesus being with me and do I open my heart to him to proclaim his salvation without fear restraining me?”" That is total rubbish. Mark never strives to give people a personal relationship with Jesus. The gospel is about God and God's kingdom.
 
It is argued that the gospel gives us evidence for the resurrection in the form of the empty tomb, the message from the risen Jesus given by a messenger and the promise of appearances  (Strobel, L. The Case for Easter p. 75). It seems that the prediction of appearances of Jesus would not have been mentioned if they had not happened. It appears that despite the gospel seeming to have a sudden end, enough evidence was given to justify belief in the resurrection. Or does it? I can predict that people will see Elvis Presley. My being right does not mean that the visions are real.

 
Why End with the Women’s Fear?

 

If the abrupt ending really was the ending then why end there?
 
The angel gave the women a message from Jesus to tell the disciples to go to Galilee to meet the risen Jesus. Mark tells us that the women carried this message away with them and did not mention it to anyone. It is said that Mark wants us to feel, “They didn’t give the message so it is our duty to embrace the message and share it. We must ask the world to meet Jesus.” This is not to be understood as a denial that the women did deliver the message eventually. That would make Mark contradict the other gospels. And it is unnecessary to assume that. But the problem is that Mark never visualised the resurrection in terms of a spiritual relationship with Jesus.
 
The women did not keep silent for long. If they hadn’t spoken Mark wouldn’t have their story to record for us. How does this square with what we are told in Young's Literal Translation “For they were afraid (efobounto gar). Imperfect tense. The continued fear explains their continued silence.” 9. I think the answer is that the silence was kept up for a while.
 
We do not know from Mark if the women said anything later on. Mark chooses not to tell us that they did. Why? It leaves us realising that the story needs to be told (The Cross from a Distance p. 152). The implication being that it is up to us who experienced the risen Jesus to tell. The women were afraid. If we experience Jesus we will not be afraid to tell the world that it can be saved through his death and that he is alive to day to be its friend and rock.
 
William Lane Craig wrote that Mark loves to stress terror and awe when God shows his presence to people. He wrote,
 
“this reaction of the women – of fleeing with fear and trembling, and saying nothing to anyone because they were afraid – is all part of Mark’s literary and theological style” -The Case for Easter p. 48
 
I agree. Mark wished to rouse a sense of shock in us when he wrote that Jesus cried that God had forsaken him. He did not mention that Jesus’ cry was made up of the start of a psalm that was about hope. 

Were the women afraid of getting into trouble with the authorities if they said anything? John Gill wrote that the women were “were afraid to tell any but the disciples of these things, for fear of the Jews; lest they should be thought to have stolen the body of Christ, and so be taken up on that account, and punished” (Mark 16:8, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/mark-16-8.html?. I'm glad Gill wrote that for it is said the women found the tomb open. If the body was still inside it they could have taken it and hid it and lied that Jesus rose to cover up their crime. Jesus would have rotted rapidly so if the body turned up nobody would have known for sure it was him.
 
Or were they afraid because they had an astounding and supernatural experience at the tomb wherein they saw angels telling them that Jesus rose from the dead? Some say this is a better understanding. It is said to be supported in the original Greek which speaks of tromov kai ekstasiv, trembling and ecstasy (Young's Literal Translation, http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Bible.show/sVerseID/24882/eVerseID/24882/RTD/rwpnt/version/YLT). But those words do not necessarily imply the supernatural. They could have had a self-induced charismatic or mystical experience so nothing much should be read into it.
 
Mark wants to excite our curiosity. This makes us ask, then how do we know Jesus rose? He tells us nothing about what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. He merely says that Jesus rose from the dead and two men in white, presumably angels, announced this to the women. Believers keep saying he wants the answer to the question to be, “I have experienced the redemptive power of the risen saviour and that is how I know that he is risen”. In reality, he was just like the miracle-mongers of the day. He was out to give spiritual thrills and awaken an unhealthy fascination with magic and the supernatural.

 

It must be admitted that the reasons for Mark ending there do not seem very convincing.


David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible
http://www.studylight.org/com/guz/view.cgi?book=mr&chapter=016).
 
Mark 16  http://www.religioustolerance.org/mark_16.htm.