Thursday, September 20, 2012


The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed. --Thomas Paine

The semester is fully underway! I fly out to campus in about two weeks and look forward to dialoging with faculty and classmates in my "New Testament: The Gospels" course. In this course, we are looking at fun issues such as "the synoptic problem", "the distinctive characteristics of Matthew", "the ending of Mark's gospel", etc. Thus far I have found my most enjoyable sub-topics to be the variations of theories as to the ending of the Gospel of Mark, in addition to synoptic comparison. I will writing a paper at the end of the semester on the characteristics of the synoptic gospels, so stay tuned!

Ethiopic manuscript, illuminated
For those not familiar with the problem of "the ending of Mark's gospel", it really is an interesting study. In summary, if we open our scriptures, the Gospel of Mark ends on Mark 16: 20. BUT DID IT ALWAYS? There is scholarly debate over the content of verses 9-20, and many theologians claim that the original Gospel of Mark in fact ended on verse 8. This debate centers around the existence of a "long ending" (as found in our current cannon) and a "short ending" (as found in several early Greek manuscripts and dozens of Ethiopic copies.) There are several textual problems with our earliest manuscripts containing the "long ending" and thus scholars look to the "short ending" as a plausible original.

Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene, Duccio, 1311
So what would we miss out on if indeed it ended 12 verses earlier? For those of you like myself who are in love with the story of Christ first appearing post-resurrection to Mary Magdalene, should verses 9-20 indeed not be original, we lose one such account (the post-resurrected Christ appears to Mary Magdalene in Mark 16:9 and John 20:11-17). Additionally, we would also lose a version of Christ's "great commission", where he commands those present to "go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (vs. 15). Another piece of Biblical text we would loose (and on which surrounds much interpretive controversy) would be verses 17 and 18 where it was told that "these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them..." Intensive emphasis on these two verses has led to the development of fundamentalist Christian churches that in fact DO handle snakes (as many of you well know), often, leading to the death of those parishioners engaged in the practice. (here is a LINK to a recent story about this unique American Christian practice) It gives you much to think about, no? There are theories around the potential "addition" to Mark surrounding the snake holding, linking it to contemporary phenomena in popular culture at the time the text was manipulated. Some scholars think that scribes may have placed the addition in the text in hopes that it would make the proselytizing of Christianity that much more acceptable, based on its link to popular culture surrounding the signs following those with spiritual power.

Medieval Christian applique holding snake, 5th-10th C. 

I am also currently taking "Hermeneutics" which is the study of Biblical interpretation, and "Women in the Ministry: a Biblical Perspective". I will devote a later post to each of those feilds, as I am having some thrilling discussions and each deserves its own space here in my blog.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting ma fille. Where is the picture from?