One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

TOMS: Mark 16

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Feb. 8, 2007

This chapter has the story of the resurrection, but Mark approaches it differently than any other writer. This is the most extreme case of Mark looking at an event through the eyes of other people. In the first 8 verses he does not explicitly state that Jesus rose from the dead. Instead, he tells the story from the perspective of the women who come to the tomb of Jesus and they see the tomb is empty. There is an angel that tells them that Jesus is risen from the dead, but they are not sure. Verse 8 reads "And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

And that is where some manuscripts of Mark end. Most translations, including the ESV, include the last 12 verses of Mark's Gospel with a translator's note that "some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20." It's not just the usual suspects of skeptics and critics who note this. There are plenty of teachers and pastors who affirm all the cardinal doctrines and who stand for the authority of Scripture who hold that this passage is less than authoritative.

I am certainly not qualified to say whether these verses should or should not be included. I think it is best to do what is done here: to include it with a note. There is nothing that contradicts any doctrine or whatever. But I will say that if these were not included, we would not have to deal with the fallout of verses 17-18: "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." These verses are the basis of many Pentecostal beliefs today, along with the snake handlers and other strange beliefs. Of course there are examples of all these things happening in the book of Acts, so you could say that they have been fulfilled.

Of course people will always take verses out of context to fit their own ideas, so that is nothing new and would not make a difference if these verses were in or out. I'm not sure I'm doing a very good job of adequately explaining why this is significant. It's just that some people are so defensive about not mentioning anything that might damage someone's faith in the Bible, and others try to explain away everything. There has to be a balance in the middle, where people are aware that there are a handful of disputed passages in the Bible, but that fact does not mean the Bible is not God's Word. God is the one who chose to preserve His word by the means of fallible copyists, and it is more wrong to sugar-coat that fact than it is to tell people the truth.

Put the facts on the table, and most people can handle them. I guess that comes with the territory of being a journalist (that's a fancy name for what I do). It is always best to tell people the whole truth up front. This is a dangerous statement, so read it carefully: people who teach that one translation or text is the perfect Word of God, to the exclusion of all others, are setting their hearers up for a fall. If someone is taught that, and then a skeptic who doesn't believe the Bible gives them some facts like I have mentioned here along with lies about how unreliable the Bible in general is, the ignorant person is liable to abandon the faith completely. This is one way the cults gain new members. People are fed partial truths from well-meaning leaders, and then they are susceptible to another set of partial truths from other well-meaning people. Just tell people the facts. That should be sufficient.

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