How did Mark’s Gospel originally end?

For me, one of Croy’s strongest arguments (in his book The Mutilation of Mark’s Gospel) that Mark originally continued beyond 16:8 (where it ends in our earliest manuscripts) is a comparison with Moby Dick. Apparently, the English release omitted the epilogue, with the result that it appeared no one survived. As one reviewer appropriately asked, if no one lived to tell the tale, then how am I hearing about it?! The same problem confronts readers of Mark’s Gospel in the earliest form in which we have it – if the women “said nothing to anyone”, then how can we now be hearing the story?

This logical problem, combined with the fact that so many different ancient readers of Mark’s Gospel (Matthew, Luke, and at least two early scribes) felt that Mark’s ending was abrupt, are sufficient indication, for me anyway, that something is indeed missing. The Gospel of Peter is also important evidence – it provides an ending that flows logically continuing where Mark leaves off, and does not follow either Matthew or Luke at this point, suggesting the author knew Mark’s complete story (which does not necessarily mean he had a complete text of Mark before him).

What is more perplexing to me is that neither Matthew nor Luke seems to have known the continuation of Mark’s story. Whatever Mark originally had, whether this abrupt ending or a continuation that is now lost, Matthew and Luke did not know what happens next, except that the disciples saw Jesus. They disagree on where and on most major details.

Research on oral tradition suggests that group testimony tends to be an outline. Would it not be a plausible explanation that the early testimony about the resurrection appearances was a list, perhaps resembling the first part of that given in 1 Corinthians 15? What Matthew and Luke offer would then be an attempt to elaborate that list, in the absence of much other information, into a flowing narrative.


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