Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament?

Achieving a consensus among scholars is always difficult. I would say there is close to a consensus among New Testament textual critics when it comes to the long ending of the Gospel of Mark. They would almost unanimously concur that it does not belong in the New Testament. The title of our post is also the title of a new book from Wipf and Stock Publishers. Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament is by David Hester and while I’ve just started it I think it’s going to challenge a lot of contemporary thinking on this issue. Could the tide be shifting? Here’s the catalog description:

“For almost fifty years, much has been written concerning Mark 16:9-20. During the same time period, evidence once counted against Mark 16:9-20 was shown to be otherwise. In this study, David W. Hester surveys modern scholarship (1965-2011) surrounding the passage. He examines the passage itself–the external evidence, with particular attention paid to the manuscripts and the patristics, especially those of the second and third centuries; and the internal evidence, featuring details that are problematic as well as those that favor Markan authorship. Finally, a proposal concerning the origin of the passage is presented. The first edition of Mark’s Gospel ended at 16:8, resulting in the manuscript tradition that omits the passage, but this was not his intended ending. Later, his associates attached Mark’s notes and published a second edition of the Gospel with the last twelve verses. This led to its inclusion. Given that the passage is cited by second- and third-century witnesses and attributed to Mark, along with the biblical prohibition against adding to or taking from Scripture, it is doubtful that an anonymous second-century author could have been successful in adding his own composition and it being widely accepted by the early church.”

Consider these two endorsements:

“Dr. Hester’s position on Mark 16:9-20 differs from the prevailing view that these twelve verses are not part of the original Gospel of Mark. After setting forth his arguments against their authenticity, he passionately presents the case for the other side–citing evidence he is convinced will persuade the open-minded critic that to omit these verses is to omit a part of Scripture.”
Rodney E. Cloud, Dean of the Turner School of Theology, Amridge University

“Though covering well-worn ground, Dr. Hester highlights historical clues often overlooked or even ignored. If Mark 16:9‒20 was added to the text, then why did no early Christian writer ever voice any opposition? Why did the early church tacitly accept these verses as canonical? This careful and thorough review of the ancient evidence and of modern scholarship helped me reexamine the whole question afresh.”
David H. Warren, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Faulkner University

David W. Hester is Lecturer for the V. P. Black College of Biblical Studies and the F. Furman Kearley Graduate School of Theology at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the director of the Faulkner Bible Lectureship, and coeditor of the graduate journal, ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΑ. He is the author of two books: Among the Scholars (1994) and Tampering With Truth (2007).

Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament is a paperback with 176 pages and sells for $23.00.

Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament? - By: David W. Hester

What a Difference the Gospel of John Makes

I’m currently reading The Fourfold Gospel by Francis Watson. What an amazing book. Here’s a small excerpt which I hope will whet your appetite.

“In John, the “cleansing of the temple” takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and follows an incident—water turned to wine at Cana of Galilee—that is not recorded elsewhere. In the synoptics, the temple incident takes place at the end of Jesus’ ministry and is a link in the chain of events that leads to his death.

In John, most of Jesus’ activity takes place in or around Jerusalem, which he visits for feasts such as Passover or Tabernacles on four occasions before the final Passover when he meets his death. References to Jesus in Galilee are limited to three passages. In the synoptics, Jesus’ main activity takes place in or around Galilee, and he visits Jerusalem only once.

In John, Jesus’ debates with opponents in Jerusalem focus mainly on the issue of who he claims to be. Even when he heals on the Sabbath, it is his identity that becomes the primary issue rather than Sabbath healing as such; the Jerusalem authorities seek to kill him because “he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.” In the synoptics, Jesus’ debates occur in Galilee as well as Jerusalem, and they are mainly concerned with the observance and interpretation of the law.

In John, the event that leads to Jesus’ death is the raising of Lazarus. In the opinion of Caiaphas the high priest, this miracle poses a threat to public order with potentially disastrous consequences; the only responsible course is to put Jesus to death. In the synoptics, Jesus performs no miracles in Jerusalem or its vicinity (apart from blighting a fig tree and restoring a severed ear). His death is unrelated to his activities as a miracle worker.

In John, Jesus speaks at length with his disciples about a future in which he will be absent and yet present to them in a new way, through the Paraclete, or Holy Spirit. In the synoptics, this period of absence is viewed as a time of tribulation for the world that will culminate in the coming of the Son of man on the clouds of heaven.

In John, Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and future believers while still in the upper room following the Last Supper. Confident of his own destiny, he asks to be restored to the glory that he shared with his Father “before the foundation of the world.” In the synoptics, he is distressed at his forthcoming suffering and prays in Gethsemane that the cup of suffering be removed, while subjecting himself to his Father’s will.

In John, Jesus’ “glory” is manifested not only in his miracles but also and above all in his death. In death he is “exalted” or “glorified.” The cross is his throne, and the crucifixion is his enthronement. In the synoptics, the revelation of Jesus’ glory takes place not on Good Friday but on Easter Day.

While it is modern scholarship that has labeled Matthew, Mark, and Luke as the “synoptic gospels,” the distance that separates them from John is not a modern discovery. Its recognition is as old as the four-gospel collection itself; the very fact of John’s inclusion shows that the distance was felt to be a positive rather than a negative factor. The question is how and why that distance enhances the canonical collection rather than undermining it and making it incoherent.

The differences illustrated here may not all be of the same kind. It is unlikely that Jesus performed similar demonstrations in the temple at both the beginning and the end of his ministry. It is not unlikely that Jesus visited Jerusalem more than once in the course of his ministry. All the same, these differences show why it has proved so difficult—indeed, impossible—to construct out of the four gospels a credible account of Jesus’ ministry in its actual historical sequence.” (The Fourfold Gospel, Baker Academic pp. 86-88)

The Fourfold Gospel is available in hardcover with 224 pages and sells for $24.99.

Francis Watson (PhD, University of Oxford) is Research Chair in Biblical Interpretation at Durham University. He previously held the Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen and taught at King’s College London. Among his numerous works are the critically acclaimed Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith; Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective; and Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. He is also coauthor of Reading Scripture with the Church.

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New from IVP Academic – “The Acts of the Apostles”

When Craig Keener speaks I listen. When he recommends a book on Acts you can consider it sold. IVP Academic has released The Acts of the Apostles by Osvaldo Padilla. Here’s what Keener has to say about it:

“It is rare to find a work that blends epistemological, hermeneutical and historiographic sophistication with mature handling of the extensive primary and secondary literature, but this is such a work. Padilla’s introduction to questions of the authorship and genre of Acts and the character of its speeches is a superbly informed and trustworthy guide.”

Here’s the catalog description:

“The book of Acts is a remarkable fusion of the historical and theological, and its account of the early church has fascinated theologians and biblical scholars for centuries. Just who was the author of this work? And what kind of book did he write? How do we classify its genre?

The Acts of the Apostles provides an advanced introduction to the study of Acts, covering important questions about authorship, genre, history and theology. Osvaldo Padilla explores fresh avenues of understanding by examining the text in light of the most recent research on the book of Acts itself, philosophical hermeneutics, genre theory and historiography. In addition, Padilla opens a conversation between the text of Acts and postliberal theology, seeking a fully-orbed engagement with Acts that is equally attuned to questions of interpretation, history and theology.”

Osvaldo Padilla (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is associate professor of New Testament at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of The Speeches of Outsiders in Acts: Poetics, Theology, and Historiography and he has written articles and reviews for Themelios, Bulletin for Biblical Research, New Testament Studies and Ex Auditu. Previously, he taught New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and served as pastor of Jesus el Buen Pastor, a Hispanic congregation in the Chicago area. He is married to Kristen, and they have one son.

The Acts of the Apostles is a paperback with 288 pages and sells for $26.00.


New from IVP Academic – “Kierkegaard” by Mark A. Tietjen

A few years ago I interviewed one of my coworkers at the time who had completed his thesis on Kierkegaard. (Three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Since then I’ve had a much greater appreciation for Kierkegaard. So I was pleased to see this new release from IVP Academic called Kierkegaard. Here’s the catalog description:

“Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) had a mission. The church had become weak, flabby and inconsequential. Being a Christian was more a cultural heritage than a spiritual reality. His mission—reintroduce the Christian faith to Christians.

How could he break through to people who were members of the church and thought they were Christians already? Like an Old Testament prophet, Kierkegaard used a variety of pointed and dramatic ways to shake people from their slumber. He incisively diagnosed the spiritual ailments of his age and offered a fresh take on classic Christian teaching.

Mark Tietjen thinks that Kierkegaard’s critique of his contemporaries strikes close to home today. We also need to listen to one of the most insightful yet complex Christian thinkers of any era. Through an examination of core Christian doctrines—the person of Jesus Christ, human nature, Christian witness and love—Tietjen helps us hear Kierkegaard’s missionary message to a church that often fails to follow Christ with purity of heart.”

Church history fans will enjoy this and those, like myself, who have struggled to understand the great Danish philosopher. Struggle no more. Help is here.

Kierkegaard is a paperback with 192 pages and sells for $20.00.

Mark A. Tietjen (PhD, Baylor University) is chaplain and Grace Palmer Johnston Chair of Bible at The Stony Brook School in Stony Brook, New York. He previously served as associate professor and program director of philosophy at the University of West Georgia. Former secretary-treasurer of the Søren Kierkegaard Society, Tietjen is the author of Kierkegaard, Communication, and Virtue: Authorship as Edification and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals and books, including Faith and Philosophy, International Philosophical Quarterly and the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.


How Does God “Give” Conversion?

There are two passages in Acts which use a peculiar phrase that has perplexed scholars: “give conversion.” What could this mean? Joel Green examines this phrase in his new book Conversion in Luke-Acts (Baker Academic). Here are the two passages:

God exalted this Jesus to his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give conversion to Israel, as well as forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31)

They praised God, saying, “So God has given even to the gentiles the conversion that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)

Green notes that Calvin says the latter of the two passages can allow for two interpretations. God has either “given to the gentiles ‘the opportunity of repentance’ or that God has actually changed their hearts. Of these two options, Calvin chooses the latter.” (p. 136) The recent discussion, Green writes, “can be traced to the work of Hans Conzelmann (1915–89). In his view, the phrase ‘to give repentance’ ought to be understood in the context of Second Temple Jewish and early Christian literature, where it refers to the gift of ‘the opportunity for repentance.’” (p. 136)

As would be expected not everyone is persuaded. Green points to Christoph Stenschke who “devotes a section of his study of Lukan anthropology to a point-by-point refutation of Conzelmann’s case.” (p. 138 Christopher Stenschke, Luke’s Portrait of the Gentiles, Mohr Siebeck, 1999)

Green offers four arguments against Stenschke’s examination of the evidence. For brevity’s sake I offer only the first two of Green’s responses.

“First, Stenschke too easily brushes past Conzelmann’s understanding of how a native Greek speaker might have heard Luke’s language of ‘giving conversion.’ To take only one example, Plutarch reports that Alexander, ‘having arrived before Thebes, and wanting still to give the city an opportunity for repentance of its deeds, required . . .’ (Alexander 11.4),40 a report in which the phrase ‘an opportunity for’ simply must be introduced for purposes of clarity.” (p. 138)

Second, “[i]t simply makes no sense to take these two texts as referring to God’s active changing of the hearts and lives of everyone, both Israel and the gentiles (an interpretation that Stenschke’s reading seems to require), though it makes good sense of Luke’s theology to say that God has opened the way for everyone, both Israel and the gentiles, to convert (as Conzelmann’s reading would have it).” (p. 139)

The discussion is fascinating and well worth reading. See the full discussion on pages 132-42.

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Is Conversion a Process or an Event?

The question of today’s post has occupied me for a long time. I’ve been enjoying Joel Green’s new book Conversion in Luke-Acts (Baker Academic). After reading this part from his book I realized that I have probably been bifurcating an issue unnecessarily. I quote him here at length.

“Again, this approach to the question takes as its point of departure the consequences of a particular approach to the human situation: What is the human ‘problem’ that needs to be addressed? A more helpful point of entry takes the phenomenological route of describing how conversion is conceptualized and experienced. Conversion studies emphasizing social-psychological or sociological approaches in the last two or three decades have drawn attention to different aspects of the conversion process on the basis of their attention to agency. Accordingly, Brock Kilbourne and James Richardson propose an analytical scheme based on the agency assigned to the convert, whether passive or active. Conversions in the former case are viewed as largely determined by outside forces, whereas the latter are viewed in terms of life choice. When conversion is understood in passive terms, ‘the individual is conceptualized as a passive recipient of personality changes and life experiences. Whether psychologically disposed or situationally tempered, individuals’ conversions are considered determined, in large part, by impersonal and powerful forces acting upon them, within them, or both.’ Such conversions are typically sudden and dramatic, as in the case of what is for Kilbourne and Richardson the prototypical passive conversion: Paul’s so-called Damascus Road experience. When conversion is understood in active terms, converts are portrayed as ‘seekers, or individuals who actively make plans, choices, and decisions, and generate many of their life experiences.’ Such conversions are often understood in terms of “process” rather than ‘event,’ with ongoing transformation occurring as the individual learns his or her role as a convert. Converts might experience their conversion in terms of either perspective and could possibly recount their conversion according to the script provided by both approaches. The downside of this way of formulating the experience of conversion is that it might lead us to choose sides when sides ought not to be chosen. Rather than taking seriously the explanatory value of both perspectives, we might imagine that they stand in tension with each other (when, after all, each provides a perspective from which to engage in analysis), as though the one emphasis necessarily excluded the other.” (Italics his. pp. 133-34)

Conversion in Luke-Acts is a paperback with 208 pages and sells for $25.00.

Joel B. Green (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is dean of the School of Theology, professor of New Testament interpretation, and associate dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including the Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, The World of the New Testament, Introducing the New Testament, and commentaries on Luke and 1 Peter. He is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Theological Interpretation.

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New Release – “People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue” by Preston Sprinkle

I know what some of you are thinking, “Do we really need another book on homosexuality?” Well, in this case I think we do.

There are two main reasons I think people should read this book. 1) You need to know what recent scholarship is saying about the issues and Bible passages involved in the debate. Like any issue advances are made and this book does an excellent job of bringing the reader up to date on a number of different fronts. Particularly compelling for me was chapter 4, “Rated R: Homosexuality in Judaism and Greco-Roman Culture.” Consider this paragraph:

“I’m not saying that everyone was aware of this or that Paul and other New Testament authors necessarily held the same perspective. I’m not even saying that Greco-Roman writers understood same-sex orientation in the same way we do today. What I am saying is that it is historically inaccurate to say: ‘the notion of sexual orientation was absent’ in Paul’s day and then use to reinterpret Paul. The evidence shows that the notion of inborn, biologically driven, same-sex desires existed in Paul’s day.” (pp. 60-61)

2) The second reason people should read this is because Sprinkle has a tone which is an exemplary model for those who want to interact on this subject. The pages exude a compassion and care for those who wrestle with same-sex attraction. Hence the title, People to Be Loved.  Sprinkle is not out to win an argument. He wants to advance a conversation in a manner that is respectful to everyone involved. You may think you’ve read everything on the subject but I think there’s room for one more voice and that is Preston Sprinkle.

People to be Loved is from Zondervan. It is a paperback with 224 pages and sells for $16.99.

Preston Sprinkle (PhD, University of Aberdeen) serves as the director of the extension classes for Eternity Bible College in Boise, ID. He previously taught at Cedarville University (Ohio) and Nottingham University (UK). His is the author of Paul and Judaism Revisited (IVP Academic, 2012), co-author of Erasing Hell:  What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We Made Up (David C. Cook, 2011) with Francis Chan, and co-editor of The Faith of Jesus Christ:  Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies (Paternoster, 2009) with Michael Bird.