The Authority of the Longer Ending of Mark

The Authority of the Longer Ending of Mark

Here’s an interesting post on the longer ending of Mark and snake handling. (HT: Dave Black Online, Why Four Gospels?)

There’s obviously a serious question about hermeneutics lurking in the discussion, but what I would like to see discussed is just what text of Mark is authoritative. We tend to assume that what we want is the most original text. What did Mark write?

But we count as scripture what was recognized by the church councils as scripture. (I ignore here whatever reasons they may have had for their choice.) The Gospel of Mary or the Gospel of Peter are not authoritative, but Mark is. What text of Mark were the church fathers looking at when they made it canonical? Does that matter?

I think it would relate (in a distant way) to the question of whether a gospel retains its authority if one thinks it was authored by someone other than the traditional one. If the church fathers canonized a gospel they believe to have been written by Mark, and then it turns out he didn’t write it, should their decision be reviewed?

I ask these questions because we often try to dodge doctrinal difficulties through textual criticism. I think that is not always (or often) the right approach. It has its value, but creates its own difficulties.

Worth thinking on, I think.

5 thoughts on “The Authority of the Longer Ending of Mark

    1. Yes. Dave Black thinks the longer ending is original. I don’t, so that makes me think about it somewhat differently. But however we think about it, I think it introduces some challenging questions. On the one hand they’re more about hermeneutics, on the other more about canonicity and inspiration.

  1. The longer ending of Mark was authoritative Scripture for people for a long time. It should still be respected for its antiquity if nothing else. I do not believe there is anything un-orthodox in it. The references to snake-handling, drinking poison was a accounting of stories of things that happened in the earliest church.

    1. I think we should not make a necessary relationship between it not being in the original text (if that is what we believer) and it not being scripture. The two are not necessarily the same thing.

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