Monday, September 12, 2016

The Gospel According To Mark

In a discussion on the Catholic Debate Forum I am involved in with an Atheist, the discussion of the Gospel According to St. Mark being a record of St. Peter's preaching came up.

MJ:  1 - Even under Christian and specifically Catholic assumptions, the universal consensus of the early fathers is that Peter's earliest preaching after Jesus died, is accurately reflected in Mark's gospel;
SW:  OK, while I have not read every single one of the ECFs (Early Church Fathers), I will grant you this.
MJ:  2 - Granting that historical consensus solely for the sake of argument, reading Mark's text constitutes reading the earliest version of Peter's preaching.
SW:  OK, so you grant this too - even if "only for the sake of argument."

MJ:  3 - I agree with the modern consensus of bible scholars that Mark did not write anything after 16:8;
SW:  I do not agree with this Modernist interpretation, and thus far the only source you've cited for this is the highly questionable JBC (Jerome Bible Commentary).
MJ:  4 - I agree with the modern consensus of bible scholars that Mark is the earliest published gospel among the 4.
SW:  Not that I think it really matters - but I do not agree.  I believe it is just as tenable that Mark relied heavily on the "Q" document.  AND, regardless of speculation on "Q" or "Mark wrote first" or "Matthew got his information from Mark" - NONE of that DISPROVES that Mark actually wrote what Peter preached.  
MJ:  5 - Under these presuppositions which are held by many Christians and Catholics, 
SW:  Wait!  You earlier stated that this is "consensus" and now you're just saying "many Christians and Catholics" (and, um, Catholics ARE Christians!). So much for consistency.

MJ:  (continuing point 5) ...and which I grant solely for the sake of argument, after Jesus died, the earliest testimony from Peter on the gospel said nothing about anybody seeing a resurrected Jesus.  
SW:  And as I pointed out in the other thread - 1 Peter 1:1 ff. is clearly St. Peter stating the fact of the Resurrection.

MJ:  (still continuing point 5)   The earliest version of Peter's resurrection message did not have more to say beyond what is asserted between Mark 16:1-8, in which case, Mark did not mention resurrection eyewitnesses, because in the earliest version of Peter's preaching, Peter did not mention them either.
SW:  That is pure speculation on your part.  Because some manuscripts do not have the verses after verse 8 does not mean they did not exist.  As long as we're speculating here, I say that the longer version was somehow lost or overlooked due to copyist errors - BUT - other, also very ancient manuscripts, DO have the longer ending and while NONE of the original autographs are known to exist today - it is plausible that they did exist when the other manuscripts (some of which date back to the second century) were copied.
SW:  The FACT is there are at least FOUR different endings to Mark's Gospel.  Another FACT is that none of the other three endings carry more weight than the traditionally accepted version.  For you to dogmatically state that there is consensus (without naming your sources which state such consensus AND without demonstrating there actually IS consensus) does not make for a valid argument.  Once you go dogmatic on us, as if there can be no other interpretation, then you're not arguing validly anymore.  To use a Catholic example (and please don't use this as an excuse to divert, this is JUST an example) prior to the definition of a dogma, like the Immaculate Conception, or more applicable to this discussion, the Canon of Sacred Scripture, faithful Catholics could - and some did - dispute or argue against or at least for some variation of what was later defined.  Once defined, however, no faithful Catholic can dispute or argue against the definition.  We MUST accept it because it was thusly defined.  When you dogmatically stated that a) Mark didn't write verses 9-20 of Mark 16 and/or b) that those verses do not belong to the Gospel - then you're not arguing validly anymore.

MJ:  6 - You will no doubt insist that Mark being an accurate reflection of Peter's preaching does not mean whatever Mark omitted was something Peter also omitted.  But when you make that argument, you are, in effect, saying that Mark omitted things from his gospel that he knew Peter had preached.  That position squarely contradicts Papias, who said Mark was careful to "omit nothing" from what he heard Peter preach.   And when you allege Mark may have omitted some of what Peter preached, I can buy that generally, but that theory is not plausible, under Catholic assumptions, if what you allege Mark chose to omit was Peter's own recollection of himself having personally seen the resurrected Jesus.
SW:  Please do not put words in my mouth,  Do no presume what my argument is or will be - allow ME to present MY position(s), and again I say please.

SW: 1) That which is "missing" from the earlier manuscripts may have been lost.  This does not mean Mark omitted those verses, but somehow a leaf was misplaced.
SW:  2a) The difference in writing style may be due to a copyist finding another older manuscript which included those verses and the style of that copy varied from the style it was added back to.
SW:  2b) Maybe Mark DID stop at verse 8 and St. Peter himself finished the chapter.  St. Peter, being a fisherman by trade, was likely not as well versed in words as his scribe, Mark, was.  Thus that is why Mark's more descriptive language was not used in verses 9-20.

SW:  2c)  The longer ending may have been "lost" to those couple of manuscripts which do not contain verses 9-20, but were not "lost" to those who copied them in the second century - as the original autographs may still have existed at that time.

SW:  3)  Your argument hinges so much upon acceptance of Papias' words - that "Mark's Gospel omitted nothing of what St. Peter preached."  Now, ask yourself - which version (which ending) was Papias referring to when he said Mark omitted nothing?  You can't answer that - none of us can - for all we have from Papias is what Eusebius tells us - and he doesn't tell us which manuscript Papias was referring to.  So, your "dogma" is reduced to speculation on ONE possible version. 

SW:  4)  Another fact here is, while you keep trying to tell me what I must adhere to as a "fundie Catholic," (I prefer the term "faithful Catholic" as all faithful Catholics hold to the fundamental truth taught by the Catholic Church), you falsely represent what a faithful Catholic "must" adhere to.  With regard to this subject, the only thing "defined" is the Canon of Sacred Scripture itself.  Thus, I "must" accept Mark 16:9-20 as belonging to the Gospel According to Mark.  What I don't "have" to be bound to is how those verses got there.  I am quite free to join you in speculating just how they got there, I just can't deny that they belong.  

SW:  I am kind of surprised that you have not mentioned "Q" yet.  Maybe you're not familiar with the "Q" arguments?


Accendat in nobis Dominus ignem sui amoris, et flammam aeternae caritatis. Amen. 
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