Now we meet Pontius Pilate, who was the prefect (governor) of the Roman province of Judea under the emperor Tiberius. The guys in the last chapter were the religious leaders; this is the official ‘government’ trial. Pilate obviously realizes that the charges are trumped up (v 10), but he gives in to the crowd’s demands and condemns Jesus.
Then we get the story of the crucifixion. Note the reference in v 24 to Psalm 22:18. The two guys who were crucified alongside him (v 27) were criminals, thieves, rebels, or revolutionaries in various bible translations; and note that this is a reference to Isaiah 53:12. A natural fulfillment of this existing and well-known prophesy, or a manipulation of the crucifixion scene to fit it?
V 33 describes darkness falling unnaturally at noon and lasting 3 hours. There is no documentation of this bizarre event outside the gospels. A natural explanation like an eclipse seems possible, but perhaps exaggerated; 3 hours seems like a long time. The longest eclipse between 4000 BCE and 8000 CE will be on 16 July, 2186, and last 7 min 29 seconds (thanks to my husband, an amateur astronomer, for that factoid). And a solar eclipse is impossible during a full moon, which means one could not have occurred at Passover, when the crucifixion took place. Modern scholars consider this scene a ‘literary invention’.
Next, Mark’s frail human Jesus calls out from the cross, quoting Psalm 22:1. Coincidence? Deliberate? And the chapter concludes with Jesus’s death and burial.
This is the story of the resurrection, beginning with the women heading to his tomb, intending to anoint his body. At the entrance there is a young man dressed in a white robe (v 5-6). The NLT presumes him to be an angel, but other translations don’t specify this. Anyway, he tells the women that Jesus has risen from the dead, and directs them to tell the disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. And frightened, they flee. THE END!
Yup, the earliest complete manuscripts of gospel of Mark date from the 4th century and they end right here. A little incomplete perhaps? No ‘evidence’ that he actually did arise from the dead, no post-resurrection appearances, no ascension into heaven…
A couple of attempts have been made to ‘fix’ this inadequacy and come up with a better ending. Both are included in my online version of the NLT. The first is just a ‘one-liner’ – an addition to v 8. It reads
“Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life. Amen.”
This is not part of the KJV – apparently not many bibles finish Mark this way; most have the ‘longer’ ending, consisting of v 9-20. So let’s see what that says.
Well there’s problem right at the start. V9 says that the first person who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out 7 demons. I didn’t remember that story, so I looked for it. And whaddya know, it wasn’t previously mentioned in Mark at all. It’s from Luke (8:2), which was written long after Mark. So whoever added this longer ending to Mark blew the continuity.
Anyway, moving along; supposedly Mary was the first person to see Jesus – does that mean that he was the guy in white in v 5-6? Or was it later that he appeared to Mary? She tells the disciples but they don’t believe her. Next, he appears to two nameless followers, but no one believes them, either. Lastly, he appears in person to his remaining 11 disciples, and rebukes them for their previous disbelief (v 14).
After v 14, apparently some manuscripts insert the following:
“And they excused themselves, saying, “This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not permit God’s truth and power to conquer the evil [unclean] spirits. Therefore, reveal your justice now.” This is what they said to Christ. And Christ replied to them, “The period of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other dreadful things will happen soon. And I was handed over to death for those who have sinned, so that they may return to the truth and sin no more, and so they may inherit the spiritual, incorruptible, and righteous glory in heaven.” WTF?
V 15-16 describe the Great Commission. That should explain the fundies knocking on your door. V 17-18 are ludicrous claims to supernatural powers. Was the author trying to make Jesus sound more impressive? Unfortunately, these couple of lines have been used to justify actions that are both foolish and harmful – exorcism, faith healing, snake handling, speaking in tongues. So much power in such a few little words!
And at the end in v 19 we get a vague reference to the ascension.