Tuesday, September 19, 2006

No Full Stop

"When is an ending not an end? When a dead man rises from the tomb, and when a Gospel ends in the middle of a sentence." So writes Lamar Williamson about the end of Mark’s Gospel. "The women went out from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; they said nothing to anyone, they were afraid for..."

In her address about this never ending Biblical story Dr Cynthia Campbell writes: “That’s how it reads in Greek, ending the sentence and the Gospel with a preposition. The most important story of the Christian faith just stops and the end just hangs out there. And we are left waiting, unresolved.”

“The English translation solves that problem by moving the preposition: ‘They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’ That solves the problem with the sentence, but not with the Gospel. Several ancient versions of the Gospel attempted to solve this problem by adding another ending. You will see those printed in your Bibles. But the style of writing is so different that you can tell, even in English, that these were added by another hand, by someone who wanted to make Mark’s Gospel sound like the others, by someone who wanted an end. Even back then, there was some editor who was saying: ‘We can’t have this. We need a conclusion! We need to wrap this up so that, to mix the media metaphor, we can bring up the background music, roll the credits and let people leave with a good feeling about this.’ We can’t have: ‘they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid!’”

“But obviously, they did. They told someone, who told someone, who told someone else, who told a lot of people, because 40 years later Mark is writing this Gospel. And nearly 2,000 years later here we are believing and sharing it.”

“But maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe this story has no end, at least not yet. Perhaps this awkward sentence with its preposition at the end is Mark’s way of saying: ‘This story isn’t over because now it’s your story and mine.’ This is something like one of those plays where the audience gets to vote on how the play ends after a break in the action. Only in this case, it’s the audience that gets to live the end.”

“When is an ending not an end? When the end is just the beginning of a story about eternal and abundant life. Amen.”

Source: Dr Cynthia Campbell on Thirty Good Minutes

Image: St Mark