Out From Under the Umbrella

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The Devil in the Details ~ The Resurrection Accounts: Mark


This is Part one in a series on the Resurrection accounts as recorded in the gospels

Mark 16:1-8

Dating:  Between A.D. 55 and A.D. 70

Author:  Possibly, but not conclusively, John Mark (not one of the 12 disciples, but aid and interpreter to Peter; accompanied Paul at least part of the way on his first missionary journey).

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Irenaeus wrote (Against Heresies 3.1.1): “After their departure [of Peter and Paul from earth], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” Note that Irenaeus had read Papias, and thus Irenaeus doesn’t provide any independent confirmation of the statement made by the earlier author.[1]

It is debatable whether or not the writing was begun before or after the death of Peter.  If it was before, it was only shortly before. So the record of this gospel would have been, most likely, from the memory of the writer who was not an eyewitness on the hearsay of Peter who was an eyewitness some 25 to 50 years after the actual events.  Peter’s death is marked around 67 A.D. and John Mark’s is marked around 68 A.D.  [2]

The Gospel of Mark was the first gospel written. That Irenaeus had read Papias is not a definite indicator of the writer of this gospel account.  Since Papias writings are circa 90-120 A.D. it is unlikely he was living at the time of the writing.  Papias does provide the earliest testimony in writing to the author of the Gospel of Mark based on oral tradition.

If I’m understanding correctly: even if it’s given that John Mark wrote Mark, what we have is the writing from memory of a non-eyewitness based on the recollection of Peter years after the events, attested to by Irenaeus who lived in the next century, based on his reading of Papias based on oral tradition testifying to the veracity of the authorship of the Gospel of Mark.

According to Christianity we are to trust that this account is accurate without the benefit of any original documents because the Holy Spirit has kept it safe from error, embellishment, and fabrication of it’s content.

*ETA:  I am open to correction and/or other information on the dating/veracity of authorship of the Gospel of Mark.


[1] Early Christian Writings

[2] SonofMan.org

9 thoughts on “The Devil in the Details ~ The Resurrection Accounts: Mark

  1. Mark is useful in that it is relatively unvarnished, such that even certain embarrassing things about Jesus’ ministry are documented, as in his inability to perform miracles in a certain place due to the lack of faith of the inhabitants. It is possible that the original gospel of Mark was a codex that had suffered damage to the final page, and the ending was lost. The remainder of Mark doesn’t fit well with 16:1-8. It seems to start over and re-introduce Mary Magdalene, alone this time.


    • Hey Linuxgal! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I probably should have stated in the OP that I only used, for the resurrection account, verses 1-8 for that very reason.

      The footnote on the ESV at Bible Gateway Online states:

      Footnote: Mark 16:9 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20


  2. Church biased writers debate whether Mark was written before or after the death of Peter. They use internal ‘criteria’ on the gospel documents with the intent of making the date as early as possible so that the ‘telephone game’ type of distortion can be pooh poohed away. Pooh pooh is a great strength of theirs.

    From external witness, we have no reference to any gospel by name until circa 150 to 180 AD. The actual existence of Mark, Peter, and even Jesus is supported by only the scantiest of evidence. For instance, the real person ‘Paul’, whose voyage to Rome includes a shipwreck modeled after a real voyage and shipwreck of Josephus.

    It is amusing that Iranaeus said that the reason for their being 4 gospels was because they reflected the four corners of the Earth. What he pretty successfully covered up with that bit of misdirection is that the 4 differing gospels each had to be included in order to coalesce the 4 principal factions of the early church.

    It is pretty amusing to me also all the daggone Marys involved. They all spring from Miriam, the sister/wife (isn’t that sweet?) of Moses, which august personage (according to the tale, of course – it’s only a tale) pimped out when advantageous to do so . Funny the Egyptian god Isis married his sister, long before the Moses legend which the Jesus legend superceded and outdid.

    But I ramble. Anyway, good to see you treating this sort of topic.


    • Ooh, I think I was wrong about the sister/wife bit. If I recall, reference is also made the the father in law of Moses which would not be the case if she were his sister. Headline! Internet poster admits mistake!


    • Right, when a range of dates is given for a historical document’s writing the beginning date (in this case A.D. 50) is the earliest thought possible date and the last date given is the latest thought possible. Christians tend to push the date to the earliest time for obvious reasons and skeptics tend to push it to the latter of the dates.

      In any case, if it’s true that Peter died in 67 A.D. and John Mark died in 68 A.D. and if it’s true that John Mark is the author then it seems pretty likely he started writing before Peter’s death. That seems reasonable.

      I’m going to try to give this an objective and somewhat conservatively skeptic treatment(if that’s possible?).

      I don’t know if you’ve been following the discussion over on Nate’s blog, Finding Truth, but it’s gotten pretty deep and pretty heated.


    • There is, however, a fragment of John dated to 125 CE. The plethora of Marys results from a later attempt (from the cult of Mary’s perpetual virginity) to erase the brothers of Jesus from the record, so you have James the son of Alphaeus, and Mary the wife of Clophas, but it turns out Clophas means “replacement” and it is very likely that Mary the mother of Jesus married the brother of Joseph upon his death, Alphaeus, invoking the kinsman redeemer clause of the Law of Moses. And so some of the Marys cancel out to mother Mary.


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