Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Atheist Charge of "a smoking gun"


This is all predicated upon a post by person on CARM message board:


"Mark 16:8 is a smoking gun.

Mark 16:8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. [B]They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[/B]

Mark's gospel, written at least two decades after the supposed resurrection explains why none heard of the resurrection of Jesus. That's because the women told nothing to anyone.
The idea of a smoking gun, that you are going to find some passage that reveals a secret hint about the events and disproves the gospel is foolish. The versions we have are the not the first version of the Gospels ever written. Any "smoking gun" is probalby redacted in and not part of the original story. There's no way to prove it is or not. I have demonstrated many times that modern scholars, such as Helmutt Koester, John Dominick Cross, and others do no hold to the idea that the Gospels were written for the first time by Mark. For a long time, well back before the 20th century scholars assumed that the Gospels were circulated first as oral tradition. Now we know that the Gospels we have as canonical were not even the first versions in writing.

My essay on Gospel behind the Gospels demonstrates a wealth of material documenting scholarly evidence of this fact. My essay on historical validity of the Gospels shows at least eight different levels of trajectories of transmission through which the material reached the communities that produced the canonicals. The four canonical gospels and Peter all use that original work. Each one organizes it along with other materials. Each one leaves out and emphasizes different things.

We can't assume Mark writes the accurate first version and all the others degenerate form Mark. Matt may be more accurate than Mark because he may combine Mark with better primary sources. All of the gospel communities (communities that produced the gospels) drew upon their own eye witnesses so they are all accurate. likewise they are all mixed up.

There are smoking guns that prove the Gospel story but they don't turn on proving the literal nature of some event. For example the fact that Paul alludes to materials in the Gospels that weren't even written when he wrote any of his epistles is a dead give away that the material was circulating before Mark wrote his Gospels. That takes the resurrection accounts back to mid first century. That's withyin the life span of eye witnesses.

Paul's use of Jesus' teachings indicates that he probably worked from his own saying source which contained at least aspects of Q. That indicates wide connection with the Jerusalem chruch and the proto "Orthodox" faith.

Parable of Sower 1 Corinthians 3:6 Matt.
Stumbling Stone Romans 9: 33 Jer 8:14/Synoptics
Ruling against divorce 1 cor 7:10 Mark 10:11
Support for Apostles 1 Cor 9:14 Q /Luke 10:7
Institution of Lord's Supper 1 Cor 11:23-26 Mark 14
command concerning prophets 1Cor 14:37 Synoptic
Apocalyptic saying 1 Thes. 4:15 21
Blessing of the Persecuted Romans 12:14 Q/Luke 6:27
Not repaying evil with evil Romans 12:17 and I Thes 5:15 Mark 12:12-17
Paying Taxes to authorities Romans 13:7 Mark 9:42
No Stumbling Block Romans 14:13 Mark 9:42
Nothing is unclean Romans 14:14 Mark 7:15
Thief in the Night 1 Thes 5:2 Q/ Luke 12:39
Peace among yourselves 1 Thes Mark 9:50
Have peace with Everyone Romans 12:18 Mar 9:50
Do not judge Romans 13: 10 Q /Luke 6:37

The Jesus Narrative

Paul's allusions to the narrative relates to many points in the Gospels:

He was flesh and blood (Phil 2:6, 1 Tim 3:16)
Born from the lineage of David (Rom 1:3-4, 2 Tim 2:8)
Jesus' baptism is implied (Rom 10:9)
The last supper (1 Cor 11:23ff)
Confessed his Messiahship before Pilate (1 Tim 6:13)
Died for peoples' sins (Rom 4:25, 1 Tim 2:6)
He was killed (1 Cor 15:3, Phil 2:8)
Christ Crucified (1 Cor. 2:2)
Buried (1 Cor 15:4)
Empty tomb is implied (1 Cor 15:4)
Jesus was raised from the dead (2 Tim 2:8)
Resurrected Jesus appeared to people (1 Cor 15:4ff)
James, a former skeptics, witnessed this (1 Cor 15:7)
as did Paul (1 Cor 15:8-9)
This was reported at an early date (1 Cor 15:4-8)
He asceded to heaven, glorified and exalted (1 Tim 3:16, Phil 2:6f)
Disciples were transformed by this (1 Tim 3:16)
Disciples made the Gospel center of preaching (1 Cor 15:1-4)
Resurrection was chief validation of message (Rom 1:3-4, Rom 10:9-10)
Called Son of God (Rom 1:3-4)
Called Lord (Rom 1:4, Rom 10:9, Phil 2:11)
Called God (Phil 2:6)
Called Christ or Messiah (Rom 1:4, Phil 2:11

In terms of the particular smoking gun talked about above, the brevity of Mark's ending and the assertion that Mark's Gospel was written so long after and this accounts for why we don't hear of the resurrection before. That's based upon a lot of false assumptions. First of all there's a great deal of evidence that the story circularizing before Mark was written. Not only due to the allusions in Paul Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, and other material that illustrates this. See the links above. Other problems:

(1) We don't have must evidence for the first century for anything. There is not much servicing form that century. Its' not realizatic to expect to find something talking about a belief that probalby circulated among the lower illiterate levels of society.

(2) The ending of mark was lost. the bit we have that is being quoted is just where the lost ending starts. We don't know what Mark said the women did. In fact there are several different endings used at different times.

Mark 16:9-20 has been called a later addition to the Gospel of Mark by most New Testament scholars in the past century. The main reason for doubting the authenticity of the ending is that it does not appear in some of the oldest existing witnesses, and it is reported to be absent from many others in ancient times by early writers of the Church. Moreover, the ending has some stylistic features which also suggest that it came from another hand. The Gospel is obviously incomplete without these verses, and so most scholars believe that the final leaf of the original manuscript was lost, and that the ending which appears in English versions today (verses 9-20) was supplied during the second century. Below are some excerpts from various scholarly sources that conclude that the verses are a later addition.


James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Greetings, Metacrock.

Regarding Mark 16:9-20 - I have looked into this passage in detail, and it looks to me like a lot of the scholars who regard it as a scribal accretion have not independently studied the evidence, but have instead echoed the words of Bruce Metzger about it.

I encourage you not to lean too heavily on what you may have read about this passage in any commentary that vaguely refers to "various endings," or which says things such as, "Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses."

I have written a research-book on this passage, and more recently, a 25-page summary of the research-book, and would be glad to send digital copies of both of them to you, for your own use, on request.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Metacrock said...

James Snapp Jr. writes

I encourage you not to lean too heavily on what you may have read about this passage in any commentary that vaguely refers to "various endings," or which says things such as, "Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses."

I have written a research-book on this passage, and more recently, a 25-page summary of the research-book, and would be glad to send digital copies of both of them to you, for your own use, on request.

Did you read the specific material to which I linked? Do you deny that the passage is missing in some of early Ms?

what is your answer to the original "smoking gun" argument that there is no Resurrection in Mark?

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...


Yes; I've read the materials that are presented at Michael Marlowe's site (not just those snippets, but the books themselves, at least the major ones). And I have pointed out, and corrected, some of the mistakes and misrepresentations that some of those authors have written.

I do not deny that the Gospel of Mark concludes at 16:8 in two Greek manuscripts (one that has a distinct blank space after Mark 16:8, and one in which the pages containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 were not produced by the copyist who made the surrounding pages). Those two manuscripts (from the 300's) are the two earliest manuscripts of Mark 16, but they are not the earliest evidence; in the 100's, Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus used the passage. (Irenaeus' quotation of Mark 16:19 in "Against Heresies" 3:10 is particularly clear.)

The Sinaitic Syriac manuscript (from c. 400) and one Sahidic manuscript (from c. 425) also close the text of Mark at the end of 16:8. They attest to a form of Mark which circulated in Egypt at that time. Also, Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis has just the Shorter Ending after 16:8. So if one surveys the Greek manuscripts and non-Greek manuscripts from before the 700's, there are exactly four in which Mark ends at 16:8, and one that has the Shorter Ending without any trace of 16:9-20.

All of the evidence that supports the abrupt ending at 16:8, and all the evidence that supports the Shorter Ending, appears to descend from a form of the text that circulated in Egypt in the early 200's. Everywhere else, though, Mark 16:9-20 is supported by ancient evidence, and that ancient support consists of a lot more pieces of evidence, from a lot more places.

Regarding the "Smoking Gun" argument, I would bring a few extra factors into the equation, the first of which would be Mark's dedication to spread the gospel later on, at the service of Peter and Paul. The idea that Mark would serve in that capacity, or in any capacity at all, for people investing their lives in the promotion of a story that he thought was untrue, would be obnoxiously ridiculous.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Anonymous said...

A response to this full reply - even acknowledging it - would have been nice from Metacrock?!? I write this two years after it was posted...!

Metacrock said...

Why? I am not textual critic. I don't know enough about it to argue on it further. It's something I should research I just have too much goign on to do everything. I appreciate your knowledge.

are you snap?