Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark

Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark

Brooks, James A

Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark. By James A. Kelhoffer. WUNT 112. Tubingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2000, xix + 530 pp., DM 128.00.

This volume, which had its origin as a University of Chicago dissertation, is a more comprehensive study of the Long Ending (LE) of Mark’s Gospel (i.e. 16:9-20) than the title and subtitle suggest. It does not, however, deal with any of the textual evidence or much of the internal evidence for and against the authenticity of the passage, although some of its conclusions could be looked upon as additional internal evidence against authenticity. It assumes that the passage was not originally part of Mark and then proceeds to deal with its origin and significance. Nor is it a conventional commentary on LE. Most of the passage is ignored.

Kelhoffer argues that LE is not a fragment of another, now lost Gospel but that it was deliberately composed in an attempt to provide a satisfactory ending for Mark. Indeed, he even suggests that without LE Mark might not have gotten into the NT canon! In order to complete Mark, LE’s composer was dependent upon actual copies of the four Gospels (including Mark 1:1-16:8) and Acts (only for v. 19) and not upon oral tradition or sources used by the Gospel writers. “LE’s author did not intend to create a novel account, but wrote in conscious imitation of traditions which he … esteemed” (p. 121). There are exhaustive lists of parallels on pp. 121-22 and 138-39. LE therefore is a deliberate forgery (pp. 150-54).

As for the date of LE, it must have been after the four Gospels were collected and became esteemed (not before ca. 110-120) but before they became canonical and therefore could not be significantly altered. Therefore LE must have been written ca. 120150, i.e. before Justin (ca. 150), who, Kelhoffer is convinced, was the first to reveal a knowledge of LE. It is in fact the first witness to the collection of the four Gospels. I must point out, however, that there is no hard evidence for a four Gospel collection until Tatian (ca. 170 when it was still possible to alter the Gospels) and Irenaeus in 180, who also are the first certainly to know LE.

Only in chap. 5 does Kelhoffer get around to what the reader expects from the title and subtitle. Chap. 5 deals generally with the place of miraculous signs to authenticate a missionary message. The last two chapters deal exhaustively with picking up serpents and drinking poison respectively, subjects which previously had not been thoroughly investigated. (There is no treatment of two other signs, exorcism and glossolalia in v. 17.) In these three chapters, the author scours the OT and NT, intertestamental literature, early Christian literature, rabbinic writings, and Greek and Roman literature for material that touches upon the relation of miracles to missionary activity. The mass of evidence he collects is a significant contribution. He gives special attention to LE’s expectation that ordinary believers and not just church leaders will perform signs (paralleled only in John 14:12-14). In the epilogue, Kelhoffer suggests that LE is a striking example of Bart Ehrman’s thesis that in the early centuries orthodox Christians often deliberately altered the text of the NT to make it more orthodox than it was originally!

There are a number of claims that need to be questioned, but Kelhoffer argues persuasively and for the most part has made his case. Certainly this is the most thorough and best study of LE to have been produced thus far.

Copyright Evangelical Theological Society Dec 2002

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