Table of Contents of Latest Issue
Index of All Issues
Index of Book Reviews
Instructions for Contributors
Subscribe to
Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 63, 2015

NICHOLAS P. LUNN, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9–20 (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2014). Pp. xii + 378. Paperback. US$53.00.

Nicholas P. Lunn is a translation consultant with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and an associate tutor at Spurgeon’s College, London, and against the weight of critical opinion he contends that the so-called long ending of Mark 16:9–20 ought to be considered an authentic part of the Gospel. Though this issue is no longer disputed among New Testament textual critics, Lunn argues in his preface that this is “a question worthy of reassessment” due to polemical attacks on the internet against the reality of the resurrection (viii). Indeed, Lunn’s introductory chapter sets the stage for his argument by repeatedly emphasising the importance of the resurrection in early Christian kerygma, early Christian creedal formulations, and the resurrection predictions in Mark. In subsequent chapters he considers, often in great detail, the manuscript evidence, patristic citations, linguistic evidence, thematic evidence, and questions of dependence. He finishes with an explanation for the cause of the short ending as a “deliberate suppression of verses which deal with bodily resurrection,” apparently by Gnostics in Alexandria (352).

Despite Lunn’s efforts in making a new, wide-ranging case for the authenticity of the long ending of Mark, it is unlikely to persuade New Testament textual critics. The evidence against his position is stronger than he is willing to recognise, and his arguments often contain factual mistakes and arbitrary judgments. Only a few examples however can be cited in the course of this short review. The fundamental problem is that Lunn does not accept the presence of the resurrection within the body of Mark. In particular, he does not view the proclamation at the empty tomb in Mark 16:6 that Jesus rose (egêrthe) as a textual fulfilment of the resurrection predictions in 8:31, 9:31 and 10:34 because v. 6 did not use the same lexeme anasthênai (‘to rise up’) of the predictions, even though he allowed for two other elements of these predictions to be fulfilled by synonyms (247). Nor does he view “the angelic announcement” as a sufficient narrative fulfilment of a bodily resurrection because such an “extraordinary” claim requires a “mention of a tangible appearance” (246). Lunn cites no primary or secondary source for this requirement and he does not address the fact that the long ending’s appearances lack the tangibility of Luke’s and John’s (neither of which were censored by Alexandrian heretics).

Also problematic is his assessment of the textual evidence. He sets aside the witness the two earliest complete manuscripts of Mark prized by textual critics as follows: “within the confines of the Greek evidence both the abrupt and the shorter endings are restricted to the Alexandrian text-type. No Greek copies among the Byzantine, Western, or Caesarean textual families, bear witness to a version of the Gospel which finished at 16:8” (26). The limitation of this argument to Greek evidence weakens the argument because the short ending is also attested by non-Alexandrian, non-Greek witnesses, for example, the Old Latin manuscript Codex Bobiensis. Lunn’s attempt to avoid this Western witness because it is “geographically closer to Alexandria” (43) is simply wrong because Carthage is twice as far from Alexandria as it is from Rome. Similarly, Lunn admits that the Old Syriac witnesses in favour of the short ending is Western (45).

Throughout the book, Lunn is more critical of his opponents’ arguments than his own. On the one hand, he repeatedly dismisses examples of non-Markan language in the long ending on stringent grounds. For instance, he does not accept any word attested elsewhere in Mark as evidence of non-Markan language (149). Nor does he accept a variant usage if a similar variation is found in other authors (151). Words unique to the long ending are not accepted as evidence if its synonym is also unique in the body of Mark (144) or in Luke’s resurrection account (139). The reader is left wondering what evidence can clear Lunn’s bar. On the other hand, when it comes time for his proposal that the long ending continues a new Exodus theme in Mark, the bar is set much lower, no matter how slight the parallels (e.g., the words “appear,” “go,” “believe,” “hand,” etc.) or far-fetched (the seven demons cast out of Mary Magdalene in Mark 16:9 as an allusion to seven listed nations cast out by Moses in the Septuagint of Exod 34:11) (263).

If there is a good case to be had for the long ending, it is unfortunately not to be found in Lunn’s book.

Review by
Australian Catholic University