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Uncoolman
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Date Posted:09/12/2007 9:59 AMCopy HTML

Mark 16 and the Revival Centres

By Mike Hore

I've now had a chance to look at the Mark 16 document on the Revival Fellowship web site.

Before I comment, I would recommend anybody interested having a look at this document rather than just accepting what I'm going to say about it, since I'm going to be rather critical. I invite everyone to see for themselves if what I'm saying is reasonable.

This document reads as polemic rather than as a scholarly text. For example, the heading "Cumulative Evidence Versus Modernistic Unbelief", and the subheading "Modernists Attack Authenticity Of Mark 16: 9-20", give an indication of where this document is coming from. Who are these unbelieving modernists? People who have spent their lives studying the whole complex field of text transmission. "Modernists" is used as a pejorative term. These people are not unbelievers. I think it would be true to say that they generally believe in the divine inspiration of scripture. However at some points their conclusions disagree with RF doctrine, so they're accused of "unbelief". Oh well...

The document draws much of its material heavily from "The Pulpit Commentary". I've never heard of that, but they say "...the Pulpit Commentary, one of the most famous Bible commentaries printed in the English language." And I thought I'd looked at a lot of commentaries - somehow I missed it.

I suspect this commentary is old, and the name of the author of the many quotations is not given. This is another way in which this document looks suspiciously unscholarly.

Anyway, let me get to the arguments. These come under 6 main headings:

1. Evidence Of The Greek Manuscripts [these people love capital letters!]
2. Evidence Of The Ancient Versions
3. Evidence From The Writings Of The Early Church Leaders.
4. Numeric Evidence Of Divine Inspiration.
5. The Evidence Of The Bible.
6. The Evidence Of The Believer's Experience.

I'm only going to look at 1, 2, 3, and 5. I regard 4 as lunatic fringe stuff, frankly. Where in the Bible is there any suggestion that its text should follow some numeric pattern, which as others have shown, can be found in any text if you try? And as for 6, no doubt people who have seen apparitions of Mary at Lourdes can claim just as much from experience. That's all I'm going to say about 4 and 6.

Turning to (1), the evidence of the Greek manuscripts. I have no particular argument with some shortcomings that are given regarding Codex Sinaiticus (also known as Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus (also known as B). These are both witnesses to what's called the Alexandrian text tradition, and so are not independent. Some problems with this text tradition are now well understood, as are the problems with the other traditions. Just citing a list of problems in isolation is not particularly helpful. But the fact is, the Alexandrian tradition is now considered to be the most reliable, and Aleph and B are the oldest manuscripts we have in this tradition. The Chester Beatty Papyrus attests to the antiquity of this tradition.

(2) The cursive manuscripts are all much later than the uncials, and so don't help us much here. It's hardly surprising that they contain the disputed verses, since a scribe would naturally include something doubtful rather than leave it out. The versions translated into other languages are important witnesses, but the document only mentions those that support its position, not the many that don't. Selective citation is no way to carry on a reasonable argument.

(3) Here again we have selective citation. The evidence of the early church writers really goes the other way.

To back up what I'm saying, I'm going to quote from A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, by Bruce M. Metzger. This is a commentary on the deliberations of the United Bible Society committee that had to make textual decisions for the third edition of their Greek text. This is slightly old now (it goes back to when I was at Moore College) but I doubt that later revisions differ substantially in the areas we're looking at here.

Quoting from p.122-3, "The Ending(s) of Mark":

Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts. (1) The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph and B), from the Old Latin cedex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the [tongues] passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16.8. Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document. ...
The longer ending (3) [the traditional ending], though current in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. (a) The vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non- Markan (e.g. apisteo, blapto, bebaioo, epakoloutheo, theaomai, sunergeo, husteron are found nowhere else in Mark; and thanasimon and tois met' autou genomenois, as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament). (b) The connection between ver.8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel. Thus, the subject of ver.8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in ver.9; in ver.9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before (15.47 and 16.1); the other women of verses 1-8 are now forgotten; the use of anastas de and the position of proton are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8. In short, all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with ver.8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion. In view of the inconcinnities between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to full up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century.

I don't really think I can add to that - the UBS scholars know a lot more about the complex issues of text transmission than I do. It's easy to push a point of view by selective quotation of evidence to an uncritical audience. However this is a large and complex area, to which justice is not done by this document on the web site.

Let me just add, though, that I don't think the question of the ending of Mark is hugely important. As the Revival Fellowship document states, there is really not much there that isn't in other places in the NT - especially Acts. The ending could well have been written by someone familiar with Acts as a more fitting ending to the Gospel than the original abrupt ending at v.8. What I do disagree with is the elevating of this passage to a major proof text for the RF doctrines, and the unnecessarily pejorative tone of the RF document, towards modern New Testament scholarship. This is the mark of a sect, to concentrate on discrediting everyone who disagrees, rather than try to have a reasonable discussion.

If the passage I quoted above reads like an attempt to discredit a piece of scripture because it teaches uncomfortable things, I can only suggest you re-read it.

Uncoolman Share to: Facebook Twitter MSN linkedin google yahoo #1
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Re:Mark 16 and 'Revival' - Mike Hore and Ian Thomason

Date Posted:18/04/2008 7:24 AMCopy HTML

Mark 16: An Exegetical Essay By Ian Thomason

Download the updated pdf from HERE - Mark 16

Introduction Revivalists use the closing verses of Mark 16 as a standard 'proof-text' to authenticate their 'Pentecostal' experience, first among themselves, and secondly to outsiders. But there seems to be an all too common practice of selective reading within these fellowships. The contexts of the various key biblical passages don't often seem to be read 'or applied' in their entirety, the result being that Revivalists regularly "miss the forest for the trees".

For many years the RCI has followed pastor Lloyd Longfield's rather unique interpretation that Mark 16 should be read as a parable from verse 9 onwards, seemingly to explain the absence of the majority of the signs outlined in the passage from within RCI assemblies. Drew Dixon has written an excellent essay that appears on this site [Mark 16: Is it a Parable?], which conclusively demolishes this line of argument. I certainly have nothing to add to his work, other than to provide the following comment:

I have consulted commentaries on the book of Mark that were written from the fourth century onwards in an effort to locate anyone at any point in the history of Christianity, who has offered a similar suggestion to that provided by the former senior pastor of the RCI. I was unable to find even one. This fact alone should cause us to seriously question pastor Longfield's interpretation.AimThe aim of this essay is to critically consider precisely what it is that the closing verses of Mark 16 teach. The tools that I've used are the standards for biblical studies and exegetical theology, and require a close grammatical analysis of the passage in Greek. The results of my examination are then compared against the two major Revivalist positions (those of the RCI and the RF), to provide an objective critique of their claims. But it's left to you?the reader?to decide whether or not I've proven my case, by disproving theirs.

BackgroundI'd like to begin by briefly addressing an issue that seems to be quite controversial in some circles. It has to do with the question of ?authenticity' with respect to Mark 16:9-20.Many Revivalists feel concerned that modern Bible translations, including the New International Version (NIV), contain footnotes that read something like this:The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.They're anxious because their own King James Version (KJV) does contain these verses, so they begin to worry that the modern translations might be trying to distort, or perhaps even remove, entire passages from the Word of God.

At issue seems to be the trustworthiness of Scripture! But this simply isn't the case .There currently exist approximately 5,713 Greek manuscripts 'generally incomplete' of the Christian New Testament , and the vast majority of these date from the eighth century onwards. There are two important considerations that result from this. First, the date is, of course, about 700 years after the last NT book was written. Second, the text of the NT became more or less fixed in its Greek form sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries. So it's not surprising to discover that the majority of the Greek manuscripts reflect what is a polished and edited form of the Greek NT, and which is now commonly referred to as the Byzantine text type . This is the text form that developed in the centuries after Constantine became Emperor, and which came to be the Bible of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is also, more or less, the same text form that underpins the KJV.But we also have a reasonable number of Greek NT manuscripts dating from much earlier than the eighth century, generally from the fourth and fifth centuries. We also have quotations of various NT passages in the writings of Church leaders from the second century onwards .

And finally, we have translations of the NT into other languages that are from the third century forwards . What we discover is that the form of the Greek text that was in widespread use?that is from Palestine through to North Africa?during these earlier centuries, displays certain differences to the later, more refined Byzantine text type. All the manuscripts of Mark that include chapter 16 include the text up to verse 8: "And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid .

" But from verse 9 onwards, significant differences appear. In fact, there are three ?longer' endings to Mark's Gospel. They are:?Early, on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had previously cast out seven demons. She went and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. And when they heard that he was alive, and had been seen by her, they didn't believe.After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were on their way to the country.

They went back and told the rest, but they didn't believe them. Then he appeared to the eleven while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their hardness of heart, because they didn't believe those who had seen him resurrected. He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved, but the one who doesn't believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink won't harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will recover." After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. The eleven went out and proclaimed everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through the accompanying signs.'This is, of course, the commonest ending to Mark's Gospel, and is the one that's found in most English translations, including the KJV.

But there is also: 'They reported briefly to those around Peter all that they'd been commanded. After these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from the east to the west, the holy and enduring preaching of eternal salvation. Amen.'The above ending is regularly found written after the traditional ?longer ending' in manuscripts from the seventh century onwards. This would seem to indicate that there was some uncertainty as to which was the 'proper' text, so both were included, just to be safe!

And finally, there is the version of a 'longer ending' that's quoted by Jerome, early in the fifth century: 'And they replied, saying, "this age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who through his demons doesn't permit the true power of God to be understood; therefore, reveal your righteousness now!" They were speaking to Christ, and he said to them in reply, "The limit of the years of the authority of Satan has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near, even for the sinners on whose behalf I was delivered up to death, that they might turn to the truth and no longer sin, so that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.

So, according to the Greek manuscript evidence, there are actually four endings to Mark's Gospel! The earliest, and therefore the 'best' Greek manuscripts (which is a value judgement in any case) don't include the longer ending that's found in the Byzantine text that stands behind the KJV. Neither do the earliest translations. Further, quotes from Mark's Gospel in the letters of most of the Church leaders from the second and third centuries don't show any evidence that they knew the common 'longer' ending either . It's only from the mid to late third century that endings after verse 8 start to multiply in the manuscripts, and in the letters written by Church leaders.

So what does this mean? Do we simply ignore Mark 16:9-20? Not at all.What I've presented above is a brief record of the textual evidence that clearly indicates that the original author of Mark's Gospel, who probably wrote sometime around AD 60, didn't include verses 9 through 20. However, the evidence also suggests that ?extended' endings to the Gospel began to be considered towards the middle of the second century, and these clearly reflected traditional beliefs and understandings held within the early Church.So, there are two issues that we need to consider. First, there's absolutely nothing in the common 'longer' ending, or in any of the other 'longer' endings, which is contrary to the rest of the NT witness concerning Christ and his teachings. Second, the Church decided to accept all of the 'longer' endings as representative of orthodox teaching when it recognised the boundaries of the NT canon sometime around the fourth century. Consequently, they form part and parcel of the received Scripture in use by the Christian Church Universal. So it's perfectly correct to appeal to Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture; but it's patently incorrect to claim that it was originally written by John Mark, traditionally held to be the author of the gospel that bears his name.

Mark 16:15-18Having now spent a little time reviewing the history of the passage, we're in a position to move forwards, to consider precisely what it is that Mark 16:15-18 teaches.He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved, but the one who doesn't believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink won't harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will recover."Jesus' parting words to his disciples were, "go into the world, and preach the gospel to everyone!" To Christ, the most important thing in the world wasn't that the disciples go into it, but that the gospel was preached: the single Greek imperative?or the sole command in the verse?is "preach the gospel" (the word translated, "go" is simply a Greek participle).
 
Both Drew and I fundamentally disagree with the Revivalist churches over just what it is that properly comprises this all-important gospel, hence the fact of this website. I offer now that a misunderstanding of the nature of the gospel invariably leads to a misunderstanding of the nature of, and requirements for, salvation. History demonstrates that such confusion all too frequently results in a rapid spiral into works-based, human-centric; fear-breeding forms of religious legalism, as such remains the natural religion of fallen human beings.Moving on.
 
Having been presented with the content of the gospel (v. 15), the hearer is forced into choosing: to either believe, or to disbelieve (v. 16).The person who believes, Jesus' assured his disciples, will be baptised and will be saved . However, the one who chooses not to believe the gospel of Christ will stand condemned. It's at this point that we need to take note of several important features of Greek grammar. The words translated "believes" (piste?sas) and "is baptised" (baptisthe?) are both aorists, active voice participles, whilst the verb "will be saved" (sothesetai) is future tense, in the passive voice, and indicative mood. What this grammatical verbiage indicates, is that the person who exercises belief in the gospel message, the person who demonstrates that he or she believes by being baptised (the aorist aspect being generic in this instance), can rest in the certainty of receiving everlasting life from God into the future.

It's crucially important to understand that the "being baptised" component is secondary to the believing, as (1) the function of the Greek coordinate conjunction "and" (ka? is cumulative rather than copulative , and (2) this is a normal role of the second protasis in implied conditional Greek sentences (see footnote 13, below). In other words, a lack of baptism won't lead to a lack of eternal life (contra, especially, RF teaching). The same, of course, is true for the Acts 2:38 proof-text [see Acts 2:38].

We now arrive at the most disputed portion of this biblical passage: Christ's teaching on the "signs".

These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink won't harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will recover...Given that Jesus used the Greek plural for "signs" (semeia) in our passage, the first question that we need to ask ourselves is simple: how is this word used in (1) the NT record generally, and (2) Mark's gospel particularly BRend part 1)

According to my Greek Concordance the word semeion (which is the nominative, singular, neuter form?or the ?dictionary' form?of semeia) appears 77 times in the NT. Most of the occurrences are in the Gospels (48 times, with 6 in Mark), but the word is also found in Paul's writings (8 times), in Hebrews (once), and in John's Revelation (7 times). The standard definition is, "(1) a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, and (2) an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers ." According to the extended discussion that fills two subsequent columns of Bauer, the second definition is the one that best suits our current passage (along with 4 of the other 5 occurrences of the word in Mark's Gospel). In this respect, semeion has within its semantic domain the concept of miracle. A standard academic Greek word study reference distinguishes clearly between semeion, and t?as ("miraculous sign"), but notes that the latter occurs exclusively in the plural, and then is only found in combination with the former in the NT. This indicates that Mark intended for his readers to understand that the "signs" in 16:17 point to the direct intervention of God, and then in an openly miraculous way.

So far, so good.

Mark went on further to describe five specific "signs" (note they are plural) that would "accompany" (a future tense, active voice, indicative mood verb) those who "believe" (again an active voice, aorist participle). They are: (1) that in Christ's name they will drive out demons; (2) they will speak in new languages; (3) they will pick up snakes with their hands, and (4) whatever poison they drink won't harm them; and finally (5) that they will place their hands on the sick and they will recover.


The RCI understands the majority of these "signs" (numbers 1, 3 and 4) to be somehow parabolic or metaphorical. One wonders whether or not this has more to do with their organisation rejecting the existence of demons philosophically, [see Demons] coupled with their belief that Mark surely couldn't have meant literally what he appears to state with respect to the handling of snakes and the drinking of poison. Consequently, the RCI teaches that the first "sign" really ought to be interpreted as "the casting out of false religious ideas". The third "sign" properly refers to "the handling of sly, malicious people", with the fourth "sign" relating to "the hearing of false doctrine without being harmed spiritually". Of course, Drew Dixon's article demonstrates that this sort of interpretative wrangling simply isn't honest.

The RF, on the other hand, apparently accepts the literal interpretation of the majority of Mark's "signs", but understands them to be latent promises within each individual and true believer. Promises to be called upon, when and where and as required. The difficulty with this interpretation, however, is that it confuses what Mark calls "signs", with what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians as "spiritual gifts"! The former, however, serves to demonstrate the reality of God to an unbelieving world; the latter serves to build-up an already believing Christian assembly. In reality though, the RF has also attempted to reinterpret away the clear and simple teaching of Scripture because it doesn't gel with the organisation's doctrine, experience, or practice.

Because the Revivalist groups universally claim the gift of tongues (itself a biblically defensible position), and because they universally link this particular spiritual gift with the receiving of God's Holy Spirit in the mystery of salvation (itself not a biblically defensible position); they can't simply jettison Mark 16:15-18 due to the difficulties that a straightforward reading of the passage presents them with.

"Yes, all speak in tongues! Well...we do see some people being healed through prayer sometimes. But clearly it's their fault! They must lack faith! Well, no...we'll have none of that demon stuff and nonsense here, and don't even being with the poison-drinking, snake-handling rubbish!"

Unfortunately though, Mark doesn't allow so casual a picking-and-choosing of what one is prepared to accept as valid when it comes to the "signs" that Mark 16 presents. To him, one either accepts the lot, or one rejects the lot. Why? Because the grammatical antecedent to they that's implicit in each of the third person "sign" verbs ("drive", "speak" "pick up", "drink" and "place"), is the same those who believe of verse 17 (which mirrors the whoever believes identified in verse 15)! Therein lies the Gordian knot that the Revivalist groups have unsuccessfully attempted to unravel! According to the logic of the two Revivalist interpretative positions, all believers must evidence all of the signs, all of the time (noting, of course, that a "sign" is only a sign when it's on display)!

The answer

The RF in particular has assumed two things about Jesus' words at the beginning of verse 17: "these signs shall accompany those who believe". First, that the future tense indicates a promise rather than a prediction. And second, that it's a promise to all believers.

However, given that the statement appears after a conditional sentence (16:16), and given the entire range of subsequent contextual grammatical conditions that Mark presents ("...he that...and is...shall be..."), it's clear that the statement itself should be taken as a prediction rather than as a promise. This is further supported by the fact that each of the six instances of third person plural verbs mentioned with respect to the "signs" of verses 17 and 18, are categorical (or ?generalising') plurals. Categorical plurals separate and distinguish one group, from every other group. This form of plural exists in Greek, as it more easily yields itself to a generic notion: the focus is more towards the action, than it is towards the actor (i.e. "this is the kind of person who does this"). In our text the "signs" serve to distinguish Christian believers as a group, from every other group of people on the planet.

Our current text doesn't teach that all believers will cast out demons through to healing the sick at all. The stress isn't on the notion of promises given to believers it's on the authentication of Christianity as being from God before an unbelieving world. The passage, therefore, teaches that some Christians may speak in tongues. Others may cast out demons. Others still may be involved in the range of supernatural effects that are described, but these effects are simply one part of what it is that demonstrates the uniqueness of the Christian Church as a group separate to and from every other group. The effects?the "signs"?aren't individual promises, they're corporate predictions.

Conclusion

Revivalists collectively appeal to Mark 16:15-20 to authenticate their shared spiritual experience of "tongues", and further, to validate their unique theology that one must speak in tongues in order to be a "true" believer. However, as I've clearly demonstrated Mark 16:15-20 doesn't reflect or represent the Revivalist theology, its experience or its actual practice at all. Each of the Revivalist groups has gone to extraordinary lengths over the years to explain-away the "missing signs", when what has really been missing is a proper appreciation of the passage's true meaning, as it stands. The Revivalist groups, quite simply, have gotten Mark 16 wrong.

In closing, the grammar of the Greek text of Mark 16:15-20 doesn't support what the Revivalist groups teach. In fact, it stands directly against this Revivalist dogma.



Footnotes

I've personally undertaken undergraduate and postgraduate training in NT textual criticism. This is the close study of the ancient NT manuscripts, their similarities and differences

Of which only about 50 are complete New Testaments

Approximately 85% of them

Named as it is after the Byzantine period which began at Constantinople

Almost 1,000,000 quotations: enough to reconstitute the entire Bible (less 17 verses)

Approximately 10,000 manuscripts (in Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Armenian)

All translations from the Greek text into English are my own

Irenaeus (d. 200) wrote in Latin, ?also, towards the conclusion of his gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God"' (Against Heresies, 3.10.6). This is clearly a direct quote from Mark 16:19

Jerome (d. 419) commented that the common ?longer' ending was absent from almost all of the manuscripts known to him

I've written that the RCI, the RF, the GRC and the CAI have misunderstood both the content and the context of the gospel message, so there's no need for repetition in this essay [see instead, The Gospel].

This is a good example of an implied conditional sentence in Greek, one using a substantival participle in place of the formal structural markers, "...if...then..."

Participles are forms of the adjective that derive from verbs. What they do is ascribe to a noun participation in the action?or state?of the verb

The two conditions listed in the protasis (the implied "if" bit) don't bear the same relationship to the apodosis (the "then" bit). The first is the cause ("[if] you believe"), and the fulfilment of the apodosis depends on it ("[then] you will be saved"). The second functions as the evidence of belief ("and [if you] are baptised"), consequently the apodosis doesn't depend on it for fulfilment

In other words, the acceptance of baptism follows on from the believing, rather than being equal to it in obligation

Kohlenberger, et al., The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan, 1995

Bauer, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., University of Chicago Press, 2000; s.v. semeion, ou, t?(pp.920-921)

C. Brown (ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2 (rev ed.) Paternoster Press, 1985, svv. semeion & t?as, pp. 626-635
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