At Friday youth we have been doing a course called Christianity Explored (the youth version though – called Soul). The course runs for seven weeks with each week teaching something different from the book of Mark. In the fourth week the topic was the resurrection and because the course is an introduction to Christianity, we encourage questions. The question that came was not particularly surprising – especially given Mark’s surprising ending:
Mark ends in verse 8 of chapter 16 as follows:
Mark 16:8 “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
and actually, verse 7 says, “But go, tell his disciples, even Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” ”
Imagine the reader’s confusion when s/he reads any of the other Gospel accounts:
Matthew 28:8 “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”
Luke 24:9 “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.”
John 20:2 “So she [Mary Magdalene] came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said …”
What do we do with Mark’s mistake here? Doesn’t this disprove the Bible?
My response, which I am hoping exemplifies a helpful response, was the following: I began with the assumption that Mark was not a complete idiot – a reasonable assumption I think. Based on that, I asked whether – considering Mark had obviously heard about the resurrection – he actually thought that the women said nothing to anyone. Clearly they said something to someone or Mark himself wouldn’t know about the it. We still don’t know what he means by it but we can be confident that he wouldn’t disagree with the other gospel writers.
The difficulty then moves from the realm of “contradictions in the Bible” to that of interpretation. By simply assuming that the writer is not stupid we don’t have to worry about losing Scripture. The question lingers though – what did Mark mean?
To answer this I would point the reader to the rest of Mark’s gospel where we find fear and faith juxtaposed (for example 4:40, 5:36). Here, I think, Mark is directing his readers to respond not by fleeing in fear but by in following in faith. His readers, in case you hadn’t caught on, are me and you; we’re the ones he’s challenging to “run from the tomb and tell everyone because we are filled with faith.”