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Missional Discipleship: Reinterpreting the Great Commission (new article)

February 12, 2008

Boundless has published my new article, “Missional Discipleship: Reinterpreting the Great Commissions.” This is a timely publication with my recent post on the Manga Bible, an example of what Andrew Walls‘ calls distinctive discipleship. From the conclusion of the article:

We’re called not to mere soul-winning, but to distinctive discipleship: heralding a worldly gospel of a fleshly Christ who humbly accommodates human culture and understands the human condition.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2008 8:33 pm

    Dear Jonathan,

    In “Missional Discipleship: Reinterpreting the Great Commission,” footnote #4 “It is widely recognized that this verse and the latter portion of Mark’s gospel (16:9-20) is absent from many extant Greek manuscripts. However, we can not be certain that the ending is missing from the original text.”

    I certainly agree with the second sentence there. The first sentence, however, is not true. Mark 16:9-20 is not absent from many extant Greek manuscripts. It is absent from one medieval manuscript, minuscule #304 (which may be a rebound copy of the Commentary of Theophylact supplemented by accompanying text), and from two early and very important uncial manuscripts, named Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (both of which have some quirks after Mark 16:8). It appears in all other unmutilated Greek copies of Mark — more than 99.9% of the Greek manuscripts.

    There is a lot of misinformation about Mark 16:9-20 floating around in sloppily researched commentaries, Bible-footnotes, etc. To help people get a better grip on the evidence, I have prepared an online presentation about Mark 16:9-20 which begins at , which I encourage you to read.

    May God bless the ministry in which He works through you.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Minister, Curtisville Christian Church
    Tipton, Indiana

  2. February 17, 2008 9:32 pm

    Thanks for your comment regarding my footnote, James.

    I should have stated that sentence differently: “It is widely recognized that this verse and the latter portion of Mark’s gospel (16:9-20) is absent from many extant Marcan manuscripts.” You are correct; there are a number of GREEK manuscripts that contain the verses. However, they are lacking from the two earliest parchment codices (B and Alpha) and in many other manuscripts. Many Church Fathers indicate no knowledge of these verses (Clement, Origen) and Jerome plainly states: “Almost all Greek copies do not have this concluding portion” (Epist cxx.3, ad Hedibiam).

    The internal evidence against these verses are what give me the greatest pause in accepting them: 1) 17 non-Marcan words or use of words 2) a very different rhetorical tone and style of writing. Nonetheless, it is clear that the ending is abrupt and incomplete, ending with gar, a preposition that does not close sentences.

    It will be interesting to see just what happened when we join Mark in the New Creation.

  3. April 24, 2008 12:31 am

    Dear Jonathan,

    Please forgive me; I’m afraid I might project a bit of frustration in this note. I’m not sure you’re catching the meaning of what I am saying. Your statement conveying the idea that Mark 16:9-20 is absent from many extant copies of Mark is NOT TRUE. The number of Greek manuscripts that display Mk. 16:9-20 is over 1,500. The number of extant Greek manuscripts of Mark which end at 16:8 is exactly THREE. They are, as I mentioned before, Vaticanus (B), Sinaiticus (that’s Aleph, not Alpha), and medieval commentary-manuscript 304 (in which the commentary also ends abruptly). The description of these three manuscripts as “many extant Greek manuscripts” was a very misleading thing to say to your readers.

    It’s not entirely your fault, because you’re just passing along the essence of what you read in Bruce Metzger’s “Text of the New Testament,” page 226. The sad truth is that Dr. Metzger did not adequately present the patristic evidence, and failed to mention some very important details about Vaticanus and Sinaiticus’ pages at the end of Mark.

    Also, the silence of Clement and Origen (who are similarly silent about other 12-verse sections of Mark) does not add up to “Many Church Fathers.”

    About Jerome: in Ad Hedibiam he was writing via dictation, and was recollecting the contents of Eusebius’ Ad Marinum. This is obvious when one compares the order of the questions, and the contents of the answers, which are shared in both compositions. Jerome loosely recollected Eusebius’ statement, condensing and inflating it in the process in much the same way that Metzger’s statement about Clement and Origen has been inflated into something about “Many early church fathers.” In Jerome’s Letter 75 (To Augustine) he frankly admits that when he dictates his letters he sometimes resorts to mixing other writers’ comments into his compositions, without making a clear distinction between his own statements and statements from earlier writers, so that the letters’ recipients may be free to choose from different opinions. When we consider that Jerome included Mk. 16:9-20 in the Vulgate (in 383), and cited Mk. 16:14 to tell his readers where he had found an interesting interpolation (the “Freer Logion”) in “Against the Pelagians”, c. 417, it seems pretty clear that this is what Jerome was doing in Ad Hedibiam.

    If 17 once-used words give you pause in accepting the 12 verses in Mk. 16:9-20, what about the *22* once-used (that is, using the same spin that Dr. Metzger applied, “non-Markan”) words in the 12 verses in Mk. 15:40-16:4?

    The “tone and style” of Mk. 16:9-20 can be accounted for in various ways, just as the terseness of Mk. 1:1-15 can be accounted for. Maybe Mark finished the book in a hurry. Or maybe he wanted to phrase this section in a form that would be more easily memorized. Or maybe he wrote up to the end of Mk. 16:8, and entrusted the work to colleagues at Rome to finish, as he left Rome, and they proceeded to finish the book by attaching a short composition about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances which Mark had written as a separate catechetical text. Each of these scenarios would explain the internal evidence.

    Also “gar” can, and does, end some sentences in the Septuagint and other ancient Greek compositions.

    Again I encourage you to please read the online presentation about Mk. 16:9-20 carefully, beginning at . If you would like a copy of the full essay, I would be glad to send one to you. But whether you do investigate further or not, please don’t continue to mislead your readers by letting your earlier statement go uncorrected. Please inform them that only three Greek manuscripts end the text of Mark at 16:8; one is a medieval commentary; another leaves blank space after 16:8, and the other one does not contain the page written by the main copyist. Meanwhile at least three patristic authors in the 100’s use Mark 16:9-20 in their writings, thus indicating that these 12 verses were in their copies of Mark.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Minister, Curtisville Christian Church
    Tipton, Indiana

  4. April 24, 2008 8:29 pm


    We will have to agree to disagree on this one, as many scholars do. Regardless, this has almost nothing to do with the thesis or content of my article. You are chasing a footnote, perhaps an important one, but not a topic I was seeking to address.

    Blessings in your ministry,


  5. April 27, 2008 8:50 pm

    Dear Jonathan,

    No well-informed scholars maintain that Mark 16:9-20 “is absent from many extant Greek manuscripts.” Those who make such claims are simply misinformed.

    I agree completely that your statement about Mark 16:9-20 did not impact the article as a whole. So you have nothing to lose by noting, in a future article or correction-note, that the statement about Mark 16:9-20 was inaccurate. The article will remain essentially intact and the only change will be that your readers will no longer be misinformed about that particular point.

    It’s no excuse that the statement was in a footnote. However tangential the erroneous statement was, it will misinform everyone who reads and trusts it. I leave it to you to consider what is the right thing to do.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  6. April 27, 2008 9:04 pm


    I did make that change and submitted it to the editor, months ago. It was a typo for crying out loud.

    Please let the matter rest.



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