Sunday, April 12, 2009

you tell it from here

Mary the Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was put.

When the Sabbath passed Mary the Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so they could come and anoint him. Very early on the first day of the week they came to the tomb as the sun was rising. They said to each other, "Who'll roll the stone off the tomb door for us?" and looking up they saw that the stone had been rolled back for it was huge. Entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right dressed in a white robe and they were much stunned.

But he said to them "Don't be stunned. Are you looking for Jesus the crucified Nazarene? He was raised. He isn't here. Look, the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter 'He's going ahead of you to Galilee. There you'll see him as he told you.'"

Going out they fled the tomb--they were shuddering and wild--and they told no one nothing for they were afraid.

As the women wonder who will roll away the presumably heavy stone, they see that the stone has already been removed; and in the tomb, on the right side, sits a young man "dressed in a white robe." Mark does not remark that, in Hebrew scripture, angels are more than once described similarly. The women are stunned; the young man attempts to calm them and says that Jesus was raised and is gone. He instructs the women to tell the disciples and, specifically, Peter that "He's going ahead of you to Galilee. There you'll see him as he told you" (Mark has recorded only a vague earlier prediction). The women flee the tomb "wild and shuddering"; and in their fear, for an unspecified interval, they tell no one anything. The oldest surviving complete manuscripts of Mark, which come from the fourth century AD, end at that moment with grinding abruptness. The summary endings to Mark that are found in modern Bibles are easily identifiable as the work of other anonymous early hands, not Mark's own. Students differ in their sense of whether Mark himself chose to end the story at such an abrupt juncture or whether his original manuscript (or a unique surviving copy) somehow lost its final page or final lines at a vulnerable time in the first few years of its life, a time when full copies had not been widely distributed. My own sense, which I shall expand on later--and it seems to be the conclusion of a majority of modern students--is that Mark intended to end his story as we have it, in literal midair while the women flee the tomb in terror. Such an apparently reckless last-minute abandonment by an author of his reader's keenest final expectation is thoroughly characteristic of the kind of narrator Mark has been throughout his book. This is my story, suddenly told--you tell it from here.

--Reynolds Price, translating Mark and commentary, Three Gospels


Jane said...

I love the empty tomb in Mark.
It speaks of the womb having given birth
It also speaks of the complete otherness of resurrection, the void or "vide" in French.
Anyway this is the gospel text I chose to preach on at the two most important funerals I've taken - my father's and my father in God's - Alain Blancy. In Mark's hurried energetic gospel Christ comes from nothing and goes to nothing

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for the notes on the French, Jane. And we appreciate your sharing from the funerals too!