(Women at the empty tomb – Fra Angelico, cell 9 San Marco)
This is the Final part of HERspective. Read previous parts here
“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent” ― Madeleine K. Albright
I once read a blog about reading books (yes, I’m that lame) where the author said, “I’m the kind of nerd who does not consider myself having read a book if I did not also read the footnotes.”
When I first read that, I rolled my eyes…HARD. But the more I’ve read books since, the more I’ve paid attention to the footnotes, because they often contain some very important information.
The Bible has some important footnotes as well. One of the most interesting ones comes at the end of the Gospel of Mark. Maybe you’ve noticed it before. If you open up your Bible to Mark 16, there is a footnote at the end of verse 8. When you go to the bottom of the page, the note says,
“The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.”
What does that mean? In the world of Biblical Scholarship, the original document of a Biblical book is called an “autograph”. At this point in history, we have zero autographs. This means that the versions of the Bible we use are created from analyzing the many copies that were made. Sometimes these copies don’t agree. It is typically assumed that, the earlier a copy was written, the higher the likelihood that it’s closer to the original. Whether or not this is a good assumption is for a different blog, but this is the dominant view. Which brings us to our footnote. The earliest copies have the Gospel of Mark ending after verse 8, and verses 9-20 appear in later copies of the book. So what does the ending of Mark look like if we stop at verse 8?
By the end of chapter 15, Jesus has died and been buried. As we get to the beginning of chapter 16, several of the women followers of Jesus go to visit his tomb. Remember how, in the Gospel of Mark, the women followers of Jesus are shown to “get it” in a way the male disciples never do? Well, notice how none of the male disciples are there…even though Jesus literally told them he would die and then rise 3 days later (Mark 9:31).
When the women get to the tomb, they notice that the giant boulder door has been opened. Inside the tomb, there is no Jesus, but there is some young guy hanging out. Understandably, they are alarmed. The man inside tells them that Jesus isn’t there, he has risen, and to go tell the disciples what has happened. The fact that the women followers are being sent to announce the resurrection of Jesus to the male disciples is pretty unheard of. But Jesus doesn’t play by the rules. Remember how he also sends the woman at the well to announce Jesus to the men in her village?
At this point we are ready for a dramatic ending, and this is the one we get in the earliest copies of Mark.
Mark 16:8 – Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Huh? If this was really the original ending, why would Mark leave it there? What could that ending possibly have to say to us?
In the Bible, many books seem to have an abrupt ending. The Book of Acts also comes to mind, as well as Jonah. The authors often do this as a way for the readers to understand that they are supposed to continue the story. If that’s what is happening here, what does Mark want us to know?
These women just had an experience, but they keep it to themselves. Why? Because they are afraid. Why were they afraid? Maybe they thought no one would believe them. Maybe they feared they would be silenced. Maybe they felt their voice didn’t matter.
I think the message of Mark’s abrupt ending is clear. It’s time to speak! We need your voice. We need your story. Your experience is valuable. Don’t be afraid. Speak up!
So many women keep their experience to themselves. No one will believe me. People will try to silence me. My voice doesn’t matter. I know as a male, it’s easy for me to say that. I don’t have to fear these same things when I choose to speak up. But that lack of understanding is even more reason why we need the women around us to share. I cannot put into words how valuable it has been in my life to learn from the female perspective. We need your voice. We need your story. We need your experience. We have so much to learn from you.
Please don’t be silent. It’s time to speak.