Any discussion of chapter sixteen of Mark has to address the variation in what is considered to be its ending; I begin here by providing my full discussion and conclusion in my earlier work on Mark, a conclusion that may need to come back to the earlier discussions in this work of what may be understood as the possible meanings of "Son of God."
Before looking at this summary, however, it may be good to have the first eight verses in view:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1996, c1989 (Mk 16:1-8). Thomas Nelson: Nashville
Summary When the Sabbath is over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome come to the tomb early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus; on the way, they have wondered about how they will remove the huge rock that covers the front of the tomb. Arriving, they see that the stone has already been rolled away; inside, they see a young man in white, and they become alarmed. This young man hastens to reassure these women, telling them they seek Jesus who has been crucified, but he has risen. He then tells them to go to the disciples and tell them, Peter in particular, that Jesus has gone into Galilee before them. The women are seized by terror and amazement, are afraid, and they flee.
The short ending of Mark is brief:
[[And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. ]
Christians are grateful for the longer ending which has Jesus appear to several and then to ascend:
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
9 [[Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
Jesus Appears to Two Disciples
12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
Jesus Commissions the Disciples
14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. † 15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news † to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands, † and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
The Ascension of Jesus
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. ]
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, but when she goes to his disciples and reveals this appearance, they don't believe her, remembering that she is, after all, the one from whom Jesus has cast out seven demons. Jesus next appears to two disciples walking in the country; they, too, go back and tell the rest, being no more believed than Mary Magdalene. Now, Jesus appears to the eleven while they are sitting at a table and upbraids them for their lack of faith, an all too common occurrence in Mark. Nonetheless, Jesus tells them they are to carry on the mission, taking the good news to the whole creation. Interestingly, in a book which has played hard into the Jewish need for signs, the disciples are told signs will accompany them: they will cast out demons, speak in tongues, pick up snakes, and be unaffected by any poisonous drinks. They will lay their hands upon the sick who will then recover.
Now, Jesus is taken up into heaven, where he is given the preferred place on the right hand of God. While God works with the disciples, they go into the world and begin to proclaim the good news, their message confirmed by signs.
What does one finally make of the Gospel of Mark? Certainly, the last chapter gives us our traditional Easter story, tied intimately into the Jewish Passover. Jesus has become the paschal lamb. Concerning the ending of Mark, we do well to consult the Oxford Annotated Bible:
16.9–20: The traditional close of the Gospel of Mark.
Nothing is certainly known either about how this Gospel originally ended or about the origin of Mark 16.9–20, which, because of the textual evidence as well as stylistic differences from the rest of the Gospel, cannot have been part of the original text of Mark. Certain important witnesses to the text, including some ancient ones, end the Gospel with Mark 16.8. Though it is possible that the compiler of the Gospel intended this abrupt ending, one can find hints that he intended to describe events after the resurrection: for example, Mark 14.28 looks forward to an account of at least one experience of the disciples with Jesus in Galilee after the resurrection, while the friendly reference to Peter (Mark 16.7) may anticipate the recounting of the otherwise unrecorded moment of reconciliation between Peter and his Lord (compare Luke 24.34; 1 Corinthians 15.5). If accounts such as these were originally part of Mark’s Gospel, the loss of them took place very shortly after the Gospel was written, under circumstances beyond present knowledge. Many witnesses, some ancient, end the Gospel with Mark 16.9–20, thus showing that from early Christian times these verses have been accepted traditionally and generally as part of the canonical Gospel of Mark. A variety of other manuscripts conclude the Gospel with the shorter ending, either alone or followed by Mark 16.9–20, thus indicating that different attempts were made to provide a suitable ending for the Gospel. The longer ending may have been compiled early in the second century as a didactic summary of grounds for belief in Jesus’ resurrection, being appended to the Gospel by the middle of the second century. On the Christian belief in continuing unrecorded memories about Jesus in the first century see Luke 1.1–2; John 20.30; John 21.25; Acts 20.35 n.; 1 Corinthians 15.3; also compare Matthew 28.20; John 16.12–33; Revelation 1.12–16 n.; Revelation 2.18.
16.9–18: Post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.
9–10: Mary is associated with other women in Mark 16.1, Mark 16.7–8 and parallels; she is apparently alone in John 20.1–2; John 20.11–19. Seven demons, Luke 8.2. 11: Luke 24.11; Luke 24.22–25; John 20.19–29; 1 Corinthians 15.5. Here, as in John 20.19–29, the disciples are convinced of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection by their own immediate experience with him, though they should have heeded the witness of others as later generations must do (John 20.29). 12–13: Luke 24.12–35. 13: Compare Luke 24.34.
16.14–18: Matthew 28.19; Luke 24.47. 16: Acts 2.37–42; Acts 10.47–48; Romans 10.9. 17–18: The reality of faith in believers’ lives as they respond to the apostolic witness is signified by events that both correspond with biblically recorded happenings in the lives of the apostles and conform to apostolic statements about the gifts of the Spirit (for example, 1 Corinthians 12.8–11; 1 Corinthians 12.28; 1 Corinthians 14.2–5; Hebrews 2.3–4): exorcism (Acts 8.6–7; Acts 16.18; Acts 19.11–20); new tongues (see Acts 2.4–11 n.; Acts 10.46; Acts 19.6; 1 Corinthians 12.10; 1 Corinthians 12.28; 1 Corinthians 14.2–33); healing (Acts 28.8; 1 Corinthians 12.9; James 5.13–16). Instances of picking up snakes and drinking poison, without injury to the believer in either case, lack New Testament parallels. However, the former resembles the harmless accidental attack upon Paul in Acts 28.3–6, and the latter appears occasionally in Christian literature from the second century onward.
16.19–20: Jesus’ exaltation.
19: For the concept of Jesus’ exaltation, Philippians 2.9–11; Hebrews 1.3; for the language was taken up, Acts 1.2; Acts 1.11; Acts 1.22; 1 Timothy 3.16 (seemingly a Christian hymn); for the image of the right hand of God, Psalm 110.1 n.; Acts 7.55; Hebrews 1.3. 20: Mark 16.17–18; Hebrews 2.3–4.
Taken from the above, note at least these movements:
The disciples have at least one experience after the resurrection with Jesus in Galilee. Remember, Galilee is in the north of Palestine.
Peter, in the traditional role of one who has denied Christ, seems to be reconciled.
The longer ending of Mark may have been compiled in the second century. By this time, a distinction had been made between the literal and physical Jesus and the resurrected, spiritual Christ, or pre-Easter and post-Easter interpretations.
Jesus' work with the disciples suggests immediate experience is necessary for belief; others can report, but the conviction comes from within a relationship.
Finally, the image of the right hand of God is clearly Jesus' exalted position. You may want to read all of Psalms 110. In particular, remember at least these words:
4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,
"You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." †
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
The theme in Mark is clear: Jesus is the Son of God, stated both in the prologue (1.1) and in the unfolding of the Gospel (1.11; 9.7; 3.11; 5.7; 12.6; 14.61). He has been recognized by the heavenly Father, those who possess supernatural knowledge, and by himself. The climax comes when a Roman official also proclaims him as Son of God (15.39).
In his Excurson, Michael Turton says the following of the ending of Mark:
Excursus: The Missing Ending of Mark
The Gospel of Mark currently ends at 16:8. This ending has always made readers uneasy, and in antiquity there were several attempts to graft an ending onto Mark. These endings are all considered spurious by the scholarly community. Basically, the current ending offers the reader the choice: did the writer mean for the Gospel to end at 16:8, or did the writer supply another one that has gone AWOL somehow?
Evidence from the Patristic fathers indicates that if the ending went AWOL, it did so quite early, for Longer Ending (Mark 16:9-20), found in some Bibles, is known from sometime early in the second half of the second century. Around that time it was incorporated into a harmony of the four Gospels known as the Diatesseron and generally attributed to Tatian, a heretic who was a student of Justin Martyr's in Rome in the middle of the second century. However, the Longer Ending was apparently unknown to Origen, and Jerome and Eusebius claimed that it was absent from almost all the Greek manuscripts they knew (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p462).
In addition to the Longer Ending, there is also a Shorter Ending found in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic manuscripts. That ending consists of a few sentences in which the women report briefly to Peter. It is then reported that Jesus appeared to the disciples, and then sent them forth to proclaim the "sacred and incorruptible" message of eternal salvation. The style and vocabulary are decidedly unMarkan.
The so-called Freer Logion adds a number of verses to the Longer Ending. It is generally regarded as scribal gloss inserted to soften the Risen Jesus' criticism of the Eleven in 16:14. (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p463).
Against these, Evan Powell proposed in his 1994 book The Unfinished Gospel that the ending of John, John 21, was formerly the ending of Mark. Powell's argument was based on linguistic and stylistic affinities. David Ross has an excellent review of the idea on his Mark website, along with more evidence to bolster it.
In the chapter analysis, Turton summarizes research and provides the intriguing conclusion that the subtlety and ambiguity often results in a focus on the disciples rather than Jesus:
v8: This ending as it stands is enigmatic and to some, quite beautiful. The term "the disciples and Peter" may recall the passage in 1 Cor where "Cephas and the disciples" see the Risen Jesus.
v8: The ending of the Gospel is truncated (see Excursus below). The other known endings are all later creations.
v8: Darrell Doughty (2000) writes:
"A problem that has always exercised interpreters of Mark is the fact that the story concludes in 16:1-8 without any resurrection appearances of Jesus. All we have is an angel who tells the women that Jesus is risen and will meet them and his disciples in Galilee. We are also told that the women fled, saying nothing to anyone, which leaves only Peter and the disciples as to meet Jesus after his resurrection. I would suggest that the story is continued in chapter 1, where following his "death and resurrection" (1:9-10), Jesus enters into Galilee, meets his disciples by the Sea, and makes them "fishers of men" (1:14-21). Robert Fowler rightly observes that "the awkward gar at Mark 16:8, coupled with the ambiguous allusion to Galilee in 16:7, signals the reader to return to the beginning of the Gospel, to begin reading all over again" (Let the Reader Understand, 262)."
v8: Carrier (2004c) observes:
"But we have one definite proof that the resurrection motif in fiction predates the 1st century: the Latin satire of that very genre, The Satyricon by Petronius. This is positively dated to around 60 A.D. (Petronius was killed under the reign of Nero, and makes fun of social circumstances created by the early Caesars) and is a full-fledged travel-narrative just like Acts, with a clear religious motif. However, Petronius is making fun of that motif, and also writing in Latin, yet we know the genre began in the Greek language. Thus, in order for Petronius to move the genre into Latin and make fun of it, it must have pre-existed the time of his writing and been popular enough to draw his attention. Indeed, the satire itself may actually have existed in a Greek form before Petronius took it up: P. Parsons, "A Greek Satyricon?" Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 18 (1971) pp. 53ff. It should be noted that Petronius pokes fun at the resurrection theme in section 140.frg2, where the hero compares his restoration from impotence to the "resurrected Protesilaus," and attributes it to Mercury's known role in "bringing back the dead." Similarly, Plutarch relates a spoof of the motif in popular theatre, where a performing dog acts out its death and resurrection on stage to the delight of the emperor Vespasian ("On the Cleverness of Animals," Moralia 973e-974a). In order to have something to spoof, the motif must predate the year 80."
v8: Weeden (1971) writes:
"For Mark, the fact and reality of the resurrection is attested by the story of the empty grave. To state the matter in this fashion is no glib rhetoric. Such a statement speaks to a curious and puzzling phenomenon. Before Mark there is no evidence that the early church ever sought to verify its resurrection faith through recourse to Jesus' empty tomb. Nor is there any hard evidence that the early church ever knew of Jesus' grave's being empty."(p102)
v8: David Rhoads (2004) writes:
"Perhaps it is the subtlety and ambiguity of Mark's marvelously exasperating ending that explains why so many studies of Mark focus on the disciples."(p9)
Richard Heard(http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=531&C=551 ) also allows for the possibility of Mark's ending without the Resurrection appearances but allows for mutilation or suppression:
The MS. evidence makes it clear that ‘the longer ending’ found in most Bibles (Mk. 16:9-20) is in fact an early addition to bring Mark into line with the other gospels in recording Resurrection appearances of Jesus. It is probable that both Matthew and Luke used Mark in a form which broke off at 16:8, and this ending, though abrupt and awkward, may well be original. A number of theories, however, have been advanced to account for the loss of a supposed original ending which included Resurrection appearances in Galilee (cf. 16:7). It is possible that the gospel was not finished, or that the original copy was accidentally mutilated, and it has even been suggested that an account of Jesus’ appearance in Galilee has been suppressed in view of the alternative tradition (witnessed by Luke 24) that the appearances of the risen Christ were in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem.
Yet another source suggests legitimacy for the longer version in the Alexandrian version
9. Now when he had risen. The remainder of the chapter is not found in the Vatican or Siniatic Greek MSS., but is found in the Alexandrian. These are the three oldest and most reliable MSS. Some hold these verses to be a later addition, but as they are found in all the most ancient versions they must have been a part of Mark's Gospel when the first century ended. Schaff, Plumptre, Olshausen, Lochman and others regard them genuine, while other critics consider them doubtful. A circumstance in their favor is that the Vatican MS:. has a vacant space for them. It seems probable that in an early copy, therefore, they were omitted for some cause by a copyist who left space for them, but did not afterwards fill it, and that the Siniatic MS. was made from the mutilated copy. It is clear that verse 8 was not designed to conclude Mark's narrative. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. This appearance is described more fully in John 20:11-17.
Other considerations arise from an understanding of "How the Bible Came to Us" (Wansbrough) where the following should be a guidepost from rushing into over-generalized conclusions about what is to be accepted as Scriptural:
For Christians there is also a most important question concerning the value of the Greek Bible. In the Jewish colonies of the Diaspora, scattered over the trading cities of the eastern mediterranean, there were many who no longer understood Hebrew. For them a Greek version of the Bible was produced. Legend, stemming from the Letter of Aristeas (310-311), has it that Ptolemy II in 275 BC ordered 72 scholars, working separately in 72 isolated rooms, to translate the Bible into Greek. At the end of 72 days they all emerged with an identical translation. Not surprisingly, the translation became known as the Septuaginta (Latin for 70, abbreviated LXX). The work of translation was in fact spread over two or three centuries, starting probably in Egypt in the third century and ending in the early first century before Christ. The importance of the legend is that it shows that the translation was regarded as authoritative and inspired. Besides the books translated from Hebrew, this Bible contained several books originally written in Greek. The importance of this translation is vast:
1. It became the Bible of the early Church. It is from this rather than from the Hebrew that the New Testament authors, writing, of course, in Greek, normally quote the scriptures.
2. We possess a full text of the LXX from the fourth century ADin the Codex Vaticanus, much of it in another fourth century manuscript, the Codex Sinaiticus, and from the fifth century in the Codex Alexandrinus. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, these were half a millenium older than our oldest Hebrew witness to the biblical texts. At Qumran some quite extensive Hebrew Bible texts were discovered, including the whole Book of Isaiah. Apart from that, the earliest full copies of the Hebrew text are the Leningrad Codex of the tenth century and the partially complete Aleppo Codex of 925 AD. Both of these important Hebrew texts belong to a single ‘school’ of manuscript tradition, stemming from the city of Tiberias on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, so known as ‘Tiberian’. The Greek text of the Bible provides access, therefore, to a version free of another five or six hundred years of copyists’ mistakes. No matter how religiously careful – and there were dreadful threats against those who made mistakes - a copyist is, errors are bound to occur.
3. In certain cases a real advance in theology occurs in the LXX. The most famous case is Isaiah 7.14 where the original ‘young woman’ (not necessarily a virgin) is translated into Greek with the word ‘virgin’, a text used by Matthew 1.23 to confirm the virginal birth of Jesus: ‘a virgin shall conceive and bear a son’. Another important theological advance is that there is also a whole series of passages where the hope of resurrection from the dead is far more robustly affirmed in the LXX than in the Hebrew. At Job 14.14 a tentative question in the Hebrew, ‘Can the dead come back to life?’ becomes a firm statement in the Greek, ‘If a man dies, he shall live,’ and similarly at Hosea 13.14. It may be that the Greek, perhaps influenced by philosophy of the time, has been too positive in the translation, or that the Hebrew text which the Greek translator had before him was different from the Hebrew text we now possess, and that the Hebrew we now possess is less positive than the text seen by the Greek translator a thousand years earlier. In the intervening centuries the question could have been introduced into the Hebrew text by copyists.
There are plenty of other examples of differences and patterns of difference between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, despite the care taken by the translators to keep close to the Hebrew text. Indeed, Hebrew word-forms and constructions are retained to the extent that the language is obviously translation-Greek, revealing the Hebrew thought and words beneath the Greek. One example of this is the retention of the infinitive for emphasis: the Hebrew expression clumsily translated ‘listening you shall listen’ really means ‘you shall listen attentively’. The repeated word is used, for example, in Exodus 15.26. This very common Hebrew form often penetrates into English translations. It is hard to say which is the authentic Bible. Has the Greek progressed from the Hebrew or does it represent an older version? Which, in either case, is to be regarded as the Word of God? Should it be the older version (whichever that may be), or the version which was used by the early Greek-speaking Christian writers?
A further difficulty is that the extent of the LXX, and so of the Canon accepted at Alexandria, is unclear: different great manuscripts of the LXX have different books. Thus the oldest complete manuscript, the mid-fourth century Codex Vaticanus, altogether omits the Books of Maccabees, while the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus has four Books of Maccabees and fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus includes 1 and 4 Maccabees. To this day the standard edition of the LXX by Alfred Rahlfs (Stuttgart, Priviligierte Württembergische Bibelanstalt) prints 151 Psalms.
 Hans Clemens Cavallin 1974, p. 103-4, cf. NT Wright 2003, p. 148.
Jewish law is also important to how one interprets the ending of Mark and the burial of Jesus: http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article125.html
Jesus was finally buried by Joseph Saturday night in the criminal's graveyard. As the sources show, no one else saw this or knew where Jesus was really buried. Joseph would then have left town (he was not from Jerusalem), and as sources like Acts show, was never heard from again. Hysterical surprise by the women at the missing body, who went expecting to complete the burial, then contributed to an eventual belief in a resurrection, probably in conjunction with interpretations of scripture, things Jesus said, and/or dreams or visions of Peter or others.
Richard Carrier comes to the above conclusion on the basis of several observations. One of these is that Jewish law was certainly active and applicable in the time of Jesus and that Romans honoured Jewish customs. Torah law is clear on the burial of executed men:
If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day, for he who is hanged is the curse of God, so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; cf. Joshua 8:29, 10:26-27).
Carrier says the "tree" used here can refer either to the living tree or to a plank. Further, the body was required to be taken down by sunset:
This law is confirmed and elaborated in the Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin: people could be executed either by stoning, burning, decapitation, or strangulation (7.1a-c), but whichever it was, when the crime was blasphemy (6.4h-i) the corpse was then hung on a pole for display, apparently like a slab of meat, which resembled a crucifixion (6.4n-p). And whether executed or not, a body had to be taken down by sunset (6.4q-r), for "whoever allows his deceased to stay unburied overnight transgresses a negative commandment" (6.5c), unless one needs that time "to honor the corpse," e.g. to get the necessary shroud and bier (6.5d; 47a). There is no doubt, then, that taking the bodies of the condemned down by sunset was a fundamental commandment that was sacrilege to disobey. Though burial could be legally postponed, for reasons like those just mentioned (as well as for holy days), a body could not remain hanging into the night.
The crucifixion of Jesus should be understood in light of these customs:
It is fairly certain that Jesus was believed from very early on to have been executed in accordance with this law. In fact, our earliest source, Paul, explicitly says so, quoting the very Torah law above: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'cursed is everyone who hangs on a post'" (Galatians 3:13). And in accord with the Torah law condemning blasphemers to death (Leviticus 24:16), three of the four Evangelists state unequivocally that Jesus was condemned to death for blasphemy by the Jewish high council (Mark 14:64, Matthew 26:65-66, John 19:7). Mark (10:33) and Matthew (20:18) even have Jesus predict he will be condemned to death by the Jewish council. Only Luke fails to mention this sentencing, and seems to deny it in Acts 13:27-28, yet he actually assumes it in Luke 24:20, and in Acts 4:10, and 5:30 where he has Peter accuse the Jews of putting Jesus to death by hanging him on a cross (xylon, paraphrasing the Septuagint). Thus, although Jesus is ultimately executed by the Romans in the Gospel stories (seemingly on some charge like sedition), he was clearly believed from the earliest time to have been condemned to death for blasphemy by the Jewish high council. Paul even connected Jesus' death with the burial law. Given this, and what we know the Jewish law on blasphemy was, and the fact that the Jews enjoyed the practice of their laws at the time, especially ones taken so seriously as this, and the fact that Josephus writes as if the law was both observed under the Roman peace and regarded as especially vile to break, it seems fairly certain that, if the stories about his death are at all correct, Jesus had to have been taken down before sunset and buried immediately.
Carrier then makes the point that Pilate would have acquiesced to Jewish customs:
For Pilate to have forced a corpse to remain up against one of the most sacred of Jewish laws could not have failed to result in the sort of suicidal demonstration that followed his placing of the standards within the city walls. At the very least, Jewish outrage at this crime (and it would be a crime even to the Romans, violating the Augustan law cited above) could hardly have escaped record. And as Pilate acquiesced in the case of the standards, he would just as likely acquiesce in the treatment of a condemned corpse, since he would hardly want to irk the fanatical Jews on a daily basis as the law was continually and arrogantly violated in front of them.
He goes on to explain that it would be expected that someone would see to the burial of Jesus:
It should also not be regarded as unusual that Joseph seeks the body of Jesus: Mark makes it clear that no family relations of Jesus are in the city at the time of the crucifixion, leaving it to the Sanhedrin to ensure the commandments of God were not violated. So serious was this holy duty that:
the Talmud (BK 81a) states that speedy burial of a corpse found unattended (met mitzvah) was one of the ten enactments ordained by Joshua at the conquest of Canaan and is encumbent even on the high priest who was otherwise forbidden to become unclean through contact with the dead (Nazir 7.1). Josephus records that it is forbidden to let a corpse lie unburied (Contra Apion, 2.211).
It was thus the holy duty of the Jews to see to the body of Jesus, and it was sacred law that he be buried the day he died, or as soon as possible.
Following upon this point of sacred law relevant to burial, Carrier next makes the case for this burial being a temporary one and cites the Gospel stories in support of this point:
If Jesus could not be buried in a private tomb (yet was: Mt 27:60, Lk 23:53, Jn 19:41), but had to be placed in the atoning graveyard of the unrighteous criminals, what explains the Gospel stories as we have them? A clue lies in the earliest report, Mark 16:1-3, which has the women visit the tomb Sunday morning with the intention of opening it and completing the burial (ritual washing and anointing were among the required burial rites). Thus, from the earliest report, they did not regard the burial of Jesus as completed. And Mark also notes the peculiar urgency of the Sabbath. Even before Joseph so much as asks for the body, "evening had already come" (Mark 15:42, and see note below). Only one conclusion fits all the facts: Jesus was not formally buried Friday night. This is supported by a similar case in the Midrash Rabbah, where David is said to wish that he would die the eve of the Sabbath so his body would experience a final Sabbath before its burial on Sunday (Eccl. [V:12(148)]), which suggests it was common for those dead just before sundown to await a later burial.
The law requiring prompt burial could be fulfilled by placing a corpse in a temporary resting place when burial rights could not be carried out right away. One such case was the arrival of the Sabbath, on which it was forbidden to perform any labor, including burial rites, or even so much as moving a body (Talmud: Sanhedrin 35a-35b; Yevamoth 7a; Baba Bathra 100b, Shabbath 150-1). So this is almost certainly what Joseph was doing when "burying" Jesus Friday night, since the Sabbath began at sundown Friday. We can be especially certain of this because it was forbidden to bury on the first day of any festival (Talmud Beitzah 6a, 22a; Sanhedrin 26b), and Jesus died on the first day of Passover (1 Cor. 5:7; Lk 22:7-15, Mk 14:12-16, Mt 26:17-19; John is ambiguous: 18:28, 19:14; but 13:1 and 18:39 are consistent with the synoptics). So the only possible explanation left for Joseph's actions is to temporarily stow the body for a later burial.
As Amos Kloner puts it:
During the Second Temple period and later, Jews often practiced temporary burial...a borrowed or temporary cave was used for a limited time, and the occupation of the cave by the corpse conferred no rights of ownership upon the family...[and] Jesus' interment was probably of this nature.
This last statement is supported by the Gospel stories. Mark states that Jesus died shortly after three in the afternoon (the ninth hour, when the Temple sacrifices were typically given, cf. Josephus AJ 14.65), and Joseph asked for the body within some hours of that, right before the Sabbath began. So it is conceivable that Joseph could not consecrate Jesus' body to the grave: he had no time to perform all the burial rites (especially, but not only, the ceremonial washing and anointing of the body). He needed, therefore, to place the body in holding somewhere to ride out the Sabbath, and then he would be obligated to bury Jesus at the soonest opportunity, which meant Saturday night, when the Sabbath ended at sundown. This delay was provided for by the Mishnah not only to honor the body (Sanhedrin 6.5d) but also (if we follow later sources) to protect it from the sun during the Sabbath (Midrash Rabbah, Ruth [III:2(43)]; Talmud Eiruvin 44a; and Shabbath 43b, where it is specifically allowed to move a body into the shade; Nazir 64b, following the Mishnah, allows moving other bodies not officially buried).
Finally, Carrier addresses the third day as a reversal of what could be expected to happen with the body. He points out that the identity of a corpse could not be determined after the third day because the facial features would have become too disfigured. Further, from Job 14:22, it can be determined that Jewish belief was that the soul hovered for three days, intending to re-enter the body: "When his flesh that is on him is distorted, his soul will mourn over him." The belief that the soul rests three days before departing also suggests during these three days, individuals could go to the cemetery to inspect the dead for any sign of life. Jesus' resurrection on the third day would then be evidence that death had been defeated:
Thus, it was considered possible for a soul to reunite with its body within three days, but no more, for sometime on the third day the soul realized the body was rotting, and then departed. Thus, a resurrection on the third day reverses the expectations of the Jews: to physicalists, instead of departing, the soul of Jesus reunites with his body and rises; to spiritualists, instead of departing, the soul of Jesus is exalted by God, raised to his right side, thence to appear in visions to the faithful. Either way, a resurrection before the third day might not be a true resurrection, but a mere revival, or the ghost of a not-yet-departed soul, but a resurrection on the third day is true evidence that death was in either sense defeated. This "third day" tradition in Jewish law may in fact be very ancient, possibly lying behind the prophecy of Hosea, "He will revive us after two days, He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before him" (6.2), and no doubt had something to do with Paul's conviction that Jesus "was raised on the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:4).
This may be the appropriate point to recall the various meanings for "raise" in Greek usage:
to arouse, cause to rise
to arouse from sleep, to awake
to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life
to cause to rise from a seat or bed etc.
to raise up, produce, cause to appear
to cause to appear, bring before the public
to raise up, stir up, against one
to raise up i.e. cause to be born
of buildings, to raise up, construct, erect
In the context of Mark, we have the following uses, the most dramatic being the suggestions about the young girl said to be dead about which Jesus remarks, " The child has not died, but is asleep," the belief that John had come back from the dead, and finally, Jesus' teaching the raising of the dead: "But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob '?"
31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.
9 "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven '; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk '?
11 "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
3 He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward !"
27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows -how, he himself does not know.
38 Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion ; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing ?"
41 Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, "Talitha kum !" (which translated means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!").
14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known ; and people were saying, "John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him."
16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen !"
27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.
49 And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you."
26 "But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob '?
8 "For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ; there will be earthquakes in various places ; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
28 "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee."
42 "Get up, let us be going ; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand !"
6 And he said to them, "Do not be amazed ; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen ; He is not here ; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.
14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
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The women learn Jesus is not at the tomb and are told in emphatic terms that he is risen (ἠγέρθη).
SB Notes confirms this as being a fulfillment of predictions:
Pasted from <http://www.esvbible.org/Mark+16/>
SB Notes describes a latent apologetic in the longer ending of Mark:
Although the Gospel writers do not belabor the point, the story is told in such a way as to embody a latent apologetic or evidential cast, offering proof that the resurrection really occurred. Jesus’ final discourse to the disciples (vv. 14–18), followed by a narrative summary of Jesus’ ascension (v. 19) and the disciples’ preaching (v. 20), lends an artistic sense of closure to Mark’s narrative. We should note that some of the early manuscripts of Mark do not include verses 9–20.
Pasted from <http://www.esvbible.org/Mark+16/>
Students of the Bible realize, of course, that the book of Matthew to indicate the women do eventually bring the news to the disciples: "So they departed quickly from the tomb uwith fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples" (28:8).
Pasted from <http://www.esvbible.org/esv/passage/Matthew%2B28.8/>
Turton also concludes with an emphasis upon redaction and reliance upon the Old Testament for source material:
Ludemann (2001, p114) notes: "It is doubtful whether a complete story about the tomb existed before Mark, as the text is overlaid with Markan redaction." Similarly, Kirby (2002) and Crossan (1998) argue that the empty Tomb story is a post-easter fiction. Kirby writes, in discussing James Dunn's idea that early Christians did not venerate the Tomb precisely because it was empty, concludes:
"I agree that it would be most reasonable to conclude that early Christians did not know that Jesus was resting in his tomb because we would then expect tomb veneration. I agree that this is evidence against knowledge of a full tomb. But I would state further that this is equally evidence against knowledge of an empty tomb. It is plain to see that the site of the tomb of Jesus would become a site of veneration and pilgrimage among early Christians regardless of whether it were full or empty. The factors of nagging doubt, pious curiousity, and liturgical significance would all contribute towards the empty tomb becoming a site of intense interest among Christians. Contrary to Dunn, and in agreement with Peter Carnley, the obvious explanation is that early Christians had no idea where Jesus was buried....For this reason, the fact that there was no tomb veneration indicates that the early Christians did not know the location of the tomb of Jesus, neither of an empty tomb nor of a full tomb" (2002, p 201-2)
OT creation may also be at work here, in two ways. Recall Mark's previous dependence on the Elijah-Elisha Cycle:
In addition to this, the book of Daniel has structured the overall narrative of Jesus trial, death, and resurrection.
Carrier (2005b) observes that Matthew makes this dependence on Dan 6 very clear. Not only does Matthew retain the parallels to Daniel 6, he also notes that a seal was placed on Jesus' tomb, just as Darius placed a seal on the stone (Dan 6:17). Matthew uses the same word for seal, sphragizo, that the Greek of the Septaugint uses. Matthew's perception that Dan 6 underlies this scene is further evidence for the existence of the parallel.
Pasted from <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark16.html>
Turton reference Darrell Doughty (2000) to remark on the problem of concluding Mark without a resurrection and Robert Fowler's observation that "with the ambiguous allusion to Galilee," readers are invited to begin the story all over again, asking all the questions all over about Jesus' identity, or perhaps, as suggested by Neill Q. Hamilton and discussed more fully in chapter eight, by a second career.
Rather than presenting it as quasi history he sees it as a transition from the real history of Jesus' first career to an equally historical second career. And Mark's conviction about this second career compels him to create a fitting first career. If this is correct, it explains why Mark came to be written.
Carrier (2004c) , Turton says Carrier (2004c) has found "definite proof that the resurrection motif in fiction predates the 1st century" in Petronius (60 A.D.). Turton then goes on to quote Weeden (1971) who says that before Mark no evidence exists of trying to verify Jesus' resurrection through the empty tomb:
"For Mark, the fact and reality of the resurrection is attested by the story of the empty grave. To state the matter in this fashion is no glib rhetoric. Such a statement speaks to a curious and puzzling phenomenon. Before Mark there is no evidence that the early church ever sought to verify its resurrection fath through recourse to Jesus' empty tomb. Nor is there any hard evience that the early church ever knew of Jesus' grave's being empty."(p102)
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He next quotes David Rhoads (2004):
"Perhaps it is the subtlety and ambiguity of Mark's marvelously exasperating ending that explains why so many studies of Mark focus on the disciples."(p9).
C.H. Dodd, as quoted in the previous chapter, addresses the significance of the account in Mark, "the victory out of defeat":
Some sayings speak of "rising from the dead," some speak of "coming again," and sometimes they are in vaguer terms: "A little while and you see me no more; again a little while and you will see me." 28 It is perhaps impossible to decide which of these best represent what Jesus actually said. That forecasts may have grown more specific in the light of what happened is likely enough. It is also likely enough that what he said on various occasions was sometimes more explicit, sometimes more cryptic. But one thing we may say with reasonable certainty: quite apart from the question of time authenticity or the verbal accuracy of this or that reported saying, the idea of new life through death, of victory coming out of defeat, is an inseparable part of the thought of Jesus about his destiny.
Concerning the young man in white at the tomb, Turton sorts through several possible explanations, including a baptismal initiate (Mark 14:51-2), a possible parallel with 2 Macc 3:26, the angel of Tobit 5:14, and perhaps a relationship to Josephus. He misses an opportunity to stress the real point to be made: Jesus has just said in 14:62 that they would see him sitting at the right hand of the Power. Matthew, Luke, and John all make clear, whether one or two, that it is angelic presence which is described.
Pasted from <http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark16.html>
A recent article remarks on the amazing structure (introduced in the Introduction) of Mark in relation to the paradox of authority and servanthood; this same article also provides an approach for understanding the young man in white at the tomb:
Though the motif of Jesus' authority is highlighted in various
strategic passages of the Gospel (1:1-11, 12-14, 15-19, 20-25;
13:1-27; 14:17-31), the motif of His servanthood is emphasized
particularly toward the end of the narrative, which records His
passion and death (14:32-36; 63-65; 15:22-37).
Also of note are actions of servanthood by the disciples (14:12-16),
by those who have authority (12:28-34; 15:39, 42-47; 16:1-8),
and by those who
lack authority (12:42-44; 14:3-9, 21; 15:40-41). Moreover, several
dramatic instances of the authority/servanthood paradox surface
through Mark's juxtaposition of the two motifs (11:1-11; 12:38-40,
41-44; 13:1-27; 14:22-25, 32-42, 55-65; 15:22-37, 39, 42-47; 16:5-
Remarkably two inclusios at the beginning and ending of
Mark's Gospel frame the entire narrative. One inclusio is that of
John the Baptist and Joseph of Arimathea in 1:2–8 and 15:42–47,
and the other is that of the ministering angels and the young man
in 1:13 and 16:1–8. These two inclusios emphasize the lesson that
the true pathway of authority is the way of service.
Bibliotheca Sacra 154 (October-December 1997) 452-60.
Copyright © 1997 by Dallas Theological Seminary.
In coming to the end of Mark, it may be well to rehearse the book's major themes:
Key Themes in Mark
John Dart has provided some useful suggestions for Mark's enigmatic ending, suggesting that the young man may, in fact, be the author of the Gospel. The way Dart gets there is to point out that the women say nothing, leaving open the question of how the gospel story itself eventually gets out. This ending never mentions a "risen Jesus," although belief exists that the women would eventually have overcome their fear and told Peter of the empty tomb. Mark leaves readers wondering what became of the women, just as they wonder what because of Judas, the young man, Peter and the Twelve (this based on Donald H. Juel, author of The ending of Mark and the Ends of God. Another approach to explaining the ending is to say readers do not have Jesus, anymore than the disciples, at the end of having spent chapters reading about his words and acts. Dart says, Juel opted for an open-ended stance: "Jesus is out of the tomb; God is no longer safely behind the curtain (torn asunder in the Temple as Jesus breathed his last)… Jesus has promised an end; that end is not yet." Dart says narrative criticism has restored the full story of Mark, this after it has been taken apart by historical criticism. Dart further points to quick pace and oral nature of the Gospel, its pleasing literary techniques, such as the use of three and sandwiched stories:
he starts an episode and then tells another before finishing the first one -- offer ironic commentary on the interwoven episodes. Readers and listeners are "insiders" to Mark’s plot; they are informed very early of the divine identity of Jesus (and even told at times what Jesus and his opponents are thinking). The audiences can alternately wonder at those who misunderstand Jesus and admire those who immediately grasp his divine mission.
Dart next turns to the women and the young man, emphasizing the failure of the women to understand what has happened:
The fear and silence of the women at the tomb is an obvious failing. A more subtle negativity is found in the language. When the young man says, "Do not be amazed, you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified," the innocuous-sounding seek (RSV) or looking for (NRSV) translates the same Greek word used when Jesus’ mother and brothers, hearing rumors that Jesus had gone out of his mind, were "asking for" him. Elsewhere in the Gospel, religious authorities seek signs or seek how to destroy Jesus, and Judas seeks to betray him. In all, the last eight of nine uses of the word usually translated as seek (zeteo) in Mark have negative connotations.
Of the young man, Dart echoes Danove's rejection of the young man as telling the story, remarking on the "sitting on the right side" and white robe as suggesting a heavenly origin, but, as Dart remarks, a figure quite unlike the ones portrayed in the other three gospel accounts. Dart then says that Marvin Meyer and Herman Waetjen suggest the young man represents and exemplar or "idealized" disciple. It is possible, too, that the "sitting at the right side" is a final dig at James and John who had asked to be given this permission (10:35-37). "This young man, perhaps initiated into the faith by Jesus on an earlier occasion, appears to be the one destined for that spot in the next life." Dart next notes the "cameo appearance" as similar to Bethany woman who anointed Jesus with ointment, performing the "first complete and unequivocal act of faith in Jesus’ suffering and rising destiny," according to John Dominic Crossan.
Dart next talks about the other enigmatic figures found in Mark and Brian K. Blount/s discounting of the centurion as a positive witness, this in contrast to C. Clifton Black, who sees the centurion's acclamation in the utterances at jesus" baptism and transfiguration:
Besides the young man in the tomb, other enigmatic figures are the "young man" who barely escapes capture at the time of Jesus’ arrest (14:51-52) and the awed centurion who sees Jesus die and says, "Truly, this man was God’s son" (15:39).
The Roman soldier’s "confession," as it has been called, has been read as sarcastic by Juel and others. Because the wording is not "the" Son of God, but should be translated, "a son of God" or "God’s son," the comment has been likened to the preceding taunts by soldiers, priests and bystanders. The centurion "witnesses Jesus’ miserable death and guffaws, ‘Yeah, right, this guy was the Son of God,"’ writes Brian K. Blount of Princeton Seminary in the book published in memory of Juel.
More specifically, Dart observes, some scholars see in the young man " a symbolic representative of the just-scattered disciples/" Dart says, though, the action should not be taken as the "defining act if character" since this young man has taken some risk in following Jesus and, in the end, literally leaves everything to follow Jesus, thus symbolizing the faithful who have learned "the secret of the kingdom of God." Dart notes that the garment worn by the young man may be indicative of the initiate to faith. "If Jesus was initiating the young man in the faith in the Garden of Gethsemane (besides prayerfully agonizing over his own fate), it would seem from the youth’s burial-cloth garment that there was no opportunity to complete the rite."
Before concluding, Dart notes that narrative critics have noticed parallels in the beginning and ending of Mark, seeing a positive role in the parallel presentation of the Roman soldier and the young man:
Narrative critics have long noticed parallels in words and images between the beginning and ending of Mark. These parallels seem to enhance the positive roles of the Roman soldier and the young man in the white garment.
At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens open (schizo) as the spirit (pneuina) descends on Jesus, whereupon a voice (phone) from above says, "You are my Son, the beloved." At death, Jesus gives a loud cry (phone) as he breathes (ekpneo) his last; the curtain of the Temple rips (schizo) and the centurion says, "Truly, this man was God’s son.
Also, at the very start (1:2) a prophesied "messenger" is "sent before thy face" to prepare the way of the Lord -- just as at the very end, the young man in the tomb is the only human left to testify to the risen Jesus, who "went ahead" to Galilee.
In Provoking the Gospel of Mark, storyteller Richard Swanson, who teaches at Augustana College in South Dakota, says the difficulties of Mark’s ending become very clear when one performs it. The story leaves "the young man onstage alone at the end with no clear notion of what to do next."
Dart, finally, makes his point relative to authorship:
Swanson does not suggest this possibility, but one can imagine the audience at a performance of Mark shouting, "Author, author!" The young man could then open his arms as if to say, "That’s me."
If the evangelist John hinted that he is the unnamed beloved disciple in his Gospel, perhaps Mark did the same with the young man in the empty tomb. At the least, there is a messenger at the end of the story bearing good news, who with the others who met Jesus "on the way" can tell the story.
George Aichele in "Fantasy and Myth in the Life of Jesus" talks about the genres of myth, fantasy, and the historical, and describes the young man at the tomb as fantasy countervailing myth; he ends up concluding Mark rejects the myth of Jesus.
The orthodox Christian story of Jesus is a myth of a supernatural being sent from a world beyond this one, who visits this world in order to restore its long-lost proper order and then returns at last to his place of origin; it is perhaps best summarized in the prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18, especially 11-14). This story of Jesus as the saving incarnation of God belongs to the genre of the marvelous. It is the very story of vicarious suffering which, according to Crossan, eventually required the rejection of the resurrection episode in the Gospel of Peter.
Myth contains and suppresses the reversals and uncertainties of fantasy. That fantasy continues to exist and that readers recognize it as such is due to a partial failure of myth; but at the deepest level, it is due to the fact that myth itself arose as, and in reaction against, fantasy. Fantasy deconstructs myth, revealing the desire for referential truth and existential meaning -- the desire to believe -- which lies beneath every interpretation.
Fantasy presents a radical and violent attack on the myths and beliefs which mediate our encounter with reality. These myths determine what sorts of narrative worlds we might consider "real"; readability and belief -- including the sort of belief which is necessary to realistic fiction- are only possible in relation to a mythic frame. In order for a story to function as a myth, the reader must believe it; she must accept it as a true story. The myth establishes a fundamental structure -- an ideology, a set of models or paradigms -- in terms of which other stories, as well as concepts, arguments, and theories make sense.
The Christian myth of Jesus as the divine savior is confronted and subverted by the elements of the fantastic in Mark's story of the death of Jesus. The narrative is fantastic because it resists mythic identity and believability, and instead it disrupts the illusions of realism. Myth and fantasy are fundamentally opposed; Mark rejects the myth of Jesus.
Pasted from <http://www.crosscurrents.org/mark.htm>
Aichele further understands fantasy as being the point of "indeterminability" between the narrative genres of the marvelous and uncanny:
The fantastic lies at points of indeterminability between two narrative genres, the marvelous and the uncanny.(n4) These genres represent two different worlds; each genre points to a mythic reality which grounds the meaning of its literary instances. In the world of the uncanny, very strange events occur, but no matter how strange they are, they can always be given a natural explanation. On the other hand, the world of the marvelous is a supernatural one, in which gods, angels, or demons are quite real. The fantastic occurs when the identity of a character, the explanation of an event, or some other feature of a story is suspended between the marvelous and the uncanny, having no obvious natural or supernatural explanation. The reader is then unable to determine the generic identity of the narrative, as well as the nature of the reality to which it refers. Fantasy foils belief.
Pasted from <http://www.crosscurrents.org/mark.htm>
Alfred Loisy says the abrupt ending of Mark may well be another injunction to keep silent; he may have better caught the point when he suggests the author had exhausted his powers of invention in presenting a historical Jesus in the envelope of the eternal:
So ends the authentic text of the Gospel named after Mark. The discovery of the empty tomb is held to be guaranteed by the experience of these women whom fear has prevented from speaking of it. The Gospel editor, a simple and well-intentioned man, says no more, the reason being that he is conscious of stating a fact, a pretended fact, of which nobody has heard until he here discloses it. Moreover he knew well enough that, according to a tradition from which he had not the least intention of departing, the disciples' faith in the resurrection was formed in Galilee. And, further, he probably felt himself incapable of relating the later manifestations of the risen Christ, or thought he might abstain from doing so. We may well believe that his powers of invention had already been exercised to a point which made him think it advisable to call a halt. The silence he attributes to the women is to be explained in the same way as are the injunctions to say nothing imposed on all the anticipations of Jesus' Messiahship during his earthly career.
David Ulansey, quoting S. Motyer (1987) addresses the author's brilliant use of inclusio in the voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism and the tearing of the veil at his death:
Indeed, in his 1987 article, "The Rending of the Veil: A Markan Pentecost," S. Motyer points out that there is actually a whole cluster of motifs which occur in Mark at both the baptism (1:9-11) and at the death of Jesus (15:36-39). In addition to the fact that at both of these moments something is torn, Motyer notes that: (1) at both moments a voice is heard declaring Jesus to be the Son of God (at the baptism it is the voice of God, while at the death it is the voice of the centurion); (2) at both moments something is said to descend (at the baptism it is the spirit-dove, while at the death it is the tear in the temple veil, which Mark explicitly describes as moving downward), (3) at both moments the figure of Elijah is symbolically present (at the baptism Elijah is present in the form of John the Baptist, while at Jesus' death the onlookers think that Jesus is calling out to Elijah); (4) the spirit (pneuma) which descends on Jesus at his baptism is recalled at his death by Mark's repeated use of the verb ekpneo (expire), a cognate of pneuma. 
According to Motyer, the repetition by Mark of this cluster of motifs at both the baptism and the death of Jesus constitutes a symbolic inclusio which brackets the entire gospel, linking together the precise beginning and the precise end of the earthly career of Jesus. Seen in this context, the presence at both moments of the motif of something being torn is unlikely to be coincidental.
Pasted from <http://www.mysterium.com/veil.html>
Ulansey goes on to argue that the veil which is torn is the outer veil, not the inner, and that symbolically, it forms an inclusio to the tearing open of the heavens at baptism, thus marking the beginning and the ending of the historical career of Jesus:
In his 1987 article "The Death of Jesus in Mark and the Miracle from the Cross," Howard Jackson argues that the question of which veil it was that Mark was referring to can be easily answered if we acknowledge that there was a link in Mark's imagination between the tearing of the heavens at the baptism of Jesus and the tearing of the temple veil at his death. For, says Jackson, if there was a parallel in Mark's mind between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil, then Mark must also have intended there to be a parallel between Jesus at the baptism and the centurion at the crucifixion: just as Jesus witnessed the tearing of the heavens, so the centurion witnessed the tearing of the temple veil. But, as we have already noted, the centurion could only have witnessed the tearing of the veil if it was the outer veil, since the inner veil was hidden from view. Thus it must have been the outer veil that Mark had in mind. 
Jackson's argument is suggestive although certainly not conclusive. However, there exists a piece of evidence which Jackson does not mention in his discussion which, I believe, provides decisive proof that Mark had in mind the outer veil of the temple, and which also provides rather spectacular confirmation of the existence in Mark's imagination of a link between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil.
The evidence to which I refer consists of a passage in Josephus's Jewish War in which he describes the outer veil of the Jerusalem temple as it had appeared since the time of Herod. According to Josephus, this outer veil was a gigantic curtain 80 feet high. It was, he says, a
Babylonian tapestry, with embroidery of blue and fine linen, of scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvelous skill. Nor was this mixture of materials without its mystic meaning: it typified the universe....
Then Josephus tells us what was pictured on this curtain:
Portrayed on this tapestry was a panorama of the entire heavens....  [emphasis mine]
In other words, the outer veil of the Jerusalem temple was actually one huge image of the starry sky! Thus, upon encountering Mark's statement that "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom," any of his readers who had ever seen the temple or heard it described would instantly have seen in their mind's eye an image of the heavens being torn, and would immediately have been reminded of Mark's earlier description of the heavens being torn at the baptism. This can hardly be coincidence: the symbolic parallel is so striking that Mark must have consciously intended it.
We may therefore conclude (1) that Mark did indeed have in mind the outer veil, and (2) that Mark did indeed imagine a link between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil-- since we can now see that in fact in both cases the heavens were torn-- and that he intentionally inserted the motif of the "tearing of the heavenly veil" at both the precise beginning and at the precise end of the earthly career of Jesus, in order to create a powerful and intriguing symbolic inclusio.
Pasted from <http://www.mysterium.com/veil.html>
This leaves then the question of why the author Mark used this inclusio. Norman Perrine, already quoted in the Introduction provides the following suggestion that Mark is really both apocalyptic and foundation myth
As a foundation myth, the Gospel of Mark separates this sacred time from the time of the reader, and a means now has to be provided whereby the reader can relate to the sacred time. A myth that relates the sacred time of origins has to be accompanied by a ritual by means of which it becomes possible for the hearer or reader to relate to that time. In fact, both Matthew and Luke in interpreting the Gospel of Mark as a foundation myth do provide their readers with the equivalent of a ritual, a point I shall develop in my next section...
Moreover, both provide means whereby the reader may relate to the time of Jesus—which is now no longer the reader's time—Matthew by the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) and the authoritative teaching church, and Luke by the concept of a Heilsgeschichte wherein his readers live in an epoch parallel to and related to the time of Jesus, but not the same time as the time of Jesus.5
5 Here we are at a point of very real significance. For Mark, who is in this sense essentially an apocalypticist, the time of Jesus and the time of himself and his readers are one and the same time, whereas for Matthew and Luke the time of Jesus has become different from their time and that of their readers; it has become a sacred time to which they and their readers must relate. The apocalypse has become a foundation myth. (368-369)
As has been pointed out by Christine E. Joynes, a paradox exists in the open ending of Mark:
Mark's open ending should therefore disconcert and challenge contemporary believers seeking to comprehend the significance of resurrection hope, as it has in previous generations.
"The sound of silence" may at first glance seem paradoxical as a tide. Yet we have seen that the silence of the women who came to the tomb to anoint Jesus has generated much noise. Amidst the harmonization and discord, we should not lose sight of the promise of resolution offered in the Gospel; but this resolution lies in the future beyond Mark's narrative.
Michael W. Holmes in "The Many Endings of Mark" in
Exploring the Resurrection (© 2010
As I concluded my Introduction to this exploration with words from Schweitzer, perhaps in relation to myth and history, the following may form an appropriate ending:
But the truth is, it is not Jesus as historically known, but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men, who is significant for our time and can help it. Not the historical Jesus, but the spirit which goes forth from Him and in the spirits of men strives for new influence and rule, is that which overcomes the world.
It is not given to history to disengage that which is abiding and eternal in the being of Jesus from the historical forms in which it worked itself out, and to introduce it into our world as a living influence. It has toiled in vain at this undertaking. As a water-plant is beautiful so long as it is growing in the water, but once torn from its roots, withers and becomes unrecognisable, so it is with the historical Jesus when He is wrenched loose from the soil of eschatology, and the attempt is made to conceive Him "historically" as a Being not subject to temporal conditions. The abiding and eternal in Jesus is absolutely independent of historical knowledge and can only be understood by contact with His spirit which is still at work in the world. In proportion as we have the Spirit of Jesus we have the true knowledge of Jesus.