James Tabor, the Resurrection and the End of Mark
The resurrection traditions have interested me in recent years (though more by accident intially - anoter story). James Tabor raises similar issues concerning the ending of Mark (i.e. Mk 16.1-8) to those that I also think need to be addressed properly. He argues,
The implications of this earliest tradition of Jesus’ burial and the empty tomb are enormous. Paul, in the 50s AD, reports the tradition that Jesus, after being raised from the dead on the third day, appeared to Peter, then the Twelve, then to a group of five hundred brothers at once, then to James, then to all the apostles, and finally, but much later, to him–Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Both Luke and John report similar appearances of the risen Jesus to various individuals and groups on several occasions. Indeed, these sightings or appearances are considered by milliions the absolute bedrock of the Christian faith.
So how could it be that Mark knows nothing of any of this? And even Matthew, who does report that Jesus met the women who fled from the tomb, nonetheless knows of none of these specific appearances that Paul, Luke and John record taking place in Jerusalem. He tells us the disciples went to Galilee as they had been instructed and there the Eleven apostles “saw” Jesus on a mountain–but some doubted. It is clear that Matthew has little of substance to add to his basic source Mark, and that what he knows of the “resurrection” is what he expands from Mark, which makes Mark’s account even more noteworthy in terms of its fundamental significance.
The clear implication of Mark’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb and the renewed faith of the disciples in Galilee is that there is a non-Pauline version of the resurrection faith circulating within the Jesus movement that was not built upon the kinds of traditions, tales, and stories we get in Paul, Luke-Acts, and John. Indeed, even though Paul is usually dated ten or fifteen years earlier than Mark, the tradition that Mark reflects could very likely predate Paul. In other words, it is unlikely that Mark could write what he writes for a believing Christian community unless the way he report things is already grounded in the circles within which he moves. It is highly unlikely that Mark was created in a day. On the contrary, one should assume he is passing on and reflecting a way of thinking about the risen Jesus that he finds normative and common, and that Matthew, writing some years later, also passing on with very little expansion or modification. Neither of them know of any tales of appearances of the risen Jesus in Jerusalem in the days following his death. There is no indication that Mark is even aware of any alternative views or traditions. Had he known of such, and agreed with them, he surely would have passed them on. In this case I think we can say that Mark’s silence is “deafening.”
This earliest account of the Jesus story offers us resources to rethink and consider alternative possibilities when it comes to evaluating the significance of Jesus’ death and the nature of the resurrection faith among his earliest followers. Mark offers us a clear indication that Paul’s version of things was not an exclusive way of understanding Jesus and his role as a messianic suffering servant figure and crucified son of God.
There is something else I think is also significant here. I have played around with the idea of using the Markan resurrection account as part of my early dating for Mark and you never know I may still. But, anyway, what I think is notable is that Mark ends with women telling no one and Paul, in contrast to to the visions, has no eyewitness to the empty tomb. It may well be true that Mark and Paul assume an empty tomb but given that these two earliest sources on the resurrection of Jesus give such weak evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, then aren't arguments trying to prove the bodily really resurrection happened doomed to failure (NOTE: this has no bearing on whether the resurrection happened or not but rather that arguments trying to prove the historicity of the bodily resurrection really happening are going to be very difficult to make...you know the arguments...just don't accuse me of things I don't say...)