Mark’s last chapter begins when the Sabbath day was over; Jesus died on Friday, the Sabbath was Saturday, and the context of this passage is on Sunday. Three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body in the tomb. This part is interesting since each gospel has a different account for what happened. Matthew states that there were only two people, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” most likely Mary the mother of James (Matthew 28:1). Luke says that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and other women spread the news to the disciples, but does not specify who was at the tomb (Luke 24:1 and Luke 24:10). Lastly, John only depicts Mary Magdalene at the tomb when it is revealed that Jesus was raised (John 20:1). I think Mark chose these women to be written in the end because it appears that they were the few people who were close to Jesus other than the disciples. In chapter 15 of Mark, it is said that these three women provided for him when he was in Galilee (Mark 15:40-41). I would seem to the reader that these three women would know Jesus well. Matthew most likely used Mark as a source and in result wrote that the two Mary’s were the ones who visited since in Mark 15, it is said that those two Mary’s were the only people to see where the body was laid (Mark 15:47).
Mark continues when the women question each other, “Who will roll away the stone?” but they realize that the stone had already been rolled back (Mark 16:3). Mark is the only gospel that has this conversation between the women. Luke and John show the same scenario as Mark, but Matthew states that there was an earthquake and an angel that rolled away the stone (Matthew 28:2). Why was this not accounted for in the other gospels? This could have happened before the woman arrived so the other gospels are not wrong. I believe that this conversation between the women shows that even they did not know the full power of Jesus. If the women really knew who Jesus was they would know that he could have rolled away the stone himself, or called his fellow angels to do it for him.
The man dressed in a white robe tells the women to not be afraid and to go out and inform the disciples and Peter that Jesus is on his way to Galilee. All the gospels except John describe of this angel. I think the three synoptic gospels mention the angel to show that angels are the messengers from heaven and have a connection with Jesus. But, in John, the author leaves out the angels because he wanted to show that Jesus is truly the man sent from heaven, and is able to move the stone away himself (John 20:1).
The most interesting part is when the canonical Mark ends with the women running away from the tomb in amazement and terror. They did not even tell anyone about their experience at the tomb since they were fearful. Even Ehrman sarcastically jokes about the “breathtaking conclusion.” This is drastically different compared to the other gospels. Matthew and Luke describe that the women left quickly to go tell the disciples because they were filled with fear and joy. John also says that they left, but they only told Simon Peter and the “other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, “ who is speculated as John. This difference could have arisen because the main theme of Mark was the suffering son of God. Ehrman states that Mark ends this way to show how Jesus was misunderstood. Jesus’ disciples had trouble understanding who Jesus was and what is his purpose in life. Up to the end, since it never said that the women told the disciples, the disciples still would not have known who Jesus truly was. An actual ending was originally left out to emphasize the anonymity of Jesus.
Most authorities seem to stop at Mark 16:8 with the women telling no one about the news, but other authorities seem to have added an ending to it. There are also two different added endings for Mark: the shorter ending, and the longer ending. The shorter ending states that somehow the message from the tomb was told briefly to people around Peter. Then Jesus told the disciples to spread the word of eternal salvation. This is a very succinct summary of what happens after the tomb event in the other gospels. Many scholars who read the Gospel of Mark found the strange ending of the book unfit and decided to add an ending to make it sound more complete. However, they might have not considered that the theme of Mark was to show that Jesus suffered and how people did not know who he was. Ehman states that the debate whether the ending of Mark is canonical or not may be rather unnecessary since he believes that the author ends his book in order to demonstrate the disciples’ misunderstanding of Jesus.