Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Mark's Curious Resurrection Story

 Mark 16:1-8 


What follows is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Mark 16:1-8. Some Bibles will have many more verses in Mark 16, which correspond more neatly with other resurrection stories. The earliest manuscripts do not go beyond v.8 and the additional verses that follow have been worked over numerous times. The undue influence of the King James Version of the Bible in the US has led many churches to assume that the “newer” versions are less reliable and seem to have some kind of agenda when they relegate vv. 9-21 to an annotation. In fact, the opposite would be more likely, that vv.9-21 are the result of some novel attempt to redeem that very unsatisfactory ending of Mark’s story in v.8. I will say more about that unsatisfaction below. For now, on with the text!


1 Καὶ διαγενομένου τοῦ σαββάτου Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ [τοῦ] Ἰακώβου καὶ Σαλώμη ἠγόρασαν ἀρώματα ἵνα ἐλθοῦσαι ἀλείψωσιν αὐτόν. 

And in the Sabbath having ended, Mary the Magdalene and Mary who was of James and Salome brought aromatics, in order that having come they might anoint him. 

διαγενομένου: AMPart gsn, διαγίνομαι, 1) to be through, continue 2) to be between, intervene, used of time, to have intervened, elapsed, passed 

ἠγόρασαν: AAI 3p, ἀγοράζω, 1) to be in the market place, to attend it  2) to do business there, buy or sell  3) of idle people: to haunt the market place, lounge 

ἐλθοῦσαι: AAPart npf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 

ἀλείψωσιν: AASubj 3p, ἀλείφω, 1) to anoint 

1. The participle διαγενομένου added to the noun τοῦ σαββάτου are a genitive absolute construction, so “Sabbath” talks the role of the subject in the opening clause.

2. I like having “aromatics” as a transliteration for ἀρώματα.

3. The first option for ἔρχομαι is usually “come,” but since they haven’t left yet most translations opt for “go.” I would follow suit in a refined translation. 

4. Here we have Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James and Simon. “The other Mary” is in Matthew 28. All the Marys. Where would Easter be without them? 

5. Re: Mary the mother of James. In Mark 6:3 the people of Nazareth ask of Jesus, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Hmm…. 

6. Mark 15:40 says, “There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.”

7. At the burial, Mark 15:47 says, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.” 



2 καὶ λίαν πρωῒ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων ἔρχονται ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλίου. 

And very early in the morning the first of the Sabbaths, they come to the tomb the sun having risen. 
ἔρχονται: PMI 3p, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 

ἀνατείλαντος: AAPart gsm, ἀνατέλλω, 1) rise  1a) to cause to rise  1a1) of the earth bring forth plants

1. The phrase “very early in the morning” is descriptive of verb ἔρχομαι, which can mean “to come” or “to go.” In this verse, ἔρχομαι is in the middle voice. I want to capture that with the word “arrive,” but that would be awkward with the preposition “to.” In v.1 the “having come” reflects the aorist participle of the same verb. It is interesting that Mark devotes so many words and phrases in these two sentences to time: The ending of the Sabbath, very early, in the morning, first of the Sabbaths, sun-having-risen. 

2. Perhaps Mark is negotiating between leaving early, but needing to let the Sabbath proper end before doing so, and needing some light to make their way to the kind of place where a tomb would be, and actually arriving. 


3 καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἑαυτάς, Τίς ἀποκυλίσει ἡμῖν τὸν λίθον ἐκ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου; 

And they were saying to each other, “Who will roll away for us the stone out of the door of the tomb?”

ἔλεγον: IAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 

ἀποκυλίσει: FAI 3s, ἀποκυλίω, 1) to roll off or away

1. Mark 15:46 says of Joseph of Arimathea, “Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.” There the verb προσκυλίω has the same root, only with the prefix προσ instead of ἀπο in this verse. 

2. From what I’ve read about these women, I bet they could have worked it out somehow or another if Jesus hadn’t risen. 

3. I like ‘sepulcher’, which can also be spelled ‘sepulchre’, for tomb. Ah well.


4 καὶ ἀναβλέψασαι θεωροῦσιν ὅτι ἀποκεκύλισται ὁ λίθος, ἦν γὰρ μέγας σφόδρα. 

And having looked up they beheld that the stone had been rolled away, for it was very large. 

ἀναβλέψασαι: AAPart npf, ἀναβλέπω, 1) to look up 

θεωροῦσιν: PAI 3p, θεωρέω, 1) to be a spectator, look at, behold  1a) to view attentively, take a view of, survey

ἀποκεκύλισται: PerfPI 3s, ἀποκυλίω, 1) to roll off or away 

ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 

1. The words μέγας and σφόδρα both mean “great.” My lexicon has μέγας as an adjective, modifying ‘stone’ and σφόδρα as an adverb, modifying (I guess) ‘was.’ I think together they spell “ginormous.”


5 καὶ εἰσελθοῦσαι εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον εἶδον νεανίσκον καθήμενον ἐν τοῖς δεξιοῖς περιβεβλημένονστολὴν λευκήν, καὶ ἐξεθαμβήθησαν

And having entered into the tomb they saw a young man seated on the right clothed in a dazzling robe and they were awestruck.

εἰσελθοῦσαι: AAPart npf, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  

εἶδον: AAI 3p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive 

καθήμενον: PMPart asm, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one's self  2) to sit, be seated, of a place occupied  2a) to have a fixed abode, to dwell

περιβεβλημένον: PerfMPart asm, περιβάλλω, 1) to throw around, to put around  

1a) to surround a city with a bank (palisade)  1b) of garments, to clothe one

ἐξεθαμβήθησαν: API 3p, ἐκθαμβέω, 1. trans. to throw into amazement or terror; to alarm thoroughly, to terrify. 2. intrans. to be struck with amazement; to be thoroughly amazed, astounded. In the N. T. only in the passive and by Mark: to be amazed, for joy at the unexpected coming of Christ, 9:15 (When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him); to be struck with terror, 16:5 sq.; joined with ἀδημονεῖν, 14:33 (He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.) 

1. The word νεανίσκον appears here and in 14:51 (2x), referring to the young man whose garment was taken and who ran away naked at Jesus’ arrest. I do not know what to make of that repetition, nor do I know what to make of the naked fleeing young man. I’m not sure what to make of him here. He is not, notably, referred to as an angel.

2. The phrase στολὴν λευκήν (white robe) appears in 9:3, to describe Jesus’ clothing in the “transfiguration” story. The adjective λευκήν is related to words for “light,” so refer to some kind of brilliance, rather than just a color. That’s why I am going with “dazzling” rather than just “white.” None of the experts agree, so I might revert to “white” in a refined translation. But it’s too cool not to notice at this point in the process. 

3. I have an extended definition of ἐκθαμβέω from Thayer’s lexicon. Notice this term is only used in Mark’s gospel, in 9:15, 14:33, and here in vv. 5 and 6. The root, θαμβέω also only occurs in Mark, in 1:27, 10:24, and 10:32. What I find interesting is that the definitions describe something that is both amazing and frightening. That sounds like how Paul Tillich described the mysterium tremendum as both ‘compelling’ and ‘repelling.’ It may also explain how this text can be a joyful Easter text, but also will end so unsatisfyingly. Some translations go with “amazed” and others with “alarmed.” The KJV says “affrighted.”  


6 ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐταῖς, Μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε: Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένονἠγέρθη, οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε: ἴδε ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔθηκαν αὐτόν. 

Yet he says to them, “Do not be awestruck; you seek Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified; he is raised, he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. 

λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 

ἐκθαμβεῖσθε: PPImpv 2p, ἐκθαμβέω, see definition above, v.5.

ζητεῖτε: PAI 2p, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find  

ἐσταυρωμένον: PerfPPart asm, σταυρόω, 1) to stake, drive down stakes  2) to fortify with driven stakes, to palisade  3) to crucify 

ἠγέρθη: API 3s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  

ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 

ἴδε: This word is often listed as a ‘particle,’ but it is rooted in the imperative form of the verb ὁράω, so “look” or “behold.” 

ἔθηκαν: AAI 3p, τίθημι, 1) to set, put, place  1a) to place or lay  

1. Whatever the particular nuance of ἐκθαμβέω Mark has in mind, it is something that one can say, “Do be that!” 

Like the phrase, “Be not afraid,” it seems that for someone to say that, to issue a command over a strong and immediate feeling, they must be able to offer something that would soothe or satisfy the feeling. When Jesus says, “Be not afraid” in some of the other resurrection stories, he is standing right there, a living testimony of the power of life over death. Here, the young man’s command “Do not be awestruck/affrighted/alarmed/amazed!” is followed by the command to behold the empty space where Jesus had been laid. Since the risen Christ himself does not appear in Mark’s resurrection story, this empty space is all we get. But, for Mark, it is enough to allay the fright/alarm/etc.  


7 ἀλλὰ ὑπάγετε εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι Προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν: ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε, καθὼς εἶπεν ὑμῖν. 

But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you into Galilee; there you will see him, just as he said. 

ὑπάγετε: PAImpv 2p, ¸ ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under 

εἴπατε: AAImpv 2p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  

Προάγει: PAI 3s, προάγω, 1) to lead forward, lead forth  

ὄψεσθε: FMI 2p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know

εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  

1. Just a note for the curious: Matthew 28:19 is often cited as the beginning of “the Great Commission” and is almost always translated with the word “Go” at the beginning. I’ve heard countless sermons referring to that verse and emphasizing “Jesus said ‘Go!’” The problem is that in that Mt’s verse does not begin with an imperative verb, but an aorist passive participle and should be translated, “As you go,” or “Having gone,” or something like that. If you want a “command” that is actually in the imperative voice, Mark 16:7 is it. But … it doesn’t end well. 

2. “His disciples and Peter.” Is this a jab at Peter for not being a true disciple, or is it stressing that Peter is perhaps chief among the disciples? 

3. “into Galilee.” This is, perhaps, the most difficult part of Mark’s original ending. 

4. In Mk. 14:28, Jesus says, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.” 

5. The verb for “see” is future and indicative, not subjunctive and conditional. 


8 καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις: καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπανἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

And having gone out they fled from the tomb, for tremors and discombobulation had them; and said nothing to nobody, for they were afraid. 

ἐξελθοῦσαι: AAPart npf, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of

ἔφυγον: AAI 3p, φεύγω, 1) to flee away, seek safety by flight  

εἶχεν: IAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  

εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  

ἐφοβοῦντο: IMI 3p, φοβέω, to be afraid.

τρόμος,n  1) a trembling or quaking with fear; ἔκστασις, 1) any casting down of a thing from its proper place or state,  displacement  2) a throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of  mind,

1. The verb φεύγω describes the naked young man fleeing the arrest in 14:52 as well as the disciples fleeing in 14:50. It is also what Jesus says the folks in Judea should do when the events of c.13 begin to happen (13:14). 

2. Speaking of the mysterium tremendum (v.5, n.3 above), τρόμος and ἔκστασις could be transliterated as “tremors and ecstasy.” Most refined translations make τρόμος into “trembling.” For “ἔκστασις,” translations range from amazed to astonished to bewildered. It’s hard to capture what Mark is signifying here. 

3. Interestingly, Mark does not say that they had tremors and ecstasy, but that tremors and ecstasy had them. Most translation intensify “had” to “seized.” The NIV punts on this curious syntax and makes “trembling and bewildered” into participles. 
4. From “go and tell his disciples and Peter” to “they said nothing to nobody.” I hate to say it, but as heroic as the women are in other resurrection stories – and I consider them the first and best evangelists in the other stories – they are not the first or best evangelists here. It is true that either one of them said something to somebody, or else the narrator could not know this story - except by direct inspiration or fabricated rumor.

5. Even with the tremors and ecstasy, Mark says it was fear that prevented them from saying anything to anyone.  


Mark’s original ending is easily the least satisfying of all the resurrection stories in the gospels. Instead of Jesus appearing and saying, “Be not afraid” we have the women fleeing the tomb, very much afraid. The abruptness of the ending leaves far more questions than answers. In Mark’s Story of Jesus, Kelber argues that, for Mark, the Twelve failed in what Jesus called them to do. Mark's resurrection story plainly has the young man at the tomb sending the message that Peter and others are to meet Jesus in Galilee, as he told them previously. When the women at tomb, instead, say nothing to anyone, for they were afraid, the remaining eleven of the Twelve do not, in fact, meet the risen Christ. Luke/Acts seems to happily locates the disciples in Jerusalem, spending time with the risen Christ, staying put as they are told through Pentecost, and after that having a center in Jerusalem where "the Jerusalem Council" meets and where the higher authorities of the church seem to hold office. Matthew does have the eleven remaining disciples returning to Galilee, where they receive the commission to make disciples. Matthew has a high view of Peter, the rock on whom Christ will build his church (Mt. 16:18) following Peter’s profession, “You are the Christ.” Both Mark and Matthew have Jesus calling Peter “Satan” when he opposes Jesus’ first disclosure of his forthcoming death immediately after that declaration. Mark does not have Jesus making Peter the rock of the church. And Mark is consistently critical of the Twelve throughout his story, in texts that some call the “Messianic Secret,” in the inability of the disciples to understand Jesus’ words and the miracle of the bread, and even more forcefully the disciples’ tendency to push back on Jesus’ fate of going to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and be raised. Three times Jesus discloses his forthcoming death; three times some or all of the disciples respond wrongly. If I am reading Kelber correctly, Mark’s gospel is written to believers who may not be part of the Jerusalem-centered Apostle-led church. If that is true, this ending seems fitting, even as it is unsatisfying. 


  1. I read this somewhere:
    The linen cloth is thrown around both the young men. This type of cloth was used to bury the dead. Symbolically, this young man has the shroud of death cast upon him. But here the youth is clothed and wearing a dazzling white robe last seen in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Is Mark is telling us, that the true follower of Jesus faces death, yes, but also resurrection and a restored relationship?

    1. It adds some meaning to the young man cameo in the earlier passage.


If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive