Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,


καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου· εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις, καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. (Mark 16:8)

Last year I started a habit of posting bits from the Greek New Testament at Christmas and Easter. Which is nice and clever, but doesn't really take you very far. I feel like something a bit different this Easter morning: the above is the original end of the Gospel according to Mark: And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

Mark is of course great in his blunt style of writing which none the less always suggests that he knows more than he is letting on. (All four of the Gospels have their pleasing quirks: Matthew requires footnotes for his frequent Old Testament allusions, Luke is just very well written compared to the others, and John takes the whole narrative from a completely different direction.) And I was struck by the use of the word 'fear' both here and two verses earlier: Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here

In fact the words used in Greek are subtly different. In 16.6 the word the angel uses to the women is the verb ἐκθαμβέω, to be astonished or amazed or gobsmacked or dumbfounded; in 16.8 it is φοβέω, which is of course related to the English word "phobia", to fear. Don't be surprised, says the angel; but the women are terrified.

In the end, there's only so much enlightenment to be gained from poring over the original Greek and trying to nail down facts. The Gospels weren't written as historical accounts, but as didactic documents, which tried to capture the experiences reported in ways that would make sense to worshippers a few decades later. We'll never know exactly what the apostles experienced that day, and the days following. The details in the New Testament are contradictory (and in a couple of cases unconvincing). But all four gospels make it clear that Jesus' body had physically disappeared from the tomb; and the other three (plus the later postscript to Mark, plus Acts and various allusions elsewhere) make it equally clear that many of the apostles experienced a personal encounter with him in the following few days and weeks, and that this direct experience of the risen Christ was the basis on which Christianity consolidated and developed to what it is today.
Tags: religion

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