The Women Disciples and the Ascension
There is little need of complaint in this section. Mark, as Mr. Shaw says, is brief, one may add mercifully brief; and Mr. Shaw also evidently agrees in the general opinion of scholars that Mark is on the whole a much more genuine document than Matthew. It is still composite, for the reasons already given in the case of Matthew. Most of the quotations which have been given above as evidence for this way of thinking have parallel passages in the older gospel.
We need only cavil at one point of interpretation. Mr. Shaw takes Mark's statement with regard to Joseph of Arimathaea, and not only misquotes it, but interprets it quite unjustifiably. Mr. Shaw says that Joseph is described by Mark as "One who also himself was looking for the kingdom of God" as if it were in the text; which however reads (Mark XV. 43) "An honourable counsellor which also waited for the kingdom of God". Why should this suggest to Mr. Shaw that he was an 'independent' seeker? On the contrary, it is perfectly compatible with the statement of Matthew that he 'also himself was Jesus' disciple'. Mr. Shaw in this preface is making a special point of distinguishing between the gospels, but it is evident that he has not been writing with his authority in front of him. The phrase 'also himself' is in Matthew XXVII, 57, and in Luke XXIII, 51. It is evident that Mr. Shaw is trusting an excellent but not quite perfect memory. It is an extremely small point; but it goes to prove a big one, that Mr. Shaw is careless again and again, and therefore an untrustworthy guide, where such extreme accuracy is required as is here the case.
Another example follows immediately in Mr. Shaw's very next paragraph. "Mark earns our gratitude by making no mention of the old prophecies, and thereby not only saves time, but avoids the absurd implication that Christ was merely going through a predetermined ritual, like the works of a clock, instead of living. In point of fact, the gospel begins with the fulfilment of a prophecy (Mark, 1, 2, to 4) "As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." There are also references to prophecy in Mark XII, 10, 35, and 36, and Mark XV, 27 28. Mr. Shaw's statement is generally true; but not as accurate as it ought to be in a work of this kind.
We must protest against a later statement in this paragraph of Mr. Shaw's. The ritual through which Jesus was going 'like the works of a clock' is universal. It is not absurd at all. We are all going through this ritual at this hour. If it were not so, the ritual could never have taken hold of the imagination of man in every civilization in the way in which it has done. The ritual is merely a dramatic statement of the most evident and important facts of nature.
Mr. Shaw says that it is impossible to discover whether Jesus 'means anything by a state of damnation beyond a state of error'. It is true that the passage quoted does not make this clear; but damnation in the regular Christian sense is constantly referred to in other parts of the gospel.
Mr. Shaw concludes "On the whole Mark leaves the modern reader where Matthew left him." It is not here, then, that we are to look for any facts which will 'place Jesus above Confucius and Plato.' Perhaps we may have better luck with Luke.