Sunday, April 8, 2012

Open The Book

“And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Except they did say something to someone – we're reading it. By existing, the last sentence of Mark contradicts itself.

Mark's Gospel ends on the Greek particle gar. That's not grammatically sound. You don't end a sentence on gar. The sentence is not over.

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid; then, evidently, because this text exists and you are reading it, they mastered their fear and said something to someone. Something: this text, Mark's Gospel, the empty tomb. Someone: you, the recipient of this text. You have to deduce the rest of the sentence – “then they mastered their fear and said something to someone” – for yourself. The ending of Mark's Gospel makes you finish the sentence. It makes you carry on the story.

If there's one message to be gleaned from all of Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition, it is this:

Keep interpreting.

Genesis opens with two non-identical creation accounts. The New Testament begins with four non-identical gospels. Throughout the Bible, as in rabbinic midrash and churches' teachings, there are doublings and recapitulations, glosses and rewrites, the same story told over again but differently. You can't reconcile the differences between alternate versions of the same story. You aren't supposed to.

The ambiguities, the discrepancies, the omissions: they're there so that you can interpret, and keep interpreting. What you must never do is stop. If you declare one particular interpretation to be singularly authoritative and let it rest there, you leave the text lifeless in the tomb. A text lives as long as you interpret it – as long as you read it and retell it and explore it and criticize it and learn from it. If you are afraid to let the text live – afraid to open yourself to the possibility that the text might change you – you will have nothing to say to anyone, and you may as well have left the book unopened.

Keep reading. Keep telling the stories. The stories will change, and the readers will change. This is good. This is the point. Keep interpreting.

Master your fear. Say something to someone.


  1. So any Christian with half a brain cell knows Christ is not only about love. He is love. So then how come so many believe that He hates women and gays. Well, we know they always quote those verses. The ones I refuse to read. The ones that support the blasphemous male agenda of hating gays, hating and enslaving women and the idolatry of male supremacy. I have left a life-long church, one I otherwise would never have left, because of the relentless misogyny directly from the pulpit. Now I attend another church that at least refrains from blatant, proud misogyny. Any day now I'm going to be tested and could really use some scriptural ammunition to use. I can talk about it conceptually but I feel like I need a scriptural defense to hit them with when they throw down the black and white irrefutable Word at me like I know they will eventually. Is there a scripturally based talking point for those of us who get that God is not a bigot against women or gays.