Costa went first, stating that the authentic text concludes at verse 8. The early manuscripts, he explained, end there. He also noted that although Irenaeus knew verses 9-20, he also cited Acts 8:37, which is not a majority-reading. Costa them pointed out that some early writers raised questions about the authenticity of verses 9-20, such as Jerome, who said that hardly any manuscripts have it, and Eusebius, who said the same thing. Costa expressed a desire to know what Mark wrote, not what some scribe wrote. In addition, he argued, when you look at verses 9-20, it looks like a patchwork of pieces from the other Gospel-accounts, pieced together by a later scribe.
Costa’s take on the internal evidence then went a little further than one might expect from a conservative professor: he proposed that in the Gospel of Mark, the apostles are ironically depicted as if they never understand who Jesus is, and that the ending at verse 8 is consistent with that theme. (Does Costa mean that that Mark wanted readers to conclude that the apostles never heard about Jesus’ resurrection?) Costa also offered an interpretation of Mark 8:22-26 which maintains that the episode – in which Jesus makes a blind man see, after spitting on his eyes, and then laying His hands on him – was intended by Mark to somehow convey that the apostles did not see Jesus clearly. (Does Costa mean that this is what Mark intended to be his readers’ final impression of the apostles? If not, then what point is he trying to make?)
Tors responded: “The last 12 verses are certainly authentic.” He pointed out that verses 9-20 are present in 1,700 manuscripts and missing in only two. (Gaffe: they are missing in three (taking damage into account) – though their absence in minuscule 304 is barely worth mentioning.) The testimony of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is questionable, because Vaticanus has a blank column after the column in which Mark 16:8 concludes – the only blank column in the entire manuscript (Gaffe: it is not the only blank column in Vaticanus; there are three others in the Old Testament portion. But it is the only one that is not the result of a factor that occurred naturally in the production-process.) – as if the scribe knew that more text belonged there. And in Sinaiticus, (Tors continued,) the original pages containing the end of Mark were replaced long after by a scribe who stretched out his lettering to avoid leaving a blank column. (Gaffe: it was the supervisor/proofreader, who did this, not someone long after Sinaiticus was made.) Regarding Irenaeus, in the first century (Gaffe: it was the second century) it is not likely that he was wrong; his testimony is joined in the second century by Tatian. The idea that fourth-century evidence should outweigh this second-century evidence doesn’t fly.
The idea that Mark would end at 16:8 does not make sense either. It doesn’t even seem remotely possible that Mark would intentionally end there. (Hort agreed with Tors about that.) Moreover, here we see how historical criticism and rationalistic textual criticism undermine the gospel: first, Mark is posited as the first Gospel; Q is also posited as source-material for Matthew and Luke. The rationalistic higher critics say that Q didn’t have a resurrection of Jesus; the rationalistic lower critics say that Mark didn’t have a resurrection of Jesus, and these points are used to undercut the centrality of Jesus’ resurrection. And regarding the blind man healed at