What about Mark 16:9-20?

by Martin A. Shue


As you know there is some question by modern scholars as to whether Mark 16:9-20 is really a part of the 'original'. There are 3 possibilities for the ending of Mark: 1)The book ends after verse 8 2) There is what's called "The Shorter Ending of Mark" or 3) What they call "The Longer Ending of Mark" (as found in the AV). Thus far 'scholars' haven't been bold enough to remove the last 12 verses of Mark. However, they do place some footnotes, brackets, or lines that let you know that they think V.9-20 do not belong in the text. I would watch closely the next translations that come out and see if they don't omit the last 12 verses of Mark.

First, I will address "The Shorter Ending of Mark" since it has the least amount of support from modern textual critics. This shorter ending is only supported by a few manuscripts (mss.). One of the only Bibles that I know of that includes the shorter ending of Mark is the New World Translation. Following is how they render the last chapter of Mark. They end Mark after V.8 then have a large blank space then they give the "Long Conclusion". It is somewhat similar to the AV. After that they have another blank space followed by the "Short Conclusion". It reads as follows:

But all the things that had been commanded they related briefly to those around Peter. Further, after these things, Jesus himself sent out through them from the east to the west the holy and incorruptible proclamation of the everlasting salvation.

There are not many who support the shorter ending of Mark (for that matter the longer ending either). Objecting to the passage, Kurt and Barbara Aland proclaim,

"At least the shorter ending of Mark (as well as the longer ending of Mark 16:9-20) was not a part of the gospel in its original form, although both may well be from the beginning of the second century." (The Text of The New Testament, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 232.)

So why do these 'scholars' question the last 12 verses of Mark? The main reason they do is because they are not found in Codex Aleph (Sinaiticus) or B (Vaticanus). Also, the passage is omitted in minuscule 2386 (an obscure manuscript). As you may or may not know these are the two mss. that modern 'scholars' practically worship. The reason they worship them is because of their supposed early date. Yet they are the ones that have been proven to be the most corrupt time after time. David Otis Fuller cited Dean John Burgon, one of the greatest scholars to ever live, in his book Which Bible? as saying,

"I insist and am prepared to prove [which he did] that the text of these two Codexes (B and Aleph) is very nearly the foulest in existence," (Pp. 126-127) and "That they exhibit fabricated texts is demonstrable....B and Aleph are covered all over with blots -- Aleph even more than B....We suspect that these two manuscripts are indebted for their preservation, SOLELY TO THEIR ASCERTAINED EVIL CHARACTER." (Pg. 93, 128)

Burgon writing in his book Revision Revised also says,-

"What we are just now insisting upon is only the depraved text of codices A, B, C, D, -- especially of B, D, and Aleph. And because this is a matter which lies at root of the whole controversy, and because we cannot afford that there shall exist in our reader's mind the slightest doubt on this part of the subject, we shall be constrained once and again to trouble him with detailed specimens of the contents of B, & C., in proof of the justice of what we have been alleging. We venture to assure him, without a particle of hesitation, that B, D , and Aleph (Sinaiticus), are three of the most scandalously corrupt copies extant: -- exhibit the most shamefully mutilated texts which are anywhere to be met with: -- have become, by whatever process (for their history is wholly unknown), the depositories of the largest amount of fabricated readings, ancient blunders, and intentional perversions of Truth, -- which are discoverable in any known copies of the Word of GOD." (Revision Revised p.15, 16)

When you see the footnote the "oldest and best manuscripts" know that they are referring to Aleph and B. I few comments should be made at this point regarding the book of Mark and Codex B. Dean John Burgon, who wrote The Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark in 1871, exhaustively studied Vaticanus (B) and says at this passage there appears after V.8

"the only vacant column in the whole manuscript--a blank space abundantly sufficient to contain the twelve verses which he nevertheless withheld." He draws the obvious conclusion that the scribe who prepared Vaticanus "was instructed to leave them out, and he obeyed; but he prudently left a blank space in memoriam rei. Never was blank more intelligible! Never was silence more eloquent!" (op. cit., p. 67).

This is one of the things that the 'scholars' will not tell you. It is also noted that strangely the Gospel of Mark is double spaced in Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph). Many believe this was done to take up the blank space left by leaving off the ending of Mark. That is it, that is the total sum of the evidence they have for questioning Mark 16:9-20. Because it is not in their "favorite" mss. they doubt its authenticity. It should also be noted that Codex Vaticanus also leaves out Gen. 1-46, Ps. 105-137, Heb. 9:14-13:25, and all of I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. So if we go by their reasoning then we should likewise omit all of the above from our Bibles as well. Codex Sinaiticus has its omissions as well but what I would like to point out about it is that it contains "The Epistle of Barnabas" and "The Shepherd of Hermas" as part of the New Testament. What will they do next add "The Epistle of Barnabas" and "The Shepherd of Hermas" to our Bibles?

Lastly, let's talk about why the ending of Mark should stand as found in the AV. First, here is a quote by Dr. Bruce Metzger, who is certainly no friend to the Traditional Text nor the AV. In a 1994 interview with Christian History, Metzger stated:

"The earliest Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Latin manuscripts end the Gospel of Mark at 16:8: "The women said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." That does not sound like an appropriate ending for a book of good news, so some early scribes, undertaking their own research, added what they thought would be appropriate endings . . . Many translators, including myself, consider verses 9 through 20 to be a legitimate part of the New Testament." (Christian History, Interview with Dr. Bruce Metzger)

Even Metzger doesn't believe that it would be "appropriate" for Mark to end his Gospel at V.8. What about some of the support for the reading 'scholars' call "The Longer Ending of Mark". It is found in the following uncials: A, C, D, K, X, DELTA, THETA, and PI, all of which date from between the fifth and ninth centuries. It is also contained in the later dated minuscules such as 137, 138, 1110, 1210, 1215, 1216, 1217, 1221, and 1582. Further it is the reading found in the majority of Old Latin texts as well as the Coptic Versions and other early translations. As you can see the support much favors the reading of the AV. One source stated that there are 620 mss. that contain the book of Mark. Out of these 620 only Aleph and B omit V.9-20, along with minuscule 2386. There are a few that have the "Shorter Ending of Mark", however, the vast majority support the ending as found in the AV.

The reading also has the support of earlier versions. The Peshitta (150 AD) and the Curetonian (3rd Century) contain the verses. Jerome's Latin Vulgate (382 AD) also contains these verses. Additionally, the Egyptian (3rd and 4th Centuries) and Armenian (5th Century) versions contain these verses. These are just a few of the many versions that attest to the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. What I find even more convincing is the fact that the early Church Fathers quoted from Mark 16:9-20. This, to me, means as much or more than the mss. evidence because it establishes that they believed that it was part of the original. Following are some citations by a few of the early Church Fathers:

Irenaeus (202 AD) cites Mark 16:19:

Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God; " confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book 3 Ch.10:5.)

Ambrose (397 AD) cites Mark 16:17-18:

"Therefore, it was with good reason that the Lord became a stage, so that the word of the Lord might prepare such stages for Himself; of these He says, "In my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak in new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Indeed they took up serpents, when His holy Apostle cast out the spiritual forces of wickedness from their hiding places in the body by breathing on them and did not feel deadly poisons. When the viper came forth from the bundle of sticks and bit Paul, the natives, seeing the viper hanging from his hand, thought he would suddenly die. But he stood unafraid; he was unaffected by the wound, and the poison was not infused into him." (The Prayer of Job and David, 4:1:4.)

Augustine (430 AD) cites Mark 16:15 and then refers to verses 17-18:

"Ye heard while the Gospel was read, Go preach the Gospel to the whole creation which is under heaven. Consequently the disciples were sent everywhere with signs and wonders to attest that what they spake, they had seen." (Homilies On The Epistle of John To The Parthians, IV:2).

There are also other reasons for accepting the reading as found in the AV. One such reason is the style of verses 9-20. Dean John Burgon in his The Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark proved without doubt that Mark was the writer of V.9-20 because the style was consistent with the rest of the book. However, James White takes exception to this citing V.14, where Jesus "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart", saying it was

"quite out of character, given the other accounts of Jesus' dealings with the disciples after the resurrection. It is so strong that at least one scribe felt it needed toning down and introduced the ninety-word interpolation preserved today by codex W" (King James Only Controversy, p. 257).

Unfortunately, Dr. White must not know the "character" of Jesus very well. For instance, we can take a look at the "strong" statement recorded in Luke 24:25-26 . Here Jesus scolds the two on the road to Emmaus by saying, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:" Perhaps Dr. White would also like to question this as being "quite out of character" for Jesus. From the passage in Luke we can see that it would have been "quite IN the character" of Jesus to "upbraid(ed) them with their unbelief and hardness of heart". To further prove this point the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament gives a cross reference from Mark 9:14 to the passage in Luke (24:25-26).

Another reason for accepting the reading as found in the AV is the doctrines found in Mark 16:9-20 are supported by other scripture. Such as the following:

1) V.9-14 The appearances of Christ. Mary Magdalene supported by Jn. 20:15-16; The two as they walked into the country (Emmaus) supported by Lk. 24:13-31; The eleven supported by Jn. 20:19, 20:26.

2) V.15 The Great Commission. This is found also in Matt. 28:19-20; Lk. 24:46-48; Acts 1:8-9.

3) V.16 The result of preaching. This is found in many places, Jn. 3:16-20; Acts 2:37-39; I Cor. 1:18-21, etc.

4) V.17-18 The signs to follow believers. This is found also in Matt. 10:1-8; Lk. 10:19; Jn. 14:12; etc.

5) V.19 The ascension. This is found also in Lk. 24:49-53; Acts 1:9-11.

6) V.20 The confirmation of the word. This is found also in Acts 2:43; 5:16; etc.; Heb. 2:3-4.

Briefly, we have looked at the support against and for Mark 16:9-20. I believe one can easily see that the majority of the support lies on the side of Mark 16:9-20. Also, we still have the promise of God that He would preserve His Word (Ps. 12:6-7). As for me I would much rather put my trust in God and His ability than some 'scholar'. Many of them have blindly made their conclusions about Mark 16:9-20 not considering the implications of their actions. For instance, Ryrie, notes that--

"...If [verses 9-20] are not a part of the genuine text of Mark, the abrupt ending at verse 8 is probably because the original closing verses were lost..."

What an absurd statement! In this he is calling God and Jesus a liar by saying that the closing verses of Mark were lost. This is exactly what kind of 'scholarship' is behind the modern versions. I believe from the massive ms. evidence, the early versions support, and the early Church Fathers quotes that we can put all our confidence in the ending of Mark as found in the AV.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.Psalms 68:11