Gospel End

Mark 16

Mark 16 is the final chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It begins with the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome — there they encounter a man dressed in white who announces Jesus' resurrection. After a brief series of resurrection appearances to Mary Magdalene, two disciples, and then the Eleven (the Twelve Apostles minus Judas), the text concludes with the Great Commission and the Ascension.

There is scholarly debate concerning the final twelve verses since two fourth-century Greek manuscripts end at Mark 16:8, and another Old Latin manuscript has a different, shorter ending. Six seventh-to-tenth-century Greek manuscripts contain this Shorter Ending, with minor variations, after 16:8. All six also contain the Longer Ending. Furthermore, linguistic and stylistic differences between the concluding canonical verses 9-20 (often called the "Longer Ending") and the rest of the Gospel have been regarded by some scholars as enough to doubt their authenticity. Verse 8 ends with the women fleeing from the empty tomb, and saying "nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."

The empty tomb

Mark says the Sabbath is now over and Mary Magdalene, another Mary, the mother of James (who earlier Mark referred to more fully as "Mary the mother of James the little and Joses", 15:40) who might or might not be Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome, mentioned in Mark 15:40, come to anoint Jesus' body, which Luke 24:1 agrees with. John 19:40 seems to say that Nicodemus had already anointed his body. John 20:1 and Matthew 28:1 simply say Mary went to the tomb, not why.

The women wonder how they will remove the stone over the tomb. Upon their arrival, they find the stone already gone and go into the tomb. This shows that, according to Mark, they did not expect to find a resurrected but a dead Jesus. They find a young man dressed in a white robe who tells them:

''"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you' " (6–7).

The white robe might be a sign that the young man is a messenger from God. Matthew 28:5 describes him as an angel. According to Luke there were two men. John says there were two angels, but that Mary saw them after finding the empty tomb and showing it to the other disciples. She comes back to the tomb, talks to the angels, and then Jesus appears to her.

Mark uses the word neaniskos for young, a word he used to describe the man who fled at Jesus' arrest in Mark 14:51–52 Jesus had predicted his resurrection and returning to Galilee during the Last Supper in Mark 14:28 Mark uses the passive verb form ēgerthē — translated "he was raised," indicating God raised him from the dead, rather than "he is risen" translated in the NIV.

The women, who are afraid, then flee and keep quiet about what they saw. Fear is the most common human reaction to the divine presence in the Bible.

This is where the undisputed part of Mark's Gospel ends. Jesus is thus announced to have been resurrected from the dead and to have gone into Galilee. Some interpreters have concluded that Mark's intended readers already knew the traditions of Jesus' appearances, and that Mark brings the story to a close here to highlight the resurrection and leave anticipation of the parousia. Some have argued that this announcement of the resurrection and Jesus going to Galilee is the parousia (see also Preterism), but Raymond E. Brown argues that a parousia confined only to Galilee is improbable. Gospel writer Mark gives no description of the resurrected Jesus, perhaps because Mark did not want to try to describe the nature of the divine resurrected Jesus. Brown argues this ending is consistent with Mark's theology, where even miracles, such as the resurrection, do not produce the proper understanding or faith among Jesus' followers. Having the women run away afraid is contrasted in the reader's mind with Jesus' appearances and statements which help confirm the expectation, built up in 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and Jesus' prediction during the Last Supper of his rising after his death.

Jesus' appearances and his ascension into Heaven

The book then describes Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene who is now described as someone whom Jesus healed from possession by seven demons. She then tells the other disciples (cf. ) what she saw but no one believes her. Jesus' appearances to Mary are also found in and .

Then Jesus appears "in a different form" to two unnamed disciples. They, too, are disbelieved when they tell what they saw. Jesus' appearance to two disciples is also described in .

Jesus then appears at dinner to all the remaining eleven Apostles. He rebukes them for not believing the earlier reports of his resurrection and then gives them instructions to go and preach his message to all creation (see also the Great Commission). Those who believe and are baptised will be saved, but unbelievers will be condemned.

In verses 17-18, Jesus states that believers will "speak in new tongues." This is likely a reference to glossolalia. They will also be able to handle snakes (see also ), be immune from any poison they might happen to drink, and will be able to heal the sick. Some interpreters, picturing an author putting words in Jesus' mouth, have suggested that these verses were a means by which early Christians asserted that their new faith was accompanied by special powers. By showing examples of unjustified unbelief in verses 10-13, and stating that unbelievers will be condemned, and that believers will be validated by signs, the author may have been attempting to convince the reader to rely on what the disciples preached about Jesus.

Jesus appearing and talking to the disciples is also recorded in , , and . Jesus' fighting against unbelief and the negative portrait of the disciples is in keeping with the themes of Mark.

According to verse 19, Jesus then is taken up into Heaven where, Mark claims, he sits at the right hand of God. The right hand is seen as the position of power. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 in Mark 11 about the Lord sitting at the right hand of God.

After the ascension, his Eleven then went out and preached "everywhere." Several signs from God accompanied their preaching. His ascension is also recorded in and in the Acts of the Apostles 1:9–11 Where these things happened is not stated, but one could presume, from , that they took place in Galilee. Luke-Acts, however, has this happening in Jerusalem.

Mark 16:9-20 in the Manuscript Tradition

The last twelve verses, 16:9-20, are not present in the fourth century manuscripts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the earliest parchment manuscripts of Mark. (Papyrus 45 is older but has no text from Mark 16 due to extensive damage.) Codex Vaticanus has a blank column after ending at 16:8 and placing kata Markon, “according to Mark.” There are three other blank columns in Vaticanus, in the Old Testament, but one of these is at a point where there is a change of copyists, one is at the beginning of Psalms (where the format of the text changes to a two-column format, requiring pages with two-column ruling), and one is at the end of the OT-portion of the codex. It has been suggested that Codex Vaticanus may be reflecting a Western order of the gospels with Mark as the last book (Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark); however, it would be strange for a copyist to view leftover space at the end of an exemplar as a remarkable feature worth preserving, unless he sensed that some material was missing. Sinaiticus too ends with 16:8 and euangelion kata Markon, “the gospel according to Mark.”

Another manuscript, minuscule 304 (twelfth century) omits the last twelve verses, but may be a damaged copy that was rebound without being fully repaired.

Codex Washingtonianus (late fourth early fifth century) includes verses 9-20 and features an addition between 16:14-15 known as the “Freer Logion”: “And they excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God. Therefore reveal your righteousness now’ – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven.’”.

Another ending (indirectly witnessing to the shorter reading of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) is that of the Latin manuscript, Codex Bobbiensis (k), from the early fifth century. It reads, “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation” (English Standard Version [2001] margin). This manuscript also contains a remarkable interpolation between Mark 16:3 and 16:4 which seems to picture Jesus' ascension as if it occurred at the time of the resurrection.

The group of manuscripts known as “Family 1” and others add a note to Mark 16:9-20, stating that some copies do not contain the verses but that the older manuscripts, or the majority of manuscripts, do contain them. (Some copies also note that Eusebius' Canons do not include vv. 9-20.) Codex L adds the “shorter ending” after 16:8 and follows it with vv. 9-20.

Mark 16:9-20 is preserved in its traditional form in about a dozen uncials (the earliest being Codex Alexandrinus) and in all undamaged minuscules (over 1,200). It is attested in all text-types, each of which contains distinctive variants in these verses.

Hypothesis About the Ending

Hypotheses on how to explain the textual variations include:

  • Mark intentionally ended his Gospel at 16:8, and someone else (at an early date) wrote the concluding lines.
  • Mark did not intend to end at 16:8, but was somehow prevented from finishing (perhaps by his own death), whereupon another person finished the work before it was released for church-use.
  • The Gospel originally contained a different (perhaps similar) ending that was lost, for one reason or another, whereafter the current ending was added.
  • Verses 16:9-20 are authentic, and were omitted or lost from the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus for one reason or another, perhaps accidental, perhaps intentional.

James H. Charlesworth pointed out that Codex Syriacus (a 5th-century translation), Codex Vaticanus (mid-4th century), and Codex Bobiensis (4th- or 5th-century Latin) are all early manuscripts that exclude the Marcan appendix. In addition to these, approximately 100 Armenian manuscripts, as well as the two oldest Georgian manuscripts, also omit the appendix. The Armenian Version was made in 411-450, and the Old Georgian Version was based mainly on the Armenian Version. One Armenian manuscript, made in 989, features a note, written between 16:8 and 16:9, Ariston eritzou, that is, "By Ariston the Elder/Priest." Ariston, or Aristion, is known from early traditions (preserved by Papias and others) as a colleague of Peter and as a bishop of Smyrna in the first century.

Internal Evidence

Critical questions concerning the authenticity of verses 9-20 (the "longer ending") often centre around stylistic and linguistic issues. On linguistics, E. P. Gould identified 19 of the 163 words in the passage as distinctive and not occurring elsewhere in the Gospel. Dr. Bruce Terry argues that a vocabulary-based case against Mark 16:9-20 is indecisive, inasmuch as other 12-verse sections of Mark contain comparable amounts of once-used words.

The final sentence in verse 8 is regarded as strange by some scholars. In the Greek text it finishes with the conjunction γαρ (gar, "for"). It is contended by some who see 16:9–20 as originally Markan that γαρ literally means because, and this ending to verse 8 is therefore not grammatically coherent (literally, it would read they were afraid because). However, γαρ may end a sentence, and does so in various Greek compositions, including some sentences in the Septuagint, a popular Greek translation of the Old Testament used by early Christians. Protagoras, a contemporary of Socrates, even ended a speech with γαρ. Although γαρ is never the first word of a sentence, there is no rule against it being the last word, even though it is not a common construction.

Robert Gundry mentions that only 10% of Mark's γαρ clauses — 6 out of 66 — conclude pericopes (Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross, Chapters 9–16). As such, this statistic favours the view that, rather than concluding 16:1–8, verse 8 begins a new pericope, the rest of which is now lost to us. Gundry therefore does not see verse 8 as the intended ending; a resurrection narrative was either written, then lost, or planned but never actually written.

Concerning style, the degree to which verses 9-20 aptly fit as an ending for the Gospel remains in question. The turn from verse 8 to 9 has also been seen as abrupt and interrupted: the narrative flows from "they were afraid" to "now after he rose", and seems to reintroduce Mary Magdalene. Secondly, Mark regularly identifies instances where Jesus' prophecies are fulfilled, yet Mark does not explicitly state the twice predicted reconciliation of Jesus with his disciples in Galilee (Mark 14:28, 16:7). Lastly, the active tense "he rose" is different from the earlier passive construction "[he] has been risen" of verse 6, seen as significant by some.

Vaticanus and Sinaiticus

According to T. C. Skeat, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were both produced at the same scriptorium, which would mean that they represent only one textual tradition, rather than serving as two independent witnesses of an earlier text type that ends at 16:8. Skeat argued that they were produced as part of Eusebius' response to the request of Constantine for copies of the scriptures for churches in Constantinople.

However, this view is unlikely, since (a) there are about 3,036 differences in the gospels of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (b) the text of Sinaiticus tends toward the Western textform in John 1:1-8:38 - Vaticanus does not, and (c) neither Vaticanus or Sinaiticus contains Mark 15:28, which Eusebius accepted and included in his Canon-tables. An alternative theory is that a scribe who took part in the production of Vaticanus in the early 300's later oversaw the production of Sinaiticus at Caesarea in the mid-300's, using Egyptian MSS there as exemplars.

Patristic Evidence

Some of the early church fathers appear to use 16:9–20:

  • Justin Martyr in about A.D. 160 wrote in his First Apology (ch.45) that the apostles, "going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere." Since the wording is similar to Mark 16:20, some argue it is quotation of some kind. This is not an explicit quotation (which would be exceptional in Justin's writings), but it seems to be a strong allusion to a Synoptics-harmony used by Justin, in which Mark 16:20 was combined with Luke 24:52, as is seen in the Diatessaron, a Gospels-harmony made by Justin's student Tatian.
  • Tatian was a student of Justin. In about A.D. 172, Tatian combined all four Gospels into one continuous narrative (expanding on Justin's earlier work), which was called the Diatessaron. Mark 16:9-20 is incorporated in ch. 55 of the Diatessaron.
  • Irenaeus quotes Mark 16:19 in Against Heresies III:10:5–6, stating specifically that he is quoting from near the end of the Gospel of Mark. Against Heresies Book III was written c. 184.
  • De Rebaptismate was written by an unknown author c. 258. It uses Mark 16:14 to present the apostles as examples of individuals who expressed unbelief and were severely rebuked but ultimately restored to service.
  • Acts of Pilate ch. 14, written in the early 300's, includes a quotation of Mark 16:15-16.
  • Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the mid-300's, repeatedly quoted from this passage.
  • Aphraates in the Syriac composition Demonstration One, Of Faith, written before 337, quoted from Mark 16:16-18.
  • Apostolic Constitutions was composed in 380. Its eighth book begins with a citation from Mark 16:17-18.
  • Jerome, although sometimes miscited as if he rejected the passage, included it in the Vulgate (383), which, he claimed, he produced on the basis of old Greek manuscripts.
  • Augustine (d. 430) In Augustine's Harmony of the Four Gospels, written c. 400, he cited all of Mark 16:9-20.

Mark 16:9–20 is not clearly used by two prominent early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen. However, the same can be said of many other 12-verse sections of Mark; this is merely a symptom of their preference for the other three canonical Gospels when it comes to making quotations. Origen in particular seldom makes explicit citations from Mark.

It could be proposed that the use of Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture in the second, third, and fourth centuries, from Gaul to Rome to Asia Minor to Syria, only shows that that although Mark 16:9–20 had become part of Church tradition and Scripture, this does not render the passage canonical any more than early patristic use of apocryphal writings such as The Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache rendered them canonical. However, the historical process which ultimately rendered those books uncanonical has not had the same effect on these 12 verses.

Although Eusebius stated that most manuscripts, or at least most of the accurate ones, omitted these 12 verses, he also explained how they could be retained, and although Jerome loosely repeated Eusebius' statement, he included these 12 verses in the Vulgate and cited 16:14 to explain to his readers where he had seen the "Freer Logion" in some manuscripts, especially Greek ones. Eusebius' well-circulated observation means that in the early 300's, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were not alone in their witnessing to the absence of this section.

Scholarly Opinions

The current consensus among scholars is that verses 9-20 were not part of the original text of Mark but represent a very early addition. This view was popularized by Bruce Metzger, who relied on the comments of Hort published in 1881. A remarkably high percentage of modern-day commentators, at every level of scholarship, have failed to examine the evidence independently, as can be shown by glaring errors in their descriptions of the external evidence.

Among the scholars who reject Mark 16:9-20, a debate continues about whether the ending at 16:8 is intentional or accidental. Some scholars consider the original ending to have been verse 8. Others argue that Mark never intended to end so abruptly: either he planned another ending that was never written, or the original ending has been lost. C. H. Turner argued that the original version of the Gospel could have been a codex, with the last page being especially vulnerable to damage. Whatever the case, many scholars, including Rudolf Bultmann, have concluded that the Gospel most likely ended with a Galilean resurrection appearance and the reconciliation of Jesus with the Eleven, even if verses 9-20 are unautographic.

Verses 9-20 share the subject of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, and other points, with other passages in the New Testament. This has led some scholars to believe that Mark 16:9-20 is based on the other Gospels and Acts. Some of the elements that Mark 16:9-20 has in common with other passages of Scripture are listed here:

Mark 16 does have some of its own additions: Mk. 16:13 states that the main group of disciples did not believe the two travelers' report. Mk. 16:14 states that Jesus rebuked the eleven disciples because they had not believed those who had claimed to have seen Him. Only Mk. 16:18 records Jesus' statement about poison-drinking. Also, it would be odd for a writer familiar with Luke 24 to picture the report of the two travelers and the appearance of Jesus to the main group of disciples as two scenes. It would also be strange for a writer familiar with John 21 to use other material instead, especially since the appearances in vv. 9-20 describe appearances in or around Jerusalem, even though 16:7 calls for an appearance in Galilee.

Bruce M. Metzger wrote that he "cannot believe that the note of fear would have been regarded as an appropriate conclusion to an account of the Evangel or Good News. Bible scholar Daniel J. Harrington maintains that the longer ending is probably a second century compilation of resurrection stories mostly found in Luke 24 and some from John 20

Mark 16 and reading in the ancient world

In the ancient world, reading was not the activity it is today. Rather than someone silently reading a book on their own, Mark's Gospel, like other ancient literature, would have been read out loud by someone to a group of people. The low literacy rates in the ancient world demanded that such an approach to reading be taken (see Oral history). Thus, reading would have involved an interaction between the reader(s) and the hearer(s).

If Mark's Gospel, as is postulated by some (notably Beavis, Mark's Audience, pp. 45–67, 167–73), had an evangelistic and teaching purpose, this interactive nature of ancient world reading starts to provide another theory for the ending of Mark. Given that the longer and shorter endings are seen by the majority of text critics as not originally part of Mark (see below), these endings can be seen as reader's responses and reactions to what Mark's gospel tells us about the person of Christ. Specifically, the longer ending is a response by a person or community familiar with the other Gospels and Acts, especially Luke-Acts (see above). From this perspective, then, 16:8 starts to look like an intentional ending — and the acceptance of the longer ending is an indication of the general theological direction in which early Christians saw Mark's Gospel headed.

Scholarly conclusions

The vast majority of contemporary New Testament textual critics (see also Textual criticism) have concluded that neither the longer nor shorter endings were originally part of Mark's Gospel. The longer ending had become accepted tradition by some in the second century. The Complete Gospels states: "The ending of the Gospel of Mark is a classic problem in New Testament textual criticism. The scholarly consensus is that Mark originally ended with the abrupt stop at 16:8. The earliest Patristic evidence (Clement of Rome, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome) give no indication of any text beyond 16:8.

The United Bible Societies' 4th edition of the Greek New Testament (1993) rates the omission of verses 9–20 from the original Markan manuscript as "certain." Bruce M. Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament states: "Thus, on the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16.8. Three possibilities are open: (a) the evangelist intended to close his Gospel at this place; or (b) the Gospel was never finished; or, as seems most probable, (c) the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription."

The NIV translation notes: "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20."

Theological implications

Very few doctrines of the mainline Christian denominations stand or fall on the support of the longer ending of Mark. The longer ending does identify Mary Magdalene as the woman out of whom Jesus had exorcised seven demons (but so does ), but Mary Magdalene's significance, and the practice of exorcism, are both supported by New Testament texts outside the debated passage.

The longer ending of Mark 16 is of considerable significance in Pentecostalism and other denominations:

  • Mark 16:16 is cited as evidence for the requirement of believer's baptism among churches of the Restoration Movement.
  • Mark 16:17 is specifically cited as Biblical support for some of these denominations' teachings concerning exorcism and spiritual warfare, and also in support of speaking in tongues.
  • The practice of snake handling and of drinking strychnine and other poisons, found in a few offshoots of Pentecostalism, find their Biblical support in Mark 16:18. These churches typically justify these practices as "confirming the word with signs following" (KJV), which references Mark 16:20. Other denominations believe that these texts indicate the power of the Holy Spirit given to the apostles, but do not believe that they are recommendations for worship.

The longer ending was declared canonical scripture by the Council of Trent. Today, however, Roman Catholics are not required to believe that Mark wrote this ending. The Catholic NAB translation includes the footnote: "[9-20] This passage, termed the Longer Ending to the Marcan gospel by comparison with a much briefer conclusion found in some less important manuscripts, has traditionally been accepted as a canonical part of the gospel and was defined as such by the Council of Trent. Early citations of it by the Fathers indicate that it was composed by the second century, although vocabulary and style indicate that it was written by someone other than Mark. It is a general resume of the material concerning the appearances of the risen Jesus, reflecting, in particular, traditions found in Luke 24 and John 20."

Arguments in support of Mark 16

See external links.

A summary of the manuscripts and versions that contain Mark 16:9-20 can be found in the apparatuses of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition and the fourth edition of United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament.

Summary of manuscript evidence

(Information taken from apparatus of Nestle-Aland 27th edition).

Omit Mark 16:9-20: Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, 20, 22, 304, Syriac Sinaiticus, a Sahidic manuscript, Armenian manuscripts; Eusebius, manuscripts according to Eusebius, manuscripts according to Jerome.

Add 16:9-20 in its form seen in the Textus Receptus: A, C, D, W, Codex Koridethi, family 13, 33, 2427, the majority text; the Vulgate and part of the Old Latin, Syriac Curetonian, Peshitta, Bohairic; the Latin text of Irenaeus, manuscripts according to Eusebius, manuscripts according to Jerome (add with obeli family 1 al).

Add shorter ending only: Codex Bobbiensis (Latin)

Add shorter and longer ending: L (019), Ψ (044), 0112, 099, 274 (margin) 579 lectionary 1602, Syriac Harclean margin, Sahidic manuscripts, Bohairic manuscripts, Ethiopic manuscripts.

Add 16:9-20 with "Freer Logion": Codex Washingtonianus (fourth/fifth century); manuscripts according to Jerome.

See also



  • Beavis, M. A., Mark's Audience, Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, 1989. ISBN 1–85075–215-X.
  • Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. Doubleday, 1997. ISBN 0–385–24767–2
  • Brown, Raymond E. et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall, 1990 ISBN 0–13–614934–0
  • Elliott, J. K., The Language and Style of the Gospel of Mark. An Edition of C. H. Turner's "Notes on Markan Usage" together with Other Comparable Studies, Leiden, Brill, 1993. ISBN 90–04–09767–8.
  • Gundry, R. H., Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross, Chapters 9–16, Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992. ISBN 0–8028–2911–2.
  • Kilgallen, John J. A Brief Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Paulist Press, 1989. ISBN 0–8091–3059–9
  • Mark 16 NIV Accessed 8 May 2007
  • Miller, Robert J. Editor, The Complete Gospels. Polebridge Press, 1994. ISBN 0–06–065587–9
  • Dake, Finis Jennings, Dake's Annotated Reference Bible Dake Publishing, 1996. ISBN-13: 9781558290716

External links

Chapters of the Bible
Preceded by:
Mark 15
Gospel of Mark
Followed by:
Luke 1

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