Nov 17, 2013
Mark 16:9-20

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Before we examine the last 12 verses of Mark’s Gospel, it’s important we address a fundamental question.... Are these verses authentic to Mark’s Gospel? 

  • NKJV footnotes: “Verses 9-20 are bracketed in NU-Text as not original. They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.” 

  • ASV footnotes: “The two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some other authorities, omit from verse 9 to the end. Some other authorities have a different ending to the Gospel.” 

  • NIV footnotes: “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20.” 

  • ESV states that following: “Mark 16:9 some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; while others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8.”

Before we set out to answer this question, it’s important to discuss the underlying nature of the debate over a passage of Scripture like this.

Science of Textual Criticism involves “the ascertainment of the true form of a literary work, as originally composed and written down by its author.” In regards to the Bible, it is the field of inquiry that seeks to ascertain the original state of the New Testament text.  

The reality is that the original autographs of the New Testament (like the Gospel of Mark) do not exist, and only copies of the original documents have survived.

Sadly, this has led some to falsely conclude the original reading of the New Testament documents cannot be determined and are not trustworthy. 

The task of textual critics is important because, in examining textual variants among the many copies of the manuscripts we have in our possession, scholars are able to reconstruct the original reading of the text. 

Understand: Textual critics have been successful in demonstrating that currently circulating New Testaments do not differ substantially from the original in any way. 

The world’s foremost textual critics have confirmed that when all of the textual evidence is considered, though passages like Mark 16 still remain in question, the vast majority of discordant readings have been settled. 

One Scholar stated, “Through the Science of Textual Criticism one is brought to the firm conviction that we have in our possession the New Testament as God intended.” 

  • Sir Frederic Kenyon, longtime director and principal librarian at the British Museum,  stated: “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”

  • F.F. Bruce, longtime Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Manchester, England, remarked: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.”

  • J.W. McGarvey, declared by the London Times to be “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” wrote: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still.”

  • Eminent textual critics Westcott and Hort put the entire matter into perspective when they said: “The words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole of the New Testament.”

Two arguments that Mark 16:9-20 shouldn't be included:

1. External Evidence: The two earliest Greek translations the Sinaiticus (Cy-ne-at-i-cus) and Vaticanus (Vat-i-can-ius) (written from 350-370 AD) exclude these verses. 

It is because these two manuscripts carry great persuasive weight with most textual scholars, that many English translations note this reality in the Biblical margins.

5 Problems with this Position:

1. A vast majority of early church fathers accepted these verses.

  • Justin Martyr & Tatian (second century) referenced these verses. 

  • Irenaeus (died 202 AD) alludes to the verses in both Greek and Latin. In his “Against Heresies” he wrote, “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.” 

  • Tertullian (died 220 AD) referenced these verses in his writings: “On the Resurrection of the Flesh” and “A Treatise on the Soul.” 

  • Cyprian (died 258 AD) alluded to verses 17 and 18 in his dissertation “The Seventh Council of Carthage.”

  • Eusebius of Caesarea (339 AD) affirmed these verses were absent from several Greek manuscripts, but then discusses an alleged contradiction between Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:9 therefore demonstrating a recognition of the existence of these verses.

  • In his landmark revision of the Old Latin translation, the Vulgate, Jerome (420 AD) specifically chose to include these verses while deciding to exclude others that lacked sufficient manuscriptal verification. 

  • We have in our possession seven 2nd and 3rd century witnesses affirming the existence of Mark 16:9-20 that precede both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. 

One scholar wrote, “All told, the cumulative external evidence that documents the genuineness of vs 9-20, from Greek manuscripts, citations, and ancient versions, is expansive, ancient, diversified, and unsurpassed.” 

2. Though Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omit the passage, a third Greek text the Alexandrinus (which rivals in accuracy and age) includes these verses.

3. The Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are unreliable sources at best. 

The case can be made that these two text endured the passage of time for one basic reason: they weren’t worthy of consideration. 

Aside from Mark 16:9-20, the following portions of Scripture are missing from the Vaticanus: Genesis 1-46, Psalms 106-138, Matthew 16:2-3, the Pastoral Epistles, and everything after Hebrews 9:14.

The Sinaiticus was actually found in a garbage can in St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1844. The manuscript was so bad, the monks were going to burn it for heat. 

One scholar comments “The major characteristic of this manuscript is that it is a literary mess. There are mistakes, erasures, sentences written on top of other sentences plus many words are omitted. It contains nearly all the New Testament, but also the Apocryphal Books plus two other false books, “The Shepherd of Hermes” and “The Epistle of Barnabas.” Every page contains corrections and revisions by at least ten different people being made as late as the sixth or seventh century A.D. With so many revisions and corrections done to this manuscript, the text is made totally worthless.”  

4. The Vaticanus and Sinaiticus rarely agree with each other. 

There are 3000 places these two text disagree in the Gospels alone.

“In the gospels alone Vaticanus is found to omit at least 2877 words: to add 536, to substitute, 935; to transpose, 2098: to modify 1132 (in all 7578).... the corresponding figures for Sinaiticus being 3455 omitted, 839 added, 1114 substituted, 2299 transposed, 1265 modified (in all 8972). And be it remembered that the omissions, additions, substitutions, transpositions, and modifications, are by no means the same in both. It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two texts differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree."

Not only that, but one Greek scholar offered an observation concerning the Vaticanus that ought to give one pause: “After the subscription in B the remaining greater portion of the column and the whole of the next to the end of the page are left vacant. There is no other instance of this in the whole N.T. portion of the manuscript....” 

This unusual divergence from the scribe’s usual practice suggests that he knew the additional verses were missing and left a blank space for them to be added later.

5. If you remove the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the vast majority of Greek manuscripts include these verses.

One scholar concedes that “It is true that the longer ending of Mark 16:9-20 is found in 99 percent of the Greek manuscripts as well as the rest of the tradition, enjoying over a period of centuries practically an official ecclesiastical sanction as a genuine part of the gospel of Mark. Such longstanding and widespread acceptance cannot be treated lightly nor dismissed easily. It is, at least, possible that the prevalence of manuscript support for the verses is due to their genuineness.”

These verses are included in the text from the second century onwards in nearly all manuscripts, versions, and other authorities. 

2. Internal Evidence: Skeptics will point out that the vocabulary in these 12 verses are non-Markan and the connection with the rest of the text seem awkward at best. 

Textual scholar Bruce Metzger insists that “the presence of seventeen non-Markan words or words used in a non-Markan sense” prove that these verses were added to the text by someone other than Mark. 

3 Problems with this Position:

1. If you examine the 12 verses that precede Mark 16:9-20 (verses whose genuineness are above reproach) you will discover 17 words and phrases that are also not used previously by Mark!

Note: If you apply a similar test to the last 12 verses of Luke, again, verses whose genuineness is not in question, you will find 9 words that are not used by Luke elsewhere in his book—4 of which are not found anywhere else in the New Testament! 

One scholar concluded, “Indeed, the methodology that seeks to determine the genuineness of a text on the basis of new or unusual word use is a concocted, artificial, unscholarly, nonsensical, pretentious, and clearly discredited benchmark.”

2. A simple reading of the verses does not indicate a shift in subject matter. 

After pausing to relate specific details of the tomb incident involving three women (vs. 2-8), Mark returns in verse 9 to the subject he had first introduced in verse 1 - reiterating Mary Magdalene’s name for the reason that Jesus appeared to her first following His resurrection.

Note: A dramatic shift is not uncharacteristic of the Gospel writers.
Matthew reports the Jewish conspiracy of bribing the guards to say the disciples stole the body.... only to then shift abruptly to the eleven disciples receiving the great commission.
Luke has two abrupt shifts in his final chapter: (1). He reports the visits to the tomb by the women and Peter before suddenly shifting to the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus. (2). Then at the end of the Emmaus narrative Jesus suddenly appears in the midst of the whole group of disciples. 

3. If it is true that Mark’s Gospel ended at verse 8, then the book ends abruptly, leaving a general impression of incompleteness. 

Aside from all this it should also be pointed out that all scholars who have examined the subject (on both sides of the argument) concede that the truths presented in these verses are historically authentic since they contain no teaching of significance that is not taught elsewhere in Scripture. 

  • Christ’s post-resurrection appearance to Mary - Luke 8 and John 20. 

  • His appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus - Luke 24. 

  • His appearance to the eleven apostles - Luke 24 and John 20. 

  • The Great Commission - Matthew 28 and Luke 24. 

  • His ascension to heaven - Luke 24 and Acts 1:9. 

  • The promise of the signs to accompany the apostles’ activities - Matthew 28, noted in Hebrews, explained in greater detail by John, and demonstrated by the events of the book of Acts.

Even the critics recognize the antiquity of the verses.... critic Bruce Metzger, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, stated: “The evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel places these verses in such close proximity to the original writing of Mark so as to make the gap between them virtually indistinguishable.”

[Mark 16:9-11] “Now when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week (Sunday), He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they (continued to) mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”

Scene of Activity

Upon seeing the stone rolled away, Mary ran to notify Peter and John of this development. This means she was not present for the angelic pronouncement of the risen Lord.

The other ladies leave the tomb to tell the disciples (they would have an encounter of their own with the resurrected Christ), while Peter and John arrive to observe the empty tomb.

These two men leave to rendezvous the with other disciples when we pick up things in [John 20:11] “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 

“Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him,“Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).” 

“Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.”

Sadly, in response to the women’s testimony that they had encountered the resurrected Christ they refused to believe. Now we see a similar reaction to Mary Magdalene’s testimony.... “And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”

[Mark 16:12-13] “After that, Jesus appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.”

It seems likely Mark provides a flyby to what we find given in more details beginning in [Luke 24:13] “Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” 

“So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” 

“Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

“Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.”

Once again Mark is clear that even after hearing the testimony of the women, then Mary, now these two disciples “they did not believe them either.”

[Mark 16:14] “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” 

Before we examine this verse, the phrase “Later He appeared to the eleven” is important to our understanding. [John 20:19] “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week (it’s still resurrection day), when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them,“Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came (indicating only the 10 were present during His first appearance). The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 

“And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them (indicating this is the first time all 11 were were present and very likely coincides with Mark’s account). Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Though many have singled out Thomas as being the reason for Jesus’ rebuke, Mark tells us “He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”

Jesus “rebuked” - Greek “oneidizô” meaning to “cast in one’s teeth.” 

Their “unbelief” - Greek “apistia” meaning “unfaithfulness, weakness of faith.”

And “hardness of heart” - Greek “skiêrokardia” meaning “calloused heart.”

Q: Why and over what did Jesus deem their faith weak and their hearts hardened?

A: “They did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”

On 3 occasions (Thomas being the 4th) these men had been provided personal accounts from friends they loved and trusted that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead; and yet, they refused to believe this reliable eyewitness testimony. 

Jesus rebuked these men because they were setting a poor example for all those who would follow His ascension. Jesus nails down this point when He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

[Mark 16:15-16] “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” 

This exchange between Jesus and the disciples is known as the “Great Commission.” It’s also found in Matthew 28, Luke 24, and Acts 1.

Mark’s account begins with Jesus’ command to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature....” Note: The subject is open-ended.... Jesus is literally addressing this command to you in addition to the disciples!

“Go” - Greek word “poreuô” means “to lead over, transfer, to order one’s life.”

“And Preach” - Greek word “kêryssô” meaning to “herald, or proclaim.”

“The Gospel” - Literally, the “good tiding that salvation can be found in Christ’s work.” 

“To every creature” - Greek phrase “pas ktisis” meaning “the whole of creation.” 

Jesus is telling you to “transfer into the world and throughout the whole of creation a life that proclaims / heralds / and demonstrates the good work of Jesus.”

Why.... so that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

The emphasis of Jesus’ statement is that the result of our lives fulfilling the Great Commission is for people to “believe and be saved” as opposed to “not believing and facing condemnation.”

There are those who claim that this verse presents “baptism” as an essential work for salvation. And though I would submit that baptism is an essential work of salvation, I disagree with this reasoning for the following reasons:

  • The idea contradicts the notion that salvation is a matter of faith not works.

  • There are examples of people being saved without experiencing baptism.

  • I don’t believe this verse actually substantiates this concept.

The word “and” is the Greek conjunction “kai” which according to Vines can mean “even, even as, or even so.” As a conjunction it is usually a mere connective term meaning next in order of. It frequently, indicates an ascensive or climactic use, signifying the thing that is added being out of the ordinary, and producing a climax or anticlimax. The determination of this meaning depends on the context.

Since the emphasis of the statement centers around “belief” verses “unbelief” it seems likely “and is baptized” is of lesser importance since no one would claim it is of greater importance to salvation than belief. 

Baptism is an outward manifestation of the inward transformation of belief.

[Mark 16:17-18] “And these signs will follow those who believe (literally, will distinguish those who believe): In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Jesus is clear that supernatural gifts and protection will follow those who set out to carry the Gospel into the world. And while it’s clear many of these things are demonstrated in the book of Acts, it would be un-Biblical to limit them to only the first century church.

  • If the great commission was for all saints, then these signs are equally applicable.

That said.... it’s inappropriate hermeneutics for some to say these things were meant to be signs that would demonstrate ones faith. As David Guzik aptly stated, “Jesus never intended drinking poison or handling snakes to be a specific test or measure of faith.”

[Mark 16:19-20] “So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”

Three Observations from these last two verses:

It was essential for Jesus to ascend into heaven. 

  • Human DNA sat down at the right hand of God indicating God’s approval of Jesus’ work of redemption for the rest of mankind (right hand was a place of honor).

  • Imagine the limitations of Jesus remaining on earth in bodily form?

The work of the church is the work of the Lord through the Church.

Miracles are designed to confirm the Word not validate faith.