57. How did Mark end his Gospel? (Mk.16:9-20)

57. How did Mark end his Gospel? (Mk.16:9-20)

Old Sepia Photo, Courtesy Wikipedia

Many years ago an acquaintance bought a very old photographic business and acquired with it a collection of old sepia negatives on glass. One of these attracted his attention. Not only was the composition and background completely different from all the other negatives, but a strange, slightly out of focus line ran from top right to bottom left over the entire photograph. From old documents that accompanied his acquisition he learned that a photographer from Europe visited this business in the old days. This man apparently had a camera with a cracked lens. Our friend could not identify this visitor, nor could he ascertain whether this man had to stand in for this photo session. What was clear, is that this negative had been part of the collection from the beginning. Our friend decided to keep this negative as part of the collection though it was clearly not the work of the original photographer. This reminded me of the interesting problem we have concerning the end of Mark.
We are used to the end of Mark as it is printed in our Bibles. But the last twelve verses of Chapter 16 were most certainly not written by Mark himself. How he really ended his gospel, no one can tell for certain. In the available manuscripts three endings (with variations) are found.
1) Ending after verse 8
2) The short ending with variations: “But they reported to Peter and those with him about what they had been told. And thereafter Jesus himself sent them out, from the East to the West to declare the gospel of the indestructible message of the everlasting salvation. Amen” (My candid translation)
3) The long ending, also with variations. Verses 9-20, as it is in our Bibles. In at least seven manuscripts as well as family one, (with more than five manuscripts) the long ending is accompanied with some indication that its authenticity is in doubt. Several Church Fathers who know this ending, also indicate that they doubt it whether Mark himself had written these words.

The three endings are given in the table below.

Mark 16:9-20

Possibilities: Ending with verse 8: Short ending: Verses.9-20:
Witness: Greek: Translations: Church Fathers: Greek: Translations: Greek: Translations: Church Fathers:
101-200 Diatessaron Justin
201-300 Sahidic Clement, Origen, Ammonius Sahidic Sahidic Irenaeus, Tertullian
301-400 , B Syriac Eusebius Bohairic W Vulgate, Syriac, Bohairic, Fayyumic, Gothic Apostolic Constitutions Aphraates, Didymus
401-500 Armenian Jerome, Victor-Antioch Old Latin Ethiopic A, C, D 3 Old Latin 2 Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic
501-600 0112
601-700 1 Uncial manuscript Syriac 4 Old Latin Syriac
701-800 L, Ψ
801-900 Georgian K, X, Δ, Θ, Π
901-1000 Byzantine Lectionary Georgian Georgian
1001-1600 1 Minuscule 6 Byzantine Lectionaries Euthymius 1 Minuscule Byzantine Lectionary f13 20 Minuscules Old Latin

Let us consider the facts:

1.) Ending with verse 8:
According to the two most important witnesses of the New Testament, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, supported by a Sahidic (Egypt), Syrian and Armenian (Russia) translations, as well as six Church Fathers Mark ended his gospel here, all before the year 500 A.D. There are also later manuscripts in accordance. Surely very strong grounds. This is the most obvious ending of Mark himself.

2.) The short ending:
One Old Latin manuscript (±400 A.D.) has only the short ending. Four uncial Greek manuscripts (±500-800 A.D.) as well as a later minuscule and a Byzantian lectionary do have the short ending, but it is followed by the verses 9-20. In five translations (±200-700 A.D.) the short ending was added at a later stage in the margin. These indications are not strong enough to let us consider this ending authentic to Mark.

3.) The long ending, verses 9-20.
With nine Greek Uncial manuscripts, (±350-900 A.D.) and most of the minuscule manuscripts (±900-1550 A.D.) as well as at least 19 manuscripts of translations, this ending gives strong indication that it had been part of the Gospel from a very early date. Yet many of these witnesses have an indication that the authenticity of this part is in doubt.
Tatian who compiled a single narrative from all four Gospels, the Diatessaron (±170 A.D.) included this long ending. Also Justin who was martyred in 165 A.D. new this ending.
A cautious reader should clearly note that the vocabulary, syntax as well as style of writing in verses 9-20 drastically differ from the rest of Mark. It is obviously not the work of Mark himself. But what should one do with something that had most probably been part of the Gospel, though clearly not been written by Mark himself?
Codex Washington, (W*) dated ± 350 A.D. is a manuscript that had probably been compiled from portions of many different manuscripts is the oldest Greek witness of the long ending.

What we accept as canon and what not, is strongly in the forefront with this scripture.
Nowhere did God Himself declare that certain documents should be deemed canon (directive for our spiritual life) and others not. The only indication of God’s direct involvement in the writing of the New Testament is the commissioning of John to write down the Revelation, including the warning at the end should anybody tamper with the content of that document.
During the first centuries, the believers were confronted by masses of documents containing some spiritual content, some even written in the name of an apostle! As a result they had to decide, after serious studying of the documents and prayer which documents should be deemed canon and which not. To them the author being an apostle or Paul was of utmost importance. At the Synod of Hippo (393 A.D.) the first official resolution concerning the books to be deemed canon had been taken. Whether the long ending had been part of Mark at that time, no one can say.
In fact, the long ending does not add any new knowledge or understanding to our faith. Rather it is a compilation of facts known in other Gospels, or even taken from the Acts.
It is obvious that some important manuscripts did not include this ending, and many that did include it, give clear indication that its authenticity is in doubt. According to intrinsic criteria, it is most definitely not the work of Mark. Should we include it in the Gospel of Mark, like the old sepia negative, with an explanatory note, or should we rather discard it as not authentic?

Please take part in the interesting riddle of determining the authentic Word of God for our children and generations to come by giving your opinion. I will gladly forward it to the Bible Societies.

God Bless!

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
This entry was posted in External Criteria, Internal Criteria, Intrinsic Criteria. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 57. How did Mark end his Gospel? (Mk.16:9-20)

  1. Pingback: 26. Evaluation of Variant Readings. | Bible differences

  2. Pingback: 82 Tradition of men vs. the Word of God. | Bible differences

  3. Jim Kerr says:

    My opinion on this has oscillated over the years between leaving the traditional ending in after some kind of text break and notation (as most versions do currently) and leaving it in without indication. Nowadays, however, knowing how spurious the post-gar material is, and seeing that fewer and fewer people are using the KJV as their memory text, I think the church would be better served by ending the text at v. 8 with no indication at all. The only people who will be annoyed are the KJV-only types, and their numbers are contracting every year. It is time to help the traditional ending disappear from public consciousness, as has been done with all of the other scribal and editorial interpolations translated from the TR. We know it doesn’t belong in the text, so it shouldn’t.

    God bless,

    FYI: Herman, instead of English, you’ve got the Afrikaans translation of the post-v. 14 material in your “But” subsection. It was fun for me to marry the Afrikaans version up with the one in Metzger, but I’m sure you meant to return and put up the English one.

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