The longer ending of Mark

The common understanding is that Mark 16:9-20 was not part of the original manuscript.
It is not part of the oldest manuscripts (Vaticanus c. AD 300-325, Sinaiticus c. AD 330-360, and other manuscripts of the Alexandrian text type). It only turns up in the much later Byzantine text type in the 5th century. So most scholars (virtually everyone except KJV-onlyists) reject the authenticity.

Now this:

"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.”"

Irenaeus of Lyons. (1868–1869). The Writings of Irenæus. (A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, A. Roberts & W. H. Rambaut) (Vol. 1, p. 287). Edinburgh; London; Dublin: T. & T. Clark; Hamilton & Co.; John Robertson & Co.

This is a quote of Mark 16:19, and must have been written prior to AD 202, the year that Irenaeus was martyred.

I'm literally scratching my head right now, wondering whether I should change my mind on the authenticity of the passage…

What do you think: authentic or not?


  • GaoLuGaoLu Posts: 1,367

    Authentic with caveats:

    "Although Mark 16:9–20 does not appear in the earliest and best manuscripts of the Gospel, those verses go back to the 2nd century and show similarities to the endings of Matthew, Luke, and John. Today’s church should consider the passage as part of the canon because it agrees with the other Gospels and may have been composed to complete Mark for inclusion into a four-Gospel collection."

    Bridges, Carl B. “The Canonical Status of the Longer Ending of Mark.” Stone-Campbell Journal 2006, Vol. 9 (2), pp: 231–242. ISSN: 1097–6566

    Pillar has a good article:


  • C McC Mc Posts: 3,626

    I hope this background to Mark will help you to appreciate the Book of Mark. It's one of the first four books in the NT called the Gospels. The four authors take entirely different approaches in telling their story but share much overlapping information. The book of Mark begins his Gospel when Jesus is already a grown man and just beginning His public ministry. It was written in approximately 70 CE, is considered the earliest of the four Gospels (see Martin).

    It measured up to the canon or standard as the other twenty-six books of the NT. The four basic tests they used to determine whether to include a writing. The criteria were:

    • (1) The book should be written by an apostle or by a person with such a close relationship with the early church leaders that the book would be of an apostolic caliber.
    • (2) The book was to give clear evidence that it was divinely inspired.
    • (3) The book was to be universally accepted by the church.
    • (4) The contents of the book were to be in harmony with other scripture and of a high spiritual nature.

    The technical term “gospel” is applied to the book of Mark. Mark opens his text with a self-description that he is giving “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1). Mark’s usage of the word εὐαγγέλιον became a way to describe works similar to his.

    The Third Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. seems to have agreed that the 27 books of the New Testament we have today measured up for use in the Church.

    • "It is a remarkable fact that no early Church Council selected the books that should constitute the New Testament Canon. The books that we now have crushed out all rivals, not by any adventitious authority, but by their own weight and worth" (See Thiessen).

    About the Writer of Mark:

    Mark was not an eyewitness to the events he describes. It is generally believed that he narrates the life of Christ as he heard it from the lips of the apostle Peter.

    The background information concerning the book of Mark is quite helpful. The "Introduction" traces the history of the use of the Gospel of Mark within the Christian church. Markan sources and the messianic secret are also touched upon.

    1. The author of Mark was John Mark, the student of Peter and the fellow- traveler of Paul.
    2. Information in the NT relating to John Mark is examined (See Kirsopp Lake and H. J. Cadbury).
    3. John Mark had been trained by Peter to be a "minister of the Word" (Luke 1:2), i.e., "one who had been trained to memorize and pass on a particular body of knowledge" (p. 28). Mark functioned in this role as he accompanied Paul on his first missionary tour (Acts 13:5).
    4. Mark's responsibility to recite and even interpret Jesus' words and deeds.
    5. John Mark left Paul because he did not originally anticipate a ministry to the Gentiles.
    6. Mark felt loyalty to Peter, and possibly also to the "circumcision party," he returned to Jerusalem to report how Paul was accepting Gentiles into the church without requiring circumcision.
    7. Mark does not make it clear that there is a break in time between verse 14 and Mark 16:15-18 (In Galilee). Because of the parallel record in Matthew, we take it that this instruction was given in Galilee in connection with the appointment Jesus had made with His disciples prior to the closing days of Passion Week.

    The ascension, Mark 16:19-20, is one of the pillars to the bridge of salvation, and thus absolutely essential. Matthew does not mention the ascension. Mark mentions it briefly. But Luke deals with it at some length, especially in the book of Acts. The ascension took place somewhere near Bethany on the other side of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem.

    Swartley's book, **Mark: The Way for All Nations is a good source. In it, you will find**:

    1. **Appendix I ** -- lists quotations from the early church concerning Mark. Some sources quoted include Papias, the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, Irenaeus, the Muratorian Canon, Clement of Alexandria, etc.
    2. Appendix II -- contains helpful suggestions for the study and interpretation of the Bible.

    As for your concerns, stay tuned for part-2... CM


    -- Martin, Dale B. 2006. Sex and the single savior: Gender and sexuality in biblical interpretation. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, pg 131.
    -- Henry Thiessen. Introduction to the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (1958)
    -- Swartley, Willard M. Mark: The Way for All Nations. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1981. 243 pp.
    -- Kirsopp Lake. The Beginnings of Christianity: Part 1; The Acts of the Apostles (1920-1923). In the study of Christianity's origins and in New Testament textual criticism, Lake was a pioneer. --The Text of the New Testament (1900).
    -- Kirsopp Lake. "The Caesarean text of the Gospel of Mark," [with Robert P. Blake and Silva New] Harvard Theological Review 21 (1928): 207-404.
    -- H. J. Cadbury.
    --Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts. New York: Harpers,

  • C McC Mc Posts: 3,626


    Textual Criticism. This is the study of the manuscripts of the Bible. Textual criticism is necessary because no originals exist and the copies differ from each other. It attempts to explain the variations and arrives (as close as possible) to the original wording of the autographs [original handwritten manuscripts in the Hebrew and Greek and ancient versions] of the Old and New Testaments. It is often called “lower criticism.” It wouldn't hurt to review the basic tenets of textual criticism (logical guidelines for determining the original reading of a text when variants exist):

    1. The most awkward or grammatically unusual text is probably the original
    2. The shortest text is probably the original.
    3. The older text is given more weight because of its historical proximity to the original, everything else being equal.
    4. MSS that are geographically diverse usually has the original reading.
    5. doctrinally weaker texts, especially those relating to major theological discussions of the period of a manuscript.
    6. Changes, like the Trinity in I John 5:7-8, are to be preferred.
    7. The text that can best explain the origin of the other variants.
    8. Two quotes that help show the balance in these troubling variants.

    Greenlee made an interesting statement on this topic when he said:

    • “No Christian doctrine hangs upon a debatable text; and the student of the NT must beware of wanting his text to be more orthodox or doctrinally stronger than is the inspired original.”

    Two lengthy passages are not found in the earliest manuscripts:

    • One is the closing verses of Mark (16:9–20).
    • The other is the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53–8:11).

    Most modern versions include these passages but indicate their omissions in the ancient manuscripts in various ways. For example, the NIV has a bold black line after Mark 16:8 with a note:

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

    Because we do not have the original autographs, we do not know whether these stories were lost in the process of transmission or whether they were later additions of oral reports.

    Whatever the case, their omission in the ancient texts does not warrant the charge that modern versions have changed God’s Word.

    Nothing is added that has not already been revealed and affirmed nor would anything be missing if one stops reading at verses 9 of Mark 16. Take a closer look with me in Part-3. CM


    -- J. Harold Greenlee. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, pg. 68.


  • JanJan Posts: 280

    Thanks @C_M_ ! Very helpful.
    As a layman, I'm still a bit confused.

    A quote in a patristic text that pre dates the split into the various textual traditions (Alexandrian, Byzantine, Western) seems to me evidence enough to the view that it's part of Scripture. It means that it's older than the oldest manuscript that we have.

    The same thing seems to have happened to Acts 8:37, which was quoted by both Irenaeus and Cyprian.

    Don't worry, I'm far from turning into a KJV-onlyist.
    I'm just wondering whether textual criticism has overreacted to silly KJV-onlyist claims, and developed a too strong bias toward the Alexandrian text type.

  • C McC Mc Posts: 3,626

    @Jan said:
    Thanks @C_M_ ! Very helpful.

    You're welcome.

    As a layman, I'm still a bit confused. A quote in a patristic text that pre dates the split into the various textual traditions (Alexandrian, Byzantine, Western) seems to me evidence enough to the view that it's part of Scripture. It means that it's older than the oldest manuscript that we have.

    The same thing seems to have happened to Acts 8:37, which was quoted by both Irenaeus and Cyprian.

    The Bible says–Acts 8:37: one comes to Christ–and... “Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized].”

    _After you repent of sin?
    _You accept by faith
    –you believe...
    –Christ died for you
    –Christ will forgive you
    –Christ will come into your life, change you

    Bible says
    –you repent
    –you believe–and...

    Don't worry, I'm far from turning into a KJV-onlyist.

    You don't appear to be an extremist, but a lover of truth.

    I'm just wondering whether textual criticism has overreacted to silly KJV-onlyist claims, and developed a too strong bias toward the Alexandrian text type.

    Only some people, not the art, "overreacted".

    # 2- B [Choosing a Bible Version]

    There are three basic elements in a Bible translation, ye, four. There are by:

    1. TEXT
    2. ACCURACY in Translation
    3. Choosing A Translation is BEAUTY
    4. Clarity of THOUGHT and STYLE

    I will resist the temptation of giving more information than asked, and share insights only on the first one, which includes Acts 8:37:

    1. The TEXT
    • By this we mean the Hebrew and the Greek text from which the translation is made. Most modern translations are based on relatively good original texts. This does not mean that they will always agree. There will always be some variations because slight differences appear in different Hebrew and Greek texts.

    • Depending on which original text the translator uses, some translations either omit or include such passages as: Matthew 16:2, 3; Mark 16:9-20; Luke 22:19, 20; John 7:53 to 8:11; 1 John 5:7, 8; or single verses as: Matthew 6:13; 17:21; 18:11; 21:44; Mark 9:44, 46; Luke 9:56; Acts 8:37; Romans 16:24.

    • Occasionally the choice of an original text will affect the wording of a phrase. For example, in Revelation 22:14 one translation may have, "who wash their robes" while another reads, "that do his commandments." Similar substitutions occur in Mark 1:41 ("in warm indignation" for "moved with compassion") and in John 19:29 ("javelin" for "hyssop").

    • But although there are occasional or variations in the original Hebrew and Greek which affect the translation, the whole body of Scripture is solid and sure. It is important for a modern version to be translated from a good text, that is, one derived from the earliest and best manuscripts.

    Truth found truth shared. I hope this helps as we enjoy the Word...CM

    Oops, I haven't forgotten Part-3, that nothing is added that has not already been revealed and affirmed nor would anything be missing if one stops reading at verses 9 of Mark 16. There is an assurance of truth that with or without the longer reading of Mark 16. CM

  • C McC Mc Posts: 3,626

    I hope this adds to our body of knowledge.

    Assuming that the ending of Mark (16:9-20) and the passage about the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) was not part of the autographs, it would still be meaningful. However, if one accepts these passages as part of the original text (they appear in some 99% of Greek manuscripts), the purity of the New Testament manuscripts stands firm.

    Since some manuscripts omit or place in brackets the texts of John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20, textual scholars, whether liberal or conservative, disagree over whether or not these are part of the apostolic autographs. Their disagreements relate to the rules they apply in their work of textual analysis. Regardless, it can be said with a degree certainty:

    • "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 sanction as a genuine part of the gospel of Mark. But in Codex Vaticanus (B) as well as in Codex Sinaiticus the gospel of Mark ends at Mark 16:8, as it did also in numerous other manuscripts according to the statements of Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome".

    Though variations may allow us to speak only of a high degree of the relative accuracy of the texts, the differences are so minor that no viable variant affects any major Christian doctrine. Solid grounds. CM


    • -- Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987], p. 287).
      • -- For a discussion of some rules of textual criticism, and how they are applied to some selected texts of the New Testament, see Especially, pp. 275-311.
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