Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible?

Question: "Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible?"

Although the vast majority of Greek manuscripts contain Mark 16:9-20, the Gospel of Mark ends at verse 8 in some Greek texts, including two of the oldest and most respected manuscripts. This possibly suggests that as time went on scribes added this ending, either for the richness of its material or because of the abruptness of the ending at verse 8. There are three possible explanations for why Mark would have ended his Gospel at verse 8: (1) Mark wanted to intentionally end his Gospel in an open-ended fashion, (2) the Gospel of Mark was never finished, (3) the last “page” of the manuscript was lost prior to copying. It would seem preferable to choose option 1. The literary power of ending the Gospel of Mark so abruptly at verse 8 would result in the readers being drawn into the story. They must now ask, ‘What will I do with Jesus?’

The external prove strongly suggests these verses were not originally part of Mark’s gospel. While the majority of Greek manuscripts contain these verses, the earliest and most reliable do not. A shorter ending also existed, but it is not included in the text. Further, some that include the passage note that it was missing from older Greek manuscripts, while others have scribal marks indicating the passage was considered inauthentic. The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all Greek manuscripts available to them lacked vv. 9–20.

The textual prove from this passage would also seem to call into question Mark’s being the author. As noted before, the transition between vv. 8 and 9 is abrupt and awkward. The Greek word translated “now” that begins v. 9 would seem to link it to what preceded it. However, what follows doesn’t continue the story of the women referred to in v. 8, but describes Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene (see also John 20:11-18). And although she had just been mentioned 3 times (v. 1; 15:40, 47), v. 9 introduces Mary Magdalene as if for the first time, which would lead us to believe this section was added later. Further, if Mark wrote v. 9, it is strange that he would only now note that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. The angel spoke of Jesus’ appearing to His followers in Galilee, yet the appearances described in vv. 9–20 are all in the Jerusalem area. Finally, the presence in these verses of a significant number of Greek words used nowhere else in Mark indicate that Mark did not write them.

The business can go on an on as to whether Mark 16:9-20 was originally part of the Gospel of Mark. The important lesson we should learn from this is that vv. 9–20 should always be compared with the rest of Scripture, and no doctrines should be formulated based solely on them. In spite of all these considerations of the likely unreliability of this section, it is possible to be wrong on the issue, and thus, it is good to consider the meaning of this passage and leave it in the text.

Recommended Resource: Inspiration and Authority of the Bible By Benjamin Warfield.

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Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible?