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Mark 16

Mark 16
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Image of page from the 7th century Book of Durrow, from The Gospel of Mark. Trinity College Dublin
Book Gospel of Mark
Bible part New Testament
Order in the Bible part 2
Category Gospel

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 the Resurrection of Jesus (16:1-6).

The two oldest manuscripts of Mark 16 (from the 300's) then conclude with verse 8,[1] which ends with the women fleeing from the empty tomb, and saying "nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." Many scholars take 16:8 as the original ending and believe the longer ending (16:9-20) was written later by someone else as a summary of Jesus' resurrection appearances and several miracles performed by Christians. In this 12-verse passage, the author refers to Jesus' appearances to Mary Magdalene, two disciples, and then the Eleven (the Twelve Apostles minus Judas). The text concludes with the Great Commission, declaring that believers that have been baptized will be saved while nonbelievers will be condemned, and pictures Jesus taken to Heaven and sitting at the Right Hand of God.[2]

The majority of scholars believe that verses 9-20 were not part of the original text, and were an addition by later Christians.[2] Textual critics have identified two distinct endings—the "Longer Ending" (vv. 9-20) and the "Shorter Ending," which appear together in six Greek manuscripts, and in dozens of Ethiopic copies. The "Shorter Ending," with slight variations, runs as follows: "But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself (appeared to them and) sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation."

In one Latin manuscript from c. 430, the "Shorter Ending" appears without the "Longer Ending." In this Latin copy (Codex Bobbiensis, "k"), the text of Mark 16 is anomalous: it contains an interpolation between 16:3 and 16:4 which appears to present Christ's ascension occurring at that point; it omits the last part of 16:8, and it contains some strange errors in its presentation of the "Shorter Ending." Other irregularities in Codex Bobbiensis lead to the conclusion that it was produced by a copyist (probably in Egypt) who was unfamiliar with the material he was copying.

Because of patristic evidence from the late 100's for the existence of copies of Mark with 16:9-20, it is contended by a majority of scholars that this passage must have been written and attached no later than the early 2nd century.[3] Scholars are divided on the question of whether the "Longer Ending" was created deliberately to finish the Gospel of Mark (as contended by James Kelhoffer) or if it began its existence as a freestanding text which was used to "patch" the otherwise abruptly ending text of Mark. Its failure to smoothly pick up the narrative from the scene at the end of 16:8 is a point in favor of the latter option. A second issue is whether Mark intended to stop writing at the end of 16:8 or not; the references to a future meeting in Galilee between Jesus and the disciples (in Mark 14:28 and 16:7) suggest that Mark intended to write beyond 16:8.[3]

The Council of Trent, reacting to Protestant criticism, defined the Canon of Trent which is the Roman Catholic biblical canon. "Decretum de Canonicis Scripturis," issued in 1546 at the fourth session of the Council, affirms that Jesus commanded that the gospel was to be preached by His apostles to every creature — a statement clearly based on Mark 16:15. The decree proceeded to affirm, after listing the books of the Bible according to the Roman Catholic canon, that "If anyone receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition, and knowingly and deliberately condemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema." Since Mark 16:9-20 is part of the Gospel of Mark in the Vulgate, and the passage has been routinely read in the churches since ancient times (as demonstrated by its use by Ambrose, Augustine, Peter Chrysologus, Severus of Antioch, Leo, etc.), the Council's decree affirms the canonical status of the passage. This passage was also used by Protestants during the Protestant Reformation; Martin Luther used Mark 16:16 as the basis for a doctrine in his Shorter Catechism. Mark 16:9-20 was included in the Rheims New Testament, and in the King James Bible and other influential translations. In most modern-day translations based primarily on the Alexandrian Text, it is included but is accompanied by brackets or by special notes, or both.


  • The empty tomb 1
  • Significance of ending at verse 8 2
  • Jesus' appearances and his ascension into Heaven 3
  • Longer ending of Mark 4
    • Versions 4.1
    • Hypotheses about the ending 4.2
    • Internal evidence 4.3
    • Sinaiticus and Vaticanus 4.4
    • Scholarly opinions 4.5
    • Scholarly conclusions 4.6
    • Theological implications 4.7
    • Summary of manuscript evidence 4.8
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

The empty tomb

The Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre (The traditional location of Jesus' tomb) with the dome of the rotunda visible above.
The Stone of the Anointing, believed to be the place where Jesus' body was prepared for burial.

Mark says the Sabbath is now over and Mary Magdalene, another Mary, the mother of James,[4] and Salome (all also 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 expected to find a dead Jesus.[5] Instead, 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]

The white robe might be a sign that the young man is a messenger from God.[7] 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.[8] Jesus had predicted his resurrection and returning to Galilee during the Last Supper in Mark.[9] Mark uses the passive verb form ēgerthē—translated "he was raised," indicating God raised him from the dead,[10] rather than "he is risen" translated in the NIV.[11]

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.[7]

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.

Significance of ending at verse 8

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 (Second Coming).[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] Richard Burridge argues that, in keeping with Mark's picture of discipleship, the question of whether it all comes right in the end is left open:

Mark's story of Jesus becomes the story of his followers, and their story becomes the story of the readers. Whether they will follow or desert, believe or misunderstand, see him in Galilee or remain staring blindly into an empty tomb, depends on us.[17]

Burridge goes on to compare the ending of Mark to its beginning:

Mark's narrative as we have it now ends as abruptly as it began. There was no introduction or background to Jesus' arrival, and none for his departure. No one knew where he came from; no one knows where he has gone; and not many understood him when he was here.[18]

Jesus' appearances and his ascension into Heaven

"The Ascension of Our Lord," by John LaFarge (1835–1910)
Ascension Rock on the Mount of Olives, claimed to bear the imprint of Jesus' right foot.

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. 16:8) what she saw, but no one believes her. Then Jesus appears "in a different form" to two unnamed disciples. They, too, are disbelieved when they tell what they saw. Jesus then appears at dinner to all the remaining eleven Apostles. He rebukes them for not believing the earlier reports of his resurrection and 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." They will also be able to handle snakes, 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.[19] 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.[20]

According to verse 19, Jesus then is taken up into heaven where, Mark claims, he sits at the right hand of God. 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" which is known as the Dispersion of the Apostles. Several signs from God accompanied their preaching. Where these things happened is not stated, but one could presume, from Mark 16:7, that they took place in Galilee. Luke-Acts, however, has this happening in Jerusalem.

Longer ending of Mark

The earliest clear evidence for Mark 16:9-20 as part of the Gospel of Mark is in Chapter XLV First Apology of Justin Martyr (c. 160). In a passage in which Justin treats Psalm 110 as a Messianic prophecy, he states that Ps. 110:2 was fulfilled when Jesus' disciples, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere. His verbiage is remarkably similar to the wording of Mk. 16:20 and is consistent with Justin's use of a Synoptics-Harmony in which Mark 16:20 was blended with Lk. 24:53. Justin's student Tatian (c. 172), incorporated almost all of Mark 16:9-20 into his Diatessaron, a blended narrative consisting of material from all four canonical Gospels. And Irenaeus (c. 184), in Against Heresies 3:10.6, explicitly cited Mark 16:19, stating that he was quoting from near the end of Mark's account. This patristic evidence is over a century older than the earliest manuscript of Mark 16. Writers in the 200's such as Hippolytus and the anonymous author of De Rebaptismate also used the "Longer Ending." In 305, the pagan writer Hierocles used Mark 16:18 in a jibe against Christians, probably recycling material written by Porphyry (270).

It is sometimes stated that Clement of Alexandria and Origen "show no knowledge" of these verses. However, Clement used only about two dozen verses from Mark — almost all from chapter 10 — in his major writings, and Origen, in his major extant works, failed to use over 30 other 12-verse sections of Mark. Such casual non-use of a passage actually says very little, if anything, about the contents of the manuscripts used by these two writers.

But Theodore of Mopsuestia seems to have no knowledge of the longer ending, and considering he died in the first half of the fifth century, his testimony is interesting. He says: "All the evangelists narrated to us His resurrection from the dead... The blessed Luke, however, who is also the writer of a Gospel, added that He ascended into heaven so that we should know where He is after His resurrection."(Commentary on Nicene Creed)

The last twelve verses, 16:9–20, are not present in two 4th-century manuscripts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the earliest complete manuscripts of Mark. (Papyrus 45 is the oldest extant manuscript that contains text from Mark, but it has no text from chapter 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 they are each due to incidental factors in the production of the codex: a change to the column-format, a change of scribes, and the conclusion of the Old Testament portion of the text. The blank column between Mark 16:8 and the beginning of Luke, however, is deliberately placed. 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), but the scholars making this suggestion (such as Daniel Wallace) have not explained why any scribe would imagine that the normal blank space at the end of a Gospels-codex would be worth perpetuating in a new copy in which the Gospels were arranged in a different order.

Sinaiticus ends with 16:8 and euangelion kata Markon, "the gospel according to Mark," on a page which is part of a replacement-sheet (consisting of four pages) on which the text of Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 was written by the proof-reader of the manuscript. The text on these four pages was not written by the copyist who wrote the text on the surrounding pages; the pages containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 written by that copyist were removed, and are not extant. (This is unfortunately not mentioned by Metzger; nor is it indicated in the UBS or Nestle-Aland textual apparatus. Nor do they mention Vaticanus' blank column.) On the replacement-pages, the copyist's rate of letters per column varies erratically. At first he wrote normally, but then he used compact lettering until Mark 15:19. At that point, the lettering begins to be written in stretched-out lettering, until the end of Mark 16:8 in column 10. The text of Luke 1:1-56, beginning at the top of column 11, is written in very compact lettering. This indicates that the copyist who made these four replacement-pages in Sinaiticus began by writing the text from Luke (beginning at the top of the 11th column) and then went back to add the text from Mark. After accidentally omitting several lines in 15:47-16:1, he had to stretch his lettering to avoid leaving a blank column between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1. Although the copyist, as proofreader, must have seen other blank columns in the codex and considered them unobjectionable, he apparently considered it worthwhile to avoid allowing a blank column to appear between the end of Mark and the beginning of Luke. When this is considered alongside the uniquely emphatic decorative design which follows Mark 16:8 in Sinaiticus, it seems clear that the copyist who made Sinaiticus' replacement-pages was aware of verses 9-20, and desired to prevent the possibility of their inclusion. The copyist who made this replacement-page in Codex Sinaiticus was probably one of the scribes who helped produce Codex Vaticanus.

Another manuscript, minuscule 304 (12th century) omits the last twelve verses.[21] New examinations of 304 are warranted, especially considering that it has not been shown that 304 contains a subscription, or closing-title, after 16:8, although such a feature was persistently added at the end of a book by copyists in all eras. The absence of a colophon after 16:8 in 304 suggests that 304's copyist did not regard that as the end of the book.

Codex Washingtonianus (late 4th, early 5th 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.'"[22]

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. Codex L adds the "shorter ending" after 16:8 and follows it with vv. 9–20.

The group of manuscripts known as "Family K1" has text of Mark 16:9-10 without numbered κεφαλαια (chapters) at the margin and their τιτλοι (titles) at the top (or the foot).[23]

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.[24]


Version Text
Mark 16:8[25] (undisputed text) And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Longer ending 16:9–14[26] Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Freer Logion (between 16:14 and 16:15)[27] 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 dominated by the spirits.[28] Therefore, reveal your righteousness now. — thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ responded to them, The limit of the years of Satan's power is completed, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who sinned I was handed over to death, that they might return to the truth and no longer sin, in order that they might inherit the spiritual and incorruptible heavenly glory of righteousness.
Longer ending 16:15–20[26] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Shorter ending[27] And they reported all the instructions briefly to Peter's companions. Afterwards Jesus himself, through them, sent forth from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen. (Greek text[29])

Hypotheses about the ending

Hypotheses on how to explain the textual variations include:

  • Mark intentionally ended his Gospel at 16:8, and someone else (later in the transmission-process) composed the "Longer Ending" as a conclusion to what was interpreted to be a too-abrupt account.
  • Mark did not intend to end at 16:8, but was somehow prevented from finishing (perhaps by his own death or sudden departure from Rome), whereupon another person finished the work (still in the production-stage, before it was released for church-use) by attaching material from a short Marcan composition about Jesus' post-resurrection appearances.
  • Mark wrote an ending which was accidentally lost (perhaps as the last part of a scroll which was not rewound, or as the outermost page of a codex which became detached from the other pages), and someone in the 100's composed the "Longer Ending" as a sort of patch, relying on parallel-passages from the other canonical Gospels.
  • Verses 16:9–20 were written by Mark and were omitted or lost from Sinaiticus and Vaticanus for one reason or another, perhaps accidentally, perhaps intentionally. (Possibly a scribe regarded John 21 as a better sequel to Mark's account, and considered the "Longer Ending" superfluous.)
  • Mark wrote an ending, but it was suppressed and replaced with 16:9–20, which are a pastiche of parallel passages from the other canonical Gospels.

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 center on 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.[30] 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 numbers of once-used words.[31]

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. However, if the Gospel of Mark intentionally concluded with this word, it would be the only narrative in antiquity to do so.

Robert Gundry mentions that only about 10% of Mark's γαρ clauses (6 out of 66) conclude pericopes.[32] Thus he infers 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.[33]

Sinaiticus and Vaticanus

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.[34] 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.[35]

However, that is unlikely, since there are about 3,036 differences between the Gospels of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and in particular the text of Sinaiticus is of the so-called Western text form in John 1:1 through 8:38 while Vaticanus is not. Also against the theory that Eusebius directed the copying of both manuscripts is the fact that neither Vaticanus nor Sinaiticus contains Mark 15:28, which Eusebius accepted and included in his Canon-tables,[36] and Vaticanus and Sinaiticus both include a reading at Matthew 27:49 about which Eusebius seems to have been completely unaware. Finally, there is a significant relationship between Codex Vaticanus and papyrus P75, indicating that the two bear a remarkable relationship to one another—one that is not shared by Codex Sinaiticus. P75 is much older than either, having been copied prior to the birth of Eusebius.[37] Therefore, both manuscripts were not transcribed from the same exemplar and were not associated with Eusebius. The evidence presented by Skeat sufficiently shows that the two codices were made at the same place, and that the place in question was Caesarea, and that they almost certainly shared a copyist, but the differences between the manuscripts can be better explained by other theories.

Scholarly opinions

Currently a majority of scholars agree that verses 9–20 were not part of the original text of Mark but represent a very early addition.[38]

Explaining his own belief as to why the verses were added, text critic and author Bart D. Ehrman says:

Jesus does rise from the dead in Mark's Gospel. The women go to the tomb, the tomb is empty and there is a man there who tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that they are to go tell the disciples that this has happened. But then the Gospel ends in Codex Sinaiticus and other manuscripts by saying the women fled from the tomb and didn't say anything to anyone because they were afraid, period. That's where the Gospel ends. So nobody finds out about it, the disciples don't learn about it, the disciples never see Jesus after the resurrection, that's the end of the story. But later scribes couldn't handle this abrupt ending and they added the 12 verses people find in the King James Bible or other Bibles in which Jesus does appear to his disciples.[39]

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,[40] even if verses 9–20 were not written by the original author of the Gospel of Mark.

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 books of the New Testament. Some of the elements that Mark 16:9–20 has in common with other passages of Scripture are listed here:

Jesus' reference to drinking poison (16:18) does not correspond to a New Testament source, but that miraculous power did appear in Christian literature from the 2nd century CE on.[3]

On the other hand, numerous points in verses 9-20 indicate that whoever wrote verses 9-20 had no awareness of the contents of the other Gospels:

  • v. 11 says that Mary Magdalene was not believed, but in Mt. 28, the disciples comply with the instructions which the women (including Mary Magdalene) delivered to them.
  • v. 13 says that the main group of disciples did not believe the two travelers, but in Luke 24 this is not stated.
  • v. 13-14 frames the two traveler's report, and Jesus' appearance to the eleven, as two scenes, while in Luke 24 both events happen in a single scene.
  • v. 14 - Nowhere in the parallel-passages of post-resurrection scenes does Jesus rebuke the disciples because they did not believe the reports of his resurrection.
  • v. 16 - The triune baptismal formula in Mt. 28 is not used.
  • v. 17 - The other Gospels have no parallel to this material.
  • v. 18 - The other Gospels have no parallel to this material.
  • v. 19 - Acts clearly states that 40 days elapsed between Jesus' resurrection and crucifixion, but this verse, taken in isolation, makes it seem as if the ascension occurred immediately after Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples.

In addition:

  • 16:7 (and 14:28) call for a rendezvous in Galilee but the events in 16:9-20 seem to be in, or in the vicinity of, Jerusalem.
  • The scene in 16:8 is not continued; Mary's companions completely disappear from the narrative stage and the stage is reset in verse 9; the day and time are restated. This is consistent with the idea that verses 9-20 existed as a freestanding narrative but not with the idea that the passage was composed as a continuation of Mark 16.
  • None of the material in John 21 (where Jesus appears to the disciples in Galilee) is utilized in verses 9-20, although it would be highly fitting.

In short, the idea that Mark 16:9-20 is a "pastiche" is very far-fetched, requiring a composer who sifted through the Gospels (and Acts) many times to extract verbiage to mimic, only to rewrite it all in a way that does not easily interlock with the other accounts.

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. This conclusion extends back as far as the middle of the nineteenth century. Harnack, for instance, was convinced that the original ending was lost.[41] Rendel Harris (1907) supplied the theory that Mark 16:8 had continued with the words "of the Jews."[42] By the middle of the 20th century, it had become the dominant belief that the Long Ending was not genuine. By this time, most translations were adding notes to indicate that neither the Long Ending nor the Short Ending were original. Examples include Mongomery's NT ("The closing verses of Mark's gospel are probably a later addition...," 1924); Goodspeed's (who includes both endings as "Ancient Appendices," 1935); Williams' NT ("Later mss add vv. 9-20," 1937); and the Revised Standard Version (1946), which placed the Long Ending in a footnote. Tradition intervened, and by the early 1970s the complaints in favor of the verses were strong enough to prompt a revision of the RSV (1971) which restored the verses to the text—albeit with a note about their dubiousness. The vast majority of modern scholars remain convinced that neither of the two endings is Marcan.

In Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament[43] Metzger 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 1984 printing of the NIV translation notes: "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20." However, the Committee on Bible Translation has since changed this to read "The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20."

Theological implications

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 Luke 8:2), 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.[13] The Catholic NAB translation includes the footnote: "[9–20] This passage 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."

Summary of manuscript evidence

Mark ends at 16:8 in 4th century Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209

An incomplete 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.

  • Omit Mark 16:9–20: Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, 304, Syriac Sinaiticus, a Sahidic manuscript, Armenian manuscripts; Eusebius, manuscripts according to Eusebius, manuscripts according to Jerome (who was recycling part of Eusebius' statements, condensing them as he loosely rendered them into Latin).
  • Add but accompanied by a critical note in manuscripts: f1, 22, 138, 205, 1110, 1210, 1221, 1582.
  • Present, but without the title and chapter marks: Minuscule 461.
  • Add 16:9–20: Codex Bobbiensis (Latin), with a unique interpolation between 16:3 and 16:4 and with the last phrase of 16:8 omitted.
  • Add shorter and longer ending: L (019), Ψ (044), 0112, 099, 274 (margin) 579 lectionary 1602, Syriac Harclean margin, Sahidic manuscripts, Bohairic manuscripts (Huntington MS 17), Ethiopic manuscripts.
  • Add 16:9–20 with "Freer Logion": Codex Washingtonianus (4th/5th century); manuscripts according to Jerome.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Funk, Robert W. and the Jesus Seminar. The acts of Jesus: the search for the authentic deeds of Jesus. HarperSanFrancisco. 1998. "Empty Tomb, Appearances & Ascension" p. 449-495.
  3. ^ a b c May, Herbert G. and Bruce M. Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. 1977.
  4. ^ Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2006), p. 50 n. 43.
  5. ^ Kilgallen, p. 297
  6. ^ Mark 16:6–7
  7. ^ a b Kilgallen, p. 300
  8. ^ Brown et al., p. 629
  9. ^ Mark 14:28
  10. ^ "God raised him [Jesus] from the dead" Acts 2:24, Romans 10:9, 1 Cor 15:15; also Acts 2:31–32, 3:15, 3:26, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40–41, 13:30, 13:34, 13:37, 17:30–31, 1 Cor 6:14, 2 Cor 4:14, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:20, Col 2:12, 1 Thess 1:10, Heb 13:20, 1 Pet 1:3, 1:21
  11. ^ See for example Mark 16:6 in the NRSV) and in the creeds. Brown et al., p. 629 (Greek distinguished passive from middle voice in the aorist tense used here.)
  12. ^ Brown et al., p. 628
  13. ^ a b Brown, p. 148
  14. ^ Kilgallen, p. 303
  15. ^ Kilgallen, p. 148
  16. ^ Miller, p. 52
  17. ^ Richard A. Burridge, Four Gospels, One Jesus? A Symbolic Reading (2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 64.
  18. ^ Richard A. Burridge, Four Gospels, One Jesus? A Symbolic Reading (2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 64-65.
  19. ^ Kilgallen, p. 309
  20. ^ Brown, p. 149
  21. ^ Maurice Robinson, after examining a microfilm of 304, states that the commentary on the text ended abruptly as well. It is suggested by some that this reflects damage to 304. Two other minuscules (1420 and 2386), formerly cited as witnesses to the ending at 16:8, have been shown to be merely damaged copies.
  22. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 104
  23. ^ Hermann von Soden, Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments, I/2, p. 720.
  24. ^ Most textual critics are skeptical of the weight of the bulk of minuscules, since most were produced in the Middle Ages, and possess a high degree of similarity.
  25. ^ Mark 16:8
  26. ^ a b Mark 16:9-20
  27. ^ a b New American Bible
  28. ^ or, "does not allow the unclean things dominated by the spirits to grasp the truth and power of God"
  29. ^ UBS Greek New Testament p147 Παντα δε τα παρηγγελμενα τοις περι τον Πετρον συντομως εξηγγειλαν. μετα δε ταυτα και αυτος ο Ι{ησου}ς εφανη αυτοις, και απο ανατολης και αχρι δυσεως εξαπεστειλεν δι αυτων το ιερον και αφθαρτον κηρυγμα της αιωνιου σωτηριας. αμην.
  30. ^ E. P. Gould, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark (New York: Charles Scribner's Press, 1896), p. 303.
  31. ^ "The Style of the Long Ending of Mark" by Dr. Bruce Terry at
  32. ^ Grundy, Robert. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross, Chapters 9–16
  33. ^ Kilgallen, p. 306.
  34. ^ T. C. Skeat, "The Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus, and Constantine", in Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999), 583-625.
  35. ^ T. C. Skeat, "The Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus, and Constantine", in Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999), 604-609.
  36. ^ Section 217, Column 6
  37. ^ Epp 1993, p. 289
  38. ^
  39. ^ BBC Radio 4 programme on 05/Oct/2008 "The Oldest Bible"
  40. ^ R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition pp. 284-286.
  41. ^ Bruchstücke des Evangeliums und der Apokalypse des Petrus, 1893, p. 33
  42. ^ Side-Lights on New Testament Research, p. 88
  43. ^ page 126


  • 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.
  • Epp, Eldon Jay. "The Significance of the Papyri for Determining the Nature of the New Testament Text in the Second Century: A Dynamic View of Textual Transmission". In Epp, Eldon Jay; Fee, Gordon D. Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism. Eerdmans, 1993. ISBN 0-8028-2773-X.
  • 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 May 8, 2007
  • Miller, Robert J. Editor, The Complete Gospels. Polebridge Press, 1994. ISBN 0-06-065587-9

External links

  • Mark 16 in Manuscript Comparator — allows two or more New Testament manuscript editions' readings of the passage to be compared in side-by-side and unified views (similar to diff output)
  • The various endings of Mark Detailed text-critical description of the evidence, the manuscripts, and the variants of the Greek text (PDF, 17 pages)
  • Extracts from authors arguing for the authenticity of Mark 16:9–20
  • Aichele, G., "Fantasy and Myth in the Death of Jesus" A literary-critical affirmation of Mark's Gospel ending at 16:8.
  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Gospel of Saint Mark: Section IV. STATE OF TEXT AND INTEGRITY
  • Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established A Book written by Burgon, John William
  • The Authenticity of Mark 16:9–20 A detailed defense of Mark 16:9–20, featuring replicas of portions of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus and a list of early patristic evidence. See also for manuscript-images and other materials.
  • Mark 16:9-20 as Forgery or Fabrication A detailed case against Mark 16:9–20, including all relevant stylistic, textual, manuscript, and patristic evidence, and an extensive bibliography.
Preceded by
Mark 15
Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of Mark
Succeeded by
Luke 1
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