After Mark 16:8 In our church Bibles there is the note: “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20.” Many other translations also have a similar note. So, what’s the story?
- In short: Mark didn’t write verses 9-20, they were almost definitely added later by Christians, attempting to ‘round out’ or ‘improve’ the ending of Mark.
- We should be able to understand why they did this, because at first glance verse eight can be a strange conclusion: the women are afraid and tell no- one that Jesus is resurrected, and the resurrected Jesus does not himself appear. These are all different to how the other Gospels end.
- So, verses 9-20 of Mark 16, really, are evidence that Christians are ‘just human’. The fact that there are so many manuscripts which don’t have v9- 20, and many early Christian scholars/leaders who said these verses aren’t from John Mark, is evidence that God sovereignly watched over the process that led to us having an authoritative Bible.
- Most of verses 9-20 are a ‘pastiche’ of verses from the endings of the other Gospels (John 20:1-8; Luke 24:13-35 & Matthew 28:18-20) and a brief summary of Acts. The only exception is much of verse 18, which is theologically suspect … However, this doesn’t mean that there are errors ‘in the Bible’, because v9-20 are not really or truly ‘part of the Bible’; they are not an original part of Mark’s Gospel; Mark did not write this.
- However! … there is no need to try and ‘improve’ Mark’s ending, for Mark 16:1-8 makes a lot of sense and has a great message: it shows that Jesus is not only definitely alive, but that this is God’s message to his people (through an angel). Jesus has fulfilled his repeated promise to rise (8:31; 9:31; 10:34) and also his promise to lead the Apostles on the way to Galilee, like God’s Shepherd that he is (14:28). Jesus will lead God’s Church into an unknown (from our perspective) but exciting future.
- The ending (v5,6,8) recalls other responses to amazing events which reveal God, whether Jesus’ miracles (4:41; 5:15, 33, 36; 6:50; 9:32; 11:18, 32), after his Transfiguration (9:15) or his response in the Garden of Gethsemane to his future (14:32). It is the same word which is translated as “alarmed” in 16:5,6 as that in 9:15 (“overwhelmed with wonder”) and 14:33 (“deeply distressed”). This is part of Mark ‘rounding off’ his excellent Gospel.
So, agree with the truths that are in v9-20 (which we get from elsewhere in the Bible), but marvel at the excellent (original) ending!