Question

The early bibles ended Mark at 16:8. Where did verses 9 through 20 come from? 

Answer

Thanks for your question on Mark 16. Below I have included a rather lengthy discussion from someone who has done considerable research on your question. In general, 2 manuscripts used for some of our translations do omit part of Mark 16. However, there is no doubt that it should be included in the text. The majority of scholars do not question that it should be there, and that it is part of the rest of Mark’s gospel. If you have a specific question regarding those verses or any other passage please reply.

There are two Greek manuscripts that were written around 350 AD which do not contain the last twelve verses of the gospel of Mark. It is interesting that these same two manuscripts (Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) also do not contain the 1,000 year reign of Christ in Revelation 20:1-6. None of these modern preachers claim this passage doesn’t belong in theBible!

The end of the gospel of John is not found in the Vaticanus and Sinaitic manuscripts either, where John wrote, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen” (John 21:25). Although this ending of John’s gospel is missing in the same manuscripts that do not contain the ending of Mark’s gospel, there are no footnotes in the new Bibles casting doubts in people’s minds on the ending of John! John 21:25 is accepted because it is found in all other Greek manuscripts, but so is Mark 16:9-20! We should ask, why do some “scholars” reject the end of Mark but retain the end of John when both are missing from the same manuscripts?

Both the Vaticanus and Sinaitic do not contain the confession of faith by the blind man who said, “Lord, I believe!” (John 9:38). Also, both of these manuscripts do not contain Luke 6:1, which reads, “Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through th grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.”

The account in John 19:33-34 of the soldiers piercing the side of Jesus while He was on the cross is also omitted in both theVaticanus and Sinaitic manuscripts. Footnotes are not added in modern translations to warn us about any of these passages because all other Greek manuscripts docontain them.

Where is the consistency? All other Greek manuscripts also contain Mark 16:9-20! In the Sinaitic manuscript, the book of Hebrews ends at chapter 9 verse 8. According to this so called “reliable ancient manuscript”, Hebrews 9:14 to 13:25 do not belong in the Bible either! The passage, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And beingin agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” ( Luke 22:43-44) is not found in the Sinaitic. Neither is the passage, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.'” (Luke 23:34).

This is just a small sampling of the problems of these two manuscripts. The Greek Scholar Dean Burgon, writing of the Sinaitic and Vaticanus, along with the Codex Bezae, wrote that these three manuscripts, “are three of the most scandalously corrupt copies extant: exhibit the most shamefully mutilated texts which are anywhere to be met with: have become… the depositories of the largest amount of fabricated readings, ancient blunders, and intentional perversions of truth which are discoverable in any known copies of the word of God.” Dean Burgon, The Revision Revised, pg. 16.

There is an eighth or ninth century unical manuscript called Codex L that contains a different ending to Mark 16. This manuscript is interrupted at Mark 16:8 with the words, “something to this effect is met with,” and then, instead of the Great Commission in Mark, the author wrote, “All that was commanded them they immediately rehearsed to Peter and the rest. And after these thing from East even unto West, did Jesus Himself send forth by their means the holy and incorruptible message of eternal salvation.”

After examining this manuscript, Dean Burgon described the Codex L as, “the work of an ignorant foreign copyist who probably wrote with several manuscripts before him; but who is found to have been wholly incompetent to determine which reading to adopt and which to reject.” Dean Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses Of Mark, pg. 203.

The last twelve verses of Mark are included in all of the more than 500 known manuscripts of the New Testament except two, the Vaticanus and Sinaitic, and is in all of the more than two thousand manuscript copies, without exception, yet, modern editors add footnotes in the Bible to cast doubt on the authenticity of this passage! If the last twelve verses of Mark were rejected based on the authority of these two manuscripts, the gospel of Mark would end with, “for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Does it seem reasonable to anyone that God would have intentionally ended a gospel of Jesus Christ with the disciples being afraid?

Although there are many arguments made concerning Mark 16:16, it is important to know that the early Christians quoted thispassage before the Sinaitic and Vaticanus manuscripts were written. In his work directed against the Gnostics, Irenaeus quoted Mark 16:19 and even said it was at the end of the gospel of Mark! Remember, Irenaeus lived 120-205 AD, and the Vaticanus and Sinaitic manuscripts were not written until the fourth century! “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;’ confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: ‘The Lord saith to my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.'” Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pg. 426.

The “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles” is a compilation of several works that may have been written as early as the first century. Some of the earlier writers credited the work to Clement, who was an acquaintance of the apostles Paul and Peter. Later writers claim the “Constitutions” were written sometime in the 200’s AD. Whichever view one takes, there is an agreement that the “Constitutions” were being circulated at a very early time in the church. This book indicates that the Christians were already familiar with the last few verses of Mark, which some modern “scholars” claim were a later invention centuries later. Not only was the writer familiar with the last twelve verses, he quoted Mark 16:17-18! “With good reason did He say to all of us together, when we were perfected concerning those gifts which were given from Him by the Spirit: ‘Now these signs shall follow them that have believed in my name: they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them: they shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover.'” “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, pg. 479.

The “Gospel of Nicodemus” is another early work whose authorship and date of writing are uncertain, although dates have been suggested as early as the late 100’s AD. This work also indicates that the early Christians were familiar enough with the last twelve verses of Mark that they could quote Mark 16:15-19. “And Phinees a priest, and Adas a teacher, and Haggai a Levite, came down from Galilee to Jerusalem, and said to the rulers of the synagogue, and the priests and the Levites: ‘We saw Jesus and his disciples sitting on themountain called Mamilch; and he said to his disciples, ‘Go into all the world, and preach to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned. And these signs shall attend those who have believed: in my name they shall cast out demons, speak new tongues, take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall be well.’ And while Jesus was speaking to his disciples, we saw him taken up to heaven.'” “The Gospel of Nicodemus,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, pg. 422.

The evidence proves that the early Christians were familiar with the last twelve verses of the gospel of Mark and considered these verses to be authentic. How did they view the statement of Jesus concerning baptism in Mark 16:16? The “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles” quoted this verse to prove that anyone who is not baptized is to be condemned as an unbeliever. This was written over a century before the Vaticanus and Sinaitic manuscripts! “He that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: ‘Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ And again: ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned.'” “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, pg. 456-457.

By Larry Snell

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