Mark 16:9-20


"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. 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."

This passage is referred to as the longer ending to Mark. Textual critics delight in proclaiming this passage as questionable and therefore either remove it from the text or separate the passage with brackets. Objecting to the passage, Kurt and Barbara Aland proclaim, "At least the shorter ending of Mark (as well as the longer ending of Mark 16:9-20) was not a part of the gospel in its original form, although both may well be from the beginning of the second century." (The Text of The New Testament, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 232.) Although admitting that he did not consider the passage original, Dr. Bruce Metzger leaves the maxim of modern textual critics, "Brevior lectio potior" (the shorter reading is preferable), and supported the reading. In a 1994 interview with

Christian History, Metzger stated:

"The earliest Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Latin manuscripts end the Gospel of Mark at 16:8: "The women said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." That does not sound like an appropriate ending for a book of good news, so some early scribes, undertaking their own research, added what they thought would be appropriate endings . . . Many translators, including myself, consider verses 9 through 20 to be a legitimate part of the New Testament." (Christian History, Interview with Dr. Bruce Metzger downloaded from Christian History Magazine on 9/17/96.)

The passage is missing from the Alexandrian texts of both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Also, the passage is omitted in minuscule 2386 (an obscure manuscript), the Syrian Sinaitic Version, and a few other translations such as some of the Georgian Versions of the fifth century.

It is found in the following uncials: A, C, D, K, X, DELTA, THETA, and PI, all of which date from between the fifth and ninth centuries. It is also contained in the later dated minuscules such as 137, 138, 1110, 1210, 1215, 1216, 1217, 1221, and 1582. Further it is the reading found in the majority of Old Latin texts as well as the Coptic Versions and other early translations.

The passage, additionally, receives enthusiastic support from many of the early Church Fathers. Irenaeus (202 AD) cites Mark 16:19:

"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." (Against Heresies, 3:10:5.)

Ambrose (397 AD) cites Mark 16:17-18:

"Therefore, it was with good reason that the Lord became a stage, so that the word of the Lord might prepare such stages for Himself; of these He says, "In my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak in new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Indeed they took up serpents, when His holy Apostle cast out the spiritual forces of wickedness from their hiding places in the body by breathing on them and did not feel deadly poisons. When the viper came forth from the bundle of sticks and bit Paul, the natives, seeing the viper hanging from his hand, thought he would suddenly die. But he stood unafraid; he was unaffected by the wound, and the poison was not infused into him." (The Prayer of Job and David, 4:1:4.)

Augustine (430 AD) cites Mark 16:15 and then refers to verses 17-18:

"Ye heard while the Gospel was read, Go preach the Gospel to the whole creation which is under heaven. Consequently the disciples were sent everywhere with signs and wonders to attest that what they spake, they had seen." (Homilies On The Epistle of John To The Parthians, IV:2).

If the early Fathers did not believe in the authenticity of this passage, they would not have cited it. However, we see that it is cited in the end of the second century, the end of the fourth century, and the beginning of the fifth century by orthodox Church Fathers. This, coupled with the massive support of both Greek and other manuscripts which include the passage and the limited support for removing the passage, demonstrate the dedication modern scholarship has for the Alexandrian Codices of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

 

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