Bible Question:

I wish to know what you think of Mark 16:15-20? Jesus gave His disciples instructions? If we truly believe, then will we obey His instructions. He who loves Me obeys My commandments! What do you think about what Jesus our Lord and Savior instructs here?

Bible Answer:

Should Verses 9-20 Be A The End of Mark 16?

There is debate regarding the inclusion of the verses 9-20 in the last chapter of the gospel of Mark. For the purpose of brevity, only verses 15-20 are cited.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. [And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.] Mark 16:15-20  (NASB)

Major Translations Indicate Doubt Exists About vv.9-20

We should note that the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New International Version Bible (NIV), and the New King James Version Bible (KJV) indicate that Mark 16:9-20 does not occur in the oldest and best manuscripts. One can review the actual manuscript evidence in New Testament Greek Manuscripts published by Reuben Swanson. For each verse in each gospel he cites the manuscripts that contain the verse and documents the variants. For Mark 16:9-20 the author indicates that the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus do not contain Mark 16:9-20, however, the Codex Alexandrinus does.[1]

While the Bible is 99.8 percent accurate, there are some passages in the New Testament that appear to have been added as the Bible was copied over the years. The translators of these Bibles have included this questionable passage for completeness, but they have also indicated that the passage should probably not be included. Consequently, no one can complain about it being left out. We would encourage you to read the study titled, “How Accurate Is The Bible?

What is the Evidence for Questioning vv. 9-20?

The following summary comes after a long discussion by Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix about four different endings to Mark (for an explanation of the four different endings, please see [2] under References).

On the basis of the known manuscript evidence, it seems more likely that either Mark ended in verse 8, or the real ending is not extant. Of these two views the former is more compatible with the concept of a complete canon.[2]

C. F. Moule, in his commentary on Mark, explains that the early church fathers had no knowledge of verses 9-20 until the middle of the second century (for a more complete explanation, please see [3] under References). He concludes by saying,

“Originally compiled, it would seem, as a catechetical summary, they may have been in existence for a considerable time before being appended to Mk.”[3]

The following three quotes are the best summaries of this issue:

1. Bruce Metzger, considered a current authority on textual criticism of the Bible, writes that there is agreement verse 8 was written by the author Mark. But there are different views about who is the author of verses 9-20.[4]

2. Walter W. Wessel, in his commentary on Mark, concludes his lengthy discussion about the ending of Mark 16 with (for a more complete explanation, please see [5] under References),

“Thus the best solution seems to be that Mark did write an ending to his Gospel but that it was lost in the early transmission of the text. The engines we now possess represent attempts by [a few in] the church to supply what was obviously lacking.”[5]

Conclusion:

Since it is doubtful that Mark 16:9-20 was written by the Holy Spirit, we should not draw any conclusions about what we should believe – doctrine – or how we should conduct ourselves.  Some of the statements found in this passage can be found in other parts of the New Testament, but that does not make Mark 16:15-20 scripture. Also, some of the statements cannot be proven to be biblical from the rest of Scripture. John MacArthur provides us a balanced perspective.

The evidence both, external and internal, conclusively demonstrates that verses 9-10 were originally part of Mark’s inspired record. While they generally summarize truths taught elsewhere in the New Testament, they should always be evaluated in light of the rest of Scripture. No doctrines or practices should be established solely on them. The snake-handling preachers of the Appalachians provide a prime example of the errors that can arise from accepting these verses as authoritative.

Nonetheless, knowing that Mark 16:9-20 is not original should give believers more confidence in the accuracy of the New Testament, not less. As noted above, the science of textual analysis makes it possible for biblical scholars to identify the very few passages that were not part of the original. Such places are clearly marked in modern translations, making it easy for students of Scripture to identify them. Consequently, believers can approach the rest of the text with the settled assurance that the Bible they hold in their hands accurately reflects the original.[6]

 

For Further Reading:

Since the scholarly discussions about the ending of Mark are long the following list of readings is recommended:

William Hendrickson. Mark. New Testament Commentary. Baker Books. 1975. pp. 682-693.

Bruce M. Metzger. The Text of the New Testament. Oxford University Press. second edition. 1975. pp. 226-229.

R. C. H. Lenski. Mark. Commentary on the New Testament. Hendrickson Publishers. 1964. pp. 750-755.

John MacArthur. Mark 9-16. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Publishers. 2015. p. 408-418.

Bruce M Metzger. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies. 1994. pp. 102-106.

 

References:

1. Reuben Swanson. Mark. New Testament Greek Manuscripts. William Carey International University Press. 1995. p. 268.

2. Geisler, Norman and Nix, William. A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press. Chicago, 1973. p. 372. Here is the quote from their book,

“This is one of the most perplexing of all textual problems.

1. These verses are lacking in many of the oldest and best Greek manuscripts (Aleph, B, Old Latin manuscript k, the Sinaitic Syriac, many Old Armenian manuscripts and a number of Ethiopic manuscripts). Many of the ancient Fathers show no knowledge of it (e.g. Clement, Origen, Eusebius, et al.). Jerome admitted that “almost all Greek copies do not have this concluding portion.” Among some of the [copies] that have these verses, there is also an asterisk or obelus to indicate it is a spurious addition.

2. There is also another ending which occurs in several uncials (L, psi, 099, 0112), a few minuscules (274mg, 579), and several manuscript copies of ancient versions (k, Syrh mg, Coptic pt), Eth cold). This passage reads, “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”

3. The familiar long ending (AV) of the Received Text is found in a vast number of uncial manuscripts (C, D, L, W, theta), most minuscules, most Old Latin manuscripts, the Vulgate, and in some Syriac and Coptic manuscripts.

4. The long ending is expanded in Codex W and after verse 14.

Which reading is the original ending? Metzger concludes that “none of these four endings commends itself as original” because of limited textual evidence, the Apocryphal flavor, and the non-Marcan style (e.g. it contains seventeen non-Marcan words). On the other hand, if none of these is genuine, it is difficult to believe with Metzger that Mark 16:8 does not represent the original ending. Defense of the Received text (vv. 9-20) has been made by John W. Burgon, and more recently by M. van der Valk. It is admittedly difficult to arrive at the conclusion that any of these endings is the original, But, on the basis of the known manuscript evidence, it seems more likely that either Mark ended in verse 8, or the real ending is not extant. Of these two views the former is more compatible with the concept of a complete canon.”

3. C. E. B. Moule. The Gospel According to Mark. The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary. Cambridge Press. 1994. pp. 473-474. The following is a concluding comment from his commentary.

These verses, though found in the majority of Greek MSS., are omitted by [alpha], B k sy8 and by some MSS. of arm eth and geo. Both Eusebius and Jerome regarded them as unauthentic in view of their absence from almost all the Greek MSS. known to them. Eusebius omitted them from his ‘canons.’ The MS. k gives in their place a shorter reading, while L and a few other Greek MSS. and some MSS. of co and eth give both this this shorter ending and the longer as alternatives. One tenth-century Armenian MS., which has these verses, attributes them to ‘the presbyter Ariston’ (probably meaning the Ariston mentioned by Papias) . . . They were probably attached to Mk some time before the middle of the second century, in order to the obvious gap . . . Originally compiled, it would seem, as a catechetical summary, they may have been in existence for a considerable time before being appended to Mk. In style and vocabulary they were obviously non-Markan. pp. 471-472.

4. Bruce M. Metzger. The Text of the New Testament. Oxford University Press. second edition. 1975. pp. 226-229.

5. Walter W. Wessel. Mark. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Regency Reference Library. 1984. vol 8. pp.791-792.

Although there are staunch supporters of the view that it was Mark’s intention to end his Gospel with 16:8, this view does not adequately explain (1) why the early church felt so strongly its lack of completion, witnessed by the insertion of both the Shorter and Longer endings; (2) why a book that purports to be the “good news about Jesus Christ” should end with the women being afraid (even allowing for Mark’s emphasis on the awesomeness and mystery of Christ’s person); and (3) why there is no recorded fulfillment of Jesus’ promised postresurrection  appearance in Galilee to Peter and the other disciples (cf 16:7). p. 793.

6. John MacArthur. Mark 9-16. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Publishers. 2015. p. 412.

Reference Links:

How Accurate Is The Bible?
How do you decide which Bible to use?
Why is verse 11 missing in Matthew 18?
Why does Matthew 17:21 exist only as a footnote in the King James Bible?