MARK 16:9-20: A Response to CMI

MARK 16:9-20: A Response to CMI

© 2011, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

The Three-Headed Monster

The historical era misnamed The Enlightenment, which began in the seventeenth century, was characterized by the exaltation of human reason as the means to determine truth, with the concomitant denigration of the concept of divine revelation.  In particular, the credibility of the Bible came under sustained attack by Enlightenment scholars and philosophers who sought to portray the Bible not as the word of God, but as the product of mere human thinking from an ancient culture.

This attack on the Bible flowered in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and consisted of three main prongs: historical criticism, textual criticism, and Darwinism.  (It should be noted that these three prongs did not operate in a vacuum; they borrowed from and fed off each other.)  The first of these began with the presupposition that the Bible was not divine revelation, and sought to explain how it originated and attained its current form through purely human processes.  The last of these sought to dispense with the necessity of a divine Creator through the pseudo-scientific theory of evolution, allowing for “intellectually fulfilled atheism” and denying the historicity of the Bible’s creation account.

Textual criticism, on the other hand, struck directly at the text itself.  Textual critics insisted that the exact original text of the Bible has been lost irrevocably, and all we can do is try to reconstruct it as well as possible.  Meanwhile, various liberal assumptions and presuppositions were use to establish “canons” and claims of textual criticism that were designed to introduce errors and contradictions into the text itself.  While it is beyond the scope of this article to do a detailed analysis of the history and methodology of textual criticism, we will illustrate what we have said as we respond to CMI’s recent excursus on Mark 16:9-20.

The Evangelical Response

The evangelical response to the three-headed monster has been decidedly mixed.  Historical criticism was resisted strongly, and Darwinism rather less so, while textual criticism was met with near total capitulation.

Historical criticism made it axiomatic that supernatural activity was impossible and consequently denied or redefined the miracles and resurrection of Jesus.  This necessitated spinning alternate, completely naturalistic, explanations for the NT accounts of Jesus.  In time elaborate theories were spun, with numerous postulates that were presented as “the assured results of critical scholarship.”  For example, since it was proclaimed that Jesus was only a man and not God incarnate, he could not have made such claims, and so it must have taken a very long time for high Christology to develop and miracles to be attributed to Jesus.  This required that the Gospel books be anonymous and removed from the actual events by many decades.  Of course, such claims were spun almost completely out of whole cloth, not based on actual evidence, and usually studiously ignoring the actual pertinent evidence.[1]

Evangelicals, of course, opposed the most radical of these claims, insisting rightly on holding on to the miracles and bodily resurrection of Jesus.  However, they came to accept some of the postulates that had been created to deny the historicity of the very things the evangelicals sought to defend, such postulates as Markan priority and the late dating of the Gospel books (viz. “decades” after the crucifixion of Jesus).  They seem to have absorbed them by osmosis, since they couldn’t have been convinced by the evidence for such postulates, inasmuch as there is no such evidence.  Such assumptions are used very effectively by the opponents of Christianity to undermine its historical claims.[2]

CMI trained people know very well how evangelicals responded to Darwinism.  Some held firm to six-day young earth creation (YEC), but many did not.  Some continued to hold to creationism but accepted that the earth was billions of years old, using such gambits as the “gap theory”, while others opted for various formulations of theistic evolution.  The extent of compromise became so great that some pastors refused to take a stand one way or the other, not wanting to alienate either camp in their churches.  CMI well knows the devastating impact this head of the monster has had.

When it came to textual criticism, however, there was a nearly complete capitulation by evangelicals.  Perhaps it was assumed that, since textual criticism doesn’t seem to deal directly with theology, it was a neutral science.  It was neither neutral nor a “science”.  Few bothered to study the historical development of the discipline, to understand where the determinative canons came from, or to assess whether they were legitimate or not.  In fact, the same sort of liberal biases went into the development of this field as in historical criticism: canons were declared by fiat, without reference to actual evidence, in order to maximize errors and contradictions within the text of the Bible itself.[3]

The result is that now most evangelicals are carrying Bibles that are laden with errors and contradictions that are not in the original text but are now believed by them to be there, which, again provides a fertile field for opponents of Christianity.[4]  Apropos to this, it is noteworthy that the standard evangelical party line is that textual criticism is not that important an issue, for no key doctrine of Christianity is affected by textual differences.  This is true only if one believes that “Biblical inerrancy” is not a key doctrine.

We have reached a stage where the three headed monster has found a very comfortable home in evangelical seminaries[5].  Many of the liberal assumptions underlying historical criticism, Darwinism, and textual criticism are taught without any question at all, as if they were fact, and each new crop of students hears them, accepts them, and passes them on to their churches.  Now, a CMI trained student, say, would spot the concessions made to Darwinism instantly.  He might challenge the professor outright, and he would certainly feel a sense of frustration that his fellow students are imbibing this liberal nonsense without question.  The irony is that the same CMI trained student will be imbibing the liberal assumptions of historical criticism and textual criticism with the very same unquestioning enthusiasm that the others do regarding creation – because he is not trained in these areas.  If any CMI trained evangelical who graduated from an evangelical seminary thinks himself properly equipped regarding historical and textual criticism, let him ask himself whether he believes the average graduate of said seminary is properly equipped to defend six-day young earth creationism.  Then let him ponder on the implications of his answer to that question.

Before we move on to considering the matter of Mark 16:9-20, one more point needs to be made about textual criticism: For the results of textual criticism to be credible, the quality of the individual manuscripts must be considered, and textual critics claim to do that.  Yet if one applies independent thought to the matter, he will realize that the single most important factor in determining quality is conspicuous by its absence.  The most important factor is the quality of care that the scribe put into making his copy of the exemplar, for it is beyond dispute that a text could go through a hundred generations of copying and, if each scribe along the chain is careful, still result in a more accurate copy than a first-generation copy that was executed with great carelessness.

It should be obvious, therefore, that this matter should be front and centre in textual criticism, and yet it is never mentioned.  In all textbooks used in evangelical seminaries, “quality” is equated to conformity with a preferred text “type,” and never is the actual work of the scribe taken into consideration.

Now, it is no mystery why the liberal scholars who developed the field of textual criticism neglected this factor, for it would prevent them from getting what they wanted: the introduction of the maximum possible number of errors into what is supposed to be the “original text” of the New Testament and the resulting undermining of the Bible’s credibility.  What is a mystery is how it is that countless evangelical students in generation after generation can sit in classes and absorb and then repeat the text critical party lines, with none of them ever seeming to wonder about the quality of copying and asking why this is not taken into consideration.

Is Mark 16:9-20 Part of the Original Gospel Book?

In an article titled “Is the whole creation fallen?” published on the Creation Ministries website on March 8, 2011, the authors aver that

Mark 16:15 is not included in the earliest manuscripts of Mark (which ended at 16:8), so does not appear to be part of inspired Scripture (see further comments in our post-script.).

The post-script mentioned is “Excursus: How did Mark end his Gospel?

The author of this excursus contends for the position that Mark ended his Gospel book at 16:8, and that vv. 9-12 (the so-called “longer ending”) were added later, apparently “cobbled together from the other Gospels and Acts”.  This contention is quite typical of the approach taken by the large majority of evangelical teachers and scholars, but it is not correct.  An analysis of this excursus provides a salutary example of how evangelicals have been influenced by liberal claims without even realizing it.  Let us examine it point by point[6]:

The uncials1 Sinaiticus2 and Vaticanus3 both end Mark at 16:8.

  1. A type of Greek manuscript which uses all capital letters without spaces.
  2. From the mid-fourth century (somewhere between 325–360), represents the earliest copy of a fairly complete Greek New Testament we have.  It generally agrees with the Alexandrian text type, but in some places agrees with the Western texts against other Alexandrian manuscripts.
  3. From the fourth century, another very early witness to the Alexandrian text type.

Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are indeed fourth-century Greek uncial manuscripts.  Codex Sinaiticus was discovered at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai peninsula by Tischendorff in the mid-nineteenth century, and the existence of Codex Vaticanus, which had been in the Vatican library for centuries, was publicized soon after.

Liberal scholars were rapturous over these documents, proclaiming them the earliest known (which they were, at that time) and the most reliable (which they were not) manuscripts we had of the Bible.  What particularly made them giddy, though, was that “both end Mark at 16:8”.  It was tailor made for accomplishing that the liberals really wanted, which was to discredit the resurrection of Jesus, without which Christianity cannot stand (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).

Of course, Matthew, Luke, and John also record the resurrection, but the first two of these could be dispensed with by means of the “Markan priority” gambit.  If liberals could convince the world that Matthew and Luke simply copied their Gospel books from Mark (with some supplementary material from other sources), then Mark is the only one that really counts – and Mark has no resurrection, according to Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.[7]

Markan Priority was proclaimed by fiat.  The only actual hard evidence that bears upon this question, viz. the Patristic testimony going back to Papias at the end of the 1st century AD, was ignored in favour of liberal presuppositions e.g. that Mark must be first since it has the lowest Christology.  Liberals assume that Jesus was not the Son of God, so such ideas must have developed as time went on; accordingly, the Gospel account with the lowest Christology must be the earliest.

One would think that evangelicals would not accept literary theories based on such grounds, yet Markan priority is by far the dominant view in evangelical seminaries, commentaries, and textbooks.  Evangelical seminary students readily accept these claims, with little or no independent thought about the basis for them.  Markan priority now almost seems to be accepted as axiomatic, and evangelicals for the most part seem to assume that it is a self-evident truth that the Church has always known.  Yet this is not even remotely true.  As Matthew C. Williams explains:

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, however, a new hypothesis took center stage.  Renewed textual examinations  reached the conclusion of Marcan priority.[8]

My, my.  So the claim of Markan priority was not one the Church had always known.  (On the contrary it was one the Church had always denied.)  This “new hypothesis” was based on “renewed textual examinations” “during the latter half of the nineteenth century.”  And what were these “renewed textual examinations”?  Why, the only ones were the promotion of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus as “the earliest and most reliable witnesses” to the text of the New Testament – and they happened to be missing the resurrection in Mark.

One can see how these two heads of the three-headed monster, historical criticism and textual criticism, worked together.  In case this is still not clear, let’s hear Williams again:

Using the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and not agreeing with Marcan priority reveals inconsistency since the same text-critical arguments that were used to establish the present Nestle-Aland text also establish that Matthew has secondary readings and Mark has original readings.[9]

So both the promotion of the so-called “Alexandrian” text and the Markan priority theory both came from Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.  These claims would be highly questions able if indeed these two manuscripts were the “most reliable witnesses” to the text of New Testament.  But the reality is that they are not; they are the exact opposite.

Evangelical apostate and renowned textual critic Dr. Bart Ehrman wrote Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, which introduced textual criticism to the general public.  In it, he tell us that there are perhaps 200,000 to 400,000 or more textual variants in the NT manuscripts, saying,

There are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.[10]

Perhaps that is supposed to be scary.  Perhaps it is supposed to convince people that the text of the NT is unreliable; imagine having more variants than words in the NT!

However, as Ehrman tells us, “at last count, more than fifty-seven hundred Greek manuscripts have been discovered and catalogued,[11] and anyone with a calculator can quickly figure out that this means there is an average of 35 to 70 variants per manuscripts, which is not very scary after all.

Now, what about Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus?  How reliable are these “most reliable witnesses” to the text of the NT?  In 1914, H.C. Hoskier published the results of his careful examination of these two manuscripts, in the two-volume Codex B and Its Allies: A Study And An Indictment (B is the letter designation for Codex Vaticanus), showing that these two “most reliable witnesses” disagreed with each other more than three thousand times in the Gospel books alone[12].  More than three thousand times!

It is easier to find two consecutive verses in which the two [manuscripts] differ, the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.[13]

So while the average NT manuscript has 35 to 70 variants in it, these two “most reliable witnesses” have over three thousand!

Codex Vaticanus omits words or whole clauses 1,491 times in the Gospel accounts alone, and is “disfigured throughout with repetitions … [Codex Sinaiticus] abounds with ‘errors of the eye and pen …’  On many occasions ten, twenty, thirty, forty, words are dropped through very carelessness.  ‘Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled: while that gross blunder … whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less times than 115 in the New Testament.[14]

So, despite the rhetoric, it is absolutely delusional to consider these two manuscripts to be the “most reliable witnesses” to the NT text, or reliable witnesses at all, by any meaningful definition of the term.  As we have said, the most important factor in the quality of a manuscript must be the manifest care taken by the scribe who copied it, and it is scarcely possible to find a manuscript executed with less care than these two.

Nor was this something unknown at the time that Westcott and Hort overturned the Byzantine tradition in favour of a text based on these two uncials.  Dean John Burgon published several erudite books on the topic, in which he demonstrated the woeful state of these two manuscripts, even before Hoskier’s seminal work.  The jury should be in; Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are among the least reliable witnesses to the NT text.  They should not now, nor should they have ever been, given the place of pride accorded to them.

And yet they were.  And yet they were, because they afforded the liberals what they really wanted, a putatively plausible reason to discard the resurrection.  So facts and reason went out the window, and the vast corpus of carefully executed NT manuscripts were deemed irrelevant to the reconstruction of the original text of the NT, replaced by two awful witnesses that disagreed with each other more than 3,000 times in the Gospel books alone, and so were sure to insert errors into this supposed “original” text.  No doubt liberals considered this a desirable result.

The CMI excursus mentions that Codex Sinaiticus “agrees with the Alexandrian text type, but in some places agrees with the Western texts against other Alexandrian manuscripts” and that Codex Vaticanus is “another very early witness to the Alexandrian text type.”  The idea of classifying NT manuscripts according to “text type” was first suggested by Johann Albrecht Bengel in 1725, and was fleshed out later in the eighteenth century by Johann Salomo Semler, the “father of German rationalism.”  He divided the manuscripts into the Byzantine, Alexandrian, and Western text types (or “recensions”) and claimed that the Byzantine was created in the fourth century by Lucian of Antioch, which necessarily made the manuscripts of this text type secondary and inferior, and irrelevant to textual criticism.  In so doing, he consigned 90-95% of our existing NT manuscripts to the trash heap.

Liberal scholars loved this division, because, instead of having 5,700+ independent witnesses to the NT text, we now had only three, viz. the archetype of each text type, one of which, the one encompassing the vast majority of our manuscripts, was proclaimed practically worthless, and one of which, the Alexandrian, which came to be proclaimed and then accepted as the best, on the basis of “the earliest and most reliable manuscripts” – Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.

The astounding thing in all this is that we have known for some time from the study of the NT papyri that the very concept of text types is unsustainable and flat-out bogus.  This was frankly admitted as far back as 1965 by the grandmaster of textual criticism himself, Kurt Aland, the editor of the industry standard Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament.[15]

So the concept of three text types, each based on an archetype, is a fantasy.  We do not have three text types; we have 5,700+ independent witnesses to the text of the NT.  This is beyond any possible dispute.  Nevertheless, the concept was far too useful to liberal scholars (for discarding the vast majority of NT manuscripts in favour of a few error-ridden ones) for them to allow facts to get in the way.  They simply ignored Aland and serenely carried on with their fantasy.  What did evangelical scholars do?  If you guessed, “They discarded a disproved methodology and treated each NT manuscript seriously,” you would be wrong.  If you guessed, “They also ignored Aland – if, indeed, they even heard him in the first place – and blithely carried on following the liberal lead,” take the head of the class.

Both Clement of Alexandria and Origen seem ignorant of the longer ending (though there are indications that Irenaeus knew of it), and Eusebius and Jerome claim that it is missing from most of their manuscripts, too.

The earliest witnesses for the long ending are Alexandrinus, Ephraemi and W, all in the fifth century.  The other manuscripts contain the longer ending, but are on the whole much later than the major ones cited above.

Wrong.  Everyone who has studied textual criticism knows that there are three categories of evidence for evaluating variants: the Greek manuscripts; the versions (ancient translations); and the Patristic evidence (the writings of early Christian leaders and scholars).  For judging the actual form of the original text, the Greek manuscripts are obviously decisive, but for the judging the existence of a text the Patristic evidence is as important as, or more important than, the Greek manuscripts (more important, because Patristic references can usually be dated more precisely than Greek manuscripts can be.)  In the matter of Mark 16:9-20, we are discussing the existence of a text, not its form, so Patristic testimony also counts as “witnesses for the long ending”.  And the fact, therefore, is that we have far earlier witnesses to the inclusion of the “long ending” than we do for its omission, far earlier than “the fifth century.

There are possible allusions to Mark 16:18 by Papias, at the very end of the first century or very early in the second century[16], and to Mark 16:20 by Justin Martyr in ca. AD 165.  Now, the excursus tells us that “though there are indications that Irenaeus knew of it” but it is rather more than that.  Irenaeus, who wrote ca. AD 180, actually quoted Mark 16:19, writing,

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” (Against Heresies, 3.10.5)

What do we see here?  Irenaeus quotes Mark 16:19 and tells us that this quote comes from near “the conclusion of his Gospel”.  So there is no question but that Irenaeus not only “knew of” the long ending, but he accepted it without any apparent question, or expectation that any of his readers would dispute him about this.  That is rather more than simply “indications that Irenaeus knew of it”, isn’t it?  What it means is that Mark 16:9-20 was in the manuscripts of Mark that were used and accepted by the church in Irenaeus’s day, accepted without any apparent question more than a century and a half before Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.  We might also mention that Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who had been a student of the Apostle John himself, so we should consider Irenaeus to be in a very good position to know such things.  Furthermore, Tatian included  Mark 16:9-20 in his Diatessaron (ca. AD 175), and there are quite a number of church fathers who witness to the long ending before the fourth century, including Tertullian and Hippolytus in the early third century.

Both Clement of Alexandria and Origen seem ignorant of the longer ending … and Eusebius and Jerome claim that it is missing from most of their manuscripts, too.

Now this is also interesting.  The way it is written makes it clear that these four men are to be considered witnesses against Mark 16:9-20.  Certainly the United Bible Societies’ (UBS) industry standard critical text, The Greek New Testament, cites these four men, along with Victor of Antioch and Euthymius, as witnesses against the long ending.  But are they?  Why, in fact, should we think that “Clement of Alexandria and Origen seem ignorant of the longer ending”?  It is true that no comment of theirs about this passage is recorded for us in their writings, but that does not mean they were ignorant of them.  No church father comments on every portion of Scripture.  By way of illustration, we have no recorded comment about the entire last chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew from the selfsame Clement of Alexandria!  Unless one wants to argue on this basis that Matthew 28 is not part of the original gospel, he ought to admit that this sort of “evidence” is fatuous.

Eusebius did “claim that [Mark 16:9-20] is missing from most of [his] manuscripts,” but that is not tantamount to asserting that he thinks it is inauthentic, but only a comment on the state of the manuscripts that he knew.  (Jerome says something similar, but he seems simply to be passing on Eusebius’ earlier comment.)  In fact, Eusebius elsewhere takes pains to show that Mark 16:9 does not contradict Matthew 28:1[17], something he would not feel a need to do had he thought the former to be inauthentic.  Jerome, for his part, quotes two verses from the long ending in his writings[18] and, most significantly, included it in his Latin Vulgate, though he was careful to exclude everything he thought inauthentic.  The only fair-minded conclusion, then, is that Eusebius and Jerome are both witnesses for the long ending, not against it.

For the sake of completeness, we will mention that Victor of Antioch, in the fifth century AD, knew that many manuscripts of Mark omitted the long ending, but himself believed on the basis of his own investigation that 16:9-20 was part of the original Gospel book.[19]  Euthymius (early 12th century) mentions that some commentators claim that Mark ends at 16:8, without telling us whether he agrees with them or not.[20]

Now, isn’t this interesting?  The liberal scholars responsible for the UBS Greek New Testament tell us that Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Victor of Antioch, and Euthymius are witnesses against the long ending of Mark.  Check it out; it’s right there in their critical apparatus to Mark 16:9.  Yet not one of these six Church fathers is actually a witness against the long ending.  And three of them are actually witness for the long ending.  Another illustration of how liberal NT scholarship operates.

There are two variants added on after 16:8—these are called the shorter ending and the longer ending.  The shorter ending is only found in some Greek manuscripts dating from the seventh to the ninth centuries, the Old Latin manuscript Bobiensis,4 and a few minor witnesses.

  1. Dating from the fourth or fifth century.

The facts before us are these:

  1. Mark 16:9-20 was considered an authentic part of the Gospel as far back as we can trace the evidence, which is the second century (or perhaps the very end of the first century);
  2. the vast majority of existing manuscripts of Mark, some 1,800, include this long ending, while it is missing in only the two very corrupt uncials we have discussed[20], and one 12th century minuscule;
  3. there is no indication that any manuscripts are missing these last twelve verses until the fourth century, and even then, the Fathers who comment on this fact treat this long passage as authentic.  No Patristic writer suggests that the long ending did not come from the hand of Mark, although their writings are filled with copious discussions of textual matters such as revisions of the Latin Vulgate.

The only reasonable explanation of these facts is that Mark 16:9-20 is indeed part of the original Gospel book.  At some point, probably in the late third or early fourth century, the last page of a manuscript (with the last twelve verses) was lost, and copies made based on this incomplete exemplar became numerous and perhaps the majority in some restricted local (e.g. Alexandria).  With Mark ending so abruptly in this truncated version, the “shorter ending” was created to fill the gap, but for obvious reasons, this never caught on widely and is almost lost today.  Eventually, the error was corrected everywhere.  This is the only explanation that account satisfactorily for all the evidence.

The most common argument against Mark ending at 16:8 is that the last word of 16:8 is γάρ; gar, meaning ‘for’.  However, recent articles in the scholarly literature have shown that γάρ frequently ended a sentence or paragraph.  But it is a difficult argument for either side to use, because at best it’s a very clumsy ending.  Yet this sort of thing didn’t bother Mark, whose Greek writing style was unsophisticated and direct, any more than “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition” bothered Winston Churchill.5

  1. An apocryphal Churchill parody of this is “This is the sort of arrant nonsense up with which I will not put.”

While I am familiar with this “argument against Mark ending at 16:8”, I doubt very much that it is “the most common argument”.  I think the arguments I have already presented (viz. that the Patristic testimony which predates Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus by almost two centuries is decisive; and that these two uncials are demonstrably untrustworthy) are far more common.  Also far more common is the argument that it is ridiculous on the face of it to think that Mark, who set out to present “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” would end his book without the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, without which Christianity cannot stand (again, 1 Corinthians 15:13-19).  Also that it is statistically impossible for a secondary reading to attain to such a complete dominance in the manuscript tradition.

The long ending seems cobbled together from the other Gospels and Acts; Mary Magdalene is introduced in verse 9 as if for the first time, but she was featured earlier in the chapter.  The Road to Emmaus appearance is taken from Luke.  The appearance to the Eleven and the Great Commission are similarly from the other Gospels.  The driving out demons could come from one of the commissioning of the disciples, and immunity to poison and snake bites could be an allusion to Paul’s survival of the snake bite in Acts.  The command about Baptism has frequently been mishandled by some who commit a logical fallacy.  So there is no material in the long ending that we don’t have elsewhere.

The fact that “there is no material in the long ending that we don’t have elsewhere” does not make it seem that it is “cobbled together from the other Gospels and Acts”.  Since all four Gospel books are telling the same historical facts, we would expect to find that most or all of the details of one event in one Gospel book would be found in the others.  We would not want to challenge the authenticity of, say, Matthew’s account of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 9:13-21), because there is no material in it that we don’t have elsewhere: “The departure in a boat is taken from Mark; the healing of the sick is taken from Luke; the call to send the multitude away is taken from Mark; the description of the food is taken from Luke; etc.”  Nor would we challenge the authenticity of the Matthew’s account of the calling of four disciples (4:18-22) because there is no material in it that we don’t have elsewhere.  By the same token, this line of argument against Mark 16:9-20 is pointless.

Furthermore, since Mark’s account of the resurrection/post-resurrection is the shortest in the four Gospel books, we would expect to find little or no material that is not found elsewhere.  However, we do have some.  None of the other accounts speak of casting out demons, and it seems to be special pleading to claim that it was inserted from “one of the commissioning of the disciples”.  And it is positively risible to suggest that “immunity to poison and snake bites could be an allusion to Paul’s survival of the snake bite in Acts”; this would be ludicrous enough if only the part about taking up serpents were included in Mark, but to suggest that Paul surviving a snake bite parallels “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them” is truly over the top.

Now, it may indeed be that “The command about Baptism has frequently been mishandled by some who commit a logical fallacy,” but that is irrelevant to the question of the authenticity of the long ending.  Finally, we often hear the charge that it is problematic that

Mary Magdalene is introduced in verse 9 as if for the first time, but she was featured earlier in the chapter.

Let us look at the whole text from Mark 15:40 to 16:9.

40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, 41 who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

42 Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. 45 So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.

1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. of whom He had cast seven demons.

So, yes, Mary Magdalene is mentioned in 16:9 although she was already mentioned in 16:1, but she was also mentioned in 15:47 and 15:40.  Why it should be thought strange, then, that she is mentioned in 16:9 is not clear.  The only possible objection is that 16:9 gives us the detail that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her, but that fits the context well: telling the reader the depths from which was delivered the first witness to see the risen Jesus.


There can be no serious doubt about the fact that the so-called long ending of the Gospel According to Mark, viz. 16:9-20, is the authentic original ending of the book.  Mark did not end his written “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” with a missing body, a claim by “a young man” that Jesus had risen (which alone would not be enough to substantiate the resurrection), and women running in fear and saying nothing to anyone.  Mark provided us with a concise description of some of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, His great commission to us, and His ascension to the right hand of God.

That this long ending is authentic is shown by the fact that as far back as we can trace the history of this passage (no later than the second century) it was known and accepted by the Church Fathers, including such men as Irenaeus, who were in a position to know.  The two extremely corrupt manuscripts that omit the long ending (though not without question), and Patristic commentary that such manuscripts exist, come from about two centuries later and cannot overturn the earlier evidence.  It is noteworthy, too, that while some Fathers commented on the existence of manuscripts missing the long ending, there is not even one Church Father who suggests that the long ending was not the original ending.  No wonder, then, that 1,800 extant manuscripts of Mark contain the long ending.

What is a wonder is how easily evangelicals have been persuaded (or lulled) into accepting the excision of this key passage of Scripture.  Freshly scrubbed evangelical seminary grads pass on these bogus arguments against this part of God’s word, without apparently ever subjecting them to the filter of critical thinking.  And when this is combined with other liberal gambits such as Marcan priority and late-dating of the Gospel books, the result is disastrous.  Anyone who questions this ought to watch Muslim apologist Shabir Ally debate an evangelical and see how thoroughly Ally seems to demolish the historical case for Christianity on the basis of these liberal subterfuges, while his evangelical opponent stands helpless, for he himself has been duped into believing these selfsame gambits.

It is high time for evangelicals to realize that the attack on Christianity is not unifocal.  Satan has more than one point of attack.  Three major ones that are in use today are historical criticism, textual criticism, and Darwinism.  It is futile for the Church to stand guard at one of these doors to block Satan’s attack there, while leaving the other doors wide open for his entry.  Those who take on the role of apologist and teacher had really better be aware of this, for the Scripture warns us,

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)


[1] See Linnemann, Eta. Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? Reflections of a Bultmannian Turned Evangelical. Translated by Robert W. Yarbrough. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990. for an excellent overview of how liberal scholarship operates.  Note particularly pp. 130-134, a summary of Külling’s On the Dating of the ‘P’ Source in Genesis.

[2] See, for example, the debates between Muslim dawahist Shabir Ally and evangelical apologists William Lane Craig and Tony Costa. (“Dawahist” is the Muslim equivalent of apologist.)

[3] When real evidence is looked at – for example, when scribal habits are deduced from actual manuscripts, as opposed to airy pronouncements about “what scribes did” – it invariably contradicts the established canons.  (See, inter alia, Scribal habits in the NT papyri.)  But how many evangelicals actually bother to look at evidence?

[4] For example, unless you are using a KJV, NKJV, or EMTV, you will read in Mark 1:2 “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,” which is an error, since the quote immediately following is from Malachi 3:1, to which is appended Isaiah 40:3.  So we have an error here in Mark 1:2.  It is interesting how glibly evangelicals can admit this and not seem to be bothered by it.  Here is John MacArthur’s comment on this, in his MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1456:

“The better Gr. manuscripts “Isaiah the prophet.”  Mark’s quote is actually from two OT passages (Mal.3:1; Is.40:3), which probably explains the reading ‘the prophets’ found in some manuscripts.”

MacArthur does not seem at all bothered by the fact that he has averred that there is an error in the “better” text here, which seems to me to be a curious attitude for an evangelical.  Note that he tells us the inerrant reading is found in “some” manuscripts.  It is found in about 1,800 manuscripts, while the erroneous reading is found in fourteen corrupted manuscripts.

Most evangelicals do find this problematic and try to explain it.  The usual explanation is that it was a rabbinic practice to conflate passages from more than one prophet and identify them by the name of the only the more prominent one.  Evangelicals read this in their apologetic books and accept it and pass it on, without asking for the evidence that there was actually such a rabbinic practice.  I have researched this extensively and have yet to locate any such evidence.

[5] In the seminary I went to, the Hebrew professor frankly said that the text of Genesis 1 cannot be taken as anything other than teaching six-day YEC, but then he laughed (literally) at anyone who believed in six-day YEC.  Meanwhile, the text book for an OT course was Philip Kitcher’s Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism.

[6] I deviate from the order of the points made in the excursus, to facilitate a more logical response sequence.

[7] Technically, it is only missing the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, but without those there is no resurrection

[8] Williams, Matthew C. Two Gospels From One: A Comprehensive Text-Critical Analysis of the Synoptic Gospels. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2006, pp. 23

[9] ibid., p. 215

[10] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2005, pp. 89-90

[11] ibid., p. 88

[12] Hoskier, H.C. Codex B and Its Allies: A Study and An Indictment. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1914.

[13] Burgon, John W. “The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Mark,” in David Otis Fuller, ed., Counterfeit or Genuine? Mark 16? John 8? Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1978, p. 65

[14] ibid., pp. 63-64

[15] Aland, Kurt. “The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in New Testament Research,” in J. Philip Hyatt, ed. The Bible in Modern Scholarship. New York: Abingdon Press, 1965, pp. 325-346

[16] We again see how liberal scholars operate.  Since Papias claimed to have gotten his information from those who had known the apostles personally, and had himself consulted John directly, his testimony should carry great weight.  These details, and the date of Papias, are recorded for us by Eusebius in ca. 324.  Since this is not favourable to the case liberal scholars want to make, they ignore this evidence and late-date Papias to AD 135, following the comment of Philip of Side, though this Philip wrote a good century after Eusebius (ca. AD 430) and is known to be unreliable.  (See Wenham, John. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem. Downer Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992, pp. 121-125 for details.)  Guess which date for Papias – ca. AD 100 or AD 135 – appears in our evangelical textbooks.

[17] Burgon, John W. The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Mark, p. 144

[18] ibid., p. 106

[19] Farmer, William R. The Last Twelve Verses of Mark. London: Cambridge University Press, 1974, p. 24

[20] Burgon, John W. The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Mark, p. 146

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