Manuscript Differences 02-Mark 16:9-20 Should it be in the Bible?

In all articles, I plan, with the help of God, to provide the full story of what is being discussed. I have noticed that when it comes to reading books about Bible issues, the writers are often biased one way or the other, very hard to have someone present both sides of an issue and allow the reader to use common sense and come to ones own conclusion without the writer pushing his bias onto the reader.

It is very easy to slant anything one way by truthfully reporting only some of the facts. For example, there may be 10 facts encompassing a certain truth or story, when all 10 facts are laid out before the reader, the reader has the full picture. However, if I am biased one way and I accurately report to you points 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10 and purposely leave out points 1, 3, 5, 7 & 9, I can, therefore, mislead you into my way of thinking.

I heard someone say, ‘Always beware of the sound of one hand clapping’, that means, beware of someone who is telling one side of the story. We all know that it takes two hands to clap, but some people make so much noise on one side of an issue that that is all you hear.

I believe that everyone has to be honesty with themselves and admit that we all have preconceived ideas about anything even before we have all the facts. I admit to you that I approach the Word of God with a preconceived idea that the Bible is the Word of God. I do not read it with the mindset that I am looking for proofs that it is the Word of God. No a thousand times over! I hold the Bible in my hand and believe that it is the Word of God.

In this article, we will discuss the last 12 verses of Mark 16 and see if they should be in the Bible. As with all articles, we will have a look at three different voices: VOICE OF THE CRITICSVOICE OF THE CHURCH and the VOICE OF THE CHRISTIANS.

I will start by showing how the verses appear in the KJV & NKJV translations. Next, I will show how the verses appear or do not in some newer Bibles.

KJV TRANSLATION:

Mark 16:9 ¶  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.
10  And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
11  And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
12  After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
13  And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
14 ¶  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.
15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18  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.
19 ¶  So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

NKJV TRANSLATION:

Mark 16:9 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.
10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.
11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.
13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

NKJV STUDY MARGINAL NOTES:

“Vv. 9-20 are bracketed in the NU (means the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek NT and the UBS4’s edition of the Greek NT.) as not in the original text. They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other MSS of Mark contain them.”

NKJV STUDY FOOTNOTES:

“16:9-20 The authenticity of these last 12 verses has been disputed. Those who doubt Mark’s authorship of this passage point to two fourth-century manuscripts that omit these verses. Others believe that they should be included because even these two manuscripts leave space for all or some of these verses, indicating that their copyists knew of their existence. The difficulty is in knowing whether the space is for this longer version of Mark’s ending or for one of the alternate endings found in the manuscripts. Practically all other manuscripts contain vv. 9-20, and this passage is endorsed by such early church fathers as Justin Martyr (A.D. 155), Tatian (A.D. 170), and Irenaeus (A.D. 180). It does not seem likely that Mark would end his story on a note of fear.”

Since the NIV and the ESV Study Bibles seem to be commonly used today, I will show how they have handles the last 12 verses of Mark 16.

NIV STUDY BIBLE:

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.]

Mark 16:9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.
11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.
13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

NIV STUDY BIBLE MARGINAL NOTES:

No marginal notes.

NIV STUDY BIBLE FOOTNOTES:

“16:9-20 Serious doubt exists as to whether these verses belong to the Gospel of Mark. They are absent from important early manuscripts and display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark (see “The Ending of Mark” on p. 1661). After extensive study of all manuscripts, many scholars believe that one or more scribes took a hand at “writing a more appropriate ending,” using the information from the other Gospels to avoid their own discomfort and to “fill in the blanks” for future generations (see “Early Scribal Emendation” on p. 448). Still, the book through verse 20 is included in the New Testament canon–the authorized Scripture of the church.”

“”The Ending of Mark” on p.1661, Mark 16 There are several different endings to the Gospel of Mark found in the various Greek manuscripts. Most Greek texts and several ancient translations conclude with the ending familiar to us as Mark 16:9-20. The earliest Greek manuscript with that ending is from the fifth century, but evidence from the church fathers suggests that it was already in existence during the second century. Many scholars feel, however, that the vocabulary and themes of the traditional ending are inconsistent with the rest of the Gospel. In the two oldest Greek manuscripts and in a number of ancient versions, Marks’s Gospel ends at 16:8. Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of any ending of this Gospel account beyond verse 8, and Eusebius ans Jerome affirm that nearly all Greek manuscripts known to them were concluded with this verse. Most scholars believe that this is indeed the point at which the original Gospel probably ended and suggest that the other endings very likely developed during the second century, after the Gospel of Mark was read alongside the other Gospels and appeared, by comparison, to lack a satisfactory conclusion. Despite its abruptness, Mark 16:8 is arguably an appropriate ending for the Gospel, since one of its motifs is the fear caused by God’s powerful work in and through Jesus (see, e.g., 5:15, 33; 9:6). The women’s fear suggest that God had performed one more climactic, powerful work, confirming the testimony of the empty tomb and the angelic announcement that Jesus had indeed arisen from the dead, just as he had promised (8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:34)”

It is not hard to see the bias of the NIV translators, the paragraph above appears on page 1661 with the Gospel of Mark 15:45-16:20 appearing on page 1662. The readers mind is conditioned before he/she even has a chance to read verses 9-20 of Mark 16. And how are they conditioned? for or against? Well, its easy to see that they are against verses 9-20. That I judge is a very poor arrangement of notes!

The NIV Study Bible deals with these verses in a very misleading way, before verses 9-20 of Mark 16 are read there is an  article titled, ‘The Reliability of the Bible’, and in it they proceed to undermine your confident in the Bible. They do this by stating comments for and against these verses that I have underlined. If you were to look at the article you will notice the manuscript (MS) that is pictured, Codex Bezae, and the comment, ‘…whereas Codex Vaticanus does not.’, I wonder why we are not shown a picture of Codex Vaticanus? Why do they show a picture of Codex Bezae, which contains verses 9-20 and not Codex Vaticanus is hard to understand, but, I can answer my own question, if they were to show you a picture of Codex Vaticanus, the blank space would be so obvious that there would be no question in your mind that verses 9-20 should be there.

Amazing, we start with a full page on the ‘Reliability of the Bible’, which shows the reader the bias of the NIV translators that Mark 16:9-20 should not be in the Bible and then we turn the page and we notice a 3/4 inch space separating Mark 16:8 from Mark 16:9 with the very bold note, ‘The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20’. With such statements, why do they even brother putting these verses in the Bible? After many attempts to convince the reader that these verses should not be in the Bible, look at how they end their footnote, ‘Still, the book through verse 20 is included in the New Testament canon-the authorized Scripture of the church’. Talk about confusion, total confusion! What does it all mean?

ESV STUDY BIBLE:

[SOME OF THE EARLIEST MANUSCRIPTS DO NOT INCLUDE 16:9-20]1

Mark 16:9 [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.
13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

ESV STUDY BIBLE MARGINAL NOTES:

“1 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8. A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14; one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following: 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. Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20”

ESV STUDY BIBLE FOOTNOTE NOTES:

“16:9-20 “Longer Ending of Mark.” Some ancient manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel contain these verses and others do not, which presents a puzzle for scholars who specialize in the history of such manuscripts. This longer ending is missing from from various old and reliable Greek manuscripts (esp. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), as well as numerous early Latin, Syriac, Amenian, and Georgian manuscripts. Early church fathers (e.g., Origen and Clement of Alexandria) did not appear to know of these verse. Eusebius and Jerome state that this section is missing in most manuscripts available at their time. And some manuscripts that contain vv. 9-20 indicate that older manuscripts lack the section. On the other hand, some early and many later manuscripts (such as the manuscripts known as A, C, and D) contain vv. 9-20, and many church fathers (such as Irenaeus) evidently knew of these verses. As for the verses themselves they contain various Greek words and expressions uncommon to Mark, and there are stylistic differences as well, many think this shows vv. 9-20 to be a later addition. In summary, vv. 9-20 should be read with caution. As in many translations, the editors of the ESV have placed the section within brackets, showing their doubts as to whether it was originally part of what Mark wrote, but also recognizing its long history of acceptance by many in the church. The content of vv. 9-20 is best explained by reference to other passages in the Gospels and the rest of the NT. (Most of its content is found elsewhere, and no point of doctrine is affected by the absence or presence of vv. 9-20.) With particular reference to v. 18, there is no command to pick up serpents or to drink deadly poison; there is merely a promise of protection as found in other parts of the NT.”

As with the marginal and footnote of the NIV, the ESV is no better, actually, they go farther down the road of skepticism by added the phrase, ‘…vv. 9-20 should be read with caution.’ Hard to imagine that being said about the Word of God! I probably don’t have to say it, but I will, not hard to see their bias against these 12 verses. I would judge that their minds are so made up that nothing and no one could change them.

I judge that their notes should be read with caution and not these verses! I find it very disturbing to think of a young Christian reading these notes and the effect it could have on them!

VOICE OF THE CRITICS

I could take lots of time to go over many supposed reasons for the omission of verses 9-20 or the questioning of their authenticity, however, I judge it better to summary the main points of Bruce Metzger and Philip Comfort.
Both will make much of their absents from the two oldest (4th century) MSS, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. I will discuss this in detail under the Voice of the Church where we will look at the part of the story that is hardly ever told.
Among textual critics, like Bruce Metzger and Philip Comfort, there are 5 possible endings to the Gospel of Mark, and of these 5, one of them is the ending of the KJV and NKJV. They will call this ending the ‘Traditional Longer Ending’. Some of these endings are easy to overlook as they have very little manuscript support. Both Metzger and Comfort will lean towards Mark 16 ending at the end of verse 8, most present day Textual Critics will do the same thing. Some may be asking the question, ‘Why do they not accept the Traditional Longer Ending that appears in the KJV and the NKJV?’ I will quote you the words of Philip Comfort taken from his book “New Testament Text and Translation Commentary” page 159. (For more information on this book, see article titled, ‘List of Resources Used for Manuscript Differences’) I will abbreviate his comment and change a few words, so as to not break the copyright laws.
‘But the longer ending is stylistically incongruous with 16:1-8. Any common reader can pickup the non-Markan flavor of the style, tone, and vocabulary of Mark 16:9-20. This is clear in the very first word in 16:9. The Greek verb (having risen) is an active aorist…; it conveys the thought that Jesus Christ Himself rose from the dead. But almost everywhere…in the Gospels, the passive verb is used with respect to Jesus Christ’ resurrection.’
I judge his comments to be a very low view of inspiration. Are we to assume that ever place in the New Testament where a change in words or tone happens that it is not the Word of God and therefore the work of a clever scribe? I could use the apostle Paul as an example and show a number of places where he made new words by compounding 2 or more Greek words never used before. Are we to assume that because of this we do not have the Word of God? I think not! As for the change in the voice of the verb from a passive to an active, did the Lord not say that He had power to rise Himself from the dead? As for the change in tone, could not Mark have written the last part of Mark 16 after the truth of a resurrected Saviour gripped his soul? The main problem with all of these critical thinking scholars is the fact that they have their minds made up before they come to the passage and they do their best by coming up with this and that to verify their own position.
I will give you another quote by Philip Comfort to show just where his mind is, this comment is also from page 159 of his book mentioned above.I will abbreviate his comment and change a few words, so as to not break the copyright laws.
‘Or is it possible that the original closing to Mark’s gospel was lost forever and that none of the above endings is the way the book originally closed?’
Well, well, isn’t that some statement! Quite a way to approach the Word of God. Maybe for him, but not for me!
I will move quickly to a comment from Bruce Metzger, this comment is taken from page 105-106 in his book that was written in 1994, ‘A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament-2nd edition’. (For more information on this book, see article titled, ‘List of Resources Used for Manuscript Differences’) After he has given us his opinion that the Gospel of Mark probably ended at the end of verse 8 he says, I will abbreviate his comment and change a few words, so as to not break the copyright laws.
“…however, out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel of Mark, the Committee…include vv. 9-20 as part of the text, but to enclose them within…brackets in order to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist (Mark)”
I would love to ask Bruce Metzger what that quote means. The next quote is taken from another book that Bruce Metzger wrote in 1997, ‘The Cannon of the New Testament-Its Origin, Development, and Significance’. (For more information on this book, see article titled, ‘List of Resources Used for Manuscript Differences’) Comments are from pages 269-270. I will abbreviate his comment and change a few words, so as to not break the copyright laws.
“Already in the 2nd century…the so called long ending of the Gospel of Mark was known to men like Justin Martyr and Tatian who used it in his Diatesseron. Based on this there seems to be good reason…to conclude that…the passage ought to be accepted as part of the canonical text of the Gospel of Mark.”
To this comment, I could also add the words of another well known Textual Critic, Kurt Aland, who stated in 1987 on page 69 of his book, ‘The Text of the New Testament’,

“The practice of concluding the Gospel of Mark at 16:8 (minus the resurrection/ascension) continued to be observed in some GK manuscripts…although the longer ending of MK 16:9-20 was recognized as canonical.”

There is much more that could be said, but, I feel that I have said enough to show how Textual Critics look at Mark 16:9-20. Let us move on to the Voice of the Church and discover, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

VOICE OF THE CHURCH

I will need you to refresh your mind as to the footnotes in the NKJV Study Bible as shown above. We are clearly told that the two oldest MSS lack the account of verses 9-20, but, read carefully the note that follows, ‘…these two manuscripts leave space for all or some of these verses, indicating that their copyists knew of their existence.’  Notice, also, the words, ‘Practically all other manuscripts (MSS) contain vv. 9-20, and this passage is endorsed by such early church fathers as Justin Martyr (A.D. 155), Tatian (A.D. 170), and Irenaeus (A.D. 180)’.

The two 4th century MSS that are referred to are, Vaticanus (Codex B) and Sinaiticus. If you are familiar with any writings of textual critics, these two MSS are often looked upon as being almost god like! Often these two MSS are grouped together as representing a family of MSS that are similar and considered by many as reflecting a purer form of the Greek text. However, what the reader is very rarely told is that they disagree between themselves so much that they are not alike at all. For example, in the Gospel’s alone, they disagree over 3000 times between themselves! If you would like to read more information on these MSS, please see the articles under ‘Textual Issues/Articles/Greek Manuscripts’.

The main point here, is to focus on a piece of information that is often kept hidden when dealing with Mark 16:9-20. Notice that the editors of the NKJV have informed us that in both the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus a space is left from verse 8 to the start of Luke 1:1. According to John Burgon, a very able textual scholar and one who personal handled and studied Codex Vaticanus, it was always the custom of the scribe to start the beginning of a new book at the top of the next column. For those that might not know, there are 4 columns of text on each page of Codex Vaticanus. It is very interesting to note, that the scribe who copied Codex Vaticanus did not start Luke 1:1 at the top of the next column, the scribe started Luke 1:1 at the top of the 4th column, thus, leaving column 3 blank. Therefore, if you took the blank space that is at the bottom of column 2 and the blank space of column 3, guess what? That’s right, verses 9-20 fit exactly into this space that has been left intentionally blank! To further prove this point, this blank column is the only one in the whole of Codex Vaticanus and, whenever a new book was started, the scribe always started at the top of the very next column. I wonder why he did not follow this rule here in Mark 16 to Luke 1:1? It is not hard to admit that whatever he was copying from, must of contained the verses of Mark 16:9-20! I love the words of the great John Burgon, ‘Never was a blank more intelligible! Never was silence more eloquent!’ The point is this, the manuscript that he was coping from had the verses 9-20, I wonder what the date of that manuscript was?

As for Codex Sinaiticus, we discover the same thing. Codex Sinaiticus has 4 columns per page, Mark 16:8 finishes at the top of column 2, taking up the top inch of column 2. Luke 1:1 starts at the top of column 3 and the blank space left in column 2 is enough space to contain Mark 16:9-20. If you look at the blank space in column 2, it is not hard to see that verses 9-20 were there at one time and were erased! I will insert a picture of this leaf from Codex Sinaiticus.

Sinaiticus Mk16

Before I move to another point, I want to drive the above point deep into your minds. The reason that all these Textual Critics make so much noise about word changes, form changes and things being added over time, etc, they are only trying to avoid the obvious, the 2 oldest manuscripts are not a proof that Mark 16:9-20 should not be in the Bible, but that they should be.

Another point that the NKJV editors bring before us is a man called Tatian and his Diatesseron. In the year A.D. 170, Tatian made a harmony of the 4 Gospels and he called it the Diatesseron, guess what? He included the verses of Mark 16:9-20! I would judge that he copied them from an equally dates or earlier dated manuscript. We could go back even farther and read the writings of Justin Martyr, A.D. 155, and he quotes from Mark 16:9-20.

It is very sad that a man as educated as Philip Comfort in his book that we mentioned above, uses pages 157-163 and not a word about Tatian, not a word about the blank spaces in the 2 oldest MSS, why? Sad to say, he is biased against these verses and will therefore talk a mountain and try to overcome his reader with useless information.

VOICE OF THE CHRISTIAN

Based on all of the above, what should our voice be today? I for one am total convinced that Mark 16:9-20 is part of the Word of God. As I stated in another article, if we were to pick John Wycliffe’s Bible of 1380 as the starting point and move up to the year 1881 when the Revised Version (RV) was released, the RV was the first English Bible to question whether Mark 16:9-20 should be in the Bible, we have 501 years in which the Christian Church looked upon Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture. I found it very hard to believe that God allowed His Christian Church to be mislead for that many years and then decided to correct the mistake in 1881! 

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