The BibleTexts.com Bible Commentary
Textual Commentary on Mark 16:9-20
by Robert Nguyen Cramer, BibleTexts.com
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A. The four endings of Mark.
Bruce M. Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994, page 102-106) writes:
Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts.
(1) The earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16:8...
(2) Several witnesses, including four uncial Greek manuscripts of the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries .. [and others] ... continue after verse 8 as follows...:
But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.
All of these witnesses except [one] also continue with verses 9-20.
(3) The traditional ending of Mark [16:9-20], so familiar through the AV [KJV] and other translations of the Textus Receptus, is present in the vast number of witnesseses. The earliest patristic witnesses to part or all of the long ending are Ireneaus [130-200 A.D.] and Diatessaron [Tatian's compilation of the four gospels sometime between 150-160 AD]...
Mar 9:9-20, NRSV - [[9 Now after 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 out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
12 After this 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 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, 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 good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, 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 proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.]]
[However, these] last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts .. [and from many other very early texts]... Clement of Alexandria [150-215 A.D.] and Origen [185-254 A.D.] show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius [260-340 A.D.] and Jerome [342-420 A.D.] attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them... Not a few manuscripts that contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document... The longer ending, though current in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. (a) The vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non-Markan... (b) The connection between ver. 8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel...
(4) In the fourth century the traditional ending also circulated, according to testimony preserved by Jerome, in an expanded form, preserved today in one Greek Manuscript. Codex Washingtonianus includes the following after ver. 14:
And they excused themselves, saying, 'This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal your righteousness now' -- thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them 'The term of years of Satan's power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, tht they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spirit and incorruptible glory of rigteousness that is in heaven.'
It is obvious that the expanded form of the long ending (4) has no claim to be original. Not only is the external evidence extremely limited, but the expansion contains several non-Markan words and expressions... The whole expansion has about it an unmistakable apocryphal flavor. It probably is the work of a second or third century scribe who wished to soften the severe condemnation of the Eleven in 16.14.
Thus, on the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16:8. At the same time, however, out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer ending [16:9-20] and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee [the Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, of which Dr. Metzger is a member] decided to include verses 9-20 as part of the text, but to enclose them within double square brackets in order to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.
B. Textual commentary on and cross references to the traditional ending of Mark (Mar 16:9-20)
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
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