Monday, December 9, 2013

Mark 16:9-20

     Mark 16:9-20 is the longest disputed portion of the New Testament. The
question is frequently asked:  "Is  Mark 16:9-20  a  genuine part of the New
Testament?" I intend to state some of the relevant facts, and allow them to
speak for themselves.

     Some people believe if it is admitted that Mark 16:9-20 is not genuine
the case for the essentiality of immersion for salvation is weakened. This
is not the case, because other undisputed passages teach the same things
that are taught in Mark 16:9-20. Immersion, like faith and repentance, is
definitely essential to salvation. (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21) The authenticity
of a text is not to be decided on theological grounds, but on the weight of
the manuscript evidence. The things taught in 1 John 5:7, as it stands in the
King James Version,  are taught in other parts of the New Testament, but
that does not mean 1 John 5:7 is  genuine. I John 5:7 does not appear in any
of the oldest  Greek  manuscripts. Only  8  manuscripts have  it, and  it  is
apparently   derived   from   a  late  recension  of   the Latin   Vulgate.  The 
question    is    not:    "Are   the   things   taught   in Mark 16:9-20  true?"
The   question   is:  "Is  Mark 16:9-20  genuine?" The question cannot be
decided on theological grounds, any more than the  authenticity  of  1 John 5:7
can  be  decided  on  theological grounds.

     The  only  way  to  decide  the question is to look at and evaluate the
evidence. What is the evidence for and against the inclusion of Mark
16:9-20 in the corpus of writings known as the New Testament?

     The disputed verses are found in the vast majority of ancient manuscripts,
including codex Alexandrinus, a 5th century manuscript which is relatively
close to Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, both of which are 4th century
manuscripts. Two   other   5th century   textual   witnesses   that    include
Mark 16:9-20 are Ephraemi  Rescriptus  and  Bezae Cantabrigiensis. At
least two early patristic witnesses bear testimony to part or all of the long
ending  of  Mark. They   are  Irenaeus   about   202 A.D., and   Tatian's
Diatessaron  about  150 A.D.  Justin  Martyr  might  have  alluded  to the
disputed  portion  of  Mark  in  his  Apology, dated about 165 A.D. The
patristic witnesses are important because they are substantially earlier than
any of the current manuscript evidence.

     The  long  ending  of  Mark  is  absent  from  Sinaiticus and Vaticanus,
the two oldest known Greek manuscripts, dated approximately 325 to 350
(375) A.D.  

     The KJV and NKJV include the verses as a part of Mark's biography
of the Lord. Other translations indicate the textual problems with Mark
16:9-20 in a variety of ways. Most include it, but they have a space separating
it from the preceding verses. The ASV, RSV, NIV, NRSV, TNIV, ESV, and
NIV-2011 have a space between the two sections. The ASV has a footnote
that says, "The two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some other ancient
authorities, omit verses 9 to the end. Some other authorities have a different
ending to the gospel." The NIV-2011 says, "The earliest manuscripts and some
other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20." The ESV footnote says,
"Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20."

     What are we to make of this information? Even though the two oldest known
manuscripts (codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) do not contain the disputed
passages, some of the earliest patristic writings do contain the verses. The
patristic evidence  predates  the  manuscript  evidence  approximately  200
years. But, this  fact  alone  is  not  necessarily  proof  of  their genuineness.
Nevertheless, it does indicate an early belief that the verses are genuine, and
that Mark wrote them.

     The fact is, there is doubt about their authenticity and the modern English
versions accurately state the facts in their footnotes. Truth would not be
served by avoiding the facts.
                                                                                                        R. Daly
Copyright 2013


  1. Some ignorantly teach Mk 16:9-20 is disputed because of a conspiracy to take out baptism verses. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth.

    As you said, we should never decided if a passage is genuine based on theology. In this case, finding a verse that teaches belief and immersion in the same verse like Mark 16:16 is not difficult- Acts 8:12, 13; 18:8.

  2. R. Daly,
    This is a subject I've looked into in detail. I invite you to read my book, "Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20." Also, I noticed that you did not mention the unusual features in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus that appear at Mark 16:8, namely, Vaticanus' distinct blank space, and Sinaiticus' cancel-sheet, lettering-compression, and an emphatic arabesque.

    Also, the footnotes in some translations are *not* accurate. For example, until recently, the ESV's footnote incorrectly stated that "A few" MSS have additional material after Mk. 16:14, and the NLT *still* says something incorrect about that. *None* of the footnotes in modern translations convey that there is early patristic support for the inclusion of Mk. 16:9-20, and *none* of them specify that out of over 1,600 Greek manuscripts of Mark, only two, both from the 300's, and both with unusual features at this point, do not include text from 16:9-20.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  3. James,
    Thanks for your comments regarding my post about Mark 16:9-20.
    I am aware of your book. It was not my intent to mention the
    "unusual features" of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus that appear at Mark 16:8, because the "unusual features" do not provide negative or positive endorsement of the authenticity of the deputed portion of Mark. I have copies of both manuscripts and I am very familiar with their "irregularities." Many of the ancient manuscripts have some kind of irregularities or "unusual features."

    I am also aware of the inaccurate footnotes that accompany many
    English versions. I have made notations regarding the inaccuracies
    in several translations. The modern versions may not make the reader
    aware of the early patristic support for Mark 16:9-20 and other
    parts of the N.T. but I did make the readers aware of such in my article. I do not believe patristic support alone is sufficient to prove

    The design of my article was to indicate some of the available findings, and to allow the student to make up his/her own mind
    with regard to the evidence.