Was the ending of the Gospel of Mark really added on later?

Mark’s gospel is sometimes called “the gospel with no Christmas and a shaky Easter” because it tells us nothing about Jesus’ birth, and the oldest manuscripts we have of the gospel ended at 16:8a: The women “fled from the tomb and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Therefore, there is not even an “Easter,” so to speak, in this gospel.

In the original Greek, the last word in verse 16:8 is an unusual word with which to end a sentence, and the sentence certainly would have been an odd way to end the story of Jesus’ life and death. Some have wondered if Mark died before finishing the gospel or if the original ending got torn off the parchment somehow. Scholars overwhelmingly agree that Mk 16:8b and then 16:9-19 were added later to fix the problem of the abrupt ending at 16:8a. The syntax and language of both additions is different enough from the language of the rest of the gospel that it is agreed that they were penned by writers other than Mark who were similarly dissatisfied with a conclusion that told nothing of Jesus’ resurrection.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.


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