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Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
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Our readers asked:

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

Ann Naffziger Answers:

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.

The Author : 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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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • James Snapp

    I suggest that one should know that the passage in question is 16:9-20, not 16:9-19, before attempting to teach about it.

  • James Snapp, Jr.

    The oldest extant MS of Mark, Papyrus 45, is extensively damaged and contains no text at all from chapter 16. So we don’t really know if Papyrus 45 had 16:9-20 or not. But in the 100’s, three Christian writers (Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus) used the contents of that passage, and those three writers’ copies were more ancient that the Greek copies (two copies from the 300’s) in which Mark ends at 16:8. In addition, Mark 16:9-20 is supported by over 30 patristic writers from all over the Roman Empire, and by over 1,500 Greek manuscripts (over 99.9%), representing a variety of lines of descent; meanwhile the abrupt ending at 16:8 descends from a narrow transmission-stream that originated in Egypt.

    The view that Mark ended at 16:8 is popular, but errors — sometimes rather basic errors (such as referring to “16:9-19” instead of “16:9-20”) — are easy to find in a lot of the commentaries of the writers who have supported it. In addition, it is often easy to see where those same commentators have, instead of conducting independent research, merely echoed the statements of Bruce Metzger on this subject.

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