Should The Long Ending Of Mark Be In the Bible?

Should the long ending of Mark be in the Bible?  We’re starting a series on Bible difficulties here at Tent Making Christianity.  A few weeks ago, we looked at whether or not the gospel of Mary Magdalen should be in the Bible.  We’re going to continue by discussing the long ending of Mark in this post.  

So what is the long ending of Mark?

The Gospel of Mark ends at chapter 16 vs. 8 in the oldest manuscripts we have.  The final 11 verses appear to be late additions to the text.  They appear in the later copies of the Gospel.  Most modern translations note this in the margins. Some translations will also bracket or italicize the text to let the reader know the verses are in question. The NRSV translation includes the following note:

Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful. (1)

What Is The Short Ending Of Mark?

As the note above states, there is a short ending of Mark.  The short ending reads as follows:

And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

How Did The Extra Verses Get There? 

When you read the ending of Mark’s Gospel, it ends rather abruptly.  Just take a look at the text:

“ As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:5-8 (2)

Seems like an odd place to end the story, doesn’t it? It is possible that Mark in fact did end his Gospel at vs. 8.  It’s also possible there was an original ending that was torn from the scroll very early in the transmission process.  An early scribe may have attempted to recreate the ending by adding verses 9-20. The truth is, we simply don’t know how the verses originated.  

Didn’t Anyone Notice?

The early church fathers were aware of the additions.  Justin Martyr, Tatian and Irenaeus were all aware of verses 9-20.  Irenaeus went so far as to quote vs 19 in one of his works.  So the additional verses were known and identified as additions early on in Church history.

How Did The Verses Get In Modern Translations?

When the King James translation of the Bible was printed in 1611 it included verses 9-20.  The translators at the time did not have access to the earliest manuscripts.  The earliest copies of the New Testament documents hadn’t been discovered yet.  The translators were simply using the manuscripts they had available to them at the time.  

Should The Long Ending Of Mark Be In the Bible?

As you can imagine, we have found a number of older manuscripts since 1611.  This wealth of information has allowed modern translators to get a better understanding of what the original authors actually wrote.  As new discoveries are made, our translations get more and more accurate.  

Do The Additions Change Anything?

No. If you read the additional verses, they do not contradict any other verse of Scripture.  In fact, the additional text is similar to other verses already in the New Testament.  We get no additional information about the events in Jesus life, or His resurrection.  

What Does This Do To The Doctrine of Inerrancy?

Nothing.  Remember, the doctrine of inerrancy states that the originalmanuscripts by the original authors were inerrant.  The copies made over the course of history have never been considered inerrant.  

So Should They Remain In The Bible?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question.  I think the solution we currently have is probably the best one.  Keep the verses in, but supply a note indicating to the reader that the text is a late addition.  

It’s important for the Church to have conversations about difficulties present in the text of the Bible. We need to have these conversations with the members of our churches.  If we are not preparing our brothers and sisters in Christ to answer these challenges, a skeptic will surely use them to sew the seeds of doubt.