New TestamentA Case for the Longer Ending of Mark An argument for Mark 16:9–20 as the original, canonical ending, written by Mark but added by his colleagues. James Snapp Jr.June 1, 2022 ShareFacebookTwitterLinkedInPrint Level This is the first of a series on Mark’s ending. The next article offers a case against 16:9–20. “Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9–20.” That’s how the ESV introduces Mark 16:9–20 in its heading between Mark 16:8 and 16:9. The ESV also features a footnote, stating, “Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after v. 8,” and “some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20.” Readers might wonder what to do when facing a contest between “Some of the earliest manuscripts,” and “other” manuscripts and “some manuscripts.” Let’s dispense with such vagueness and bring the evidence into focus. At last count, 1,653 Greek manuscripts include Mark 16:9–20. (Some of them are damaged, but show that they had the whole passage when they were pristine). Three Greek manuscripts end the text of Mark at 16:8. Eight Greek manuscripts have the so-called Shorter Ending (given above in italics from the ESV footnote). And all eight proceed to include 16:9 (a few of these eight manuscripts are fragments which, due to damage, do not have all twelve verses). At last count, 1,653 Greek manuscripts include Mark 16:9–20. The (Overwhelming) External Evidence This means that 99.8% of Greek manuscripts include vv. 9–20. They include majuscule and minuscule manuscripts such as Codex Alexandrinus (5th c.), C, D (damaged, the text up to 16:15a survives), G, K, M, S, W, Y, Δ, Ρ, Σ, 33, 35, 157, 700, etc. (A more complete list can be viewed here.) Over 1,000 Greek lectionaries—manuscripts in which the text is arranged in segments assigned to days of the ecclesiastical calendar—also include Mark 16:9–20. The Three That Lack It The three Greek manuscripts that end the Gospel of Mark at verse 8 are two manuscripts from the fourth century, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, and the twelfth-century GA 304. Let’s take a look at these three manuscripts and their anomalous features at the end of Mark. Manuscript 304 contains the text of Matthew and Mark interspersed with commentary material. It has no closing-title for Mark—only a short poem, the Greek equivalent of, “As travelers rejoice on their homeland to look, thus also the scribe at the end of a book.” Also, the commentary material resembles that of Theophylact, who commented about vv. 9–20. This suggests that 304 may lack vv. 9–20 because its exemplar was damaged. In Vaticanus, Mark 16:8 ends in the second column of a three-column page. The third column is blank. Vaticanus’s copyist did not leave any other blank columns in the New Testament. In Vaticanus’s Old Testament portion, three blank spaces occur, but each is clearly a side-effect of a factor in the manuscript’s production: (1) a format shift from three columns per page to two columns per page; (2) the convergence of two sections which were written by different scribes; and (3) the end of the Old Testament portion itself. The author’s reconstruction of Mark 16:9–20 fitting in the blank space of Vaticanus. As a deliberately placed blank column, the blank column at the end of Mark in Vaticanus is thus unique. This blank space is what could be called a “memorial space,” signifying the scribe’s recollection of material that was not in his exemplar. This is especially likely considering that vv. 9–20 fit snugly into the blank space if one begins writing 16:9–20 after 16:8 in slightly compressed lettering. (The Shorter Ending can also fit, of course, but this would remove the need for a blank column, since it fits into the space after 16:8 in the second column.) In Sinaiticus, four replacement pages contain Mark 14:54–16:8 and Luke 1:1–56 which are not written by the scribe of the surrounding pages. It was probably made by the manuscript’s supervisor and proof reader (known as a diorthōtēs). Although initially this copyist wrote at a rate of 635 letters per column, in Luke he drastically compressed his lettering at the rate of 690 letters per column. But near the end of Mark, he did the opposite: he expanded his lettering in the first column of the third page. Without taking this step, after accidentally omitting most of Mark 16:1, the diorthōtēs would have reached the end of v. 8 in this column, leaving the next column blank. But, not wanting to do so, he not only expanded his lettering, but also made the decorative design after 16:8 uniquely emphatic. These features indicate that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were both made by copyists who were aware of additional material after v. 8 and decided not to include it. In Vaticanus, the decision to include those verses or not was left up to the eventual owner of the manuscript. In Sinaiticus, the diorthōtēs allowed no such option. The Church Fathers Evidence from the church fathers in favor of Mark 16:9–20 is even earlier than the oldest manuscript evidence. Irenaeus wrote book three of Against Heresies when Eleutherius was bishop of Rome (174–189)—at least a century before Vaticanus was produced. There Irenaeus wrote, “Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says, ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God” (3.10.5). Irenaeus’s copy of Mark obviously included Mark 16:9–20, since he is quoting here from Mark 16:19. A marginal note in GA 72 (11th c.) which reads, “Irenaeus, who was near the time of the apostles … cites this from Mark.” The same note is in GA 1582. Photo of BL Harley MS 5647, f. 132v. Another second-century writer, Justin Martyr (c. 160) also uses Mark 16:20. Justin’s full statement is: “That which he says, ‘He shall send to Thee the rod of power out of Jerusalem,’ is predictive of the mighty word, which His apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere. And though death is decreed against those who teach or at all confess the name of Christ, we everywhere both embrace and teach it. And if you also read these words in a hostile spirit, you can do no more, as I said before, than kill us; which indeed does no harm to us, but to you and all who unjustly hate us, and do not repent, brings eternal punishment by fire” (First Apology 45). Justin uses the words “going forth everywhere preaching” (ἐξελθόντες πανταχοῦ ἐκήρυξαν) which are found in Mark 16:20, albeit in a different order. He also mentions “the word” (cf. Mark 16:20), and he writes about how believers cannot be harmed (a theme found in 16:18). In 1881, the famous textual critic F. J. A. Hort objected to accepting Justin’s support with certainty on the grounds that Mark 16:20 “does not contain the point specially urged by Justin.”1B. F. Westcott and F. J. A Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix, Notes on Select Readings (New York: Harper, 1882), 39. But this changed in 1888 after the publication of an Arabic text of Tatian’s Diatessaron—a second century Gospel harmony. J. Rendel Harris observed that this Arabic text showed that the Diatessaron does contain the point specially urged by Justin, and that “Dr. Hort may therefore remove the query [the question mark] from the name of Justin in the tabulated evidence for the twelve verses.”2J. Rendel Harris, The Diatessaron of Tatian: A Preliminary Study (London: C.J. Clay, 1890), 58. This means that three witnesses from the second century—Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tatian—all attest that 16:9–20 was part of Mark’s Gospel. The Diatessaron’s inclusion of these verses is further shown by Codex Fuldensis (546) in Latin and by the use of Mark 16:15 in the commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron by Ephrem Syrus (c. 360). Another text, known as the Epistula Apostolorum (before 150), provides a fourth witness. Having been published in 1895, it was unknown to Hort. It was thought by the late Robert Stein to reflect its author’s awareness of Mark 16:9–20. Other researchers, including Martin Hengel, have agreed with this assessment. More External Evidence In the third and fourth centuries, support for Mark 16:9–20 comes from Hippolytus (235); Vincentius of Thibaris (256); De Rebaptismate (258); the pagan author Hierocles (305) who used 16:18 in a jibe issued at believers; the Syriac writer Aphrahat (337); Acts of Pilate (4th c.); the Latin commentator Fortunatianus (350); Epiphanius (375); Ambrose (385); Apostolic Constitutions (380); Palladius (late 300s); Augustine (430); Greek copies mentioned by Augustine; and the Old Latin chapter summaries (3rd–5th c.). Not to be overlooked: the Freer Logion, an interpolation placed between 16:14 and 16:15 (found only in Codex Washingtonianus, but also mentioned by Jerome). Metzger assigned the Freer Logion to the second or third century. In the fifth century, Mark 16:9–20 is supported by Macarius Magnes (410); Pelagius, Philostorgius (425); Marius Mercator (430); Marcus Eremita (435); the Armenian translator Eznik of Golb (440); Prosper of Aquitaine (450); Nestorius, as cited by Cyril of Alexandria (440); Peter Chrysologus (440); Leo the Great; and Saint Patrick (ca. 450). In addition, Mark 16:9–20 is in the Syriac Peshitta, the Curetonian Syriac (fragmented; it has 16:17–20), and the Vulgate, which Jerome stated he prepared by consulting ancient Greek copies (in 383). The Gothic version (mid-4th c.), preserved in Codex Argenteus (from the 6th c.), also includes Mark 16:9–20 (including verses 12–20, thanks to Franz Haffner’s discovery of its final page in 1970 in Speyer, Germany).3See Oswald J. L. Szemerényi, “A New Leaf of the Gothic Bible,” Language 48.1 (1972): 1–10. Clearly, there is a tremendous amount of external evidence for Mark 16:9–20 in the first five centuries of Christianity. In contrast, the possible counter evidence is meager indeed. For instance, it is often claimed that Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of these verses. But Clement used very little of the Gospel of Mark besides chapter 10. He cited only 1.3 percent of Mark 1–9 and 11–16. Origen likewise used Mark only sparingly, and never quoted from about 70 percent of Mark’s text. Plus, near the beginning of Philocalia he may allude to 16:20: “Let a man observe how the apostles, who were sent by Jesus to proclaim the gospel, went everywhere, and he cannot help seeing their superhuman daring in obedience to the divine command.” Answering Objections Now, someone familiar with the arguments about Mark 16:9–20 might object, “But Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome both wrote that hardly any of their Greek copies of Mark included 16:9–20.” One might think so, due to the inaccurate description of what Eusebius and Jerome wrote in Bruce Metzger’s much quoted Textual Commentary on the New Testament. But Roger Pearse has made a superior presentation of Eusebius’s full comments (not just out-of-context snippets) in his helpful edition Eusebius of Caesarea: Gospel Problems and Solutions. As for Jerome, D. C. Parker is basically correct in his assessment that the relevant composition by Jerome is just “a translation with some slight changes of what Eusebius had written,”4D. C. Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 135. and is therefore not an independent witness on this point. More importantly, Eusebius and Jerome advised their correspondents to retain Mark 16:9–20. “But there are many manuscripts with scribal notes,” someone might say, “and these notes say that the old manuscripts don’t have Mark 16:9–20 … right?” That idea is probably also based on vague statements in Metzger’s Textual Commentary. Let’s zoom in. The minuscule manuscripts 1, 15, 22, 205, 209, 1110, 1192, 1210, 1582, and 2886 (aka 205abs) have a note which descends from the ancestor of their shared manuscript family. It reads, “Now in some of the copies, the Gospel stops here [at 16:8] and so do Eusebius Pamphili’s Canons [referring to the Eusebian Canons]. But in many, this [16:9–20] also appears.” In manuscripts 20, 215, and 300, the last part of the note says, “But in the ancient ones, it all appears intact.” When actually read, these notes are not as weighty as they as they may seem when described abstractly. Get new articles and updates in your inbox. Leave this field empty if you're human: Allegations are sometimes also made about many manuscripts with editorial marks such as asterisks or obeli alongside Mark 16:9–20, indicative of scribal doubt. But there are no such manuscripts. Researchers have misrepresented these manuscripts too, as shown elsewhere (see here, here, here, and here). It should be clear by now that the external evidence—manuscripts, versions, church fathers, and lectionaries—heavily favors including Mark 16:9–20. But what about the internal evidence involving style and vocabulary? Internal Evidence It’s true that vv. 9–20 have many words used only once in Mark’s Gospel. But eight other twelve-verse segments of Mark have even more. So, vocabulary frequency is not a compelling reason to see these verses as not being Mark’s. That said, more compelling evidence that vv. 9–20 were not the ending that Mark intended are (1) the reintroduction of Mary Magdalene; (2) the restating of the day and time; (3) the sudden absence of those who accompanied Mary Magdalene in 16:8; and (4) the lack of any mention of Galilee where Jesus is expected to meet His disciples (as predicted in 14:28 and 16:7). The overwhelming external evidence and the awkward fit of vv. 9–20 in context require some explanation. An Explanation Here is the scenario which I think accounts most simply for both the internal evidence and the external evidence: Mark unintentionally stopped writing his gospel account in 16:8 due to a permanent interruption (likely persecution). His colleagues, entrusted with his manifestly unfinished narrative, completed it, not by composing fresh material, but by attaching material that we now know as 16:9–20. This was material that Mark had written on a previous occasion (perhaps for Roman churches to use at Easter). Only after this auxiliary material was added did the Gospel’s “production stage” end, and its “transmission stage” begin. On this view, the earliest edition of Mark included 16:9–20. On this view, the earliest edition of Mark included 16:9–20. Where and when and why were vv. 9–20 removed? In Egypt, in the second century, overly meticulous scribes rejected them even though they were in their exemplars. They did so on the grounds that these verses were technically not part of Peter’s “memoirs” (which is how the Gospel of Mark was regarded in the second century). They declined to copy these verses just as one might reject an appendix written by a secretary. (John 21:25 was similarly not transcribed initially in Codex Sinaiticus,5As shown in the ultraviolet light enhanced photo of H. J. M. Milne and T. C. Skeat, The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus (London: British Museum/Library, 1955), 28. probably for a similar reason.) The Gospel of Mark then circulated in Egypt without vv. 9–20. Later, someone in Egypt created the Shorter Ending found in some Bible footnotes today as a way to wrap up the narrative (perhaps after the 200s, considering that Eusebius never mentioned it). Next, copies of Mark with vv. 9–20 soon invaded Egypt, and Egyptian scribes combined the Shorter Ending with vv. 9–20. That this occurred in Egypt in one specific textual transmission line is shown by unique features in the text and marginalia of L, Ψ, 099, and 083 (≈ 0112) that are shared with Greek-Sahidic (i.e., Egyptian) lectionary 1602. The Longer Ending Today The foibles of some Egyptian copyists do not outweigh the general judgment of the Christian church. If this is correct, then the way we should treat Mark 16:9–20 today becomes clear. The foibles of some Egyptian copyists do not outweigh the general judgment of the Christian church. It may be auxiliary, but it is still original, authentic, and canonical. In this, it is like various other passages in the Bible such as Deuteronomy 34:5–12, Joshua 24:29–33, Proverbs 30–31, Jeremiah 52, etc. That is how the Christian church, resisting false impressions from vague footnotes and misinformation, should continue to regard Mark 16:9–20. For a response to this argument, read the case against the Longer Ending.Notes1B. F. Westcott and F. J. A Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix, Notes on Select Readings (New York: Harper, 1882), 39.2J. Rendel Harris, The Diatessaron of Tatian: A Preliminary Study (London: C.J. Clay, 1890), 58.3See Oswald J. L. Szemerényi, “A New Leaf of the Gothic Bible,” Language 48.1 (1972): 1–10.4D. C. Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 135.5As shown in the ultraviolet light enhanced photo of H. J. M. Milne and T. C. Skeat, The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus (London: British Museum/Library, 1955), 28. James Snapp Jr. James Snapp (BA, Cincinnati Bible College) is the pastor of Curtisville Christian Church and writes regularly about textual criticism at The Text of the Gospels. He is also the author of Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9–20.