I recently heard someone say the Bible can't be trusted because there are missing verses in some versions and it has been added to.
Mark 16:9-20 was the particular culprit in that conversation. The claim is that it was not part of the original text written by Mark. Therefore it was added later and should not be part of the Bible.
It is a well known and often quoted section. If it is not original, then Christians around the world have been deceived. I decided to check it out. Here is what it says:
9 Now when he had risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 When they heard that he was alive, and had been seen by her, they disbelieved. 12 After these things he was revealed in another form to two of them, as they walked, on their way into the country. 13 They went away and told it to the rest. They didn't believe them, either. 14 Afterward he was revealed to the eleven themselves as they sat at the table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they didn't believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 15 He said to them, "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who disbelieves will be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages; 18 they will take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will in no way hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen. (WEB)
You might observe as I did there isn't any new information given here about Jesus and Mary or the other believers. It agrees with Matthew, Luke and John. The only difference between Mark and the other Gospels is verses 17-20. But even then, this information can be learned from reading Acts and Jesus' conversation with the disciples during the Last Supper. Psalm 91 and Isaiah 43 also support the promise of protection.
You might think if it repeats other information does it really matter if it was original?
But the real question may be why was it added if it wasn't part of the original text? Jews respected God's word and they were not to add to it. Yes, these were Christian Jews, and we are talking about a writing that was not part of their Scriptures. But this was The Important Story of the day. It would be respected wouldn't it?
The question remains then, "Are the verses original to Mark?"
In 1987 scholars Kurt and Barbara Aland studied the text and the argument against it. They concluded it was not part of Mark's original writing.
So should we ditch Mark 16:9-20?
Before you decide you should know the Alands also concluded the text to be authentic and dated it to the early second century.
You should also know there are many respected Bible scholars who concluded it was original and early church preachers like Irenaeus (130-202 AD) who quoted it.
The differing conclusions, original and not original, seem to depend on how the scholars interpreted the facts. Be assured, there are many early manuscripts that include verses 9-20.
But let's follow the conclusion the verses were not original. Where does this line of reasoning lead?
Here is what those scholars conclude. The fact is the ending may have been added but it was carefully added by other known verses in Luke, Matthew, John and Acts. These other authentic, original verses were used to form the ending of Mark, possibly for believers who may not have had access to the other writings. In this way they had a complete account. The Alands noted that the verses were included in 99% of Greek versions.
The Alands were not the first to make this conclusion or to realize the verses retell information from the other books. Scholars have understood this since the accusations have been made long, long ago.
So for those who conclude the text not original to Mark the verdict is the ending is the inspired Word of God since it comes from other parts of the Bible that are known to be inspired.
But that doesn't stop those attacking the Bible. They are quick to jump on a headline and never delve into the research. It is a strategy with a sack full of goals. They are hoping to prove God a liar, a non-entity, and unfaithful.
What does this mean for us?
It means we have a choice to make. We can be undone by every slander against God and honor the world's wisdom instead. Or, we can remain in full trust and total abandon in God and His word to us. What we choose determines our outcomes, whether defeats or victories.
What many fail to acknowledge is the victory of God working everyday in the world. Amid the worst conditions and threats, people are being saved and healed all while some expert somewhere continues to shout there is no God and if there is, He is certainly not good.
You are free not to read Mark 16:9-20 if you think it is not part of the original text of Mark. Some Bible translations alert you in their footnotes. Just know you'll be reading the same information elsewhere in the New Testament.
Here is a link to an article by Dr. Dave Miller about the textual criticism of Mark 16:9-20.
Since we've researched the claims against the ending of Mark, you might like to know who Mark was.
Mark was John Mark the cousin of Barnabas. We read in Acts 12:12, the early Christians met in his mother's house. Mark went on a trip with Paul and Barnabas, but he left them to go back to Jerusalem. That made Paul mad, but later he repented and called Mark his coworker. Mark was also a good friend of Peter's. Peter called him a son in 1Peter 5:13.
Mark went on to write Peter's teachings for the Roman believers. That is why many Jewish terms are explained in the book of Mark. It also explains the style of his writing as a story, quick and action packed. Mark isn't as deep on theology as other Gospels, but it provides an honest look at the disciples, mostly Peter who didn't censor the publishing of his failures.
Was Mark in Rome? Many say yes. There is a cryptic reference to Babylon in 1Peter 5:13 that may be indicating both Peter and Mark were in Rome.
The book of Mark is thought to be written early, perhaps mid 50 AD. Matthew was written mid to late 50 AD and Luke around 60 AD. Scholars debate if Matthew came first or Mark. There are even a few who believe Mark was written after Peter's execution in the mid 60s AD or as late as 70AD. The majority view is it was early.
So what was happening around 50 AD?
In 53AD Claudius named Nero as his successor. He came to power one year later after his mother poisoned Claudius. Nero poisoned Claudius' fourteen year old son in 55AD. This might be why drinking poison was on Mark's mind as he wrote 16:8.
Things were about to get dangerous for Christians and perhaps there was an urgency to record the history from eyewitnesses to strengthen believers and grow the church.
If you've read this far you now might know more about Mark than you'll ever need to know. But at least you are prepared.
Do you have a favorite verse from Mark? Share it in the comments.
Image by Gean Montoya courtesy of Unsplash
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