The endings of the gospel of Mark.
The longer, shorter, and abrupt endings.
The gospel of Mark is blessed with a variety of different conclusions from which to choose. Either the original ended, intriguingly, with εφοβουντο γαρ, or at a very early date the true ending was mutilated. In either case, replacements were eventually composed to remedy the lack or loss.
For none of the current endings commends itself as the original.
Nota bene: For the sake of consistency, I have translated the Greek πιστις and its cognates with the English belief and its cognates. My usual preferred translation is faith, which has, however, no cognate English verb. The Greek πιστις ranges in meaning from mere belief to trust to loyalty to religious devotion to absolute commitment.
I highly recommend contacting Jim Snapp II and getting hold of his essay, some 115 pages long in the version that I have, on the endings of Mark. I disagree with many of his arguments and conclusions, but the essay is very detailed and well worth reading, agree or disagree. Also, The Ending of Mark at Bible Researcher is worth a look.
The longer ending, Mark 16.9-20.
Few passages of the New Testament have garnered more attention than the last twelve verses of the gospel of Mark. It is found in the vast majority of the manuscripts, yet some of the best and earliest manuscripts lack it, and some of the more textually aware church fathers express doubts about it.
The longer ending is also available in a glossed version.
Is it original to Mark?
I will address the witnesses in rough chronological order. I extracted the Greek or Latin
quotations of many of the later fathers or manuscripts from James Kelhoffer, The Witness of Eusebius' Ad Marinum, downloadable in
Matthew and Luke.
The external evidence is summarized on a table categorizing the relevant texts into eastern and western witnesses.
Matthew and Luke.
On source theories that posit Marcan priority, it is interesting that Matthew and Luke diverge from each other drastically both in their infancy narratives, of which Mark has none, and in their accounts of the resurrection appearances, which in Mark appear only in the longer ending.
Luke 24.13-53 has a fair bit of material to parallel parts of Mark 16.9-20, but Matthew 28.11-20 precious little. Few would posit Lucan dependence on the Marcan ending, though many would draw the line of dependence in the opposite direction. I am not certain what specific arguments might be adduced against Luke having seen the longer ending in his copy of Mark besides arguments for the secondary nature of Mark 16.9-20 overall.
In my judgment, on any source hypothesis that posits Marcan priority the gospel of Matthew is evidence against the longer ending; that of Luke, on its own, is not, but it seems more likely to me at present that the longer ending was modelled either on Luke or on similar source material than that Luke found it in his copy of Mark.
The gospel of Peter.
...this unorthodox, patchwork composition refers to the disciples weeping and mourning, as in Mark 16.10.
He is undoubtedly referring to Peter 7.27b:
Compare Mark 16.10:
This connection, while possibly valid, tells us little. Does the gospel of Peter depend upon the longer ending? Or vice versa? Or do both depend upon a common text or tradition? Or is mourning and weeping just a natural expression for such a circumstance?
I see little more than a vapor trail here, probatively speaking.
The preaching of Peter.
From Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.6:
The juxtaposition of belief and unbelief with evangelizing the world and salvation is quite reminiscent of Mark 16.15-16. I do not, however, judge that this overlap of motif requires a literary connection between the longer ending and what Clement calls the preaching of Peter, and, even if it did, there is no certain way of knowing when the preaching of Peter was written up, only that it was known to Clement of Alexandria late in the second century.
Papias (early century II), bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, wrote five books that are now lost to us except in occasional quotations from later church fathers. Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.9, records the following story from one of his lost books:
This account of Justus drinking poison reminds one, of course, of Mark 16.18a:
Interestingly, Philip of Side (century V) records this same incident from Papias, but in a manner more reminiscent of the longer ending of Mark. From his History of the Church:
Both Eusebius and Philip are paraphrasing Papias, and reporting his words in the third person. Philip, however, offers three details over and above what Eusebius has, all of which serve to draw the account closer to the longer Marcan ending:
The problem is simple. If Papias wrote only what Eusebius said that he wrote, then we have no real reason to suspect that he knew the longer ending of Mark. The only overlap would be the motif of harmlessly drinking poison. But, if Papias wrote what Philip Sidetes says that he wrote, then Papias may well have known it. Which is more likely in the paraphrasing of Papias, that Eusebius subtracted these three points of contact with Mark 16.9-20, or that Philip added them?
It ought to be noted that drinking snake venom is not necessarily dangerous, much less fatal. Snake venom is intended to infiltrate the blood, not the gastric system. Such knowledge was not necessarily commonplace in the ancient world (nor necessarily in our modern world, for that matter), but it is at least possible that Eusebius has eliminated the reference to viper venom because he happens to know that it would not necessarily be fatal if ingested, and he wishes to leave the miracle miraculous. He still calls the event a paradox (παραδοξον) and the substance deadly (δηλητηριον).
(A funny scenario occurs to me in which the historical Justus, aware that snake venom is harmless to the gastric system, takes advantage of the ignorance of a group of unbelievers who are not aware of this little datum, and walks away with an impressive, but faked, miracle. But proof for or against the historicity of this episode might well elude us forever.)
But it is also possible that Philip added parallels with the longer ending to what he read in Papias. Philip, writing in the fifth century, might have (unconsciously?) brought the passage closer to the longer ending of Mark. One naturally thinks of Mark 16.17a when reading the incident with Justus. Perhaps Philip has surmised that the only reason to drink poison would have something to do with the malice of unbelievers, and that a believer drinking poison will be drinking it in the name of Christ, as the longer ending says. And he has conflated picking up snakes with drinking poison; it comes out as drinking snake poison.
Since either of these scenarios is possible, neither is certain. I cannot tell whether or not Papias knew the longer ending, or even whether or not the author of the longer ending knew Papias.
Justin Martyr (middle of century II), an apologist writing from Rome, has in Apology 1.45:
It is rightly debated whether Justin knew the longer ending based on this phrase. On the one hand, he does not tell us that he is quoting from Mark. On the other hand, those last three words εξελθοντες πανταχου εκηρυξαν, having gone out everywhere they preached, could easily have come from Mark 16.20, in which the same three words appear (εξελθοντες εκηρυξαν πανταχου, having gone out they preached everywhere), but in a different order.
Even if, however, Justin evinces a knowledge of the longer ending, does he know it as the ending of Mark, or as an independent text or tradition? I am willing to at least countenance that Justin knew the longer ending.
Late century II.
Tatian apparently included the longer ending in his Diatessaron. I have not yet researched this angle for myself, but William Farmer counts Tatian as a witness for inclusion of Mark 16.9-20 on page 34 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, and Jim Snapp II states in conjuction with his table of witnesses that both the Arabic version of the Diatessaron and the commentary of Ephraem on it in Syriac integrate the longer ending.
Late century II.
Origen, the great Alexandrian church father, wrote Against Celsus as a solution to the problems posed by Celsus, the great pagan opponent of Christianity. William Farmer points out on pages 31-32 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark that at 2.55 Origen cites Celsus as claiming that, according to the Christians, Jesus was seen risen from the dead by a half-frantic woman (γυνη παροιστρος). From this reference Farmer gathers that Celsus knew Mark 16.9, and was attacking the credibility of Mary Magdalene by referring to her demon-possessed past.
This line of reasoning seems very weak to me. The account of Mary Magdalene in John 20.11-18 seems quite sufficient as a basis for Celsus saying that she was out of her mind. Not only is Mary weeping with grief in 20.11, but she also fails to recognize Jesus at first in 20.14-15. Celsus need only be exaggerating this womanly lack of composure.*
* Joe Wallack, on a thread from the FRDB (formerly the IIDB), also points out that Mary is running to tell the disciples of the empty tomb in John 20.2, which action implies in context some measure of franticness on her part.
Furthermore, if the mention of her former demons in Mark 16.9 is the cause for this harsh remark, then Celsus would be blatantly disregarding the perfect tense of εκβεβληκει, have been cast out. Mary is not presently inhabited by demonic forces in Mark 16.9; she used to be so inhabited. Yet Celsus clearly wishes the reader to believe that she was half out of her mind at the time of the resurrection appearance. I find this scenario no more likely than that Celsus simply exaggerated her weeping and failure to recognize her Lord into a slur. Celsus, therefore, in my view offers no evidence either for or against the longer ending.
Irenaeus (late century II), bishop of Lyon (in what is now France), wrote in Greek, but much of his work is now extant only in Latin translation, including our relevant passage in Against Heresies 3.10.5:
This evidence from Irenaeus is very clear. He quotes Mark 16.19 as coming from the end of the gospel of Mark. His version of the gospel, late in the second century in a western region of the Roman empire, has the longer ending.
Clement of Alexandria.
William Farmer writes on page 30 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark:
It is true that, as with Origen, we know of no place where Clement cites or shows acquiantance with these verses [of the longer ending]. But Clement is equally silent about the last chapter of Matthew, and, therefore, it is difficult to evaluate his silence with regard to Mk. 19:9-20.
Early century III.
The illustrious Alexandrian father Origen never cites or shows acquaintance with Mark 16.9-20, even in Against Celsus, in which he discusses the resurrection appearances in Matthew, Luke, and John, and Mark is conspicuously absent.
It would be an argument from silence to call Origen as a witness against the longer ending, but I beg leave to consider both him and his Alexandrian predecessor, Clement, in conjunction with one another, and to consider it telling that neither evinces any knowledge of Mark 16.9-20.
(Jim Snapp II mentions on his table of evidences that in Against Celsus 7.17 Origen states that the signs of the destruction of the kingdom of Satan include the casting out of demons. But such a statement is a poorer allusion to Mark 16.17 than to Matthew 12.28 = Luke 11.20, or to the concept of exorcism in general.)
De Baptismo 10:7 might allude to Mark 16:16.
What follows, then, is Tertullian, Concerning Baptism 10.7, writing of John the baptist (English slightly modified from Ernest Evans):
I do not find any allusion here to Mark 16.16.
Early century III.
William Farmer writes on page 32 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark:
A third-century passage, sometimes attributed to Hippolytus, includes an interpretation of Mk. 16:18.
...he seems to have used part of Mark 16:18 when describing the positive effects of partaking of the Lord's Supper.
The passage in question is Apostolic Tradition 32.1. I have not yet examined this passage, but I provisionally accept it as a witness for the longer ending.
Vincentius of Thibaris.
Middle of century III.
At the seventh council of Carthage in 256 the bishop of nearby Thibaris, one Vincentius, cited the following word of the Lord according to William Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, pages 32-33:
Farmer urges that the sources for this line are both Matthew 28.19a...:
...and Mark 16.15-18. Some prefer to drop the Marcan connection and link it instead with Matthew 10.8:
What is lacking, of course, in Matthew 10.8 are the phrases in my name (in nomine meo) and lay on hands (manum imponite), both of which are present in Mark 16.15-18. For my money, Vincentius is a witness to the longer ending of Mark, not (merely) to the mission discourse of Matthew.
Eusebius of Caesarea (early century IV) answers in a letter some probing questions from a fellow named Marinus, one of which concerns the harmonization of the resurrection accounts of Matthew and Mark. The question in the letter, To Marinus, runs as follows:
To this (very good) question Eusebius gives two different answers. The first answer is text-critical:
This assessment of the manuscript evidence is part, of course, of a potential apologetical answer, but we have no reason to think that Eusebius is pawning off a lie. Furthermore, while both the opening and closing lines of this first answer are in the optative mood, as expressing what an apologist might say (ειποι), the actual manuscript statements are in the indicative mood, as expressing the raw data upon which this hypothetical apologetic answer would be based. As far as Eusebius is aware, then, the following statements are both true:
The accurate copies, in other words, are a subset of the majority, and lack any ending beyond 16.8.
The second answer is harmonistic:
Thus Eusebius harmonizes Matthew and the longer ending of Mark for those who do not dare in any way (ουδ οτιουν τολμων) set Mark 16.9-20 aside. It is important to recognize here that Eusebius is aware of a pious attitude in the church that would prefer to retain pericopes in the sacred texts than to eliminate them.
My own sense of Eusebius at this point is that he himself, as a textual critic, knowing what he knew about how many and which manuscripts ended at 16.8, regarded the things in the longer ending as probably spurious (περιττα). He himself, in fact, is the apologist who would set aside the passage altogether, but he does not want to come right out and say so, since he knows that a good many churchmen, represented by Marinus, are of the other persuasion, not daring to set any received portion of the text aside.
When Eusebius roughly tallies the manuscripts without the longer ending, his approach is telling. He gives the following informational tidbits, in order:
If he is going to say that the longer ending was missing in the majority of copies anyway, why does he start by weakly stating that it is not extant in all? I think that he is setting the table for Marinus, whom he knows (for whatever reason) will not want to reject Mark 16.9-20. Eusebius definitely wishes to get his own explanation for the apparant discrepancy registered, but softens the blow by gently letting Marinus know that the manuscripts with which he is familiar do not represent the bulk of the textual tradition.
Do we have evidence that Eusebius himself rejected the longer ending? We do. He did not classify Mark 16.9-20 in his canons. If he regarded it as genuine, he would have included it in his canons.
William Farmer, on page 63 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, gives a lengthy footnote highlighting how difficult it might have been for Eusebius to apportion the longer ending amongst his canons. He notes that canonizing the agreement between Mark and John on the appearance to Mary would perhaps entail the creation of an eleventh canon, with perhaps just the one entry, and suggests that such considerations be taken into account when deciding on the meaning of Eusebius leaving out Mark 16.9-20.
If the difficulty of integrating Mark with John had anything to do with the omission of Mark 16.9-20 from the Eusebian canons, one might well wonder why Eusebius did not eliminate the relevant portions of John 20 instead of the longer ending of Mark. If it seems perverse to eliminate the resurrection appearances of John, then the point has hit home. It seems perverse to eliminate any portion of scripture merely for the sake of convenience, and seems highly doubtful that Eusebius would have done so unless he already regarded Mark 16.9-20 as spurious.
Furthermore, Eusebius had no qualms about assigning rough parallels to his tenth table, that set aside for material unique to any of the four gospels. For example, he could have paired Luke 24.47 with Matthew 28.19 (the great commission) and John 20.6-7 with Luke 24.12 (Peter at the tomb). Instead, each of these passages is assigned to the tenth table, embedded within longer blocks of unique matter. By the same token, Eusebius could easily have relegated Mark 16.9-11 and John 20.11-18 to his tenth table, treating them respectively as unique Marcan and Johannine material. There was certainly no need to cut out the resurrection appearances in Mark if indeed Eusebius regarded them as a genuine part of the text.
In my judgment, then, Eusebius thought that the longer ending of Mark was spurious.
Eusebius, however, he did not reject the longer ending outright, especially as an apologist trying to answer difficult questions for the benefit of significant segments of the church at large that he seems to have thought would want to retain Mark 16.9-20. Eusebies was nothing if not ecumenical. So he went ahead and harmonized it with Matthew anyway.
Uncial manuscripts are those written in all uppercase letters (or, perhaps more accurately, in the letters invented before the distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters came about). Neither of the great uncials of the fourth century, Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (א), have Mark 16.9-20, nor do they replace it with any other ending. (They are witnesses, in other words, to the abrupt ending.) All four of the great uncial codices from the fifth century, however, have Mark 16.9-20. These uncials are Alexandrinus (A), Ephraimi rescriptus (C), Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D), and Washingtoniensis (W, which adds another logion between verses 14 and 15).
Also of note, Δ and Θ (both IX) include the longer ending as it stands, while L (VIII) and Ψ (VIII-IX) include both the longer and the shorter endings. The following notes are from codex L at the end of Mark:
The last page of Mark in Vaticanus.
Interestingly, the Old Latin Bobbiensis (V), itk, has the shorter ending alone, without the longer ending. But let us now examine the fourth-century Greek uncials that lack the longer ending.
The evidence from Vaticanus, or B, is not quite as clear-cut as a textual apparatus might lead one to suppose. After Mark 16.8, an entire column is left blank before going on to the gospel of Luke. Everywhere else, it seems, Vaticanus starts the next book at the top of the very next column, leaving no blank columns. The longer ending would fit into what is left of the white space on the page with only a bit of scribal letter compression, as Jim Snapp II demonstrates on his page about the longer ending of Mark.
Refer to my page on the work of Jim Snapp II for information on his online series about textual criticism and the endings of Mark.
The scribe of Vaticanus, then, probably knew of the longer ending, but was uncertain whether or not to include it, so he left a blank large enough to contain it if necessary (if, for example, the buyer of the manuscript desired). Vaticanus, then, is evidence, not that Mark 16.9-20 was unknown, but rather that it was questioned.
The evidence from Sinaiticus is more straightforward, though even here not without its own little twist. In this manuscript the four pages that contain Mark 14.54-16.8 and then Luke 1.1-56 are a cancel-sheet; they are, in other words, replacement pages for what the original scribe wrote. The extant cancel-sheet lacks Mark 16.9-20. And, according to Jim Snapp II on his page detailing this cancel-sheet in א, the four replaced pages would not have had enough room for the longer ending without serious script compression.
The four pages of the cancel-sheet have four columns each, for a total of sixteen columns. From line 1 of column 4 to line 10 of column 5 the script is compressed. But then from line 11 of column 5 through the last line of column 10, the end of Mark, the script is expanded. In columns 11-16 the script is compressed again. What is going on? Snapp suggests the possibility of indecision as to Mark 16.9-20 on the part of the scribe writing the cancel-sheet, or on the part of his supervisor. Perhaps he began compressing his script in order to fit the longer ending of Mark, but then decided against it, so had to begin expanding his script to make up the difference. Perhaps he started with an exemplar that had the longer ending, but then used one that lacked it. Such a scenario, however, can be no more than a guess.
But why were the original pages replaced in the first place? It is not unlikely that they contained some sort of scribal error the best solution of which was to simply rewrite the pages. But, again, we may never know for certain beyond the rather secure conclusion that both the original pages of Mark 14.54 through Luke 1.56 and the cancel-sheet lacked the longer ending.
Aphraates of Syria.
Early century IV.
On page 33 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark William Farmer writes:
Aphraates, earliest known Father of the Syrian church, cites Mk. 16:16, 17 and 18 in a homily dated A.D. 337. Aphraates writes in Syriac and cites from a text of Mark to be distinguished from the Curetonian Syriac version as well as from the Peshitta.
From Jerome, epistle 120 (available online as a scanned document), to Hedibia (century V):
It is rather apparent that Jerome is dependent here on Eusebius in To Marinus, cited above. Nevertheless, Jerome himself, the translator of the Bible into the Latin version called the Vulgate, must have personally known of many manuscripts, and the notion that almost all (omnibus... paene) of the Greek books lacked Mark 16.9-20 must not have seemed an incredible statement to him.
Jerome, then, as touches the Greek textual tradition at any rate, backs up the Eusebian claim that most of the (Greek) copies ended at 16.8. He does not mention which copies he thinks are more accurate.
Jerome himself is quite familiar with Mark 16.9-20. He both translated it into the Vulgate, and noted the existence of an extra logion between verses 14 and 15 of the longer ending. He apparently held no doctrinal grudge against this passage.
From Hesychius, Collection of Difficulties and Solutions, question 52 (century V):
Hesychius takes a somewhat different approach to the ending of Mark than does Eusebius. He neither tallies manuscripts nor opines as to which are the more accurate; rather, he simply takes it for granted that the text of Mark ends at the single angel, by which I presume he means the young man of 16.5-7. For Hesychius this ending is something that calls for explanation, but it is his best judgment nonetheless.
Victor of Antioch.
From a catena of Victor of Antioch (centuries V-VI):
Victor clearly knows what Eusebius wrote, and just as clearly disagrees with him. His wording is odd, and even ungrammatical, with no then statement to follow up the initial if statement, but the sense is not opaque. Even if the longer ending does not stand in most copies, Victor knows that most of the accurate copies, those from Palestine or which follow the Palestinian model, have it.
Victor has cleverly relaid the emphasis. Eusebius stated that most copies lacked Mark 16.9-20; Victor states that most of the accurate copies contain it.
His phrase παρα πλειστοις αντιγραφοις (in most copies) corresponds to the Eusebian phrase σχεδον εν απασι τοις αντιγραφοις (almost in all the copies), and he thus admits that most of the copies lack the longer ending. But he then goes on to affirm that, from the accurate copies (εξ ακριβων αντιγραφων), Mark 16.9-20 is extant as in most (ως εν πλειστοις). The ως is odd, but it is unlikely that Victor means that the accurate copies have the disputed text like the majority, since that εξ must be partitive before εν πλειστοις: Out of the class of manuscripts regarded as the most accurate the longer ending is found in most.
Or I tentatively put forward another suggestion for the significance of that ως, which can mean as if. Perhaps Victor is saying that he has found Mark 16.9-20 from the accurate copies as if those copies were in the majority. Accuracy, in other words, trumps bulk; quality trumps quantity. Which would be a fairly sophisticated text-critical statement at that.
Victor, then, at least acquiesces to the first of the following two points and asserts the second:
Number one agrees with Eusebius. Number two does not.
But it is very important to pay attention to the last line of our quotation from Victor of Antioch. He explicitly tells us that he has appended (συντεθεικαμεν) the longer ending to copies that lacked it. If he and others of the same mind were actively engaged in adding the longer ending to copies of Mark that lacked it, then the present state of the manuscripts stands explained; by far the majority contains the longer ending, but certain key manuscripts lack it.
Severus of Antioch.
From Severus of Antioch, homily 77 (century VI):
Severus, who also seems to have read Eusebius, agrees with Eusebius, and against Victor, on which copies are the more accurate. Severus does not explicitly tally the manuscripts, but that he mentions some (τισι) that contain Mark 16.9-20 may imply that most still lack it.
Theophylactus of Ochrida.
From Theophylactus of Ochrida, Interpretation of the Gospel of Mark, note 90 (centuries XI-XII):
This codex 26 speaks, not to a tally of copies of Mark, but rather to a tally of the expositors of the gospel. Theophylactus himself, while neither affirming nor denying the originality of Mark 16.9-20, insists on counting the passage as a part of scripture, interpreting it right along with the other scriptural passages.
Miniscule manuscripts are those written in lowercase, as well as uppercase, letters. Of these (usually later) manuscripts, only 304 and 2386, so far as I can tell, even potentially witness to the abrupt ending; the vast majority of the miniscules, including ƒ13, the Byzantine text, and a host of others, as well as translations, include Mark 16.9-20.
Some members of family 1 (ƒ1) have a scribal note marking off the longer ending that also mentions the Eusebian canons. From miniscules 1, 205, 209, 1582 (centuries X-XV):
Some members of group 22 have virtually the same note, but without the mention of Eusebius. From miniscules 1192 and 1210 (centuries X-XV):
From miniscule 22 (century XII) itself (the namesake of group 22):
Note that the manuscript tally has shifted since the days of Eusebius, Jerome, and Victor of Antioch. Now it is some (τισι) of the copies that end at 16.8, while many (πολλοις) contain it.
From miniscules 20 and 215 (century XI):
Again it is only some (τισι) of the copies that lack the longer Marcan ending. And the mention of the ancient (αρχαιοις) copies appears to be a stand-in for the accurate Palestinian copies to which someone like Victor of Antioch might refer.
From miniscule 199 (century XII):
Despite these scribal notes that call the longer ending into question, these manuscripts one and all include the longer ending.
Table of witnesses for and against Mark 16.9-20.
The following table divides the external evidence in the broadest terms, east and west. For my purposes, the east includes Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia, and Greece. The west includes Italy, Gaul, Spain, and northern Africa.
A plus sign + marks each witness for the longer ending. A minus sign – marks each witness against the longer ending. I do not list those witnesses that in my opinion are of dubious merit in arguments either for or against the longer ending. A question mark follows each witness for whom certainty as to relevance is impossible.
1 Tatian eventually moved
east to Syria, but not before studying under Justin Martyr in Rome.
The split between eastern and western witnesses is deep. There is no evidence that Mark 16.9-20 was ever missing in the west, and there is no evidence that Mark 16.9-20 was ever extant in the east until the fourth century, after which the longer ending took hold in all geographical and textual branches.
Furthermore, four of the earliest western witnesses (Justin, Tatian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus) share a very specific geographical trait: They are all known to have walked the streets of Rome at some point or other. The only two eastern witnesses spanning the gap between the canonical gospels and the fourth century (Clement and Origen) also share a very specific geographical trait: They lived in Alexandria.
It seems to me that two very different scenarios could with almost equal ease explain such a distribution:
I regard the external evidence, on its own merits, as split. It is true that the longer ending eventually came to dominate both east and west. However, I see a certain drive to remedy the abrupt ending of Mark at 16.8 in the history of the text. If we somehow knew that Mark originally ended at 16.8, but did not know anything about subsequent church and manuscript history, I think that we could probably have predicted that an ad hoc ending of some kind would eventually take over. The shorter ending, if nothing else, testifies to a desire to fill in the obvious gap at the end of Mark.
With the evidence from the church fathers and from the manuscripts themselves firmly in mind, I direct our attention to the text itself. I see three literary indications that the author of Mark 16.9-20 is not the same as the author of the rest of Mark up through 16.8.
The chronological backtracking.
Mark 16.9 backtracks in time to tell us that Jesus rose from the dead (which fits chronologically between 15.47 and 16.1) and to tell us what day and what hour, or time, of the day it happened, as a comparison of 16.2 and 16.9 will demonstrate:
These chronological notices may at first glance seem so close that one might expect them to have come from the same pen. But all three of the other gospels use that phrase the first day of the week. Matthew 28.1a, Luke 24.1a, and John 20.1a, respectively:
Note that the fourth gospel, with which the appearance to Mary Magdalene finds its closest parallel at any rate, also includes the note that it was early (πρωι), just like Mark 16.9. So John 20.1 is as likely a source for the notice of time, in other words, as Mark 16.2, if we feel that we must have a literary connection on our hands.
Now, there is nothing particularly shocking about Mark the evangelist repeating himself. Repetition is not an uncommon thing in his gospel, and he has, in fact, in this very section thrice repeated the names of the women who are looking on, in 15.40, 47; 16.1, when he could easily have chosen other ways of keeping them on the scene. Coupled with the backtracking in time to mention the resurrection, however, this instance of repetition stands out.
The longer ending looks, in other words, like a fresh narrative start.
The reintroduction of Mary Magdalene.
The notice in Mark 16.9 that Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary has a parallel in Luke 8.1b-3:
This description is the first mention of Mary Magdalene in the gospel of Luke, and it occurs in a list of the Galilean women who followed Jesus. Such lists find their own analogy in the list of male followers in Mark 3.16-19:
This list includes three identifying details. Those details are (1) that Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, (2) that he named James and John the sons of thunder, and (3) that Judas Iscariot was the one who betrayed Jesus. It is exactly in this kind of list that one would expect to find such tidbits.
The Marcan list of female followers, corresponding to Luke 8.1b-3, does not come until Mark 15.40-41:
This mention of Mary Magdalene also happens to be the first in the Marcan gospel, just as Luke 8.1b-3 is the first in that gospel. And Mark 15.40-41 is a list of female followers from Galilee, just like Luke 8.1b-3 is a list of female followers from Galilee.
Mary Magdalene appears by name again in Mark 15.47 and 16.1. Not only, then, does the naming of Mary Magdalene in Mark 16.9 look like a first-time introduction to the character, but also, by analogy with Luke 8.1b-3 and Mark 3.16-19, we would expect the note of the seven demons to have come at Mark 15.40, which is both a list of female followers of Jesus and the first mention of Mary Magdalene in the gospel.
(Lest it be thought that the repeated identification of the other Mary by her sons James and Joses, in Mark 15.40, 47; 16.1, might break the analogy, one ought to notice that both sons appear at the first mention, and only one in each of the subsequent two, retained in order to distinguish between the two women named Mary.)
Instead, the longer ending again looks like a fresh narrative start.
The failure to fulfill the Galilean prediction.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus thrice predicts his passion. Mark 8.31; 9.31; 10.33-34, respectively:
That triple prediction is fulfilled in full throughout the entire passion narrative (Mark 14.1-15.47).
Jesus predicts his betrayal in 14.18-21, and that prediction is exactly fulfilled, with clear backward verbal connections, in 14.42-45:
Notice also the beginning of the exact fulfillment of the three passion predictions. The same three groups that appear in Mark 8.31, the elders and chief priests and scribes, reappear as the collective power behind the mob in 14.43. And, just as 9.31 says that the son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, so 14.41 says that the son of man is being delivered into the hands of sinners. Mark is leaving no piece or part of the prediction to chance. Each detail is fulfilled.
Jesus predicts that Peter will thrice deny him in 14.30, and that prediction is fulfilled, again with clear backward verbal connections, in 14.72:
These fulfillments are full, detailed, and answer to their respective predictions on a tight verbal level. Mark himself connects the dots. He does not leave much to the imagination of the reader.
So, after Jesus assures his disciples in 14.28 that upon rising from the dead he will meet them in Galilee, and after an angel repeats his prediction to the women at the tomb in 16.7...:
...does the longer ending describe for us the promised and predicted appearance in Galilee? No, Mark 16.9-20 gives not even a hint of any appearances in Galilee.
This point, for me, is crucial. Mark raises our expectations of a resurrection appearance in Galilee, and by analogy with the other predictions in Mark we look for an exact verbal fulfillment of this one, but in vain.
But, if the longer ending is not the proper conclusion of the gospel of Mark, what exactly is it? Was it written up precisely as a remedy for the abrupt ending at Mark 16.8? Based on what we have seen with regard to the internal evidence, my answer is no.
I propose that Mark 16.9-20, the longer ending, was an originally separate list of the appearances of Jesus. It was not, in my view, originally composed as a conclusion for Mark, whether by Mark himself or by a later scribe trying to remedy the abrupt ending at 16.8. Just plug in the name Ιησους as the subject of 16.9 and this list of appearances can stand on its own. The scribe who appended this list to the close of Mark probably dropped the name because its antecedent was so close at hand in Mark 16.6-7. (Alternately, this list could have been a part of a longer document, and was clipped in order to complete Mark.)
Parallels with other early Christian texts.
Mark 16.9-20 shows a marked affinity with the traditions of the third and fourth gospels. There is also one point of contact with the first gospel, as well as some overlap with traditions from Papias.
We begin with Mark 16.9-11...:
...which finds decided parallels with John 20.1a, 18:
Only the gospel of John and the longer ending of Mark describe a first appearance to Mary Magdalene. Matthew 28.9-10 describes an appearance to all the women....
...and the only purpose of this visitation seems to be to transmit the same information that the angel has already given in 28.7. Nothing in the Matthean account actually overlaps either the Johannine account or that of the longer ending of Mark except the presumption that Mary Magdalene is among the women in Matthew. John and the longer ending of Mark on the one hand, and Matthew on the other, seem to preserve independent traditions of a resurrected meeting with women that preceded any with men.
We continue with Mark 16.12-13...:
...which is clearly of a kind with the Emmaus road encounter in Luke 24.13, 15-16, 33-34:
Both the longer ending and the gospel of Luke now immediately turn to an appearance to the eleven. Mark 16.14:
Luke 24.33b, 36, 38, 42-43:
There are differences, of course. In Mark it would seem that Jesus appears to the eleven while they are eating, while in Luke he has to ask if there is food available, perhaps implying that they are not eating at that very moment. The motif of food, however, still figures into both accounts. Also, Mark mentions only the eleven, while Luke includes an uncounted group with them.
Nevertheless, granted the other parallels and the fact that this incident comes immediately after the appearance to two on the road, the same event is clearly meant in both traditions.
Next comes Mark 16.15...:
...which is our lone parallel with the Matthean resurrection tradition, Matthew 28.19a:
On to Mark 16.16:
Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus in the fourth gospel, links belief and judgment in much the same way as this verse from the longer ending links belief and condemnation. Note that the Greek word for condemnation is simply the word for judgment strengthened with a prefixed κατα. John 3.18a:
Also of note is that the apostle Peter, in his first public sermon according to the Acts of the Apostles, tells the gathered crowd to repent and be baptized (Acts 2.38), then shouts out (in 2.40): Be saved from this perverse generation!
It is in Mark 16.17-18 that we find our more unusual material:
The connections between this promise and other early Christian works are many. The very idea of signs following the faithful is reflected in the Pauline epistles in Romans 15.19 and 2 Corinthians 12.12:
See also Galatians 3.5; compare 1 Thessalonians 1.5.
The theme of signs and wonders amongst the followers of Jesus is especially prevalent in the Acts of the Apostles. We may take Acts 2.43 as representative:
See also in this connection Acts 4.30; 5.12; 6.8; 8.6; 14.3; 15.12; Hebrews 2.4.
While the emphasis in both Paul and the Acts is on signs performed by the apostles, signs performed apparantly amongst the ordinary faithful in the churches are attested in 1 Corinthians 12 (see especially 12.29) and Galatians 3.5.
As for the individual kinds of sign listed in Mark 16.17-18, a sequential enumeration of the signs to follow the faithful may be in order:
I shall touch upon only the most evident and significant parallels.
1. Casting out demons.
The apostle Paul does not mention casting out demons in his epistles. The power shows up in the Acts a few times. Acts 8.7:
See also Acts 5.16; 16.18; 19.12, 15.
2. Speaking with new tongues.
Paul discusses speaking in tongues in depth in his first epistle to the Corinthian church, which was abusing the gift. 1 Corinthians 13.1:
This profound line heads up what is sometimes called the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, which is situated strategically in the midst of a discussion of spiritual giftings, including especially prophecy and tongues, extending from 12.1 to 14.40.
The phenomenon of tongues also appears a number of times in the Acts, beginning with Acts 2.4:
See also Acts 10.46; 19.6.
3. Picking up serpents.
It must surely be understood that the faithful will pick up serpents without suffering harm. In Luke 10.19 Jesus promises that the disciples will tread on serpents:
Luke himself supplies a narrative of this kind of promise in Acts 28.1-6:
Perhaps notably, the narrative in the Acts more closely resembles the prediction of Mark 16.18 than that of Luke 10.19, for the latter speaks of treading on serpents (and scorpions), perhaps an echo of Genesis 3.15...:
...while the former speaks of taking up serpents (by hand), which is what the apostle Paul actually does, accidentally, in Acts 28.3.
4. Drinking deadly things.
We have already seen that Eusebius, in History of the Church 3.39.9, records the following story from one of the five lost books of Papias:
The passage from Papias narrates what Mark 16.18 promises (which is not at all to say that Papias necessarily knew the longer ending). Eusebius states in 3.39.7 (Αριστιωνος δε και του πρεσβυτερου Ιωαννου αυτηκοον εαυτον φησι γενεσθαι) that Papias was an earwitness of a certain Aristion, as Papias himself claims, apud Eusebius in 3.39.4 (α τε Αριστιων και ο πρεσβυτερος Ιωαννης, του κυριου μαθηται, λεγουσιν). Which makes all the more interesting the note in a tenth-century Armenian manuscript: Ariston the elder.
5. Laying hands on the sick.
The first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians is again our source for healings amongst the Pauline churches. The power is discussed in 1 Corinthians 12.9, 28, 30.
Healings are also commonplace in the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 5.16:
Healings of all kinds are recounted in Acts 3.1-10, 9.17-19a, 32-35, 36-43; 20.9-12; 28.8-9. Note the reverse healing in Acts 13.11.
Next is Mark 16.19:
The ascension parallels Luke 24.51 and Acts 1.9:
Note that all three texts emphasize that Jesus was speaking with the disciples when or just before he was taken up from them.
The motif of sitting at the right hand of God comes from Psalm 110.1 (LXX 109.1), which is, I think, the verse from the Hebrew scriptures most alluded to in the apostolic writings:
It is interesting that the martyr Stephen, in Acts 7.55-56, sees a sudden vision of Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God.
Finally, Mark 16.20:
The entire Acts of the Apostles could be seen as the dramatic enactment of this sweeping statement, so I cite here only its charter statement, Acts 1.8:
The longer ending has much, therefore, in common with both the Lucan writings and the fourth gospel.
Another logion, after Mark 16.14.
Also known as the Freer logion.
This logion is a gloss inserted into the text of W after Mark 16.14.
Jerome appears to have been aware of this logion. In Against the Pelagians 2.15 he writes:
The shorter ending, Mark 16..
I ought to point out that I treat the shorter ending as verse 21 of the chapter, though the standard texts do not normally versify it at all, and the ancient texts that present both the longer and the shorter endings tend to place the shorter ending first, before the longer.
I do not think that anyone would be tempted to regard the shorter ending as the original conclusion to Mark. It suffers from slender attestation, and it does no better than the longer ending at fulfilling our expectations of a resurrection appearance in Galilee.
Only the Old Latin version itk, so far as I can tell from the apparatus of my Greek New Testament, contains the shorter ending alone. Most manuscripts that include the shorter ending at all combine it with the longer ending, though the two clearly do not belong together, each covering the ground of the other.
The shorter ending is also available in a glossed version.
This brief conclusion, unlike the longer ending, was almost certainly composed specifically in order to complete the gospel of Mark. It never, in other words, stood alone. For it begins with the women doing all that had been commanded of them, implying the prior instructions of Mark 16.6-7. Their obedience, of course, would appear to contradict their silence at 16.8. Perhaps that silence was interpreted as merely temporary; the women later regained their composure and followed through.
The abrupt ending at Mark 16.8.
The abrupt ending, aptly named, is that which concludes the gospel with the stark phrase εφοβουντο γαρ, for they were afraid.