The Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20
This is a summary of a 160-page research paper.
Copies of the research paper are available on request by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
More misinformation has been spread about Mark 16:9-20 than has been spread about any other passage of Scripture. If you have been
bothered by Bible footnotes that said that early manuscripts do not contain this passage, or if you have read a commentary that suggested
that these 12 verses were added by a copyist, then please read this entire article carefully. An abundance of evidence leads to the
conclusion that Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible. It is in over 99% of the Greek manuscripts, and it can be shown to have been used as
Scripture from the 100's onward.
Few modern-day commentators, however, have examined all the available evidence. Instead, most commentators have borrowed and
rephrased statements from two earlier researchers: F. J. A. Hort, who wrote about Mk. 16:9-20 in 1881, and Bruce Metzger, who wrote
about the passage in Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament in 1971. Metzger's statements, in the process of being
rephrased, have been distorted, and as a result, many commentary-readers have received very inaccurate impressions about the strength
of the evidence in favor of Mark 16:9-20.
There are over 1,700 Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark. A small percentage of them, such as the very earliest copy (Papyrus 45,
from around 225) has undergone damage and offers no evidence about the text of Mark 16. Of all the rest, only two Greek manuscripts
clearly end the text of the Gospel of Mark at the end of 16:8. It would be very misleading to describe two things as "Some" while
describing over 1,500 things as "Others." Unfortunately such vagueness is found in several major Bible translations' descriptions of
manuscripts in footnotes abut the ending of Mark.
In some translations, Mark 16:9-20 is placed within brackets. The Revised Standard Version, in its first edition (1952), even moved the
passage into the footnotes. A few translations present 16:9-20 and a short text called the "Shorter Ending," which appears in six Greek
manuscripts along with 16:9-20. (More about the "Shorter Ending" later.) The treatment of Mark 16:9-20 in English translations is far
Now let's look at the evidence against Mark 16:9-20.
EXTERNAL EVIDENCE AGAINST MARK 16:9-20
The external evidence against Mark 16:9-20 is not as impressive as some Bible footnotes make it seem. The two Greek manuscripts in
which Mark 16:8 is followed by the closing-title are Codex Vaticanus (from c. 330) and Codex Sinaiticus (from c. 350). These are two
heavyweight copies. But at the end of Mark they both contain unusual features that lightens their usual weight.
Codex Vaticanus does not contain Mark 16:9-20, but following Mark 16:8 and preceding Luke 1:1, it contains a prolonged blank space,
including an entire blank column. No other blank columns appear in the entire New Testament in this manuscript. The blank space after
Mark 16:8 is not quite long enough to contain the text of verses 9-20 in the copyist's normal handwriting, but if a copyist were to use
compressed lettering, the entire passage would fit. It appears that the copyist was copying from an exemplar, or master-copy, which did
not contain verses 9-20, but he recollected them, and attempted to reserve space for them, in case his supervisor or an eventual user of
the manuscript wished to include them.
In Codex Sinaiticus, the four pages that contain Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 were not written by the same copyist who produced the
surrounding pages. All four of these pages, including the page on which Mark ends, were made by someone else, probably the
supervisor/proofreader at the place where the manuscript was made, before the pages were sewn together. The pages made by the main
copyist were removed, their contents were corrected and rewritten on new parchment, and the new pages were added. Why? Almost
certainly, the four replaced pages made by the main copyist did not contain Mark 16:9-20. The 16 columns on the four replacement-
pages (four columns per page) would not have been enough to contain Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 in the main copyist's normal handwriting,
and he would have had no obvious reason to compress his lettering.
Probably, the main copyist accidentally skipped from the end of Luke 1:4 to the beginning of Luke 1:8, omitting Luke 1:5-7, and the
supervisor decided that the best way to fix this mistake was to replace the entire four-page sheet. But we can't know for certain. What
we can deduce, though, is very significant: the individual who made Sinaiticus' replacement-pages was one of the copyists who made
Codex Vaticanus. The handwriting, the distinctive spelling, the ornamental decoration, and other features on the replacement-pages in
Sinaiticus are remarkably similar to the same features in Codex Vaticanus. So the evidence from Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, while ancient
and valuable, shows us only one narrow channel of the text's transmission. In the case of the ending of Mark, it may attest to one
individual copyist who worked at Caesarea in the 300's.
One Old Latin manuscript, Codex Bobbiensis (from about A.D. 430), contains the "Shorter Ending" at the end of Mark instead of verses
9-20. The "Shorter Ending" says (with some variations), "They related unto Peter and his companions everything that had been told to
them. And after this Jesus Himself [appeared to them] sent forth through them, from east [even] unto west, the sacred and imperishable
proclamation of eternal salvation. [Amen.]" When considering this evidence, it should be noted that the text of Codex Bobbiensis is
really messed up in the last part of Mark, as exemplified on the two pages shown here.
by James Snapp, Jr.
Click the picture on the left (representing the last page of
Mark in Codex Vaticanus) to read more about Codex
Vaticanus and its unusual features at the end of Mark.
Click the picture on the right (representing the end
of Mark 16:8, some emphatic decorative lines, and the
closing-title in Codex Sinaiticus) to read more about
Codex Sinaiticus and its unusual features at the end of
OLD LATIN CODEX k
(Codex Bobbiensis, c. 430)
The person or persons responsible
for the text of this Old Latin copy
added a few sentences (possibly
derived from a source similar to the
spurious "Gospel of Peter")
between 16:3 and 16:4, depicting
Jesus ascending to heaven when
He rose from the dead. A phrase
from near the end of 16:8 is missing
before the Shorter Ending begins
(with the word "Omnia").
The copyist seems to have been
unfamiliar with the material he was
writing; he made several rather
blatant mistakes on these pages
and elsewhere in the manuscript.
Codex Bobbiensis and the other manuscripts that contain the "Shorter Ending" appear to descend from an ancestor-manuscript that
contained a text that ended with 16:8. The "Shorter Ending" is exactly what it looks like: a short flourish designed to relieve the
abruptness of the ending at the end of verse 8. The vocabulary of the Shorter Ending weighs in against Marcan authorship, and the
textual genealogy of most of the manuscripts that contain the Shorter Ending can be traced back to the channel of transmission in
Egypt which contains the abrupt text.
Now about the evidence from the writings of leaders in the early church. Some commentaries list Clement of Alexandria and Origen
as witnesses against Mark 16:9-20, merely because they do not use the passage. This is, however, an argument from silence, and it
has no real value as evidence when one considers how rarely those two writers used the Gospel of Mark. Clement -- who might even
allude to Mark 16:19 in a statement in Adumbrationes on Jude v. 24, as cited by Cassiodorus in Latin -- only used about 23 verses
from the Gospel of Mark, mostly from chapter 10. Shall we conclude that his copies of Mark only contained 23 verses? Similarly
regarding Origen, if we divide the Gospel of Mark into 56 or 57 pieces, each piece consisting of 12 verses, Origen does not use 34 of
those pieces in his extant writings. Shall we conclude that the other 33 twelve-verse sections were not in Origen's copies of the
Gospel of Mark? The silence of Clement and Origen merely tells us how rarely they quoted the Gospel of Mark. It is not valid text-
Several commentators have falsely stated that Eusebius of Caesarea, in the early 300's, wrote that Mark 16:9-20 was absent from all
Greek copies of Mark known to him. An examination of Eusebius' composition Ad Marinum reveals, instead, that Eusebius, replying
to a question about how to harmonize Matthew 28:1 with Mark 16:9, claimed that someone could say that "the accurate copies" and
"almost all the Greek copies" lacked verses 9-20. (This was a description of manuscripts known to Eusebius; in the decades that
immediately followed the Diocletian persecution, no one had the means to discern the contents of the majority of surviving
manuscripts throughout the Roman Empire.) But Eusebius proceeded to show Marinus how to harmonize Mark 16:9 with Matthew
28:1 by punctuating Mark 16:9 a certain way. This means that when Eusebius wrote Ad Marinum, he preferred the reading of a
group of manuscripts at Caesarea in which the Gospel of Mark ended at the end of 16:8 but, realizing that Marinus used a text that
included 16:9-20, he acquiesced to the inclusion of the passage, for otherwise there would be no reason to show how it could be
harmonized with Matthew. In addition, further along in Ad Marinum, Eusebius refers to Mark 16:9 by stating that "some copies" of
Mark include the statement that seven demons had been cast out of Mary Magdalene.
Jerome has also been sometimes cited as a witness against Mark 16:9-20. However, when Jerome produced the Vulgate Gospels (in
383), he included the passage. In about the year 407, Jerome wrote Epistle 120, Ad Hedibiam. This letter is the basis for the claim
that Jerome stated that almost all Greek manuscripts lacked Mark 16:9-20. However, when Jerome's letter to Hedibia is compared
to Eusebius' earlier letter to Marinus, it becomes obvious that Jerome essentially borrowed and summarized Eusebius' comments.
Jerome's statement is not his own independent observation; it is part of his loose translation (delivered by dictation) of part of
Eusebius' earlier composition. Jerome's use of Ad Marinum becomes clear when we observe that three of the questions that Marinus
asked Eusebius are repeated in Ad Hedibiam, in the same order! In Jerome's Epistle 75, written to Augustine, Jerome candidly
admitted that he sometimes issued hasty replies by dictation, mixing his own thoughts with the contents of materials that he had read,
without being careful to identify his sources or to ensure that he shared only his own opinions. Some of the contents of Ad Hedibiam
seem to be an example of that practice.
Furthermore, in Against the Pelagians 2:14, Jerome quoted an interpolation (now known as the "Freer Logion") by referring first to
the text of Mark 16:14. He stated that the interpolation is present "in some copies, especially in Greek codices," which means that
the surrounding verses were also in those copies.
Two other writers, Hesychius and Severus, are also cited as evidence for the abrupt text, but this is feathery evidence because,
among othe reasons, the statements attributed to Hesychius and Severus, like Jerome's Ad Hedibiam, were re-presentations of the
contents of Ad Marinum. (Also, John Burgon, in 1871, showed that one composition had been erroneously attributed to both of these
individuals.) If Hesychius or Severus wrote today, he might be convicted of plagiarizing Eusebius' Ad Marinum. Plus, Severus used
Mark 16:19 independently in another passage in his writings.
There are a few other witnesses against Mark 16:9-20. One is the Sinaitic Syriac palimpsest. The Syriac Gospels-text in this copy
from c. 400 shares some special readings with Codex Bobbiensis, and must share a common ancestor with it. Many copies of the
Armenian version (none of which pre-date the 800's) do not contain Mark 16:9-20. Two medieval Old Georgian manuscripts do not
contain Mark 16:9-20. And about a dozen Greek manuscripts are sometimes cited as if they contains notes that state that the ancient
manuscripts do not have verses 9-20. We will take a closer look at some of these pieces of evidence soon. But now let's proceed to
an examination of external evidence in favor of the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.